DCD launches new vehicle as it celebrates its 125th anniversary

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DCD Protected Mobility launched a new weapons platform vehicle at its fourth military attache and advisory corps (MAAC) demonstration day, which witnessed its armoured vehicles fire weapons and take landmine hits during demonstrations at the Paardefontein test range outside Pretoria.

The 2023 MAAC Day, held on 19 July, celebrated the 125th anniversary of the establishment of DCD’s predecessor in 1898. The company began manufacturing armoured vehicles during World War II and now DCD Protected Mobility focusses primarily on its Husky route clearance vehicle and Springbuck armoured personnel carrier. Twenty-five countries are using DCD vehicles, including 15 for the Husky, which has survived some 7 500 mine/improvised explosive device hits without direct casualty.

The Springbuck is available in multiple configurations, including ambulance, command and control, explosive ordnance disposal, border patrol etc. Eight countries in Africa are using the Springbuck for African Union or United Nations missions.

The latest addition to the Springbuck fleet is a weapons carrier version, and this was unveiled to dozens of guests at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR’s) Paardefontein range on Wednesday. Company officials said the weapons carrier will be able to fit 14.5 mm cannons or 60 or 80 mm mortars – at Paardefontein it was fitted with a ZSU-23-2 cannon.

Unlike unarmoured ‘technicals’ fitted with weapons on the back, the DCD offering has mine and ballistic protection. The company said it is a concept DCD will develop with its African partners. The Springbuck weapons carrier is presently fitted with a single cab, but in future will have an extended cab for the weapon crew.

DCD’s demonstration day ended with the launch of the new vehicle, but started with a showcase of its existing products. First up was a route clearance demonstration by a Husky 2G mine detection vehicle fitted with a Chelton AMULET vehicle-mounted explosive ordnance detection system. A Husky 3G fitted with an interrogator arm dug up suspected threats identified by the first vehicle. The arm can extend over three metres and can excavate and lift cached items weighing up to 70 kg.

The mobility of Springbuck and Sherp vehicles were demonstrated to assembled guests, with the amphibious Sherp 4×4 blasting through a pond – the go-anywhere vehicle inflates and deflates its tyres rapidly using engine exhaust gas, allowing quick adaptation to different terrain. DCD is marketing the Ukrainian-designed Sherp, which can carry up to nine passengers, excluding the driver, with a 1,200kg payload capacity.

Drones buzzed overhead to capture the action, or, in the case of Aquila Viour’s Alto unmanned helicopter, relay communications and command and control data. The helicopter was fitted with Global Command and Control Technologies’ Chaka command and control system.

Moving to the test range, the firepower demonstration portion of the day witnessed RPG-7s fired by SA National Defence Force Special Forces members, and the Husky and Springbuck demonstrate light and heavy machineguns from their weapons turrets (the Husky can be fitted with a defensive turret). Manned turrets can take machineguns from 7.62 to 14.5 mm or 40 mm grenade launchers while a remotely operated weapon station can accommodate a 12.7 mm machinegun.

The ability of DCD vehicles to withstand anti-tank and anti-personnel mines was demonstrated first by a Springbuck fitted with steel wheels detonating multiple anti-personnel mines – guests had the opportunity to ride inside while the vehicle went over a minefield. A 6 kg charge was then detonated under a Husky – the vehicle had almost no visible damage after the blast, and even the tyres remained fully inflated. Next it was the turn of a Springbuck, which had a 6 kg charge detonated under the left rear wheel to simulate an anti-tank mine hit. The wheel and rim were destroyed, but both the Husky and Springbuck were quickly repaired and driven back to the staging area for guests to inspect.

A simulated anti-tank landmine charge detonating under a DCD Springbuck.

To highlight the damage mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) inflict on unprotected vehicles, DCD detonated a 6 kg charge underneath a commercial van to simulate an anti-tank mine – the vehicle was completely obliterated and literally torn to shreds.

As Paardefontein is a CSIR facility, the Council had a chance to expose guests to some of its detonics, ballistics and explosives research and testing capabilities – its facilities are regularly used to test and qualify armoured vehicles. On Wednesday guests had the chance to witness the detonation of a charge under its human response test rig (HRTR) – a reusable V-hull device fitted with test equipment inside.

Nearly two dozen DCD vehicles took part in what was DCD’s biggest MAAC day yet, growing on previous iterations in 2017, 2018, and 2019. The event was also well supported by DCD partners, including Tactical Defence Solutions, which supplied the weapons, Redeployable Camp Systems (field accommodation), Military Products (uniforms and equipment), Global Command and Control Technologies (Chaka command and control system and Impi tracker), Rajant (communications systems), TAU Aerospace and Advanced Technologies/Safomar Technologies (unmanned aerial vehicles), Bluvec (optical sensors), GEW (electronic warfare systems), and Chelton (antennas and avionics).

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