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Armoured Vehicles (Part 1): How Pakistan is Not Pushing the Manufacturing Needle Far Enough

During the 2018 International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS), which was held in Karachi, Pakistan last November, two notable Pakistani companies – Cavalier Group and Hajvairy Group – showcased their respective proposals for the armed forces’ wheeled armoured vehicle requirements.

Cavalier Group brought its Hamza 6×6 armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) alongside various 4×4 options, such as the Predator 4×4 special operations vehicle (SOV) and others. Additionally, it also displayed its Pasha-line of wheeled 4×4 and 6×6 chassis/platforms for logistics and utility purposes.

Hajvairy Group had brought a Kia Motors Light Tactical Vehicle (LTV).

Its representatives told Quwa that it is offering the KM1 to the Pakistani security forces and, if given a sufficient order, will assemble the vehicles at Heavy Industry Taxila (HIT).

State-owned HIT revealed its first infantry fighting vehicle (IFV), the Viper, for the Pakistan Army’s next-generation tracked armoured vehicle requirements. If cleared for production, the Viper IFV will join HIT’s Dragoon 2 as among the manufacturer’s new armoured combat vehicle solutions.

Overall, it appears that the armed forces are drafting armoured vehicles of varying scope and terms, and the industry is responding. On the surface, new orders would catalyze these vendors to invest and, in turn, generate long-term activity in Pakistan’s defence industry.

However, the current approach – especially by the private sector – is fraught with gaps, especially in terms of the industrial intake Pakistan is to receive in order to fulfill its requirements. In other words, most plans do not have significant scope for enabling Pakistan to manufacture critical inputs, such as engines.

This is not to say that these efforts will necessarily preclude such activity, but seeing how even HIT did not achieve localizing critical inputs, despite manufacturing the M113 armoured personnel carrier (APC) under license, it is unlikely that actual plans for such development, at least currently.

Rather, the potential to recapitalize Pakistan’s armour will simply repeat the processes that are already in place with limited, if any, additional localization. The added cost of re-tooling combined with continuing reliance on foreign suppliers – and the hard/foreign currency cost and strategic vulnerabilities that brings – is not being dealt with aggressively enough despite repeated calls for indigenization.

Final Assembly First

In terms of private sector offerings, there are varying levels of industry investment on offer.

The least intensive appears to be the offer by Hajvairy Group, which partnered with Kia Motors to propose the latter’s LTV. The Kia Motors LTV is a 5.7-ton 4×4 vehicle that can transport troops, undertake logistics operations, and provide other support (e.g., carry anti-infantry armaments).

With the Kia Motors LTV, Hajvairy Group appears to have responded to the same requirement that had seen Metal Engineering Works propose the VAMTAC in IDEAS 2016. That bid might have been in response (or in competition) to the Military Vehicles Research and Development Establishment’s (MVRDE) program in 2015-2016 to develop a ‘Light Armed Vehicle Assault’ (LAVA). Seeing how the end-result – i.e., the Kia Motors LTV or MVRDE LAVA – would roll-out from HIT, it is likely that these are competing programs.

Unfortunately, if inked, the Kia Motors LTV plan is unlikely to proceed past final assembly work at HIT. At IDEAS 2018, Quwa was told by Hajvairy Group that its “transfer-of-technology” (ToT) proposal centers on complete knockdown (CKD) kits. Quwa probed if this could expand to manufacturing certain components, but Hajvairy Group was unable to provide an affirmative answer, stating only, “possibly.”

To its credit, Cavalier Group is a major step ahead of Hajvairy Group.

Cavalier Group’s Hamza AFV and Predator SOV/LAV are original designs (though a source told Quwa that the design work was done with foreign support). This means that Cavalier Group defined the specifications and capabilities of its vehicles and selected the subsystems, such as engine, transmission, etc.

As noted in Quwa’s article about Pakistan’s space program, the integrator role confers multiple benefits, such as enabling the vendor to control cost by selecting the most cost-effective subsystems and to ensure that supplies are available by working with reliable partners.

While focusing on integration may be sufficient for programs with limited scale, such as satellites or large warships, this is not an optimal course for armoured vehicles that are to be produced in the hundreds, if not the thousands. First, the economies-of-scale potential makes turnkey vehicle manufacturing feasible. Second, the accumulation of importing engines, transmission systems, etc across thousands of armoured vehicles will have an impact on Pakistan’s foreign currency. Third, Pakistan will miss export opportunities.

Interestingly, genuine technology development in the armoured vehicle space can also translate into work for civilian-use heavy vehicles (and vice-versa).

Turkey’s TÜMOSAN is a notable – and recent – example of this synergy. It had built its presence as a utility, tractor, and agricultural vehicle manufacturer but TÜMOSAN gradually progressed into design and development. It manufactures its own engines, transmissions as well as other critical systems. It leveraged its growing expertise to develop the Pusat LAV, which it says will be ready for serial production in 2019.

Granted, it took over 40 years following TÜMOSAN’s inception to reach the Pusat, but this reflects genuine domestic capital investment in manufacturing. In Pakistan’s case, there are few opportunities for revenue than defence, but procurement officials must be mindful of how it is spending fiscal resources.

Direct off-the-shelf purchases without ToT are expensive, but less so than ToT that does not move industry development beyond assembly and integration. In the latter, Pakistan will have overheads that cannot be leveraged beyond assembling imported CKDs. Unfortunately, these limitations then disincentivize future planners from taking domestic industry development seriously.

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