Pandur II vehicle as one of the favorites in the Slovak tender
Not so long ago, the Ministry of Defense of the Slovak Republic presented its intention to purchase new 8x8 Armored Fighting Vehicles (AFVs). In this material, the Ministry describes the financial framework of the project, the number of new vehicles requested, the versions that the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic are interested in, or the technical parameters and specifications that the winning vehicle must meet. In total, the Ministry of Defense of the Slovak Republic plans to purchase up to 500 new AFVs 8x8 in twenty different modifications in five phases. The project to acquire new AFVs is currently in its infancy and it is only possible to consider which vehicles could be involved in the tender. One of them may be the Pandur II vehicle, which has already participated in the tender for the new AFV 8x8 in Slovakia.
The first attempt by the Slovak ministry
The previous leadership of the Ministry of Defense of the Slovak Republic, led by the now former Minister Petr Gajdoš, also sought to acquire new 8x8 Armored Fighting Vehicles. In 2017, the Security Council of the Slovak Republic approved the purchase of 81 vehicles. The winning vehicle then became the Patria AMV combat vehicle. Several vehicles took part in the tender, including the Pandur II 8x8. The Pandur II 8x8 vehicle was offered in this tender in a modified version under the name Corsac 8x8 and was first presented at the IDEB 2016 trade fair by the Slovak company MSM Group, which subsequently offered it in the mentioned tender of the Ministry of Defense of the Slovak Republic. The failure of the Pandur II 8x8 or the Corsac 8x8 could have been influenced by several factors.
In terms of technical parameters, the Pandur II did not meet the required level of ballistic protection, as the ballistic protection of the then offered Pandur II Armored Fighting Vehicle was at level 1 according to STANAG 4569, while the Ministry of Defense of the Slovak Republic required at least level 3 according to this standard. In addition to insufficient ballistic protection, the price of the vehicle could also be a problem. According to the information provided in the document of the Value for Money Department of the Ministry of Finance of the Slovak Republic, which evaluated the project of acquisition of 8x8 and 4x4 vehicles, the price per piece of Pandur II vehicle ranged from 5 to 5.5 million euros. The price of one Patria AMV vehicle was 4 million euros. For example, the Boxer Armored Fighting Vehicle failed, according to information from the Value for Money Department's evaluation, partly due to the high price of 5.4 million euros per piece.
A new opportunity
On the other hand, a considerable time has elapsed since the 2017 tender and improvements have been made to the Pandur II 8x8. Production of Pandur II 8x8 vehicles is already underway in the Czech Republic thanks to a license that Tatra Defense Vehicle obtained from GDELS in 2015. At the end of 2020, Tatra Defense Vehicle successfully completed an order for the Czech Army, which it ordered from the company in 2017. 20 pieces of special Pandur II CZ vehicles in KOVS and KOVVŠ versions. Compared to the previously introduced Pandur II CZ 8x8 vehicles in the Czech Army, the newly delivered versions have significantly higher ballistic and mine protection according to the STANAG 4569 standard, thanks to the introduction of new additional ceramic armor plates and reinforcement of the vehicle chassis. In addition, the Pandur II can swim, and this ability is one of the criteria that the Ministry of Defense of the Slovak Republic requires from new vehicles. At the same time, the Pandur II vehicle is armed with SPIKE LR anti-tank guided missiles, which the Ministry of Defense of the Slovak Republic wants to introduce to the future tracked platform.
In addition to increasing the level of ballistic and mine protection of the vehicle, Pandur II vehicles also enjoy success abroad. In 2019, Indonesia signed a contract to supply 23 Pandur II 8x8 armored combat vehicles for its armed forces. The project is led by the Czech company Excalibur Army, which cooperates with Tatra Defense Vehicle on the project, and PT PINDAD is involved in the project on behalf of the Indonesian side. There was also information that in the future, PT PINDAD's involvement in the Pandur II 8x8 vehicle production project could be even greater due to the possibility of increasing the contract to hundreds of vehicles. In addition to Indonesia, the Pandur II also gained ground in the Philippines. There, the Israeli company Elbit Systems will supply the local army with Sabrah fire support vehicles, which will use the ASCOD 2 tracked vehicle chassis and the Pandur II 8x8 wheeled vehicle chassis. The delivery of Pandur II vehicles will be provided by the company Excalibur Army, which will be manufactured by the Kopřivnice Tatra Defense Vehicle. In the future, this type of vehicle could theoretically supplement the modernized tank army of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic.
One of the factors that the Slovak Ministry of Defense will take into account when selecting new AFV 8x8 will be the involvement of the domestic defense industry. As the Czech company Tatra Defense Vehicle has a license to manufacture Pandur II 8x8 vehicles, the involvement of Slovak companies would significantly contribute to the deepening of defense cooperation between the two countries. There would also be an opportunity for great involvement of domestic industry. For example, at its grand opening at the beginning of this summer, Tatra Defense Slovakia declared that it would strive to transfer the production of chassis and subsequently entire vehicles for power units to Slovakia. At the same time, when looking at some required versions of new 8x8 vehicles, such as versions for electronic warfare or air defense, Czech and Slovak companies can jointly develop new turrets and equipment for these vehicle versions and come up with an interesting export item. This would bring even greater involvement of Slovak companies in the Pandur II 8x8 vehicle project, and thus a greater benefit to the Slovak economy.
In general, it can be said that the Pandur II 8x8 AFV has the potential to be at least shortlisted in the Slovak tender for new Armored Fighting Vehicles. Of course, other factors will also play a role, such as the price of one piece of vehicle, operating costs, or delivery dates, which can decide where the Pandur II vehicle will go in the Slovak tender. However, the vehicle has undergone some development since the tender in 2017, and both foreign orders and the fulfillment of the order of 20 special Pandur II vehicles in the KOVS and KOVVŠ versions for the Czech Army prove that this was a development for the better.