The Israeli RAM in the Sands of Africa

The RAMTA Division of IAI has recently received an order for 100 latest-generation armored combat vehicles from clients in Africa. An exclusive interview with Hagai Shmuel, RAMTA’s marketing manager

Since the 1970, IAI has been manufacturing armored vehicles for infantry troopers. These vehicles are marketed under the brand name RAM, and so far, about 500 RAM vehicles have been sold worldwide. Last month, IAI’s RAMTA Division has received two follow-up orders from existing clients in Africa for a total of 100 latest model vehicles – RAM Mk-3. The vehicles will be delivered to the clients by 2016. “The manufacture of a RAM vehicle takes between 3 to 6 months. We can manufacture 10 to 20 vehicles per month. One should bear in mind that this is a niche market in a world of armored vehicles for infantry, so such a production capacity reflects a plant that works at an adequate pace,” says Hagai Shmuel, marketing manager of IAI’s RAMTA Division.

The difference between IAI’s RAM vehicle and other vehicles in the same category is in the armor protection. While other vehicles are lighter and do not include armor protection, the RAM offers several levels of protection according to the NATO AEP-55 STANAG 4569 international standard. The basic model comes with protection level 1 and the client has the option of requesting IAI for higher levels. It all depends on the client’s needs and budget. “We will provide an additional protection kit if the client wants it. We also offer statistical protection against RPG rockets,” explains Shmuel.

The RAM vehicle is intended for two primary markets – military and HLS organizations. The people at IAI say that their primary markets are Africa, Latin America and Asia. The RAM vehicle is used, among other things, in Special Forces and infantry operations, as an antitank vehicle, as an ambulance, et al. It can accommodate 8 troopers and in some configurations even more. In the field of HLS it is intended for such uses as policing operations, border patrol, riot control and even UN peacekeeping operations. “Some of our vehicles come out of the plant in Israel with the color and insignia of the UN,” explains Shmuel. “The vehicle is purchased by countries that participate in UN peacekeeping forces around the world.”

A Vehicle that is a Fighting System

At the RAMTA plant they manufacture the RAM vehicle from scratch. In the professional jargon, it is based on a Monocoque chassis designed and built by RAMTA, unlike other manufacturers who normally use the chassis of a commercial vehicle as the basis for their armored vehicles. “The development of the chassis at RAMTA enables us to build different configurations like command vehicles, surveillance vehicles, machine-gun carriers, ambulances and other configurations,” explains Shmuel.

At this point it should be noted that in the world of armored combat vehicles there is no high demand for modular vehicles that can change roles as necessary. According to Shmuel, in most cases the client orders in advance a given amount of vehicles in a specific mix, according to the functions required by the client’s organization. At the same time, at IAI they explain that if and when such a requirement is presented, there are no technical barriers and it may be implemented.

Another advantage the RAMTA plant has over other manufacturers involves the fact that it is a part of IAI. “A client coming to RAMTA will get the integration of IAI’s entire range of capabilities. The client does not have to go to each plant separately. He will come to RAMTA and receive a complete system, including elements that other IAI plants manufacture. In some cases the process begins with the vehicle and ends with the system, and in other cases it is the other way around,” says Shmuel. Examples of such integration include an antitank vehicle fitted with IAI Lahat missiles or a machine-gun carrier fitted with remotely controlled weapon stations, the product of a cooperative alliance between IAI and other Israeli defense industries.

Combat-Ready and Simple

As far as the maintenance aspect is concerned, Shmuel explains that the vehicle is very simple mechanically. “This vehicle is required to operate on the battlefield. You cannot stop by the roadside and call a tow truck. Consequently, we build it in advance to be as simple as possible in order to make maintenance easy and make the challenge of field repairs easier to handle. All assemblies are highly reliable and very simple,” explains Shmuel. “The clients service and maintain the vehicles on their own. We are responsible for providing them with spare parts.”

In addition to routine maintenance, the vehicles are occasionally upgraded, just like private vehicles. “One of our clients had purchased vehicles with an open roof in the past, and after a few years requested that they be converted into ‘cab’ type vehicles. As these vehicles are intended for combat missions, the client may require modifications occasionally. We also upgrade the basic configuration of the RAM. Today we offer our third generation. Any client who purchased previous models from us can decide, for example, to upgrade a part of his vehicle fleet,” says Shmuel.

Whereas at the end of the day the RAM is a vehicle, one cannot avoid addressing the cyber aspect. The automotive world, including commercial and private vehicles, has undergone a computing revolution in recent years, and every platform now includes hundreds or thousands of sensors and millions of code lines. The vehicle computer and the various sensors have become the basis of modern vehicles. This reality has made the vehicle a target for hackers. These concerns notwithstanding, Shmuel explains that as the RAM is a combat vehicle, it is designed to operate in a hostile environment like the modern battlefield. “The RAM hardly includes any computer systems or sensors,” explains Shmuel. “We design it to be simple, both mechanically and electronically, so that it has as few potential points of failure as possible, and that includes the cyber aspect,” he says.

Unmanned?

“This subject is currently under development,” explains Shmuel. “One should bear in mind the fact that the function of the RAM is to provide fast transportation to infantry forces on the battlefield. These vehicles provide protection for their infantry passengers, with some of the activities of the troopers being executed outside the vehicle. For this purpose we offer the version with the remotely controlled weapon stations. On the other hand, unmanned vehicles are normally used for routine operations such as routine security or support for combat engineering forces – not for supporting infantry operations in enemy territory,” explains Shmuel.

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