The Pandur I was a 6x6, multi-faceted wheeled chassis primarily serving as a fast armored personnel carrier within the inventories of a variety of global armies and security forces. The system was developed from the similarly-minded Spanish Pegaso 3560 BMR system during the early 1980s as an in-house private venture by the Austrian firm of Steyr-Daimler-Puch. The objective of the design was to deliver a mobile product utilizing as many existing components as possible in an effort to keep costs to a minimum and ensure availability of parts to potential buyers. Two developmental trial vehicles were utilized to test out various concepts resulting in the unveiling of the initial prototype in 1985. Six pre-production vehicles were then constructed to further refine the design. However, it would not be until 1994 that the Austrian Army placed an initial order to help serve its ongoing commitments to the United Nations. Deliveries commenced the following year. In 2003, the Austrian firm was absorbed by American defense giant, General Dynamics, to become General Dynamics European Land Combat Systems (ELCS). Additionally, overseas production went on to be handled by AV Technology International to bypass strict Austrian export laws. The Pandur I has since gone on to serve within the ranks of the Austrian, Belgian, Kuwaiti, Slovenian, American, Royal Solomon Islands and Equatorial Guinea police and military forces. The Pandur I series was subsequently replaced by the much improved Pandur II series incorporating a 6x6 or 8x8 wheel arrangement as well as a more powerful engine.
Design of the Pandur I was conventional as far as 6x6 vehicles of the 1980s go. She featured angular slab armor across all critical facings to help deflect incoming enemy small arms fire. The design was given a relatively low profile to make for a smaller target and six rugged, equally-spaced heavy duty road wheels (three road wheels to a side) to help promote good-to-excellent on-road/off-road performance capabilities. The driver can maintain control of the Pandur I even if one of the front steerable road wheels is damaged or disabled. The spacing of the wheels is such that the vehicle exhibits a tight turn radius and independent suspension coupled with excellent shock absorber systems help in off-road traversing. Caged headlights were set along the front side panels to either side of the glacis pate for night driving. The crew compartment was held well-forward in the hull, offset to left, with the engine fitted within its compartment to the right side. Armament was variable and depended upon mission requirements but could be centralized in a powered turret located atop the hull, either off-set to left from centerline (for smaller caliber armament) or centered to the rear of the hull (for large caliber armament set in an equally-large turret). The driver was seated at the front left side of the hull behind the well-sloped glacis plate with the vehicle commander/gunner directly behind. Depending on the mission role, a standard crew of two personnel managed the Pandur's functions and an additional eight passengers/troops could be transported in the cabin. The passenger cabin was set to the rear of the hull and sported vision blocks and firing ports along the sides for personal small arms usage with entry/exit handled by two individually-set, multi-hinged rectangular doors along the rear hull facing. An additional rounded access hatch was set to the right of the commander's hatch atop the hull and two rectangular hatches were set atop the rear for the cabin, hinged along their outer facing edges. Some versions of the Pandur I (including Austrian and Kuwaiti models) were constructed with a raised rear troop compartment. Stowage was accomplished through side compartments and rear racks.
In terms of armament for the Pandur I, this was essentially left up to the operator and specified role but generally consisted of a 12.7mm (0.50 caliber) air-cooled heavy machine gun at the commander's cupola with up to 1,000 rounds of 12.7mm ammunition carried aboard. The one-man turret ring could be protected by an angular shield armor assembly known as the "Upgunned Weapon Station". The versatility of the Pandur I allowed for various mountings and powered turrets to be affixed to the upper rear hull in an effort to field more formidable systems such as 20- or 25mm automatic cannons, a 30mm Mauser cannon with dual-belt feeding, a 35mm cannon alternative, a 90mm tank destroying main gun, HOT anti-tank missile launchers and large-caliber mortars, some of these armaments in two-man powered turrets.
Armor protection was limited to small arms fire of 7.62mm caliber (armor piercing) though the front was further protected to retard penetration of 12.7mm and even 14.7mm projectiles from heavy arms fire and fragments. Applique armor was available for improved survivability. For crew comfort a heater could be fitted to control cabin temperatures. The driving action was assisted by the standard integrated power steering system for fluid reaction of the steerable front pair of road wheels. Crew survivability was improved by the implementation of a fire suppression system as well as a fire detection system. Up to six smoke grenade dischargers could be fitted as tube launchers on either the optional powered turrets or along the hull side itself. A central tire regulation system managed the pressure to the six road wheels "on-the-fly", allowing the Pandur I to adjust ground pressure as the terrain required. Each tire was also designed to "run flat" for a further 50 kilometers after resulting damage.
Operational weight for the Pandur I was listed at 13.5 tons. Measurements included an 18 foot, 8 inch length with an 8 foot, 3 inch width and a 6 foot listed height. Power was supplied by a single Steyr brand 6-cylinder, turbo-charged diesel engine delivering 260 base horsepower at 2,400 revolutions per minute. This supplied the vehicle with a road speed equal to 62 miles per hour (100 km/h) and an operational range of approximately 435 miles (700 km).
While utilizing the same chassis, the Pandur I was developed into two basic variants simply-titled "Model A" and "Model B". The Model A featured an extended center roof design and could take on various dedicated battlefield roles to include that of ambulance with internal spacing for medical litters, a potent offensive-minded anti-tank platform, the standard armored personnel carrier with troop seating capacity, a mobile command post sporting increased communications equipment and a repair and recovery vehicle. The Model B was differentiated by its "flat" roof and was designed to fulfill the dedicated roles of amphibious assault (through use of installed water jets for self-propulsion), heavy caliber mortar carrier and reconnaissance Fire Support Vehicle (FSV).
The Austrian Army began use of the Pandur I series in 1996 to which some 71 vehicles were ultimately delivered. Belgium undertook license production of the vehicle in five major variants numbering 45 examples in whole. The Kuwait National Guard, under the AV Technology International production banner, operated some 70 vehicles in six major variants (as Austrian law prohibited the sale of Austrian war goods to places of "tension", Av Technology handled overseas production). The Slovenian Army became a major producer (under license) and operator of the Pandur I through its 85 examples and fielded these under the designation of "Valuk". The United States Army purchased the Pandur I for possible use as the multirole "Armored Ground Mobility System" (AGMS), also produced under the AV Technology product banner, in 50 examples for Special Operations Command (USASOC). It is believed that Equatorial New Guinea maintains a small force of Pandur I vehicles that is about 15-strong, these elements formed from the spoils of capture when the government seized a cargo vessel shipping fifteen Belgium Army Pandur Is (then on lease to the West African nation of Benin) and bound for the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo in early 2006.