New Trucks for The Army?

PETALING JAYA: After the heady and sometimes heaty discussions into the MRCA, its time get back into the ground, literally.

Yes, the Army is finally in the final stages of issuing the tender for the replacement on the Pinzgauer fleet. If you say, its about time, think again. The Pinzgauers were only put into service, in stages between 1995 to 1999.

So, the oldest are almost 15 years-old now while the youngest is around 12. So by the time, the first new trucks goes into service, the oldest Pinzgauers will be around for 20 years or so. Of course since the Army fleet is around 330 or so, technically they will be much younger, based on their individual usages of course. I am not sure about the mileage but they will be much lower than a commercial truck of the same year registration.

Despite this we have seen various Pinzgauers in junkyards, up for sale or in civilian hands already. The Pinzgauers were sold by Deftech (yes, the people behind AV8) some of which were imported directly from Steyr and some assembled in the Pekan plant.

If you say this sound similar to the AV8 programme, you are exactly on the button. They even said that they would market the Pinzgauers for the Asia-Pacific market. As far as I know that did not happen and production, oops, assembly, soon stop after the last vehicle was handed over.

The not-so-funny thing about the so-call export project was that when Steyr Daimler Puch when belly up in 2000, Deftech did not buy the rights for the vehicles which instead went to a UK based company.

We all know that the Army had trouble maintaining the Pinzgauers in service, both the 4X4 and 6X6 variants although most vehicles seen in civilian hands are mostly the former. Deftech officials, privately, blamed the Army for not giving them the contract to provide service and support for the trucks and instead rely a host of suppliers for parts and support. The Malay Mail carried a report about this last year.

Enough about the back ground already! What about the new tender? Industry insiders says that the tender programme to replace the Pinzgauers is expected to be issued within the next 12 month. It is expected that the Army will be looking to procure up to 300 trucks in the 2.5 tonne to 3 tonne category.

Pesaka Astana, which assembled trucks locally under the brand name Amdac has fired the first salvo signalling its attention to bid for the programme. It launched the Adiwira truck recently. The truck is the locally assembled version of the French company Acmat VLRA truck. The truck is available in both the 4X4 and 6X6 versions.

Apart from Pesaka Astana, who will be the other competitors? Unimog, courtesy of Deftech and a host of other vehicles from local companies like Weststar and SERT (the current supplier of Vamtac. SERT has announced recently that it is the sole distributor for Iveco Defence vehicles in Malaysia.

It appears that the Humvee-type vehicle would be excluded as does up-armoured variant of any of the above. That is the reason I believe SERT tie-up with Iveco. There will be others of course, many countries also manufacture similar trucks .

But as usual those with local assembly programme will probably selected as the Defence Minister had said all future defence deals must have local content. But apparently its ok to source parts and spares from overseas during its service in the armed forces.

Apart from the Pinzgauers, the Hicom Handalan, again another Deftech product from a Isuzu commercial truck, will also probably be started to replace during the same time period. The Army has had less problems with the Handalan although Deftech was also not given the contract to support. Being a COTS solution, the Handalan fared better than its stable.

It also scored in the export market, a dozen or so were exported to Brunei and about the same numbers were donated to Timor Leste FOC, including the spares and support.

To me the Unimog is the best vehicle for the job but I reserved my support due to the Deftech connection and the mandatory local assembly deal. Yes I know it will be difficult to proof that its cheaper to buy the Unimog directly from Germany than local assembly. Nonetheless I will state here, ditch the middleman and spare the armed forces budget.

–Malaysian Defence

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