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The Turkish private company Nurol Makina is developing two new variants of its NMS 4×4 protected mobility vehicle, Emre Akin, Nurol’s head of strategic planning told ESD in an interview on 27 September 2022.

The NMS builds on the success of the company’s Ejder Yalcin, over 1,000 of which have been sold to 10 different countries It is a lighter variant that prioritises ballistic protection and mobility. The new variants include a utility vehicle with a pickup section at the rear of the platform and space for five personnel, as well as a long wheelbase (LWB) vehicle that can carry 11 personnel, which is an increase on the 7 that can fit into a standard NMS.

“The utility vehicle is designed to meet the needs of special forces (SF) and customers with expeditionary requirements,” Akin explained, adding that; “SF tell us that they often need to carry a lot of supplies, from bags of potatoes to heavy weapons and ammunition, standard protected 4×4s are not well-suited to this kind of mission.”

The utility vehicle is also being configured as an anti-UAV platform. “It is planned to fit a high-power directional antenna and radar, as well as an auxiliary power unit (APU) onto the utility area of the vehicle without compromising its mobility,” Akin said. It would also be possible to fit a remote weapon station (RWS) to the cab of the vehicle, providing a single platform that could detect and engage small UAVs at a “couple of km”, he said.

The demand for the LWB variant originates from the differences in squad sizes between potential customers. “Users might require greater personnel capacity than is offered by the base platform, so having the same driver and maintenance staff training requirements between variants is key,” Akin explained. He added that all variants in the NMS family have 96% commonality of parts, many of which come from European or NATO suppliers, thereby eliminating critical dependencies on non-EU suppliers.

The original NMS was ordered by Qatar in 2017, during the initial development phase of the vehicle. The Hungarian MoD indicated in 2019 that it was examining a procurement of the NMS alongside the Ejder Yalcin – the latter has already entered service with Hungary, where it is known as the Gidrán. In addition, some social media posts indicate that the NMS is in service with either Chad or an African nation deployed to the Sahel.

The NMS can provide greater ballistic protection than the Ejder Yalcin. The base vehicle has an armoured steel monocoque hull that provides ballistic protection at STANAG 4569 level 1. At this level of protection the vehicle has a payload of 2.5 tonnes and a range of 1,000 km. However, protection can be added in the form of additional steel plates or a bespoke ceramic suite of additional armour manufactured by Nurol’s sister company, Nurol Technologies. “The additional armour can be fitted in the field without specialist knowledge or tools,” Akin told ESD. With the ceramic armour kit, the NMS provides ballistic protection in compliance with STANAG 4569 level 4, meaning it is capable of withstanding strikes from 14.5 mm projectiles.

The new pick-up variant of the NMS is provided with a flat cargo area to the rear. This allows both storage of various outsized equipment for special forces, or for configuring the vehicle for other specialist roles, such as a counter-UAV platform. Credit: Nurol Makina

Ceramic armours make for an effective form of armour against armour piercing (AP) projectiles. This is because they have a very high level of hardness, which serves to defeat the armour penetrating core of the attacking round by overmatching its hardness and shattering it. The fragments are then much easier for the backing steel of the vehicle to absorb safely. According to a 2002 article written by the late Professor Richard Marian Ogorkiewicz, it is possible for ceramic armour backed by high hardness steel to stop a 14.5 mm projectile fired from point blank range at approximately the same areal density as rolled homogeneous steel armour that would be capable of stopping 7.62 mm projectiles.

For all of its protection benefits, ceramic armour does carry a few drawbacks that must be managed. For instance, its very high hardness can make the armour brittle meaning that it will shatter when hit. Hardness is of course part of what makes the armour so effective, but it also requires a designer to limit the fractures created by a hit or build replaceable plates that can be quickly swapped once damaged.

A crewman demonstrates the NMS’ capability to mount or remove appliqué armour plates in field conditions. Credit: Nurol Makina

The NMS seeks a delicate mobility balance. On the one hand it has been designed to offer good on-road performance with a new top speed of 160 km/h, an increase over the original 140 km/h, making it suitable for VIP convoy protection. However, the characteristics that make for a good on-road vehicle, generally make for a poor off-road vehicle. An off-road vehicle requires good ground clearance, large wheels, and a lot of room for the suspension to move. This leads to tall vehicles that may not be as comfortable as a civilian vehicle on the road and may struggle with sudden corners. However, Nurol videos do show the NMS taking sharp corners smoothly. Additionally, the vehicle’s power-to-weight ratio is sufficient to permit towing of heavy vehicles, with a company video showing the vehicle recovering an immobilised water tanker that became stuck at the side of a road.

The available evidence indicates that the NMS provides good off- and on-road mobility, although its use of wheels ultimately means that it will lack the trafficability of a tracked vehicle. However, there are many grounds to argue for sufficient trafficability, as opposed to maximum trafficability. It stands to reason that a vehicle – such as the JLTV, NMS, or Eagle V – capable of accessing some off-road environments but not all, would be sufficient to meet the needs of many armed forces facing difficult modernisation choices.

It is inherently difficult to draw concrete lessons from the war in Ukraine. So much of the fighting there is disproportionately shaped by the unique circumstances under which it is taking place, that it is far from clear whether all of the traits of the war will carry over into the next. However, it is relatively clear that highly mobile vehicles – from commercial SUVs to armoured 4×4s such as the MaxxPros, Vartas, and Huskies in service with Ukraine – can create battlefield opportunities.

A long wheelbase variant of the NMS (left) is shown alongside a standard wheelbase variant (right). Credit: Nurol Makina

Their agility off and on-road makes targeting them difficult if an opponent is not able to link reconnaissance and targeting assets with strike components in real time. Even if those assets are effectively linked, the command and control (C2) network must enable prioritisation of moving targets and include guided munitions within its remit to enable effective engagements. This complexity is further compounded by the fragmented nature of most modern battle spaces. Most maps of Ukraine draw continuous fronts representing Ukrainian and Russian lines, however it is unlikely that either side has troops stationed along the entirety of those lines and are instead reliant upon small groups creating strongholds where possible. This provides further opportunities for highly mobile formations to infiltrate through enemy lines and conduct harassing engagements against a formation’s logistics tail, as characterised the opening phase of the war, or to conduct rapid advances as the Ukrainians demonstrated around Kharkiv in September 2022.

As such, there is definite merit in exploring the role of highly mobile and protected 4×4s in a frontline role as part of a high intensity conflict, outside of the traditional counter-insurgency role assigned to them.

Sam Cranny-Evans