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Armored Cars: BMC Kirpi

May 14, 2015
Turkish Kirpi MRAP 05

Via BMC.

Rather than import a foreign vehicle, the Turkish Army chose the locally made Kirpi. A robust 4×4 that meets the demanding standards for MRAPs, the Kirpi still managed to become controversial as it entered service with a national customer. In late 2014 Kirpis were sent to blockade the Kurdish town of Kobane, which at the time was under siege by the Islamic State. Turkey’s rationale for doing this was to stop the transit of Kurdish fighters across the border. How effective this decision was is a matter of debate, since Kurdish manpower and arms were able to reach Kobane anyway.

Taking their cue from US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Turkish Army found a requirement for MRAPs between 2007-2008. Its long experience suppressing Kurdish rebels in the country’s mountainous south made an MRAP a viable choice of vehicle, since it’s just as capable in urban operations. A silent collaborator with BMC was the Israeli company Carmor, whose prototype served as the basis for the Kirpi.

Turkish Kirpi MRAP 03

But the Kirpi’s future was in doubt when its manufacturer, automotive giant BMC, went bankrupt in 2014. Despite its share of the Turkish commercial vehicle market and a 2009 contract for 468 Kirpi MRAPs, BMC was seized by the Turkish government and restructured for sale. This endangered the Kirpi production line, with almost half of the ordered vehicles undelivered. Production has since resumed on a smaller scale. The Kirpi is now making the rounds in regional arms shows to find customers abroad.

The Kirpi is a 25 ton vehicle with a monocoque hull, a V-shaped belly to deflect explosions, and runflat tires supported by independent suspension. Just how modular the MRAP is hasn’t been proven. But a 6×6 variant is already available. The 4×4 Kirpi runs on a 350 horsepower Cummins diesel engine and is distinguishable from similar vehicles by the slope of its hood. BMC hasn’t published its protection level although for most MRAPs resistance to 7.62mm machine gun rounds is mandatory. Judging by its engine size, the Kirpi manages a top speed of 120 kilometers per hour. Maximum range is probably 600 km.

The Kirpi fits up to 15 people but BMC doesn’t specify whether these include the driver and co-driver or not. Its reinforced windows indicate the Kirpi transports eight soldiers who enter from a rear door. They have ample space to fight within the vehicle, with firing ports and two roof hatches. A remote controlled turret is optional. More than 200 Kirpi’s are now in service with the Turkish Army. Small batches of Kirpis were delivered to Somalia and Libya for bolstering alliances. Turkmenistan is one of the few known end users of this MRAP and deploys it together with different tactical 4×4’s.