Austria’s commitment to strengthening its defence capabilities reached new heights with signing a contract between the Austrian Ministry of Defense and General Dynamics European Land Systems – Steyr (GDELS).

The deal, the biggest in two decades, is worth €1.8bn ($1.9bn) and secures the delivery of 225 Pandur EVO 6×6 wheeled armoured vehicles and conversion kits catering to medical, command and control, and anti-tank missions.

The crisis in Ukraine has prompted Austria to reassess its military spending, with plans to increase it to 1% of GDP, up from the current 0.74%. However, this still lags behind neighbouring countries like Germany, which are committed to reaching 2% of GDP. The insufficient spending hampers Austria’s ability to modernise its military and make new acquisitions.

Domestic production and job creation

Under the watchful gaze of Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer and Minister of Defense Klaudia Tanner, the agreement heralds a moment for the Austrian Armed Forces, ushering in a new era of enhanced mobility, protection, and operational effectiveness. The procurement, embedded within Austria’s ambitious “Development Plan 2032,” shows the nation’s commitment to military modernisation.

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The investment also carries implications for Austria’s economic landscape. With an impressive 70% value creation within Austria, the domestic production of Pandur EVO vehicles promises to safeguard and create jobs at more than 220 local companies. Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner affirmed the dual significance of the acquisition, emphasising its role in preserving Austria’s borders and nurturing the nation’s industry.

The deal’s significance extends beyond immediate defence needs, with the Pandur EVO’s production catalysing sustained economic growth. Martin Reischer, Managing Director of GDELS-Steyr, underscored the company’s commitment to fostering high-value partnerships within Austria’s industrial sector. Integrating new vehicles into production enhances military capabilities and generates new highly skilled jobs, further invigorating the local economy.

GDELS President Antonio Bueno hailed the procurement decision as a testament to the performance and versatility of the Pandur EVO family. Bueno expressed pride in the partnership between the company and the Austrian Armed Forces. The Pandur EVO’s reliability and adaptability have solidified its position as a trusted asset among military forces worldwide, with over 850 vehicles deployed across various nations.

Evolution of Austria’s military mobility

According to GlobalData’s “Austria Defense Market 2023-2028” report, the Austrian Army purchased 34 Pandur EVO armoured personnel carriers between 2019 and 2020. The choice of the Pandur EVO stemmed from the Austrian Army’s familiarity with the Pandur MTPz, which was acquired in 2003.

As production ramps up at GDELS’ Steyr facility in Vienna Simmering, the nation’s status as a centre of excellence for wheeled and tracked military mobility is set to be further solidified. The predecessors of the Pandur EVO have served faithfully since 1996.

In the face of evolving security challenges, Austria’s investment in the Pandur EVO represents a strategic imperative, but is also a testament to the nation’s resilience and forward-thinking approach to national defence. With the wheels of production set in motion, Austria stands poised to navigate the complexities of modern warfare with confidence and resolve.

In other recent Austrian military modernisation developments, Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles expanded its contract with the Austrian Army, facilitating the delivery of up to 300 trucks from its HX family of vehicles. This four-year contract extension, valued at over €300m ($328m), is part of Austria’s “Build-up Plan 2023” to modernise its military forces, emphasising mobility enhancements.