Mercedes-Benz is muscling into the defense business: Today the German automaker has announced four new, heavily armored models. The concepts will be first shown on June 11th at Eurosatory, a European trade show for the defense industry.
All of the machines are geared toward modern wars, and the need for nimble all-terrain vehicles rather than tanks: The Actros 4151 AK, pictured above, is an eight-wheeled, all-wheel drive "protection class" transport that offers high grade armor against artillery and landmines. (Specifically, level 4 protection against ballistics, which means enough armor to stop a 155mm explosive shell at 30 meters; and level 4b protection against landmines, enough to stop an explosion directly under the vehicle.) Meanwhile, three lighter trucks are also in the works.
Here, the FGA 14.5, a chassis platform that's intended to be customized for specialized use. It's built on MB's G-class SUV's—which themselves were engineered to be modular, so that they could eventually be reconfigured for myriad uses:
And finally, MB is producing two trucks similar to armored Humvees, the LAPV 6.X and 7.X (pictured below), both of which will allow Mercedes investments in modular truck designs to pay dividends via military business. The 6.X is built upon the same modular system as the G-class SUV, while the 7.X uses the system from the Unimog, MB's legendary go-anywhere vehicle. Both are intended to serve as heavy duty recon trucks, with level 3 protection—that is, enough to stop a 7.62mm shell at 30 meters. (In short, don't shoot at these things unless you've got a gun that's too big to carry comfortably.) The German military has already ordered up the 6.X.
Military vehicles are a natural fit for the company—they've already got 5,000 heavy service centers in 160 countries, which means they can send parts and mechanics almost anywhere in the world on short notice.
But you probably won't be seeing these in the U.S. military anytime soon—American armed forces are heavily invested in the Humvee platform, and that means billions and billions sunk into a supply chain that can't readily be re-engineered for another vehicle. (Not to mention the politics of sending a contract for vehicles abroad.)