IDEX 2021: NIMR capabilities reaching a new era26 February 2021
The IDEX 2021 conference comes to a close and showcases the UAE’s premier technological partners and its demonstration for a stronger defence domestically, as well regionally across the Middle East.
The IDEX 2021 conference comes to a close and showcases the UAE’s premier technological partners and its demonstration for a stronger defence domestically, as well regionally across the Middle East. DSSI speaks with one of the showcase partners NIMR Automotive, who are renowned for their successful lightweight tactical vehicles the JAIS 4x4 and AJBAN 6x6. We discuss what they have learned over the years as they introduce next generation variants of these platforms and what to expect with the newer models. We also talk collaboration through their parent brand EDGE, who have 24 companies in its entity working on a range of disruptive technologies.
NIMR made a number of major announcements this week, including an exciting partnership with the Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) to further develop the JAIS vehicle, a first for two growing military powers in the Middle-East. We also ask what the new hybrid vehicle initiative with ST Engineering brings; and their UGV partnership with ADASI.r
DSSI speak with Abri Du Plessis (CEO) and Khaled Al Zhabi (CCO) on advancements their newly announced 2nd generation platforms offer, what they have learned through trials and tribulations in the field, the success behind their testing methods, and how disruptive technologies could change the landscape for the design of lightweight tactical vehicles in the future.
Congratulations to the NIMR team on your recent 20th anniversary, it's a magnificent milestone and a testament to what we are seeing it for the future of the Middle-East & UAE, as well the future potential of lightweight tactical vehicles, could you just briefly explain the second generation announcement of AJBAN and Hafeet and a bit about the fundamental features and its role in a future combat situation?
Khalid Al Zhabi / NIMR:-
Sure, what we've done is unveiled the second generation of AJBAN and Hafeet, which comes after more than a year and half of continuous hard work & development. The purpose of this was to leverage all the lessons we’ve learned over the last 20 years on the AJBAN & Hafeet, and it provided the full technical specs and commercial proposition of those vehicles. We started this with very specific requirements, where this platform needs to be at the cutting edge in terms of their capabilities, so that it would be competitive not just for our local customer, but for the international market as well. We really wanted to maintain the same DNA of the vehicle, however completely upgrade all its specs, so we will more than double the payload of the vehicle, increase the number of crew that could be implemented, and improve the maintainability of the of the vehicle as well, upgraded its electrical architecture, and most importantly increase the protection level dramatically from what it used to be.
All this while at the same time ensuring that the price of the vehicle is not only the same, but lower than what we’ve previously sold out a few years ago, so it really is a major jump and a vehicle which is not just our core, but is a pioneering one when compared to its competitors.
One of the things that we noticed with the first generation vehicles from NIMR is the vigorous testing that NIMR puts these vehicles through, can you tell us a little bit about what you learned from these tests and trials and how robust these vehicles are in terms of protection and survivability?
Abri Du Plessis / NIMR
The first generation of vehicles, apart from being extensively tested by ourselves, has been in use with the armed forces for many years, and gone through extensive usage. These vehicles are still maintained and we still evaluate them every now and again, and from that we've learned some very important lessons as Khalid alluded to, about things that could be improved in terms of their reliability and just ease of use, and so on, so all of those lessons we from day one we’re working on towards the mark two vehicles.
If we ever have the the privilege of hosting you at NIMR, you will see that outside we have our own test track, we have a track with sandy areas, and use an incline sand, water, water trench and crossing, all of those things that you would find that in any decent test facility, and then of course with our facility you are in the desert, so we have the wonderful advantage to take these vehicles right out of the factory, off the production line, of the body shop wherever it comes from, and into the desert and and literally we put thousands of kilometers on these vehicles, so I mean sometimes we we have to make an improvement and we will we will do that implement it, and literally take the vehicle on a 1000 kilometer off road drive to make sure that it it's it's doing what it's supposed to do,
In addition to the automotive things that we do, we also have access to its facilities in terms of protection, so we can that we can develop ballistic protection envelopes and have those tested right next door, but we've also recently towards the end of last year, mature our own landmine capability, during last year we did the first according to international standards, the first landmine blast of one of our vehicles, in the dessert, in Abu Dhabi, so wonderful facilities all around us and our own capability to test the protection levels of the vehicle are really of much benefit to us. Course, if you don't have that, you have to ship vehicles out to the foreign country, and apart from the cost, it takes a lot of time, so we have a way of accelerating base programs by having everything right facilities around us for all our testing purposes.
Covering the new announcements this week, there are quite a few to get through, the first thing this week was the announcement with one of your partners in EDGE, and ADASI, and the launch of the robotic vehicle and armed robotic UGV, could you just explain a little bit about your role in partnership in this program?
Khalid Al Zhabi / NIMR:-
What we've done this week is two announcements on that front, the first was with ADASI and the other with ST Engineering. What we've done is started working on building specific technologies and capabilities, and to go through a learning curve, where the ultimate goal is to launch a brand new vehicle, which would implement a lot of these technologies together. So this is a really important first step for us to demonstrate and test some capabilities while we go up that learning curve, to reach our ultimate goal of having that vehicle we have in mind integrated, and developed in the next couple of years.
Last month there was a discussion on hybrid electrification technology at the International Armored Vehicles conference, and some of the challenges introducing green initiatives to power future digital capabilities on military vehicles, can you briefly explain more about the announcement of the hybrid vehicle and your partnership with ST Engineering ?
Khalid Al Zhabi / NIMR:-
As mentioned, with the partnership with ST Engineering and hybrid tech, so we have the hybrid technology and then the robotic remote control that we've done, those are our capability demonstrators that we were working on in an effort to integrate them in the future,
Hybrid is a path moving forward, for the whole automotive industry, not just defence, so we're looking into a lot of the commercial solutions, whether it's hybrid or fully electric, and how can we leverage that in our industry
One of the big announcements this week of course is your partnership with SAMI which further boosts the defense profile and technology profile within the Middle East, could you briefly explain from a technology perspective what this may mean in terms of the evolution of the Jais 4x4?
Abri Du Plessis / NIMR
Firstly, I have to start off by saying IDEX 2021 has been a wonderful show for us, we are so glad it could continue, I think everyone here is very relieved that it actually took place, you can actually see the hunger amongst people to see each other, to see new technology, rekindle old relationships, so we are so grateful that it could take place and that we could have so many highlights here.
The agreement that we signed with SAMI is amongst the highlights for us, one of the biggest highlights. It comes following almost 2 years worth of hardwork in the kingdom by firstly starting to demonstrate our products to take part in the trials, with the JAIS vehicle, two extreme trials that took place and that led into this opportunity. The agreement that was signed really lays the foundation for pursuit of opportunities in the kingdom, which of course is a very big market, so it is really important for us.
On top of that, we've agreed the principles on how to take this forward, should we be successful, the end goal is to support the kingdom's 2030 goals and objectives, of having localized manufacturing and production, and having a sustainable business there, and that's why this agreement is so important not only for NIMR and SAMI, but also for EDGE as a bigger group of companies, with SAMI to a large degree representing the Saudi Arabian military industries. Of course, at a political and country level, even to the leadership, this is very important being the first of this kind of cooperation between the 2 countries in our industry, so we really look forward to this.
Finally this week we’ve seen EDGE and a massive innovative push into the spectrum of future technologies and disruptive technologies across all areas, how does your collaboration with EDGE work, what does this mean in terms of developments of the future for NIMR?
Khalid Al Zhabi / NIMR:-
EDGE covers more than 24 companies and that gives us the advantage, a breadth of knowledge, experience and know how, which allows us to be able to do two things: one, not duplicate efforts and the second, leverage technologies that could be integrated into our platform. I think that really gives a really great advantage and insights, because not only are we looking into requirements for defence, specific to our products, but we have an insight to the realistic requirements and understand how we as a group, can provide end to end solution to the end user, and how we can be part of that solution. So that really is no longer about just having a product and moving independently, but it's about having a one stop shop that can really cover the breadth and requirement of the military .
Abri Du Plessis / NIMR
At NIMR Automotive, our speciality is in vehicles and automotive, but of course vehicles need to be so much more going into the future, than just normal vehicles driving around, so we already have a very good cooperation in EDGE. I'm thinking of EPI, EDGE Precision Industries, that really do very very accurate machining for us, you have ADASI with the unmanned capabilities we jointly worked with for that robotic vehicle, we have our lean explosives and we work closely with our landmine blasting unit.
What's even more exciting is EDGE being as as disruptive as it, forward looking and progressive, I can only see more and more wonderful technologies becoming available to us for integration into our vehicles.
Khalid Al Zhabi / NIMR:-And his excellency, Faisal Al Binnai, his vision to really empower that cohesive work between all the assets and really supports the efforts of the companies to push the envelope as far as we really can, which really allows us to develop capabilities that we would have otherwise not, due to usual risk exposures, so that benefit of course of being part of the EDGE group and that wider umbrella is really allowing us to to excel in our fields.