Indonesian military industry represented by PT Pindad (Army Industrial Company) has proved itself as trusted provider for army needs. Their latest invention was medium six wheeled armoured personnel carrier (APC) ‘descended’ from French made Renault VAB (Vehicule de I’Avant Blinde), in 2006. The so called Panser 0 (zero) Series was not a mere copy cat from VAB. Indeed they don’t made it overnight.
(word ‘panser’ used by Indonesian tongue I believe derived from Dutch or German word ‘panzer’ that means tank or armoured vehicle. In Indonesia, however, it describe the wheeled armoured vehicle. Meanwhile, tracked armoured vehicle still called tank as in english)
Long development of self made weapon have been conduct since US government imposed military embargo on TNI (Indonesian Armed Forces) in 1996. The need become so obvious when TNI launch a large scale military campaign in Aceh Province in 2003. In the attempt to suppress the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) guerillas, both sides found they fought in a Vietnam War era. Old weapons fight 60s technologies armory.
Indonesian army deployed their old ganks of armoured vehicle ranging from British Saladin and Saracen, US made V-150 and French AMX-13. But that was for the cavalry brigade. As infantry mobility only depend on the militerized version of civilian truck, they were vulnerable from guerillas light arms attack. And the poorly equipped GAM’s guerillas still confident with their old but venerable AK-47 and rarely used RPG (rocket propelled grenade).
Army then submit demand for a lightweight armoured vehicle able to carry as many as 10 fully equipped personnels and capable to stand off the pierce of light to medium calibre machinegun bullet. Thus, in early 2004 Pindad delivered 14 small armoured vehicle called Angkut Personel Ringan (APR1-V1) to Aceh to replace 28 Scorpion tanks since the British government banned its deployment in internal conflict. Army bought 100 Scorpions in 1996 from Britain almost on a double of market price and they still couldn’t prove its price-worthiness.
Due to lack of road performance, Army cancel the order of the next 26 APR1-V1. Developed from 2 tones Isuzu 4×4 truck chassis (TNI called Reo truck), APR1-V1 not inherit a true combat armoured vehicle race. In that time, Pindad only convert the most common and highest populated truck operated by TNI onto small armoured car to ease maintenance, save development time and money the Army couldn’t deliver. ”During the Aceh conflict, no APR ever destroyed by GAM. Army lost two APRs swept by tsunami in the end of 2004,” said Budi Santosa, CEO of Pindad.
Despite the Army dissatisfaction of APR1-V1, Pindad proceed to the next level. The next development was bigger APC called Angkut Personel Sedang (APS). Pindad along with Agency For Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) made two APS version but still build from the same truck chassis. This time, they use 5 tones 6×6 Perkasa truck made by engineering division of PT Texmaco, former biggest textile factory collapsed during 1997-1998 economic crisis. Powered by domestic made Austrian Steyr Puch diesel engine, APS looks more promising.
Both APS model never went on combat. But realizing the capability of Pindad, on late 2005 TNI gave full support and financing the next project to build real armoured vehicle then become the Panser 0 Series. Pindad only given two months to build four prototypes that can be displayed during TNI’s 61st anniversary commemoration on October 2006.
Pindad actually build Panser 0 Series from the scratches, but with reference from Renault VAB. Budi Santosa admitted they broke a French VAB down in Pindad’s workshop at southern Bandung, West Java, to fully study its inside outside capabilities. But rather than just copying or doing some reverse engineering from VAB parts, Panser 0 Series came up with different style. Pindad developed new suspension model claimed better than VAB’s.
Unlike her predecessor, Panser 0 Series consist of monocoque high strength composite steel body. I manage to have a ride on the VAB and Panser 0 Series to feel the difference. VAB bought by Indonesian Army was 4×4 wheel version, not the more expensive 6×6 wheel version. I noticed VAB wheel can bend slightly on its axle more flexible than Panser 0 Series’s. It is usefull on extreme uneven road. Thats’ why the riding feel of VAB more bumpy even on the smooth tarmac. Pindad’s Panser, thanx to its 6 wheels, move steady and firm. But I have no chance to test them off road.
Pindad gave name 0 Series for its new APC to distinguish its basic role model for the next development. Pindad now receive order of 100 Panser from the government to equip Army, Marines, and Air Force commandos. They must develop not just for APC role, but also the fighting vehicle model that can be mounted with large canon, amphibious version and handle the flak (anti airstrike) guns.
TNI has long demanded an armoured wheeled vehicle that can be mounted with 90 mm cannon, such in Alvis Vickers Scorpion tank. The main problem is, could the high profile 6×6 wheeled vehicle sustain the high power of 90 mm guns? Scorpion tank has lower center of weight than armoured wheeled vehicle and less likely will be rolled over by the gun’s enormous recoil power.
An officer in Department of Defence have said to me that the vehicle required to mount 90 mm cannon will likely not provided by Pindad. He still not sure that a 6×6 wheeled vehicle has capable of doing so. TNI, he said, prefer the 8×8 wheeled vehicle for such role. But he suggested a solution; Pindad should make a bigger 8×8 wheeled version of Panser 0 Series.
Budi Santosa insisted that a 6×6 wheeled can be mounted with 90 mm cannon. ”It only need some modification on the body. Indeed we should cut the height of the Panser,” Budi said. The lower the profile, the lower the center of weight to increase its balance.
Nowadays, the role of mounting large cannon played by 8×8 wheeled vehicle. With more tyres you can have more weight to increase load and ammunition capability. Rooikat from South Africa and US made Piranha, late became Stryker heavily deployed in Iraq, were good samples. There is a trend that some countries prefer to wheeled than tracked armoured vehicle. Belgian army planned to replace their old and costly Leopard-1 main battle tank with 8×8 wheeled Piranha mount the same fire power of 105 mm cannon.
But old days 6×6 and even 4×4 armoured infantry vehicle (AIV) can sustain that kind of job. Such as 4×4 British Simba, 4×4 Cadillac Gage V-150 and 6×6 V-300. Even the old 6×6 Tpz Fuch APC can be easily mounted with Cockeril 90 mm guns without major body modifications, let alone the height reduction. With major drawback, due to non existence of fire control stabilizer and less weight, they cannot fire while moving.
Another foreign made weapon, either from west or east, can only pleased the high ranking officer. Pindad should be given a chance to prove what they capable of. Of course they can cooperate with foreign arms firm such Belgian Cockeril, manfactured 90 mm guns for Scorpion, to learn how to make the big gun suit in Panser 0 Series chassis and vice versa. Domestic capabilities will not emerge unless foreign dependencies cut off. Should the foreign government impose another military embargo, there’ll be no need of worries because army once again can rely on their skunk work. <END>