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Armored Cars: IAI RAM Mk3

July 25, 2017

This unusual truck from Israel really belongs to a class of its own. The RAM is a throwback to a time when the IDF depended so much on mobility for waging war and keeping the peace that it adopted an improvised transport bristling with machine guns.

The RAM Mk 3 or RAM III is a rare offering from Israel Aerospace Industries, the same state-owned conglomerate that sells cutting edge missiles and advanced UAVs everywhere, as part of its ill-defined ground warfare portfolio. The RAM’s distinctive cab and sloping armor sets it apart from the cumbersome trucks saturating today’s armored vehicle market.

Since militaries love their “platforms”–those inventoried items that do the same job for ages–the RAM started out as a literal moving platform for its original end users. The vehicle’s mythic origins are in the early 1970s when an Israeli engineer, Yitzhak Ben-Yakov, assembled a scout car to augment the IDF’s large fleet of hand-me-down half tracks and jeeps.

The resulting Rechev Ben Yakov or RBY had its production taken over by an IAI subsidiary specializing in mine countermeasures, RAMTA. The RBY turned out to be a real workhorse suited for hauling men, weapons, and cargo over Israel’s rugged terrain. Its appearance was influenced by Israel’s prolific use of armored cars in the 1950s and 1960s, except the RBY’s six cylinder diesel engine was placed at the back of the vehicle.

The RBY/RAM is a sensible choice for countries who need a cheap APC for their soldiers. IAI can handle a hundred orders at a time, with production capacity between 10 and 20 vehicles per month. Additional features like sensors, fire control systems, and armor are up to the customer.

The RBY’s stripped down layout was intentional since it was meant to survive land mines and other explosives at close proximity. Over the years the IDF adapted the RBY for different roles. These included an open top mobile anti-aircraft gun, an anti-tank gun, an ambulance, and an APC.

The RBY managed to stay relevant even when the IDF deployed large numbers of American M113’s, Land Rovers and Humvees. Token sales to South America, i.e. Guatemala, Honduras, and Venezuela, proved its viability for armies on a tight budget. The appeal of Third World buyers probably compelled IAI to retain the RBY and upgrade it for a new era.

The RBY armed with an M40 recoilless rifle. The 105/106mm M40’s distribution was so widespread, several countries are still producing it today, including China. A HEAT round fired from the M40 can penetrate up to 700mm of tank armor.

First came the RAM 2000, a “light armored multimission vehicle” that had a monocoque body over an elongated chassis. Swing doors on either side of the hull were added and a large hatch and turret were installed on the roof. It was still light enough for air transport, river crossings no deeper than three feet, and navigating tough open terrain. Not surprisingly the RAM managed to attract an even larger clientele, with sales reaching Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

To heighten its attractiveness the IAI spun off RAM variants that included a troop carrier with space for six passengers, a tank destroyer armed with a quartet of either LAHAT or NIMROD missiles, a mortar carrier, an urban assault transport, and an electronic warfare and detection vehicle.

Via Israeli Aircraft Industries.

The latest RAM Mk 3 is currently used by the militaries of Chad, Gabon, Senegal, and Vietnam. It might not be the toughest vehicle of its kind, but it can be tweaked according to the customer’s wishes. This means its basic armor level could be increased to resist shaped charges.

As of this writing IAI is still marketing the RAM for elite units and law enforcement agencies. Given its heritage it does possess a strong kinship with hot climates, which makes North Africa and the Central Asian steppes its likely future habitats.

The RAM Mk 3 in the Chadian desert.

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