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The Emirati Rabdan Fighting Vehicle Is One Of A Kind

March 26, 2020

Via Native Fury 2020.

The Emirates’ superbly equipped ground forces almost outshone their guests–the I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF)–at this year’s Native Fury 2020 joint exercises. A minor highlight of the proceedings, which spanned almost two weeks in March, was the participation by the Rabdan wheeled armored fighting vehicle. Able to transport a squad of soldiers over any terrain and fight alongside them with its impressive weapon suite, the Rabdan is a unique innovation from a Gulf state that has made no secret that it wants an outsized role in global affairs.

Footage from Native Fury 2020, where US marines fought alongside their Emirati allies in simulated urban combat and mock beach landings, showed the Rabdan proving its mettle in different scenarios.

The Rabdan originated as an attempt to combine the firepower of the UAE army’s Russian-made BMP-3 with a proven wheeled APC. When a joint venture with Finland’s Patria didn’t work out–the AMV 8×8 was the first choice for the Rabdan–Turkey’s Otokar stepped in to fill the void. Although the Rabdan’s manufacturer is a UAE-based company named Al Jasoor its two key suppliers are Turkey’s Otokar, who have a distinguished land systems catalog including Turkey’s Altay MBT, and Russia’s Kurganmashzavod being responsible for the Rabdan’s turret. The UAE ordered 590 BMP-3’s in the early 1990s and these formed the backbone of its mechanized forces. The decades of experience that followed have left a good enough impression on the army who are now hybridizing the BMP-3 in a different platform.

The Otokar Arma modular wheeled APC is fully amphibious and supports different weapon stations. It’s also exportable in either a 6×6 or 8×8 configuration depending on the end user’s requirements. Like its counterparts in NATO its basic primary armament aside from a single machine gun is a 25mm or 30mm cannon on a remote controlled turret. When configured as the Rabdan, however, the 100mm main gun and its tandem 30mm 2A72 cannon are a deadly mix with a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun for either target spotting or suppresive fire at close ranges. The Rabdan’s weapon suite is further improved by a panoramic day/night sight installed behind the turret as part of its fire control system. The Emirati army remain coy about their plans for the Rabdan and have not indicated how many are entering service although some speculate it could enjoy years in production for several hundred to more than a thousand vehicles.

The adoption of wheeled APCs in the Middle East is pushing the envelope for this vehicular class. For a number of years Saudi Arabia’s army and national guard fielded as many as 2,000 LAV-25/LAV-III APCs and its variants manufactured by Canada. Wartime attrition and technological advances have rendered this lead moot as the other Gulf states and even neighboring countries with small military budgets closed the gap. An impressive homegrown effort is the Jordanian Al-Mared 8×8 that emphasizes heavy armor protection on a wheeled chassis supplied by the Czech manufacturer Tatra. Israel’s own Eitan wheeled APC promises to surpass its rivals in the crew’s battlefield awareness and survivability against myriad threats. Peaceful Oman, on the other hand, chose the superb Turkish-made FNSS PARS 8×8 for its army. Upcoming acquisitions by Qatar of 8×8 wheeled APCs may shake up the regional market depending on their choice, with the French-made VBCI and another European model in heated competition.

There are regional laggards too. Egypt, Iran, and Iraq have shunned wheeled APCs for their armed forces even with ample funding available. A serious drawback for wheeled APCs in any configuration is, unless their chassis is meant to support extra tonnage, the overall level of armor protection is inadequate against high explosive projectiles.

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