Cayman ARV Procurement Reflects Belarus’s Pursuit of Strategic Autonomy, Part II

by Thomas Dolzall, Defense Analyst, Forecast International.

Cayman armored reconnaissance vehicle. Photo: Vitaly V. Kuzmin

Over the past two decades, the international market for wheeled armored vehicles has witnessed tremendous expansion in demand, as well as a coinciding multiplication of contractors offering both new and modernized designs.

Wheeled armored vehicles tend to be relatively inexpensive to procure, are simple to maintain and operate due to their functional commonality with civilian automotive designs, and are suitable for adaptation into a wide range of functions.

Wheeled armored vehicles have found particularly prominent use in states beset by domestic instability, where the requirements of traditional civilian policing and military counterinsurgency often become blurred. Almost 20 years of strategic thought and tactical doctrines oriented around confronting non-state actors and terrorism have generally reinforced procurement trends that favor wheeled, multirole vehicles over more specialized alternatives or expensive tracked designs.

140 Repair Plant looks to capitalize on the considerable international appetite for such vehicles with the Cayman and stands to achieve moderate success in doing so, largely owing to the established market position and reputation for high-quality craftsmanship of Belarusian contractors.

However, overly optimistic projections need to be tempered by an understanding of the crowded character of the wheeled armored vehicle market. Although demand for such vehicles remains ample, the Cayman will face stiff competition not only from traditional heavyweights in this domain, namely French contractors, but also from emerging market leaders such as Turkey’s Otokar and the United Arab Emirates’ Nimr, among others.

Low-cost wheeled armored vehicles produced by Chinese contractors such as Poly Technologies and Shaanxi Baoji Special Vehicles Company have also begun to make considerable inroads into many of the market spaces where Belarusian defense products and services have traditionally been successful, namely Africa and Central Asia.

Nevertheless, the Cayman has secured at least one export order to date. In August 2018, a representative of 140 Repair Plant reported to Russian news agency TASS that the Cayman had captured its first export order, to an undisclosed customer. Open-source footage from an Independence Day parade subsequently revealed the customer to be Cote D’Ivoire, which acquired at least seven vehicles in total and distributed them between the country’s Army and Police Gendarme.  Small-scale orders such as these are likely to form the primary source of success for the Cayman through the next 10 years, with Belarus’s established client base serving to mitigate some of its market challenges.


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