Rheinmetall Landsysteme Condor
Wheeled Armored Personnel Carrier / Multipurpose Vehicle
The Cold War-era Condor Armored Personnel Carrier continues to serve with a handful of operators worldwide.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
The Condor is a Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) appearing in West Germany during the Cold War (1947-1991) at which time Germany remained a divided nation based on the events surrounding the end of World War 2. West Germany was allied with the reigning western powers led by the United States, France and Britain while the East was propped by the Soviet Union. The Condor was developed in 1978 as a cost-feasible LAV solution from the chassis, running gear and powerplant of the successful Mercedes-Benz UNIMOG ("UNIversal-MOtor-Gerat") 4x4 vehicle with an all-new faceted hull superstructure added. Under the direction of Thyssen-Henschel, the Condor became a modular wheeled system capable of configuration to a variety of battlefield forms though primarily featured as an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC). In this standard arrangement, the Condor seats its crew of two with room for up to twelve combat-ready infantry. The vehicle has since seen adoption by security/military forces of Kuwait, Malaysia, Portugal, Thailand, Turkey, Uruguay and South Korea. Malaysia became the first customer of the Condor with an 459-strong order in 1981. Production was handled by Henschel Wehrtecknik GmbH of West Germany (now Rheinmetall Landsysteme of unified Germany).
Externally, the Condor shares the same excellent ground clearance of its more commercial-minded medium-class UNIMOG service truck brethren providing for good cross-country capabilities. As it shares the same running gear, the Condor also benefits from relatively easy maintenance and repair for components can be located and procured through non-military channels. All told, the vehicle is given an operating weight of 13.5 tons and features a running length of 6.1 meters, a width of 2.5 meters and a height to turret roof of 2.2 meters - all these qualities allowing the vehicle to be transported through medium-sized fixed-wing transports such as the popular Lockheed C-130 Hercules. Standard armament (in the APC model) is centered on 1 x 20mm autocannon fitted to a 360-degree FVT900 series traversing powered turret with limited elevation and depression - allowing for engagement of enemy forces at nearly all angles. Secondary armament includes a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun fitting at the turret and useful in engaging infantry or low-flying threats (220 x 29mm projectiles and 500 x 12.7mm ammunition in this configuration). Beyond that, the Condor is outfitted with seven firing ports with vision blocks (three to either hull side and one facing rear) allowing occupants to engage enemies through use of their personal automatic weapons. For added defense, the vehicle sports twelve smoke grenade dischargers seated in two banks of six for generating its own smoke screen. The driver is seated at the front left hull with the vehicle commander/gunner in the center hull area and the powerpack at the front right. This leaves the troop compartment running along the right side of the hull. The light steel armor employed in the Condor series protects against small arms fire and artillery spray though gives little defense against land mines, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and Rocket-Propelled Grenades (RPGs). Entry/exit for the occupants is through rectangular hinged doors at either hull side and a single door at the center of the rear hull face. The Condor is fully amphibious with a propeller fitted to the lower rear hull, a trim vane being erected prior to water entry. A powered winch is a standard feature on the vehicle as is a cabin heater.
The Condor relies on conventional power through 1 x Daimler-Benz OM906LA 6-cylinder, supercharged, water-cooled, diesel-fueled engine of 170 to 230 horsepower. As a 4x4 vehicle, the system is given four large rubber-tired, steel-rimmed road wheels arranged in a conventional manner across two axles (the front being steerable). The hull sits atop a torsion bar suspension system for added cross-country comfort. Speeds reach 95 kmh on ideal surfaces with an operational range out to 560 miles (900 km) giving the vehicle a strong battlefield reach.
The base Condor vehicle is the APC variant which can double as a cargo hauler. Another APC form fits 2 x 7.62mm machine guns in place of the 20mm cannon. Beyond this arrangement, the series is available in a variety of other profiles including light armored battlefield ambulance, Armored Recovery Vehicle (ARV) with powered crane, mortar carrier, Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) carrier (TOW, HOT and Milan support), Command and Control (CaC) vehicle with increased communications equipment, scout car (surveillance/reconnaissance), anti-aircraft (fitted with appropriate armament) and anti-riot with water cannon.
The Malaysian Army remains the largest operator of the Condor series with over 450 vehicles in use.