ISLAMABAD — Faced with mounting casualties among security forces from roadside bomb attacks in its Tribal Areas, Pakistan is set to reveal an indigenous mine-resistant vehicle.
A spokesperson for Pakistan’s state-owned vehicle manufacturer, Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT), has confirmed that its Burraq mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle is nearing the end of its prototype phase and will be unveiled in “three to four months.” The announcement comes after years of development and failed efforts to acquire such a vehicle from other sources.
The need for an MRAP is great, and the military has acknowledged the considerable menace improvised explosive devices (IEDs) pose to security forces, particularly in the Tribal Areas along the Afghan-Pakistan border in fighting with the Taliban.
In what was perhaps the largest loss of life from an IED attack to date, 14 soldiers were killed and 25 wounded during a Jan. 13 attack on a Pakistani Army convoy in Waziristan.
Pakistan has reportedly sought better protected vehicles from as far away as Germany, Turkey and the U.S. However, a lack of financial resources seems to have hampered those efforts.
Failure to acquire an off-the-shelf solution ultimately led to the development of an indigenous answer.
However, as of November, with no news of the Burraq entering production and its non-appearance at Pakistan’s biannual exhibition, IDEAS2012, many analysts began to believe it had been quietly shelved. An order for an undetermined number of Poly Group Corporation Type CS/VP3 MRAP vehicles from China at IDEAS2012 reinforced that notion.
Hitherto, HIT has produced mostly tracked armored fighting vehicles, with some lightly armored four-wheel-drive and Toyota Corolla sedans its sole wheeled products.
According to HIT, the wheeled Burraq will carry 12 passengers and a crew of two. It has standard protection features similar to other MRAPs and will be open for export.
The 8-to-10-ton vehicle can withstand IED blasts of up to 10 kilograms, can be armed with a .50-caliber heavy machine gun (protected against fire from a similar weapon), as well as being fitted with bulletproof windows and run-flat tires. The occupants sit on blast-mitigating seats.
A former Australian defense attaché to Islamabad, Brian Cloughley, was given a briefing on the Burraq during a visit to HIT last year. He said he was impressed with what he saw.
“It appears that the Burraq is a mid-tech and affordable protective vehicle that should serve the defense forces well,” he said.
He said he was also “impressed with the proposed manufacturing process and with what I was told about its technical parameters, which, while not as advanced as U.S. or European equivalents, which are vastly expensive, seem to be adequate to counter the current IED threat.”
Having garnered a considerable amount of data from IED blasts, it appears Pakistan is able to adapt its designs to meet requirements, which Cloughley said is reflected in the Burraq’s design.
“The high profile is caused by the ‘V’-shaped underside, which is so necessary to minimize the effects of mines and IEDs, and although details of the degree of protection afforded are understandably kept confidential, I was told that analysis of the effects of IED incidents showed that Burraq’s armor configuration could cope well,” he said.
It is, however, less well protected than the Chinese Type CS/VP3, and analyst Haris Khan of the Pakistan Military Consortium said the Burraq has not yet been ordered by the military. It cannot meet requirements because, in its present form, it cannot withstand hits from the ubiquitous rocket-propelled grenade-7 (RPG-7), he said.
“Since most resistance in the military’s operations against militants is by IEDs and RPG-7s, Burraq is not designed and is not capable of countering the specific threat posed by the RPG-7. Some of the RPG-7 rounds used by the militants have very destructive warheads, which Burraq will not be able to withstand,” he said.
He said he believes a ready remedy would be bar/slat armor.
Still, Khan acknowledges the Burraq’s benefits, such as being based on a four-wheel-drive cross-country chassis, which is mechanically simple enough for Pakistan’s industry to locally support, and possessed reasonable protection against IEDs.
HIT has fitted bar/slat armor to main battle tanks such as the Type-69 II, and this could readily be applied to the Burraq.
Despite the large numbers of MRAP vehicles required, Khan said the Chinese vehicles could prove to be more affordable than the Burraq if a “soft loan” financial package is provided for their purchase.