Renault Trucks Defence says it is well-placed for Vistula

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Renault Trucks Defence says that with its local assembly of trucks in Durban it is well placed to support the South African National Defence Force’ ambition to renew its aged truck fleet. This programme, Project Vistula, could see the military acquire as many as 5000 new trucks.

DefenseNews, the US defence news daily, reported in October the Department of Defence acquisition agency, Armscor, was expected to put out a request for proposals (RfP) “in the next few months” for about 1200 trucks as a first phase to the replacing of the current fleet of Magirus Deutz “Samil” vehicles. It added the order “could be worth around R3.2 billion for the winner.

The company in a statement says it will promote its Kerax range of trucks, displayed at Africa Aerospace & Defence in September, for Vistula. “Renault Trucks has started to assemble its vehicles locally in Durban…,” the company says, adding that as a member of the Volvo Group it has had a footprint in South Africa “for years.”
“Thus, the company adheres to the government’s objectives to create sustainable jobs and skills transfer. Renault Trucks benefits from a wide dealer network with a full coverage of the country with 14 dealers and repairers.”

Renault says the off-road Kerax family is fully adapted to specific needs of armed forces. “These vehicles benefit from low lifecycle costs of commercial vehicles and are ideally suited for logistic missions with huge payloads capacities and various bodies: cargo, troop transport, fuel/water tanks, dump, load handling system (LHS), shelters, recovery system, weapon systems carrier…”

The trucks come in 4×4, 6×6 and 8×8 variants and “benefits from the best of the technology in term of protection of cabin today. The cab has been designed and tested to protect the troop from highest ballistic treats, as well as mine and IEDs.” At present more than 900 militarised Kerax are operated worldwide including more than 400 in the French armed forces.

Land Warfare International in August reported Vistula could see the South African National Defence Force acquire “5000 trucks as a first step towards the replacement of the present Samil-100 and Samil-50 fleets.” According to a report by Helmoed-Römer Heitman current plans are for some 2000 8×8 trucks with armoured/mine-protected cabs; 1200 6×6 trucks, some of them with protected cabs; and 1800 4×4 trucks.”

Linked to Vistula is Project Sapula – the drive to acquire a new mine protected armour protected personnel carrier to replace the infantry’s now elderly Mamba and Casspir vehicles. Defence planners are keen that the Sapula vehicle – of which up to 3000 may be required – should be based on the Vistula engine and drive train. The “family of vehicles” approach is expected to push up commonality of parts while driving down costs.

The Samil fleet, at its peak, numbered about 12 000 two-, five- and 10-ton load-capacity utility and specialised trucks. The trucks, widely used by all Services and divisions of the SANDF, are on average 30 years old, reflecting the economy, efficiency and safety standards of a bygone era.

Industry has been waiting for that RfP since September 17, 2007, when Armscor controversially announced it could not select a preferred bidder in terms of a Request for Offers (RFO ESVT 2004/100) issued on May 21, 2004 with the closing date of June 30, 2005. Armscor, in a media statement, avered that due “to the complexity of the evaluation process which included the physical evaluation of a number of vehicles, the RFO was extended several times at the request of Armscor to allow for sufficient time to conduct a thorough evaluation and analysis of all offers received.
“After careful evaluation of all the offers submitted to Armscor for evaluation and consideration, it was decided that no appointment of a preferred bidder be made as none of the bidders conformed to all the critical criteria as set out in the request for offer. … Armscor is in the process of obtaining the applicable authorisations to initiate a new RFO process in due course. This will be in the public domain as soon as Armscor is ready to commence with the new process.”

Continued industry interest in the project, despite the absence of a new RFO since 2007, was apparent at both the 2008 and 2010 editions of African Aerospace & Defence. Other vendors at the latter included Rheinmetall MAN, Mercedes Benz South Africa, Leyland Ashok from India, the US Navistar and BMC from Turkey. In October BAE Systems Land Systems South Africa and Iveco Defence Vehicles signed a teaming agreement to pursue Vistula.

A BAE spokeswoman in South Africa added to DefenseNews that until the RfO emerges it “would remain unclear what mix of trucks the military is seeking.” A spokesman for the Italian truck maker said that depending on the requirements, the company was preparing to offer its Trakker or High Mobility ranges, with or without armoured cabs. Both vehicle types are available in four-, six- and eight-wheel drive configurations. The trucks could be assembled by BAE Systems “at one of its vehicle facilities in South Africa.” The BAE spokeswoman, who was not further identified, said the decision on whether to build locally would in part depend on the RfP requirements.



A Renault Kerax at AAD2010 at AFB Ysterplaat in September