Mali’s armed forces have taken delivery of Bastion armoured vehicles manufactured by French company Acmat, and were recently trained how to use them by Italian personnel serving with the United Nations mission there (Minusma).
The Malian Chief of Staff requested the Italian personnel from the “Centre d’Instruction Multifunctionnel” to provide training on the vehicles to Malian soldiers, ONUItalia.com reported on 23 February.
The Italian soldiers carried out two weeks of training with Malian personnel from the 134th Reconnaissance Squadron stationed in Gao in northern Mali. Some of the topics covered included being aware of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and convoy protection.
The Italian contingent in Mali said the Bastions could be used to assist the United Nations mission in the north of the country. Italy has deployed personnel to Mali since 2013 under the European Union Training Mission – Mali (EUTM-Mali).
Photographs released by EUTM-Mali on 10 March showed at least three Bastion vehicles but it is not clear how many in total have been delivered.
The Bastion range of tactical armoured vehicles features STANAG 4569 protection and can carry ten to 12 people. They are based on the VLRA TDN-TDE platform for easy maintenance and logistics. The 12 tonne Bastion APC is configured for troop transport.
The Bastion is one of the core vehicles in Acmat’s lineup, along with the VLRA tactical and multirole vehicle and ALTV light 4×4 – more than 12 000 have been sold around the world.
The Malian military already operates Acmat VLRA and PVP vehicles, Renault Trucks Defense revealed in September 2013. Its battalions have also been seen with a variety of 4×4 vehicles, including ones armed with 14.5 mm ZPU-2 guns and .50 heavy machine guns.
It is possible the Bastions may have been donated by the United States – in September 2015 the US Department of Defence ordered 62 Bastions for five African countries via Mack Defense (Acmat is owned by Renault Trucks Defense which along with Mack Defense is part of the Volvo group). Mack Defense said 32 vehicles will be delivered to Somalia in 2016, 17 to the Ugandan contingent of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and another 13 to AMISOM’s Somali contingent. Tunisia will receive four, Cameroon 15 and Ethiopia 12 before the end of 2016.