PUBLIC ORDER VEHICLES – THE NEXT GENERATION
By Bob Morrison
For fifty years the Land Rover has been seen as an ideal platform for low profile armour protected vehicles for use in public order situations where the deployment of more overt armour could be inflammatory. From the late sixties, throughout the period usually referred to as ‘The Troubles’ and right through to the present day, steel armour bodied Land Rover public order vehicles used by the police have been a familiar sight on the streets and lanes of Northern Ireland and so successful were they in this role that derivatives of the original design were both widely exported by Belfast manufacturer Shorts and, from the late eighties, produced in quantity in Turkey by Otokar for both internal security duties and export.
Hobson Industries of Donington on Bain, Lincolnshire, who have a quarter century of asset management experience with the Land Rover marque, were responsible for the refurbishment at the turn of the millennium of the then Royal Ulster Constabulary (now Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI)) fleet of ‘Tangi’ armoured Land Rovers, designated the ALR Mk.III by its users. This fleet of several hundred vehicles, evolutions of the Hotspur Land Rover design first produced on the leaf sprung Series III chassis in the seventies by T Davies & Sons of South Wales using their trademarked Hotspur armour plate, had seen extensive service since integration of the basic body style with the coil sprung One-Ten chassis in 1986 and by the end of the nineties was in serious need of refurbishment.
Ideally the RUC would have liked to have procured new vehicles to replace the tired Tangi fleet but progression of the peace process and the de-escalation of violence in response to the 1998 Good Friday, or Belfast, Agreement, ruled this out in the short term on political grounds. However fleet refurbishment was only viewed as a temporary solution and specifications were drawn up for an Armoured Land Rover Mk.IV by what had now become PSNI, though on budget grounds this project was put on hold in early 2006.
Appreciating that there were other markets for Land Rover based armoured public order vehicles and realising that it was merely a matter of time before PSNI would have to bite the bullet and order replacement vehicles for their ageing and deteriorating ALR Mk.III fleet, Peter Hobson continued to develop his basic Mk.IV proposals, first with a full military specification diesel engine as the Ranger and then as the Mk.IV+ Public Order version which he calls Thetis.
Explaining to BATTLESPACE how the Mk.IV+ armoured Land Rover evolved after the PSNI cancelled their programme in 2006 Peter Hobson said, “We didn’t sit on our Mk.IV proposal but continued to develop it because we knew there would be a future requirement and felt they should have the best.”
The name Thetis was chosen from Greek mythology for the Mk.IV+ by Barbara Hobson. Father of Achilles, Thetis had the power to create a shield around those he loved. “We have designed a vehicle with that in mind,” Peter Hobson continued. “To protect those people we put in harm’s way.”
Based on research conducted both when designing his original ALR Mk.IV proposal and subsequently evolving the better protected military specification Ranger derivative, in Thetis Peter Hobson has been able to create a vehicle which he believes better shields its occupants than any previous steel bodied armoured Land Rover, but through incorporating the latest design and materials technology in strategic alliances with other specialists in associated fields he has been able to increase protection level while maintaining operational payload.
Thetis has been designed to deal with multiple threats and attacks from above, below and all sides, ranging from bullets and improvised weapons through to petrol bombs and fire scenarios. For example, the Dawson Roof overhead protection principle has been improved and integrated into a on