The Austrian company GDELS Steyr, part of the General Dynamics European Land Systems (GDELS) division and formerly known as Steyr-Daimler-Puch Spezialfahrzeug GmbH (SSF), is responsible for developing a new vehicle of the Pandur family of wheeled vehicles (FoV). A few photos of an unspecified Pandur 6x6 variant, which apparently is a long wheelbase version of the Pandur II, were taken at a recent event in April. The fact that the vehicle was presented in a modern digital camouflage pattern has caused some funny commencts regarding the lack of style; however here these photos were the inspiration to take a very short look at the Pandur 1 projects in Austria and other countries. The fact that a Pandur II 6x6 is located at the Steyr plant might be a hint regarding the development of the Pandur EVO - it could be used as reference or as base model for the next iteration of the Pandur vehicle. The Pandur 1 is operated in different versions by the Austrian Army (the so called Bundesheer), the Belgian Army (as scout and ambulance vehicles), the Kuwaiti National Guard (some armed with 25 mm autocannons or 90 mm Cockerill medium calibre guns), the Slovenian Army (known as locally as "Valuk") and the US Army's Special Forces (fitted with applique armor, operated by the Delta Force and 75th Rangers in very small numbers).
|The Pandur EVO has a long wheelbase and flat side walls. The rendering shows also a WS4 Panther RWS|
The start of the Pandur EVO project was officially announced on the 21st of April 2017, after initial news reports appeared in December 2016 and January of 2017. It has been confirmed that 34 vehicles were ordered by the Bundesheer (Austrian Army) from GDELS Steyr and ESL Advanced Information Technology GmbH for a speculated price of €105 million. The Pandur EVO is a modernized version of the Pandur 1 armored personnel carrier (APC), but is a new development rather than an upgrade of the older vehicle version. Why the Pandur II, which is known to be superior to the existing Pandur 1 models and is available as a 6x6 and a 8x8 version, hasn't been chosen instead is currently not known, but the decision has been claimed to be related to logistics: the Pandur II is currently only operated by the Czech Army and the Protoguese Army - the Pandur EVO supposedly shares more components with the Pandur 1. It has been said that using the Pandur 1 as base of the EVO model will enable the Austria Army to reduce the costs for spare parts and maintenance. The delivery of the first prototype of the Pandur EVO is expected for 2018, so photos taken at a recent event at the GDELS Steyr factory might showcase the current state of development - although this is most definetly not the final Pandur EVO, due to lacking the rear ramp.
|The two rear doors and the flat side walls with bolt-on armor can be used as reference for identifying the Pandur II|
Another factor for choosing the Pandur EVO over the Pandur II might be the combat weight: the Pandur II 6x6 is only capable of supporting a maximum combat weight of 16.5 metric tons in case of the long wheelbase variant, while the short wheelbase model supports only 15.5 metric tons. The weight of the Pandur EVO, utilizing a new hull with a long wheelbase, has not been released yet. However the Pandur 1 chassis, in the process of being upgraded as part of the Pandur A2 improvment project, is meant to be boosted to support up to 16.8 metric tons - 3.3 tons more than the original Pandur 1. This requires modifications to the brakes, steering system and the suspension. The Pandur II 8x8 has a maximum combat weight of 24 metric tons in the standard configuration.
The Pandur EVO is expected to be heavier than the upgraded Pandur A2. The additional weight is utilized for better protection - the demanded level of protection couldn't be achieved with modifying the original Pandur 1 design - and to increase transport capacity from 9 (crew of three + six dismounts) to eleven (crew of three + eight dismounts). This is why the Pandur EVO will feature a long wheelbase. In order to deal wtih the heavier vehicle, the engine has been replaced by a more powerful one, delivering about 27 hp per ton (implying at least a 450 hp engine) - rumors suggest a MTU engine (i.e. a version of the MTU 6V 199), although it might be fitted with a Cummins engine instead (as used on the Pandur 1 vehicles for Kuwait and the Pandur II production versions); the adoption of a new transmission (from Allison, Renk or ZF) is also expected. The Pandur EVO will feature a large rear ramp, rather than two separate rear doors. The seats will be mine-proof and thus not connected to the vehicle's floor plate. A NBC protection system and an anti-lock braking system will also be installed in the Pandur EVO.
|In US service the vehicle is known as Armored Ground Mobility System|
There is also a politcal component to the decision to purchase the Pandur EVO: in the past the GDELS Steyr plant located in Vienna-Simmering had been manufacutring Pandur 1s for Kuwait; apparently twenty out of seventy from the original order aswell as forty vehicles from the second order were manufactured in Austria, the others were assembled by AV Technology in the United States of America. The plant has finished its task, but no other follow-up order for Pandur 1s existed (the Pandur 2 is not being manufactured in Austria, it's only licence made in the Czech Republic and in Portugal), which meant that ordering the Pandur EVO is essentially for keeping 147 jobs working on the Pandur production - in fact the decision to order the Pandur EVO created jobs, because GDELS Steyr announced to increase it's workforce by about 10%. Previously the plant was downsized, at some time in the past it was even suggested to turn it into a pure repair and maintenance plant. Overall 179 Austrian companies take part in the development of the next evolution of the Austrian APC, leading to 70% of the contract value ending up in Austrian pockets.
|Some of the Pandur 1 vehicles for the Kuwaiti National Guard are IFVs|
The basic protection of the Pandur 1 is provided by it's all-welded steel hull, which features no proper provisions made for mine protection. The well-sloped frontal aspect is protected against 12.7 mm ammunition from distances greater than 100 metres and against 14.5 mm rounds fired from distances greater than a 1,000 metres. All-round protection is provided against 5.56 mm ammunition only. An initial upgrade to the Pandur A1 included new seats, that together with the relatively high ground clearance common in wheeled vehicles lead to a STANAG 4569 level 1 mine resistance (hand grenade or anti-personnel mine detonating below the vehicle).
The Pandur EVO's higher protection level is a result of bolt-on applique armor and a new mine protection kit; the relatively high level of required mine protection made it necessary to modify the hull. The exact supplier for the armor has not been disclosed, but the EVO variant might feature an armor kit consisting of RUAG's SidePRO-KE/IED armor for ballistic protection and a MinePRO system for the hull belly in order to resist mines. Both armor types, enabling the vehicle to survive different types of IEDs aswell, have been integrated in the next Pandur A2 upgrade. RUAG has been ordered by Austria and Belgium to develop an applique armor package based on it's existing protection technology in 2015. The total costs for this contract on the side of Austria were €13.57 million. The upgrade unfortunately requires completely stripping down the vehicle, integrating the armor and then adding all previously removed components again - this is the reason why only one prototype of the improved Pandur A2 has yet been finished, two further vehicles are scheduled for 2017. At the time of making the contract, the final delivery of the last uparmored Pandur A2 was expected in 2020; in the same timeframe the Pandur EVO production should be introduced in Austrian service.
In theory Austria might have chosen another contractor for the armor systems of the Pandur EVO - the Ulan for example is protected by MEXAS armor from RUAG's German competitor IBD Deisenroth, this however would nullify some of the logistic advantages gained by choosing the Pandur EVO rather than the Pandur II. The Pandur II of the Czech Army is fitted with ceramic armor from the Israeli manfacturer Rafael in order to reach STANAG 4569 level 4 ballistic protection (all round protection agianst 14.5 mm AP ammo). The mine protection plating of the EVO version is scheduled for testing in this month, i.e. June 2017.
If the weight of the Pandur EVO is somewhat close to the Pandur A2 after RUAG's armor upgrade, it shouldn't be able to reach a very high level of protection. Other 6x6 armored fighting vehicles (AFVs) such as the German Fuchs 1A8 reach a combat weight of up to 27 metric tons, which allows a high level of ballistic and mine protection, meeting the full NATO STANAG 4569 level 4 - this includes aside of all-around resistance to 14.5 mm AP rounds, also blast protection against 10 kilograms of TNT and roof armor to withstand artillery fragments from a distance of 30 metres.
|Pandur A2 firring it's M2 Browning heavy machine gun|
The Pandur EVO is to be armed with a remotely controlled weapon station (RWS) of unknown type. The current Pandur A2 APCs are armed with a WS4 Panther weapon station from ESL Advanced Information Technology GmbH, a subsidairy of the Israeli manufacturer Elbit Systems. This RWS can be fitted with either a single 7.62 mm machine gun (MG), a single 12.7 mm heavy MG or a 40 mm automatic grenade launcher (AGL); due to not having an AGL in the inventory, the Austrian Army utilizes only the M2 Browning MG. Alternatively the WS4 Panther Duo, capable of holding a 7.62 mm machine gun and a 40 mm grenade launcher at the same time, might be fitted to the Pandur EVO, if an AGL is purchased at the same time. Both types of the Panther RWS feature an advanced set of optronics with a thermal imager, a laser rangefinder and a daylight camera.
|This camouflage pattern might be useful for aval infantry, but it is not suited for Austria|
The Austrian Army also bought seven used Pandurs (six APCs and a medical treatment vehicle) for an extremely low price of only half a million Euros from Belgium in 2016. Steyr GDELS is currently also working on an upgrade of the Ulan infantry fighting vehicle (IFV), which is focused around the adoption of an air-conditioning unit. This would enable the Ulan - internationally known as ASCOD (Austro-Spanish co-development) to be used for peace-keeping missions in the hot regions of Asia and Africa.