Ysterplaat air force base in Cape Town was the venue for AAD 2010, Africa’s largest aerospace, defense and security exhibition. It was obvious that war without trucks just ain’t war.The place was Ysterplaat air force base in Cape Town and the occasion was AAD 2010, Africa’s largest aerospace, defense and security exhibition which was held alongside the Cape Town Air Show during September.
Military manufacturers from all corners of the globe including China, the USA, Europe, Japan, Korean, Thailand and of course, South Africa, had a wide range of military hardware on display. In addition to what has been described above, was a broad range of different types of equipment such as casevac apparatus, the latest high-technology weapons systems, automatic rifles of varying calibres and potency and a huge range of ancillary equipment such as night sight devices, mobile kitchen systems and so on.
There was also a huge array of military vehicles both imported and locally manufactured with varying levels of armour protection and logistics capabilities. Among these were some well known names such Nissan, MAN, Renault and Mercedes-Benz. Because FleetWatch’s visit took place the day before the actual show opened, most of the exhibition stands were still being erected so it was impossible to find anyone able or willing to talk to the media about anything at all. Except for Mercedes-Benz Military, a division of Mercedes-Benz South Africa, who had scheduled a media visit to their fully completed and manned exhibition stand in Hall 5.
Dr Harry Teifel, manager, military division of MBSA, was on hand and said the Mercedes-Benz range of all-wheel-drive vehicles aimed for active military duty had been designed with maximum off-road capability in mind.
“All-wheel-drive, plus interwheel and inter-axle differential locks and high-torque engines enable the vehicles to master even the most extreme situations,’ he said, adding that the technology at the heart of Mercedes-Benz all wheel-drive vehicles provide a climbing ability of up to 80% and, in the case of the Unimog, a full 100%. The main display comprised an Actros 3344 A in a 6×6 configuration with a ‘˜SHARCC’ (Southern Hemisphere Armoured Cab Concept) cab. This cab is designed to conform to a ballistic level 1 and a mine level 3a/3b, with no IED protection. This configuration is geared towards situations typical in Africa and South America, where close-range and small artillery exchanges can occur , but mines remain a bigger threat, especially on un-tarred roads. The new generation all-wheeldrive Zetros is a conventional-type truck which is characterised by its “normal control’ configuration (cab located behind the engine). The all-in-one concept (chassis, cab and vehicle bodies) meets the current requirements associated with high-mobile, on-road and off-road vehicles.
Completing the display line-up was the Unimog U5000 that gives maximum mobility in the toughest of terrain. The Unimog U3000, U4000 and U5000 series for heavy-duty applications under extreme off road conditions have become legendary with their versatility. The specific range of military vehicles stands out by meeting military standards and technical specifications such as all-wheel-drive with single tyres, supreme off-road mobility, ballistic protection, air and rail transportability, fording depths up to 1 195 mm, blackout lighting system, roof hatch, tyre pressure control and a host of other specific features.
The “Big Daddy’ cab is suitable for the Mercedes-Benz Actros 8×8 configuration, setting the benchmark for protection in a load-carrying military vehicle. Its special feature of a welded armoured steel cab offers ballistic, mine and IED protection while composite panels and spall liners are used for enhanced ballistic protection. The Zetros Cab with an Integrated AP-mine protection system offers a protection level 2 for ballistic protection, level 2 b for mine protection and 50 kg blast protection for TNT.
Teifel says Mercedes-Benz is the world’s only manufacturer which covers all payload categories without exception, from 500 kg through to 110 tons , from the G-Class via the Unimog and Zetros, right through to the Actros. Today, approximately 150 000 Mercedes-Benz-brand military vehicles are deployed around the world by around 80 different armed forces. Based on its worldwide service organisation, Mercedes-Benz has developed a service concept tailored specifically to military requirements called Integrated Logistics Support (ILS). With ILS, vehicles are serviced in accordance with a customer specific maintenance plan. This concept includes training the drivers, operators and maintenance personnel as well as delivery of the necessary tools and parts and also the required technical documentation.
It is certainly heartening to see the results of the serious amount of research and development that goes into the making of these vehicles come to fruition. Heartening because so much effort is being made to ensure that not only are the vehicles technically capable of performing the job for which they were designed but because an equal amount of effort has gone into protecting the drivers and the other occupants so they too can perform their tasks , whether it be a peace keeping or active engagement mission.
It was all very impressive but one has to retain a sense of reality of what these vehicles are designed for. No matter how alluring the manufacturers may make their vehicles look and no matter how comforting the glossy brochures spell out their prowess and high levels of safety, these are weapons of war. This reporter has never heard any seasoned soldiers glamorising war because war is not glamorous. It is about guns, blood and the loss of loved ones, often for a cause the dead and the dying hardly understand.
Still war is a reality and it was fascinating to see allies and potential enemies displaying their weapons of war alongside each other as if this was business as normal and, perhaps, in this day and age, it is. But who would have thought 20 or 30 years ago that one would see the Chinese and Russians competing for business on the same turf as the Americans. And where, among all this was James Bond?