Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tip of the Day: When is a Ballistic-Resistant, Fully-Armored Vehicle Really Needed?

Executives of profitable global companies are often targeted for kidnapping, carjacking, assassination, extortion, robbery, and acts of terrorism...just a few of the collateral risks that are associated with being amongst the most powerful, influential and successful targets on Earth. 

Additionally, the "lions-share" of the developed nations around the world are often subject to being threatened, including diplomats, international organizations and NGOs with partially-armored and fully armored vehicles in order to safely perform their duties.

For an explanation of the commensurate levels of ballistic threat, please see the below:

Those developing nations with the highest percentages of global kidnappings and abductions and assassinations include:

-- México

-- India

-- Colombia

-- Venezuela

-- Guatemala

-- Ivory Coast

-- Nigeria

-- Kenya

-- Pakistan

-- Indonesia

-- Philippines

I have spent the better part of 22 years driving, using, directing security details, maintaining and assessing the defensibility of partially-armored and fully-armored vehicles, which have been used predominantly for ensuring that senior US officials and ambassadors, foreign dignitaries, cabinet secretaries and US legislators are safeguarded 24/7.

Having worked in the private sector since 2006, though, I have ultimately come to the realization that a partially-armored vehicle has little effectiveness other than perhaps saving taxpayers money.

I am now of the opinion that if a threat assessment warrants that a fully-armored vehicle is deemed essential, that is the only ballistic-resistant vehicle I would recommend and only at Level 4 or above, considering that it is impossible to know in advance what caliber of firearm a person bent on mayhem is likely to select as a weapon of choice.    

A fully-armored vehicle is one that has been disassembled and essentially rebuilt from the ground up to include an enhanced suspension and engine and the installation of transparent and opaque armoring materials (360 degrees). 

A fully-armored vehicle (i.e., FAV) also includes the installation of windows and door panels capable of deflecting rounds up to and including Level 4.

Now, let me further complicate Level 4 by introducing the endless options available to violent people, thanks to the below web-link: chart  

Typically, FAVs also includes equipping the vehicle with "run-flat" tires and an external speaker system so that the driver can communicate with those outside the vehicle without opening a door or window, a rather important component if the occupants of an FAV want to continue breathing. 

Based upon my experience on the subject, I would urge all potential targets against using vehicles below Level 4, as one can never predict what type of round will be selected  by a violent person to kidnap or assassinate a person they happen to dislike. 

With the evolution of improved and lighter armoring materials, though, it is now possible for medium-sized and even smaller vehicles to reach Level 4 protection in vehicles such as the Audi, Volkswagen Passat and even the Alfa Romeo.

Fully-armored vehicles, particularly at Level 4 can protect you against kidnappings, assassinations, armed carjackings, and some threats posed by high explosives.

Some some companies do not believe that a protected vehicle is worth the money. My suggestion, though, is to ask a person, now deceased, whose life could have been preserved by such a ballistic-resistant vehicle?

However, individuals who have been in a position where they have needed protected vehicles are very likely to disagree. So, who really needs a Level 4, ballistic-resistant vehicle? 

1.  Anyone who has received a credible, documented threat of violence;

2.  Senior multinational executives residing in developing nations;

3. Heads of state/senior foreign dignitaries (based upon a comprehensive threat assessment); and

4.  Anyone who is likely to be targeted by indigenous or transnational terrorist group; and

5. Any accredited diplomat, member of an international organization, etc. who is subject to being targeted by an act of violence.

One consideration before purchasing any full-armored vehicle is the obvious risk of theft by criminals, narcotics traffickers, smugglers, rebels, and terrorists. Consequently, these vehicles need to be safeguarded at the highest possible level at all times. Inasmuch as an FAV is used to transport VIPs, EOD screening is mandatory. 

Only drivers trained and authorized to drive an FAV should drive and operate such vehicles.

FAVs handle considerably different from from unarmored vehicles. Consequently, drivers of FAVs require extensive specialized training.

I tend to discourage the use of US-manufactured vehicles as FAVs as they often may not be suitable for high-altitude environments and also tend to pose maintenance challenges if the vehicle of choice does not have an authorized service facility in the country of residence.