Since Its Been Here

SHAH ALAM: Since its been here. Although much of the procurement plans for the Armed Forces are only expected to be approved and funded later this year, I am told that the Condor replacement programme for the Malaysian unit of UN peacekeeping for Lebanon or UNIFIL has been greenlighted and is expected to be tender out in the next few months.

As the UN will reimburse the cost of the Condor replacement, one can assumed that this was the reason the project was greenlighted by our tight fisted bean counters. I was told that the Condors will be replaced by a 4X4 High Mobility Protected Vehicle (HMPV), more commonly called mine resistant, ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles, by other users.

A 20mm turret Condor with the other Condors undergoing inspection by the UN recently. Joint Force photo.

I am told that 40 HMPV will be procured for the Unifil mission – the current unit is designated Malbatt 850-7 – though I was not informed of the number of variants needed. I am guessing that at least it will be three namely – personnel, ambulance and a command and control platform. A fire support variant like the Condor armed with the 20mm gun is unlikely based on our unit’s experience in Lebanon.

Tight fit. The interior of a Condor ambulance.

It must be noted that apart from the Condors, the Malbatt unit in Unifil, are also equipped with other soft skin vehicles from Land Rovers to Handalan trucks. The unit is also equipped with forklifts to move equipment around at the camp.

It may not be glamourous but logistics work need the right equipment as well including this forklift.

I am told that around the same number of HMPV will also be procured to equip the current Army’s ready battalion, the 7th Royal Rangers. The decision to equip the battalion – kept ready for UN emergency peace keeping mission – is likely based on the same one taken to equip the Unifil mission with the HMPV. Our peacekeepers in Lebanon found that the locals were more likely to interact with them if they were not equipped “war like” vehicles such as the Condors or tracked armoured vehicles.

An Iveco ambulance attached to Malbatt.

As a mechanised unit, the 7th Rangers, is equipped with the Adnan ACV as its main combat vehicles. It is unclear what will happened to the Adnans when the battalion is reequipped with the HMPV. The vehicles could be transferred to other mechanised units or be the first ones to undergo a SLEP if it is funded of course.

An Adnan with 7 Royal Rangers undergoing inspection.

I am told an open competition will be held to select the HMPV for the UN units. This means that the next Malbatt unit may well operate two types HMPV in the future as it is already equipped with nine IAG Guardians. I am told that the Guardian was purchased via direct negotiations something that will not be repeated by the current administration.

A Guardian with Malbatt peacekeepers at a riot control training. The Guardian manual turret did not appear to be fitted with a gun.

That said they could be operating more Guardians instead of another HPMV as the local company which sold them could take part in the tender. Even Deftech – which sold the Lipan Bara to the Army – could also take part in the tender. I was told that that the chances of the Guardian or the Lipan Bara to be chosen for the tender are rather slim though.

A Lipan Bara likely from the Armour School in Port Dickson at the Merdeka 2019 rehersal day.

It must be noted that the Condor replacement programme started in 2006, partly as part of the Unifil mission requirements. Back then the Malaysian unit was based in the northern part of Lebanon, a semi rural area with mountain roads leading to the requirement for 6X6 vehicles as the Condors were prone to tipping over in uneven terrain, something which was well known since the Somalia peacekeeeping operations. However, the requirements morphed into the HMPV as the Malbatt unit was transferred down to the middle of Lebanon around 2010 onwards.

Condors of 4 Armor during an exercise in February, 2019. Facebook

Apart from replacing the Condors in Lebanon, the Army is also keen to replace the vehicles still in service with its Armor unit as they are also basically obsolete. Some 200 or so (most likely lower) are still in service with the Royal Armoured Corps, despite the introduction of the Gempita. The Army wants to replace these Condors with new 6X6, whether it will happened in RMK12 is the million dollar question.

— Malaysian Defence

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