The Mauritanian military has taken delivery of at least a dozen Otokar Cobra armoured vehicles, which are being deployed to the Central African Republic (CAR) as part of the United Nations mission there.
Twelve of the vehicles were seen during a ceremony on 12 January when President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz inspected the battalion the North African country is sending to the Central African Republic. Television imagery revealed at least 12 Cobras painted in UN white, including one recovery vehicle. Others were seen armed with 7.62 mm and 12.7 mm W85 machineguns.
Footage shown by Bellewarmedia also showed several white-painted Humvees and several dozen trucks and tankers in UN colours and markings lined up alongside the Cobras, together with earthmoving equipment.
In November last year the United Nations said it was planning to send 140 police from Mauritania to reinforce the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (Minusca). The first Mauritanian members arrived in Bangui in the Central African Republic on 15 December. According to the United Nations, as of December 2015 Mauritania was contributing 280 police, six UN military experts on mission and 11 troops to United Nations missions.
The Otokar Cobra is in service with around a dozen countries, including several in Africa. Nigeria is the biggest operator in Africa, with 193 Cobras delivered (final deliveries were in 2008). Other operators include Slovenia, Georgia, Turkey, with reports of deliveries to Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. The Maldives has three in service.
The Cobra vehicle features a common platform that can be adapted for a variety of roles, and the vehicle can be used as a weapons carrier, reconnaissance vehicle, armoured personnel carrier, ambulance, NBC reconnaissance vehicle etc. Having a common platform simplifies the training of drivers and maintenance personnel and eases logistics. The Cobra can transport between four and nine people, including the driver, depending on configuration.
The monocoque V-shaped steel hull provides protection against small arms fire (including 5.56 and 7.62 mm rounds), mines, IEDs and shrapnel. The front wheel arches are designed to be blown away in event of an explosion. Additional bolt-on armour can be added for better protection. The vehicle is powered by a V8 turbo diesel engine, driving all four wheels, which feature independent suspension and a central tyre inflation system. Top speed of the 6 200 kg Cobra is around 115 km/h.
Various turrets and weapons systems are available, including the Rafael overhead weapon station (OWS) with Rafael Spike anti-tank missiles, 40 mm grenade launcher and Nexter 20 mm M621 cannon.
It appears Mauritania took delivery of the Cobras within the last year, as the transfer is not listed in the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI’s) arms transfer database, which runs to the end of 2014.
SIPRI records show that Mauritania has taken delivery of several different types of new aircraft and armoured vehicles over the last five years. This includes four EMB-314 Super Tucano and four second hand EMB-312 Tucano trainer and light combat aircraft from Brazil and France respectively, 70 VAB-VTT armoured personnel carriers from France, two A109 Power helicopters from Italy, a single C-212 maritime patrol aircraft from Spain, a single PC-6 Turbo Porter from Switzerland (but financed by the United States for training), two Cessna Caravans donated by the United States and two OPV-60m offshore patrol vessels.
Mauritania’s army is believed to have 39 AML-60, 14 AML-90, 35 Saladin, four Saracen and 30 T-54/55 armoured vehicles and tanks in its inventory.