Armored Cars: Saudi Groups Al-Masmak
Unveiled during a 2011 arms show, the Al-Masmak (“Fortress” in Arabic) is the latest among the growing number of locally made wheeled armored vehicles in the Arabian Peninsula. The Al-Masmak is manufactured by the state-owned conglomerate Saudi Groups.
Although Saudi Arabia has been manufacturing personnel carriers since the 1990s, the Al-Masmak is its first genuine mine-resistant truck for the armed forces. But the Al-Masmak was soon being marketed abroad. In 2012, Saudi Groups partnered with Industrial and Automotive Design South Africa (IADSA), a vehicle consultancy, to promote the Al-Masmak–re-designated the Nyoka Mk2.
The Al-Masmak was then displayed at the 2012 Africa Aerospace and Defence arms show to entice potential buyers from the continent.
On paper, the Al-Masmak even shares the same characteristics as its South African peer, the Marauder. Both are 15 ton vehicles with a distinctive mount for spare tires in the space between the passenger compartment and the driver’s side door. The Al-Masmak and the Marauder’s speed is in the 120 kilometers per hour range. But Saudi Groups claim the Al-Masmak can reach 150 km/h on its 450 horsepower six-cylinder diesel engine, which is uncharacteristic for most MRAPS.
Since it conforms to the intimidating proportions typical for MRAPs, the Al-Masmak’s distinctive trademark are the separate trios of headlights on its sloping front grill.
Saudi Groups claims the Al-Masmak has the highest protection level among current MRAPs. This is questionable since vehicles of its type are usually resistant to 7.62mm machine gun fire without additional armor plating. If its protection level needs to be raised, then it puts on additional weight; unlikely for a 15 ton vehicle. Saudi Groups also claims that the Al-Masmak can survive kinetic blasts from mines and IEDs–impressive, but then again this is what MRAPs are built for.
While it could possibly be better protected than the competition, the Al-Masmak can boast of its firepower. A centralized turret supports either a 12.7mm machine gun or an alternate main armament. Another roof hatch above the rear doors mounts an optional secondary weapon.
The Al-Masmak’s dimensions haven’t been published but given the size of truck cabs usually used for MRAPs, it can’t be more than 10 feet tall. The driver and co-driver enter the vehicle using built-in step ladders, beside which are either the spare tire or storage bins. Passengers enter from two swing doors in the rear. Seating is available for eight people, who can observe their surroundings from eight small windows that each have firing ports beneath them. Air-conditioning is provided.
It’s unknown if the Al-Masmak has entered mass-production or if exports are prioritized by Saudi Groups. The Al-Masmak still stands as the first 100% Arab MRAP.