Pandur II as a promising platform for Slovak and Czech armies

Pandur II as a promising platform for Slovak and Czech armies
Author: TDV|Caption: Pandur II CZ
13 / 12 / 2021, 09:45

In July 2021, the Slovak Ministry of Defence announced its intention to purchase new wheeled combat vehicles for the Slovak Army, which will in fact join the other three Visegrad Four countries that are also selecting or purchasing new armoured vehicles. Let us just recall here that in the Czech Republic a tender for Infantry Fighting Vehicles is under way (currently suspended and awaiting a new government), while Hungary has already opted for German-origin equipment (in particular Leopard 2 tanks and Lynx infantry armoured vehicles) and Poland is also buying a number of vehicle types. In the case of Slovakia, however, it is certainly worth noting the intended speed of implementation of the plan, as the first new armoured vehicles should be delivered as early as next year. In any case, this is a great opportunity for the Czech defence industry, as the platforms under consideration include the Pandur II type, which is linked to the fact that the Czech Army needs to modernise the armoured vehicles of this type in its armament.

Slovakia's efforts to acquire new wheeled combat vehicles have been going on for over six years, as back in 2015 the intention to acquire eight-wheeled Scipio vehicles, which were to be a derivative of the Polish Rosomak armoured vehicle with a Slovak turret, was announced. The following year, however, the entire plan was cancelled and in 2017 it was decided to acquire eight-wheeled Vydra vehicles. The basis for this design was the Finnish Patria AMV (which, somewhat paradoxically, is also the basis for the Polish Rosomak), which featured a remote-controlled Turra 30 turret from the Slovak armaments company EVPÚ Defence. However, the Ministry of Defence at the time was evaluating several possible variants, including the Corsac vehicle, which was a derivative of the Pandur II design also carrying the Turra 30 turret. The Slovak army was supposed to acquire 81 Vydra vehicles, but the project faced criticism for low transparency, so the new government that took power after the 2020 elections halted it. It has now been decided to launch an international competition to select the contractor for the AFV (BOV) 8x8 project. This is an extremely lucrative contract as it could involve deliveries in five waves for a total of 500 armoured vehicles in 20 variants.

In the first wave, 60 basic combat vehicles, six command armoured vehicles and ten armoured ambulances are to be procured. The second wave is to include nine armoured vehicles for electronic jamming, 24 vehicles for electronic reconnaissance and targeting, three vehicles for electronic warfare and, above all, 56 armoured vehicles for air defence. The third wave would procure 17 basic combat vehicles, six reconnaissance and nine command vehicles, 36 self-propelled mortars of 120 mm calibre and 29 armoured ambulances. The fourth wave would consist of 81 armoured vehicles functioning as a command post, three vehicles for transporting squads with anti-materiel rifles and nine vehicles for squads with grenade launchers. The last wave is to be the most numerous, in which 13 recovery armoured vehicles, 11 technical assistance workshops, four armoured vehicles for radiation and chemical reconnaissance, two vehicles for search and assistance in contaminated environments, 45 engineer vehicles, 29 vehicles with mine throwers, the same number of armoured vehicles with explosive deminers and finally nine engineer road clearers are to be purchased. However, more detailed specifications exist so far only for the versions bought in the first wave, i.e. combat, command and ambulance.

See also: Czech companies to supply Pandur II armored fighting vehicles to Indonesia

Of course, speculation immediately began about which of today's types of eight-wheeled vehicles could meet these requirements, or which ones the Slovaks would evaluate. It can be assumed that these types will certainly include the Finnish Patria AMV (a) or its Polish derivative, the Rosomak, but the Pandur II vehicle also belongs to the category of favourites. This originally came from the Austrian company GDELS-Steyr, but is currently being manufactured in the Czech Republic by Tatra Defence Vehicle, which is part of the Cezchoslovak Group. The Czech Army now operates a total of 127 units, of which 107 were delivered under the original contract and a further 20 vehicles correspond to the new specialised versions. However, the Pandur II platform has also won other successes, including contracts for Indonesia and the Philippines. The vast majority of the Pandur II 8x8s from the first delivery for the Czech Armed Forces were built in the state-owned company VOP CZ, most of the versions were even designed there, the 20 new units for the Czech Army were also designed and manufactured in the Czech Republic, specifically in Tatra Defence Vehicle, and the armoured vehicles for export are also produced in Kopřivnice. The Pandur II 8x8 can thus already be referred to as a Czech vehicle, as the current design differs significantly from the original one from the noughties of the 21st century, mainly due to numerous elements and changes that are of Czech origin.

Corsac

In this context, it should be emphasised that the eight-wheeled Pandur II armoured vehicle offered to the Slovak Army already corresponds to the redesigned or modernised configuration. It was created within the framework of the project of two special forms of KOVS (communications) and KOVVŠ (command and staff) for the Czech Army, and it is already envisaged that all future Pandur II vehicles will use the same modernised design. The main difference from the basic design is the higher resistance to ballistic and explosive threats, which now corresponds to NATO STANAG 4569 Level 3/3a. In practice, this means that the vehicle should be able to withstand armour-piercing steel projectiles of 7.62x51 mm and 7.62x54 mm calibre and should ensure crew survival even in the event of an anti-tank mine with an 8 kg TNT charge exploding under any of the eight wheels. The increase in durability is achieved mainly by the installation of ceramic armour plates and the rebuilding of the chassis, which now has, among other things, a double floor. This is of course reflected in the increased weight of the vehicle, which has therefore also received an upgraded braking system.

In the past months, the Pandur II 8x8 armoured vehicle was presented in a form that basically corresponds to what the Slovak Army requires from the basic combat version of the new AFV 8x8. This armoured vehicle is equipped with an upgraded Turra 30 turret from EVPÚ Defence with NATO standard armament. The first version of the turret still had weapons corresponding to the de facto Soviet era, namely the 30mm 2A42 cannon and Konkurs anti-tank missiles (this version was given to the upgraded BVP-M and BPsVI vehicles of the Slovak Army), while the current version carries the US 30mm Bushmaster Mk 44 cannon and a pair of Israeli Spike-LR anti-tank missiles. It is worth pointing out that the vehicle with this version of the turret has already undergone demanding tests, including live firing. Currently, this is actually the most advanced combat version of the Pandur II 8x8 vehicle that physically exists and has been tested, which makes it potentially interesting for the Czech Army.

The Czech Armed Forces must also address the highly important issue of upgrading its Pandur II vehicles, especially those equipped with the Rafael Samson RCWS-30 remote-controlled weapon station. This was a very advanced solution at the time, but it has not been tested in practice and is now considered de facto obsolete. Moreover, the turret itself has not been produced in this form for a number of years and therefore there are problems with the supply of spare parts, which in all likelihood will increase. It should also be noted that the RCWS-30 turret has only minimal armour protection, so it can be rendered inoperable quite easily. Therefore, the Czech Army foresees a scenario in which the existing Pandur II vehicles will undergo an upgrade which could include the installation of new remote-controlled gun turrets. Of course, there are many types available on the world market, some of which are also in service, but none of them have been realistically tested in combination with the Pandur II. The only exception is the Slovak Turra 30 turret. Logically, it is also an ideal candidate for rearmament of Pandur IIs in the Czech Armed Forces.

See also: Anti-tank Pandur vehicles would suit the Czech Army – it has currently no "tank destroyers"

Considering the intended spectrum of variants of AFV 8x8 armoured vehicles for the Slovak army, it should also be emphasised that the Pandur II platform is characterised by its high modularity, thanks to which it can be configured for different tasks, or exists in a number of variants. This is clearly demonstrated by several special-purpose versions serving in the Czech Army, which are close to what the Slovaks require, i.e. command, reconnaissance, medical, engineer, communications and command and staff vehicles. In addition, it should not be forgotten that the original plans of the Czech Army envisaged the purchase of as many as 234 Pandur II vehicles in a total of nineteen versions, some of which are again close to what the Slovak Army also requires. These include an armoured vehicle for electronic warfare, an air defence vehicle, a vehicle for radiation and chemical reconnaissance, specialised engineer versions, a recovery and workshop vehicle or a self-propelled mortar. The latter version currently exists in the form of a demonstrator equipped with a 120mm Soltam mortar built into the hull. In any case, a large part of the special-purpose variants demanded by the Slovak army already physically exists, and the Pandur II platform can of course also serve for the remaining ones.

In summary, the Slovak Army's AFV 8x8 tender represents an extremely interesting opportunity, not only for the Czech defence industry, but also for the Czech Army. Of course, the Czech industry has already established above-standard good relations with the Slovak one, as demonstrated by the concrete offer in the form of the Pandur II armoured vehicle (which can nowadays be without exaggeration referred to as a primarily Czech product), which is equipped with the Slovak Turra 30 turret. This is a combination of two proven elements and at the same time the only configuration of the Pandur II vehicle with a remote-controlled turret that is actually available and has also been tested, including in shooting tests. This is very important from the point of view of the Czech Army, which needs to modernise or equip its Pandur II vehicles with new turrets. Many of the versions in the Slovak plans could also be of interest to the Czech Republic, as they were previously envisaged here. The choice of Pandur II vehicles by the Slovak Army could thus be another big stone in the mosaic of close Czech-Slovak cooperation.

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