Pandur II 8x8 EVO is a new generation of Czech-made armoured vehicle

 12. 04. 2024      Category: Ground forces

Pandur II 8x8 vehicles are now in service with several armed forces and the Czech Army is one of the largest users. The Czech company Tatra Defence Vehicle is responsible for their production, having acquired the licensing rights from General Dynamics European Land Systems (GDELS) in 2015. Recently, Tatra Defence Vehicle has presented the new generation of this eight-wheeled multi-purpose vehicle, which bears the name Pandur II 8x8 EVO.

Under the licence, Tatra Defence Vehicle (TDV) company can not only produce and deliver Pandur II 8x8 vehicles to selected territories, but also prepare modernisation projects for them and, above all, work on their further development. It is thanks to the above-mentioned licence and the ability to further develop the Pandur II 8x8 platform and production capacities that TDV was awarded a contract in 2017 for the development and production of 20 new vehicles in the KOVS Pandur II CZ 8x8 (wheeled armoured vehicle for liaison) and KOVVŠ Pandur II CZ 8x8 (wheeled armoured vehicle for command and staff) versions according to the specifications of the Czech Army.

These vehicles have been developed by TDV designers and specialists in cooperation with GDELS-Steyr, and some new design elements and improvements have already been applied in their construction, which bring the Pandur II 8x8 platform to a higher level. These included more robust armour protection for the new hull at STANAG 4569 level 3/3a or a more powerful information system and the implementation of the Harris communication system. Today, one could say that this was a kind of evolutionary step, after which the next generation of the vehicle will come, and that will be the Pandur II 8x8 EVO.

The next generation of the proven Pandur 8x8 platform

"Our company decided to develop a new generation of the Pandur II 8x8 platform based on interest from international customers and also because of its technical and upgrade potential for the future. In addition to vehicles for the Czech Armed Forces, which it also services under contract, TDV has also produced and is producing these machines for Asian customers, such as Indonesia, where localisation of production is also envisaged. The needs of the Czech army are also an important impetus for the development of the new generation of the Pandur II 8x8 platform," explained Tomáš Mohapl, TDV's CEO. 

According to a statement by its officials, the army plans to add the necessary numbers of eight-wheeled armoured vehicles to some units in the near future and also to acquire new versions, such as self-propelled mortars. At the same time, however, there is a need for a medium-term modernisation of the Pandur II CZ 8x8 vehicles, which are already in the army's arsenal and are in the middle of their life cycle. For TDV, the Czech Army is an important and reference partner and is therefore ready to meet the requirements of the army and the Ministry of Defence according to their needs.

Czech specialists collaborated with the Austrian branch of GDELS-Steyr on the design of the Pandur II 8x8 EVO, and the eight-wheeled novelty is partly based on the Pandur 6x6 EVO type intended for the Austrian army, which was first introduced in 2018. Since then, the army of our southern neighbours has ordered nearly 100 of these new vehicles, which partly complement and partly replace the previous generation of the Pandur 6x6.

TDV plans to produce the first prototype of the Pandur II 8x8 EVO this autumn. It will be a vehicle that retains the main advantages and qualities of the current generation and adds greater protection for the crew, better electronic, communications and combat equipment, a new turret and a more powerful powertrain. Compared to the current Pandur II 8x8 infantry fighting vehicle, the maximum weight of the Pandur II 8x8 EVO will increase to 25 tonnes, which is about 4 tonnes more. 

This will be mainly due to the higher ballistic and mine resistance of the hull, which will have a completely redesigned lower part. Moreover, the new generation of Pandur does not include seaworthiness, as customers do not require it. The Pandur II 8x8 EVO will get a newly designed filter-ventilation device, with filters being replaced from the outside. This eliminates the risk of contamination of the vehicle's interior. In addition, the fuel tanks in the hull will be relocated to increase protection for the crew and the transported infantry swarm. The air conditioning and heating systems will also be improved for their comfort.

New armoured turret with active protection 

Another major change will be a new unmanned turret with armament. TDV has selected the UT30MK2 turret from Israeli company Elbit Systems for the Pandur II 8x8 EVO prototype. "Although there are a number of weapon mounts from different manufacturers, in fact only a few of them have a proven technical solution that integrates all the systems demanded by advanced armies today. Our designers have considered a number of aspects, such as their technical and economic parameters, whether they are suitable for fitting into the Pandur II 8x8 chassis platform, but also the export potential of the entire vehicle with the given turret and, last but not least, the possibility of transferring as much of the real share of the production of the combat body to the Czech Republic as possible," explained Robert Vent, TDV's Sales Director. Based on these aspects, the choice fell on the UT30MK2.

Picture: Pandur II 8x8 EVO with UT30MK2 turret | Tatra Defence Vehicle
Picture: Pandur II 8x8 with UT30MK2 turret | Tatra Defence Vehicle

The level of ballistic resistance of the turret is optional, and for the Pandur II 8x8 EVO prototype, Level 2 resistance according to STANAG 4569 was chosen. In addition to the weapons, its interior houses ballistic computers and electromechanical armament controls, ammunition feeders, firing diameter and other equipment. It also allows easy crew access to the armament from inside the vehicle. Moreover, the turret does not interfere with the hull space by any of its elements, which has a positive effect on the spaciousness of the interior for the crew and the infantry swarm and on its ergonomics.

The main armament consists of the Mk.44 Bushmaster II 30 mm cannon with elevation of -15 to 60 degrees and electric stabilisation, next to which a 7.62 mm machine gun is mounted in the turret. The retractable launcher then houses two Spike-LR/LR2 ATGMs. Compared to the Samson RCWS-30 turret currently used on the Czech Pandur II CZ 8x8, the instrumentation of the UT30MK2 turret will have approximately twice the range. The commander and the gunner will have identical fully stabilized optoelectronic sights with automatic target tracking and hunter-killer function (the commander can immediately hand over the identified targets to the gunner for destruction and continue searching for new targets in the meantime). Both sights will include a high-resolution daytime TV camera and a thermal imaging camera for night or poor weather conditions, the commander's will also have a panoramic view.

Picture: Pandur II 8x8 EVO with UT30MK2 turret without APS | Tatra Defence Vehicle
Picture: Pandur II 8x8 EVO with UT30MK2 turret without APS | Tatra Defence Vehicle

The UT30MK2 turret can also be fitted with the Iron Fist LC active protection system in a lightweight configuration with a pair of rotating twin defensive ammunition launchers. There is also an ELAWS (Elbit Laser Warning System) device for locating the laser beam irradiation, which indicates to the crew the direction from which the vehicle is irradiated, as well as the type of radiation. The Israeli turret also has eight 76 mm smoke grenade launchers mounted on the front.

The Pandur II 8x8 EVO will get a more powerful powerpack to compensate for the vehicle's increased weight compared to the current generation, so the vehicle's on-road and off-road handling will not change. The powertrain will be based on the Cummins ISL 540 turbocharged six-cylinder 8.9-litre diesel engine, producing 405 kW at 2,200 rpm and 1,900 Nm of torque at 1,400 rpm. The maximum speed of the new armoured vehicle will be 105 km/h (i.e. the same value as the Pandur II CZ 8x8 introduced in the Czech Armored Forces), and the range will be 600 km. 

Picture: Pandur II 8x8 EVO with UT30MK2 turret and active protection system | Tatra Defence Vehicle
Picture: Pandur II 8x8 EVO with UT30MK2 turret and active protection system | Tatra Defence Vehicle

"The entire project of the Pandur II 8x8 EVO has been conceived from the beginning so that many of its components could be used in the possible medium-term modernisation of the existing Pandur II CZ 8x8 vehicles of the Czech Army. The design of the new Pandur II 8x8 EVO and the newly used components will also allow the Czech Army to continue to use a large part of the existing logistics facilities for the already operating Pandur II CZ 8x8, if it is put into service. Therefore, it will not be necessary to fundamentally change either the service support or the processes associated with the operation and maintenance and repair of the existing fleet of vehicles of the Czech Armed Forces," added Tomáš Mohapl.

 Author: Michal Pivoňka