18/11/2019 – Ghana is one of the most recent customers for the Turkish Otokar Cobra and Cobra II armoured vehicles, with both models seen in service with the Ghanaian Army earlier this month.
The vehicles were observed during the counter-terrorism exercise Eagle Eye on 9 November, which took place at the Ecobank head office in Accra. The exercise, which has been held for a number of years, tests the response of the Counter Terrorism Unit to terror attacks, which has been given extra importance due to attacks in Mali and Burkina Faso, amongst others.
The 2019 edition of the exercise simulated a terrorist takeover of a high-rise building, with Ghanaian soldiers from the 64th Infantry Regiment (the military’s Counter Terrorism Unit) storming the building, rescuing hostages and detaining Jihadists. They were supported by the 153rd Armoured Regiment and the Military Police.
Two Cobra II and two Cobra vehicles were used in the exercise to provide support to the troops. Each vehicle was equipped with a protected weapon station and both Cobra IIs were armed with 12.7 mm FN M2 heavy machine guns and the Cobras fitted with 7.62 mm FN MAGs.
One of the Cobras was equipped with what appeared to be a mast-mounted electro-optical sensor fitted on the rear of its hull, notes Jane’s Defence Weekly.
Ghana is a new customer for the Cobra, which joins its dozens of Ratel 20/90, Piranha, WZ-525/Type-05P, Typhoon, Maverick and Tactica armoured personnel carriers.
The Cobra has been accumulating a steady stream of orders from Africa – for instance, in December 2018 it emerged that Burkina Faso had acquired an undisclosed number of the type, with four seen during the country’s Independence Day parade. They have been used for counter-terrorist operations and on 22 December one was hit by an improvised explosive device, killing three soldiers.
Algeria, Mauritania, Nigeria, Rwanda and Tunisia are amongst African Cobra operators – the type has found widespread acceptance by militaries around the world. According to United Nations data on arms transfers, in 2018 Turkey’s defence industry exported 40 wheeled armoured personnel carriers to Burkina Faso, 20 to Chad, three to Ghana, six to Mauritania and 25 to Senegal. It is believed that most of these were Otokar Cobras.
Otokar is targeting growth in Africa, for instance promoting its products at the Shield Africa defence exhibition in the Ivory Coast in January. Otokar General Manager Serdar Görgüç noted that Otokar has built 30 000 military vehicles, which are in service in 32 countries, including in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Central Europe. Otokar designs and manufactures a wide range of tactical armoured vehicles including 4×4 Ural, Cobra, Cobra II, Kaya II, ISV, Arma 6×6 and Arma 8×8 vehicles as well as the Tulpar tracked armoured vehicle family and Altay main battle tank.
The Cobra vehicle features a common platform that can be adapted for a variety of roles, and the vehicle can be used as a weapons carrier, reconnaissance vehicle, armoured personnel carrier, ambulance, NBC reconnaissance vehicle etc. The Cobra can transport between four and nine people, including the driver, depending on configuration.
The monocoque V-shaped steel hull provides protection against small arms fire (including 5.56 and 7.62 mm rounds), mines, IEDs and shrapnel. The front wheel arches are designed to be blown away in the event of an explosion. Additional bolt-on armour can be added for better protection. The vehicle is powered by a V8 turbo diesel engine, driving all four wheels, which feature independent suspension and a central tyre inflation system. Top speed of the 6 200 kg Cobra is around 115 km/h.
Various turrets and weapons systems are available, including the Rafael overhead weapon station (OWS) with Rafael Spike anti-tank missiles, 40 mm grenade launcher and Nexter 20 mm M621 cannon.