Budget cuts, Afghanistan withdrawal negatively affecting MRAP market


The international armoured vehicles market is facing challenging times, especially as the US and its partners withdraw from Afghanistan, potentially flooding the market with used vehicles, according to local company DCD Protected Mobility.

DCD general manager Andrew Mears told defenceWeb funding is also a huge problem in the world armoured vehicles market. He said there was a “significant threat” of ex-Afghanistan vehicles flooding the market, resulting in tough times for manufacturers like DCD.

A recent Frost & Sullivan report said the world military land vehicle market would only grow at .7% until 2021 as the US cuts back its requirements and western defence markets shrink. Certain market segments, such as armoured fighting vehicles, are projected to actually shrink over the next decade.

However, Mears he said that a market does still exist for armoured vehicles. “There is a requirement out there for more MRAPs [Mine-Resistant Armour Protected vehicles].” Addressing the threat of an ex-US armoured vehicles glut, he pointed out that ex-US Army vehicles are not always suitable for other customers as they are still fairly expensive to maintain and operate and are do not always meet user requirements.

Mears said that an advantage DCD has over competitors like China is that they offer life cycle support for their vehicles. “Without support, you will not grow in this market,” he said, adding that DCD would rather have a small, clean business than a large, dirty one.

In spite of challenging times, Mears said that DCD Protected Mobility intends “becoming owners of the route clearance space internationally,” notably with its Husky vehicle mounted mine detection system. Previously known as the Chubby system, the Husky was developed in the 1970s for the South African Defence Force to clear roads of mines in Namibia and Angola. The system comprises of two Husky vehicles: the first acts as a Mine Detection Vehicle (MDV) (previously a Meerkat). The second vehicle (a Husky) tows a mine-detonating trailer.

The Husky vehicle has the ability to pass over pressure-fused anti-vehicle landmines without detonating them and, in the event of a detonation, the components have been engineered in a unique modular configuration that allows them to break apart predictably, which facilitates rapid in-field repairs.

Hundreds of Huskies have been sold to Canada, the USA, UK, France, Australia, Angola, Kenya, Uganda, Spain and Turkey. Mears said the Husky programme has made a significant contribution to poverty alleviation in South Africa, creating 1 320 jobs across the supply chain and earning R10.3 billion in foreign exchange for the South African economy.

DCD on Wednesday marked the end of production of several hundred vehicles for the US military. “We could probably sell as many Huskies (internationally) as the United States is going to keep on its inventory,” Mears said, noting that the company’s business model has changed in response to the conclusion of the US order.

Mears said a big focus going forward was upgrading the Husky and keeping the vehicle relevant. He said DCD was looking at adding sensors and turning the vehicle into an optionally manned platform. On the sixth of November, DCD and its partners will demonstrate an unmanned version of the Husky system to the US government, developed in partnership with its partners Critical Solutions International (CSI) and Torc Robotics.
“The US has a huge drive to get operators out of the loop. They are pretty confident that autonomy is the way forward,” Mears said. He was optimistic about success in this area, expecting a few small orders and then bigger contracts from the US for unmanned ground vehicles.

With CSI, DCD is looking at international markets like the European Union and Nato. Austria wants to buy four to six two-seat Husky vehicles through the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) system to provide a route clearance capability they can offer to Nato.

Turkey recently bought four Huskies and Mears is confident the country will purchase more. Turkey will “hopefully” buy around 50 more vehicles sometime next year, he told defenceWeb. Other countries that show great promise regarding the vehicle are India and Iraq.

DCD is also trying to focus on Africa and emerging markets, and places where customers do not want any US components in their vehicles. In Africa, the company is pinning some of its hopes on the Springbuck A202 armoured personnel carrier. This is selling well and is aimed at developing countries that need an “affordable but not inferior” vehicle. Mears said a significant opportunity for the Springbuck is the Nigerian police force. “We’re focusing quite heavily in Africa and the East with this vehicle,” he said to defenceWeb. The Springbuck is aimed mainly at police and security markets.

At home, DCD is trying to get more of a presence in the South African market, and is seeking to become involved in Project Hoefyster by manufacturing components or providing support. It also hopes to become involved in other South African projects like Sapula and Vistula to replace armoured personnel carriers and trucks.