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Colombian Army’s COMMANDO Vehicles Save Soldiers

April 4, 2017
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A Complex Environment

The Colombian Army (COLAR) operates in a multifaceted geographical, environmental and socioeconomic landscape. Colombia’s habitats include snowy mountains, dense forests, arid desert, tropical beaches and humid jungles, and its resulting temperatures and weather deliver similar extremes of heat, cold and precipitation.

With more than 46 million inhabitants, the country’s recent history has included violent impact from drug cartels, organized crime and guerilla factions. In fact, Colombia has experienced the longest period of armed conflict of any country in its hemisphere. To that end, the Colombian military must be prepared at all times for asymmetric warfare from sea coast to inland border.

Textron Systems Marine & Land Systems first worked with the COLAR in the late 2000s, winning a highly competitive multinational procurement for armored wheeled vehicles that would be the first of their kind in the country. The requirements were straightforward – survivability against nonconventional combatants using a variety of weaponry; lethality to combat those enemies while protecting passengers within; and flexibility to accommodate Colombia’s geodiversity.

In 2010, the company made its first deliveries of COMMANDO Advanced armored personnel carriers to the COLAR via U.S. Army foreign military sale. The vehicles were procured via foreign military sale with the U.S. government, including training, maintenance and repair services provided by Textron Systems personnel.

While the vehicles themselves performed just as the COLAR had required, the customer experienced additional benefit from accompanying support services. Textron Systems’ in-country team included customer relationship management and field service representatives able to work with the end users at their sites and in their own language.

“Our technicians not only understand the technical requirements, they understand the customers’ operational requirements and are available to support them any time,” says Textron Systems’ Business Development Director. “Rather than just doing the maintenance and repairs ourselves, we provided training on key technical points and basic maintenance to make the end user in the field more self-sufficient.”

Continuous Enhancements

Following the early successes of those vehicles, Marine & Land Systems was tapped in 2014 to provide additional vehicles in a new passenger configuration. Twelve of those vehicles were enhanced with a turret to further protect the gunner and deliver more precise, long-range lethal effects. These were followed in 2016 with two COMMANDO Select vehicles, enhanced with a higher profile and bigger tires for greater mobility, as well as additional armor and blast protection. They include a 40/50 turret for long-range engagement. Customer training was provided to help users best utilize all of the new features. The COLAR uses its COMMANDO vehicles in a variety of counter-trafficking, counter-terrorism, infrastructure protection and border patrol missions.

The company has helped the customer continuously improve the vehicle’s performance against some of the inherent risk factors in their environment – extremes of hot and cold, altitude and weather.

There is no “typical” day for the COLAR vehicle users; however, common threads have emerged. The vehicles are in constant movement from location to location. Small teams deployed to remote areas – protecting oil pipelines from damage or theft, for example – often shelter in their vehicles. Teams in desert or extreme cold environments also may be confined to their vehicles for long periods of time for protection against the elements. At the same time, teams in the most dangerous locations are often in their vehicles 24 hours a day as protection against continuous fire. In environments of heaviest threat, if ammunition or fuel run low, the vehicle itself serves as the team’s strongest protection until more resources can be secured.

Proven Results

Since their fielding, Textron Systems vehicles have defended COLAR users from threats including improvised explosive devices (IEDs), rocketpropelled grenades and heavy machine guns.

“Thanks to technological upgrades in maneuverability, suspension and armor, these vehicles were put under very difficult geographic conditions in-country while responding to terrorist groups, which indiscriminately act against strategic assets of the Colombian state,” says Major Hugo Angel Parra, Deputy of Armored Vehicles, Colombian Army Cavalry (2014-2015). “The vehicles demonstrated performance superiority and withstood IED explosions without negative effects to their physical integrity.“

“We are looking ahead all the time at how we can further improve the COLAR’s experience,” says the regional Business Development Director.  “We have invested significant internal research and development dollars to leverage the very latest technology advancements against emerging requirements.”

One example of this continuous improvement ethos is the company’s evaluation of 30-millimiter (mm) turret technologies. Lighter, smaller and less expensive than other sizes, technology advances have allowed 30-mm turrets to carry more rounds, fire faster and deliver greater effects than ever before – ideal for a highly mobile team.

This philosophy extends to optimization of logistics and support. The team is leaning its spares and service programs to further enhance equipment availability for users who are continuously on the road.

Mobile, survivable and lethal, Textron Systems’ vehicles are proven in some of the world’s most challenging conditions – modernizing customers’ operational concepts and saving lives.


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