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Armored Cars: Deftech AV4

May 14, 2016

Malaysian Deftech AV4 02

At first glance the AV4 looks like a typical MRAP perfect for visiting a woe begotten corner of the world. But rather than a thankless addition to the numbing variety of armored cars out there the AV4 hints at Southeast Asia’s emergence as a serious player in the global arms industry.

Wait a minute. It’s not like customers are flocking to Kuala Lumpur for multi-billion dollar orders of this remarkable vehicle. What the Malaysians call the Lipanbara AV4 has yet to enjoy the patronage of the national armed forces.

Exactly why the Malaysian Army hasn’t adopted MRAPs in large numbers can either stem from weight concerns or be a consequence of the smaller defense budget for 2016. Just $4 billion compared to the previous year’s $4.8 billion. The dip is a result of economic pressure and low oil prices. (By comparison Indonesia’s defense budget surged to $7.2 billion in 2016 and is expected to peak at $20 billion by decade’s end.)

This doesn’t mean the military aren’t buying stuff–brand new patrol ships and surface-to-air missiles are forthcoming.  When it comes to ground vehicles, however, the priority is the AV8 also manufactured by local contractor DefTech and just a small batch for 20 AV4’s were announced in 2015. It deserves mention the AV8, as its name suggests, is a licensed variant of the high tech 8×8 Pars made in Turkey.

The emphasis on licensing a foreign vehicle appears to be DefTech’s preferred business model over expensive R&D. This is understandable given Southeast Asia’s nascent arms industries. Singapore being the exception though. If the AV8 is Turkish, the AV4 is actually Thai.

Thai Chaiseri Top Win 4x4

The AV4 is a rebranded and presumably upgraded variant of the original 11 ton First Win made by Chaiseri Defense. The Thai manufacturer specializes in refurbishing tracked armored vehicles and developed its own MRAP as a private venture. The project called First Win debuted in 2011 and licensing started in 2015 with 20 ordered by Malaysia. There are sources claiming at least 200 more are due for delivery soon although when these are completed is unknown.

When it comes to performance the AV4 inspires comparisons with the Cougar or the Puma (always named after big cats, aren’t they?). Its protection level is in the STANAG II range, i.e. resistant to automatic weapons and best of luck against shaped charges and RPGs. The product literature does claim its protection can be raised to STANAG III for surviving blasts. The AV4/First Win runs on a 300 horsepower Cummins diesel engine with a top speed in the 100 km/h range.

When off-road the AV4 manages a respectable gradient, rough terrain, and at least three feet of water. The caveat is it’s not amphibious but rivers and streams aren’t a hindrance.

There’s space for eight troops who can fight from inside the vehicle plus seats for the driver and co-driver. A roof hatch fits different weapons, including a minigun (seen at the DSA 2016 arms show) and probably a remote control .50 M2 Browning.

To tell the AV4 apart from its cousins, who are universally box-like and riven with angles, it’s best to look at its grill and headlights. To summarize, the AV4 is a Thai vehicle licensed in Malaysia and there are few indicators of its export success.

It’s a little too brand new at the moment. Give it time, perhaps?