22 February 2019
By Paolo Valpolini
At IDEX 2017 the UAE announced the selection of the new 8×8; the Rabdan was to be based on Otokar’s Arma 8×8 further developed to the Emirati needs. A joint venture named Al Jasoor, Bravehart in the local language, was established between the Turkish company and Tawazun Holding of the UAE to build the vehicles on order. The real start took place two months later, the plan being to build 100 vehicles at the Sakarya plant, in Turkey, the remaining to be built at the Tawazun Industrial Park facility in Abu Dhabi.
Two years later the Al Jasoor and the Otokar stands at IDEX 2019 were co-located, the Rabdan fitted with the BMP-3 turret proudly dominating the exhibiting area. EDR On-Line talked to Otokar General Manager, Serdar Görgüç, who obviously also stands in the board of Al Jasoor, in order to know the status of the programme and the way ahead. “We announced at Eurosatory, in June 2018, that we would have started deliveries within the year, and we met that timeline, the first batch having been delivered to the UAE Army in Q42018,” Mr. Görgüç tells us, numbers remaining classified. The delivery was obvious, as beside the one vehicle exhibited at the stand, some other were performing during the daily repetition of the opening ceremony. “We also started training in the UAE,” Otokar GM adds, “and we provided training aids a few days ago.” In fact the driver is the one that needs the most training, the vehicle being new and being also amphibious; as for the commander and gunner, they need only an orientation course, the turret being the same already in use on the BMP-3 that equips the UAE Army mechanised formations. Training is also provided on amphibious operations. Maintenance personnel obviously gets a thorough training.
“This year we will continue deliveries, however we are some 4-5 months ahead of schedule, due to the urgency of the UAE Army to get the vehicles. Otokar and its UAE partners are currently busy in “furnishing” the UAE production facility. The Initial Operational Capability of the vehicle should be declared once the Turkish deliveries will come to an end. Units that will receive those vehicles will however lack support vehicles, as these will come at a later date. The Rabdan specialised versions will be built in different variants, Command Post, Ambulance, Recovery and Armoured Personnel Carrier, Al Jasoor being busy in defining the exact configurations together with the customer, which will be based on the latter’s CONOPS. “I expect the configuration of specialised versions to be finalised by 2019,” Görgüç says.
However Otokar was not at IDEX solely for the Rabdan business. “In the Gulf area there are a lot of projects going on,” explains the Otokar GM, “with requirements of many kinds, such as 4×4, 6×6 and 8×8 wheeled armoured vehicles as well as for tracked ones,” stating that some nations are preparing to launch the purchasing process wile other are still in the budget allocation phase. “Hopefully a couple of them should get to the Request of Proposal stage before year end,” he adds. That said, Otokar is still involved in the support of its vehicles fielded in the region: Saudi Arabia National Guard employs the company’s 4×4 vehicles, Kuwait fields company products among its security forces, while the Bahrain National Guard is equipped with Arma 6×6, some three dozens of Akrep and a couple of dozens of Cobra.
Of course Mr. Görgüç and his company look with interest to further requirements from these as well as other countries, i.e. Oman, potential requirements. In 2018 more than 80% of Otokar revenues came from the export market, “and in 2019 that share might be even higher,” Serdar Görgüç concludes.
Photos by Paolo Valpolini and Otokar