'Land Rover on steroids' ready to rip

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There's a silver lining in the war on terror. The need for beefy, bulletproof buggies to patrol the Afghan and Iraqi outback has translated into factory jobs on the home front for at least one NATO ally.

Described as "a Land Rover on steroids," the new MWMIK 4x4 looks more like an armored forklift chassis. But with a top speed of 80 mph and wide range of armaments, it won't be pulling pallet duty anytime soon.

The U.K. Ministry of Defence has ordered 130 of the new vehicles from Plymouth-based Devonport Management Limited to the tune of 30 million quid. Traditionally a shipbuilding outfit, DML has "been forced to expand its skills base and diversify into new markets such as the super yacht sector because of the dwindling need for surface ship work," according to The Herald newspaper of Plymouth. The new line is expected to generate 120 jobs.

Designed by Supacat, it will have a chassis by Universal Engineering, a Cummins engine and an Allison transmission; assembly will be at DML's Devonport dockyard. The vehicle, which carries a team of four, a .50-caliber machine gun or a grenade launcher, will augment--and possibly replace, eventually--the Brits' current fire support model WMIK, which resembles something that saw duty in the Falklands.

DML has its eye on the prize. "Once people understand that this is what we can do and what we are capable of, it should lead to a lot of interest and hopefully more contracts for us," CEO Dennis Gilbert was quoted as saying. "We are in a really good position to take off in terms of expanding our involvement in the market sector."

The vehicles were obtained under "urgent operational requirement," which means British troops should be sporting them sometime in 2008, according to Lord Drayson, minister of state for defense equipment and support.

8.11.08 15:23

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