Proforce Defence has unveiled its new Viper armoured personnel carrier (APC), a lighter, faster and more manoeuvrable version of its Ara vehicle.
The company said the Nigerian Army’s Chief of Defence Staff (Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya) commissioned the Viper at the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) 2021 conference earlier this week.
The vehicle is ideal for special forces use and can support a wide range of military, counter-terrorism, and police operations. Proforce literature states the vehicle offers excellent protection against both ballistic and blast threats, with the crew compartment protected to CEN Level BR6 up to BR7.
The vehicle has a 7 ton curb weight and payload of 1 500 kg. It can accept nine occupants, including a gunner. The Viper can be configured with a range of weapon platform options, including a manual or electric rotating turret. It is powered by a 6.7 litre V8 engine developing more than 300 hp and giving the 4×4 vehicle a top speed in excess of 120 km/h.
The company’s flagship APC is its PF2, which has been exported to Rwanda, the Central African Republic and South Sudan (it is used for United Nations peacekeeping missions in the CAR and South Sudan). At home, the Nigerian Police Force has acquired a number of PF2 APCs, and this includes by Rivers State and Lagos State.
On the larger end of the scale, Proforce’s flagship MRAP is its Ara (Thunder), which is designed and manufactured in Nigeria. The latest version of the Ara features a fully monocoque hull and is built to STANAG level 4569 standards with double skin protection of Level 3A and 3B, and an underbelly of 4A and 4B. This protection level ensures an underbelly with a V-shaped hull design that can withstand a 100 kg mine.
With the capacity to carry up to 12 personnel plus equipment, the 15 ton Ara can be configured into multiple variants including recovery, command and control, ambulance, field kitchen and reconnaissance. A 12.7 mm machinegun can be mounted on a 360 degree roof turret, which can be open or fully enclosed.
The Nigerian Army has placed large orders for the Ara and has used the vehicles in combat against Boko Haram insurgents, particularly in the northeast of the country. Deliveries began in 2018, and in mid-2019 Proforce secured an order from Chad for 20 improved Ara 2 armoured personnel carriers – these have been delivered and are in service with Chad’s military.
In addition to its flagship Ara and PF2 vehicles, Proforce has a steadily growing product portfolio that encompasses land, air and sea. This includes armoured Toyota Hilux vehicles, Special Combat Vehicles (Hilux type vehicles with armour and weapons turrets), armoured patrol boats between 9.5 and 11 metres long, cash in transit vehicles (Toyota Hiace, Hilux, Isuzu etc.), armoured SUVs (e.g. Land Cruiser, Mercedes, Lexus LX570, Cadillac Escalade, Range Rover, FJ Cruiser), armoured passenger busses (Mercedes Viano, Toyota etc.) and armoured sedans.
The Nigerian military is investing heavily in indigenous armoured vehicles, and in September it emerged that it had acquired a 15% stake in Proforce.
Another locally manufactured vehicle being taken into Nigerian Army service is the Ezugwu, which was also on display at the COAS conference this week. This is manufactured by the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON), which in January received an order for 52 of the vehicles from the Nigerian Army.
The Ezugwu was unveiled in September 2019 at the Abuja International Trade Fair Complex during a Nigerian Army Day event. It appears the first batch of 25 Ezugwu vehicles delivered to the Nigerian Army in December 2019 were of the original configuration with two turrets, 4×4 drivetrain and no windscreen. In June 2020, it emerged that 47 Ezugwu vehicles were being produced by DICON. Later versions are in 6×6 configuration.
Other domestically produced vehicles include Conqueror and Champion armoured personnel carriers that were designed and built by the Army’s engineering unit. Meanwhile, the recently established Nigerian Army Vehicle Manufacturing Company (NAVMC) is developing the Infantry Patrol Vehicle (IPV) fitted with a mounted heavy machinegun; a Tactical Patrol Vehicle with seating for eight personnel, and a Light Tactical Vehicle armoured personnel carrier.