RAM MkIII Armored Vehicle: Rough and Tough

RAM Mk3 AT Photo: IAI
RAM Mk3 AT Photo: IAI

High performance, air-mobile armored combat vehicle combining extreme off-road mobility, high reliability and affordability, the RAM from IAI/RAMTA has been delivering those attributes for more than 30 years, proving its worth as a multi-mission combat proven platform in service with numerous military forces throughout the world.

At the FIDAE 2012 airshow IAI/RAMTA is unveiling the latest version of the vehicle, configured as an anti-tank weapon carrier. The RAM Mk3 AT is equipped with a weapon station carrying four laser guided anti-tank missiles (the LAHAT, renamed Nimrod SR for the Latin American market). The missiles are mounted on the recessed ramp, elevated into position just before firing, thus maintaining the anti-tank vehicle an undistinguished silhouette, contributing to the vehicle’s survivability and combat efficiency.

The RAM MkIII is the third generation of the RAM design, which is rooted to the pioneering concept of the mine-protected RBY platform, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) during the early 1970s. A few years later the RAMTA Division of IAI adapted the basic design, and modified it into a multi-mission armored personnel carrier and versatile weapon-carrying platform known as the RAM.

The requirements defining this innovative platform are relevant today – a versatile platform offering adequate off-road mobility, basic and enhanced ballistic mine protection, high reliability and cost effective life cycle cost.

The RAM has been ordered and has been proven on real world and combat operations with more than a dozen military, paramilitary and police forces in Asia, Latin America and Africa, as well as supporting United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations throughout the world. Among the recent RAM operators are the security forces of Vietnam and the Republic of Gabon.

The Vietnamese Army and security forces are operating 150 RAM 2000 vehicles bought from Israel in recent years. Photo: IAI

Versatile Combat Platform

The vehicle, currently produced in its third generation RAM MkIII version, is maintaining all these attributes, with additional features added, adapting it to new missions. As a true combat vehicle, RAM MkIII features ballistic armor, counter-mine blast protection techniques and a firewall bulkhead, separating the engine compartment and fuel tank from the crew compartment, protecting the crew, weapon system and power-pack. The vehicle maintains a low silhouette and reduced weight, offering superior battlefield survivability, land and air mobility necessary for special insert missions. The basic RAM maintains an integral blast-protected belly design and all-round ballistic protection, employing the ‘diamond shape’ for deflecting mine blasts away from the vehicle and defeating 7.62mm AP and 0.5” ball threats. The vehicle is offered in two ballistic versions and over 20 configurations, tailored for customer-specific requirements.

In the event of a mine blast, the armored hull remains intact; being virtually separate from automotive section and the wheels. The geometric profile of the hull also enhances the vehicle’s resistance to such a mine blast. Once the wheel of the vehicle activates a mine, the explosion damage cuts the respective axles and the fiberglass fenders disintegrate, allowing the force of the blast to be directed outward and away from the crew cabin.

Advantages of the Rear Mounted Engine

The rear engine compartment represents a unique feature of the RAM. Unlike other armored vehicles, which have the engine at the front or under the protected cabin, RAM places the entire power-pack – engine, automatic transmission and transfer cases at the rear. Forward or central engine placement has significant implications for an armored vehicle, potentially increasing vehicle height, exposing the vulnerable power-pack to physical and ballistic threats and adding complexity to the cooling system.

The RAM’s rear-mounted air-cooled engine solves these problems, offering additional benefits, especially in facilitating field maintenance by providing simple and quick access to the engine, gearbox and drive train.

An armor-protected forward engine would often require complex support systems, employing spring-loaded lifting systems, or special tools and support, complicating routine maintenance activities. “Throughout their generations, RAM vehicles have demonstrated low Life Cycle Cost (LCC) and delivered reliable service throughout its operational service. It requires low maintenance support, which can be provided in the field by non-specialist crews” said Rafi Jahn, the Project Manager.

The air-cooled diesel engine demonstrates remarkable performance with very high reliability, requiring minimal logistic support. The absence of complex and vulnerable water-cooling system components, and quick access to the armor-protected engine compartment means that the entire power-pack can be replaced by the crew in the field in less than two hours.

The Deutz air-cooled engine has provided the heart of the RAM automotive system since the 1980s. This power-pack has demonstrated very high reliability in continuous and extensive operation under extreme field conditions. It offers many advantages for military operators, particularly its operational endurance in extreme tropical and/or desert temperatures, high mean-time-between-failure (MTBF) and low maintenance requirements.

Maintaining a 28.3:1 power-to-weight ratio with the powerful engine provides a major factor in the RAM’s cross-country mobility. The large wheel size complements this power to deliver superior agility. “To maintain its high mobility at the level required for the RAM we chose the largest tires we could use,” explained RAM project engineer Zvi Zuk, “We selected the 12.5X20 MPT – considerably larger than those used on most other vehicles of this type. They deliver extremely high mobility over rough terrain, in mud, snow and sand, without the use of heavy, complex and expensive independent suspension. Approach and departure angles, and low center of gravity with high ground clearance provide the vehicles with high maneuverability and stability”.

Another unique attribute of the RAM MKIII is its undercarriage design. Unlike many conventional armored vehicles built on commercial chassis, the RAM forms around a structural skin (Monocoque hull), which is built of two pieces of diamond-shaped ballistic steel. This hull renders the fully bulletproof, mine-protected cabin, to which the driveline and automotive systems are attached.

RAMTA offers the RAM MKIII exclusively with automatic transmission, selectable 2×4 / 4×4 drive modes, with or without differential locking, depending on customer requirements. Ramta maintains this flexibility to meet requirements for ultimate simplicity, in order to support customers in developing markets, where the users seek to minimize the skills needed to operate and support its vehicles.

The vehicle is offered in open or closed cabin versions, configured in Armored Personnel Carrier, Command Vehicle, Scout Vehicle, Weapon & Missile Carrier, Air Defense vehicle, Mortar Carrier, and is even offered with a Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) configuration, complete with Tactical Assault Ladders for multi-story breaching operations.

The RAM has also been manufactured in both full and short configurations per customer demands.

A different version of the RAM AT platform, loaded with eight LAHAT missiles. Photo: IAI

Tailored Solutions

“By minimizing the part count required for each production kit, IAI RAMTA maintains a lean production line able to quickly and efficiently modify, adapt and produce the platforms to meet specific customer requirements, even for small production quantities” explains Rafi Jahn. “By relying on our plant’s computerized CAD/CAM and NASTRAN programs, these modifications can be tested, verified and approved by our vehicle designers and automotive engineers prior to the production of the modified platforms.”

The RAM MKIII is designed for air mobility in medium transports including the Antonov 12 and C-130, both of which can carry two long vehicles or three short versions.

“So far we have designed and produced over 20 different models of the RAM” said Hagai Shmuel, Ramta’s Marketing Manager. “We developed our production line to support small to medium quantities, characteristic of typical military orders. We can quickly gear up to produce the RAM MKIII in small batches in a short period of time, delivering dozens of vehicles within a period of a few months.”

IAI Ramta displayed at Latrun a stretched version of the RAM armored vehicle, fitted with an assault or rapid evacuation ramp designed to enable access to higher floors in urban areas. Photo: Noam Eshel, Defense-Update
RAM 2000 shown in the ISR configuration. Photo: IAI

“We can easily adapt our hull to specific customer requirements without the risk of exceeding the limitations imposed by conventional chassis and vehicle frames.” explains Zvi Zuk. “When we design the hull, we adapt the automotive systems to meet the loads and deliver the performance without the handling problems and excessive wear and tear typically resulting from overload. For example, recent models of the RAM received additional ceramic armor layers to be able to withstand 0.5” ball ammunition, without exceeding the vehicle’s load limit.” Zuk added.The basic design offers mine protection meeting STANAG 2A and 2B level, and ballistic protection conforming to STANAG 2 or 3, depending on customer requirement.

Because the entire vehicle and its ballistic protection package are designed, integrated and manufactured by the same group, Ramta has the flexibility enabling it to increase the level of armored protection with add on armor kits without unknown variables potentially compromising performance.

This holistic approach to the vehicle has allowed Ramta to develop and successfully test protection kits specifically designed to defeat a wide range of threats (IED, mines, small arms, etc.).

The protection kit is also rounded out with a complete suite of armored glass, and Runflat tires to allow the vehicle to extricate itself while under attack.

RAM MkIII Specifications:

  • Combat weight 6.5 tons for the basic version,
    7.2 tons for the configuration with add-on armored kit.
  • Fuel capacity of 160 litres
  • Engine: 6.472 liter Deutz 189 hp @2500 rpm
  • Automatic transmission
  • Power assist steering
  • Hydraulic power assist brakes
  • Overall length: 5,950mm (including spare wheel)
  • Overall height: 2,120mm
  • Overall width: 2,080mm

RAM MKIII Performance:

  • Cruising speed: 100 km/h (0n-road)
  • Cruising range: 800 km
  • Seating: 1+7
  • Fording: 1m (w/o preparations)
  • Grade: 60%
  • Side slope: 30%
  • Vertical obstacle: 0.60m
  • Ground clearance: 0.53m