UK troops in Afghanistan have received the first batch of versatile, upgraded Panther command and liaison vehicles (PCLV).

The protected Panther vehicles have been fitted with an array of high-tech developments, including a joystick-controlled 7.62mm L7 general purpose machine gun which is operable from within the vehicle using cameras.

The vehicle also makes use of thermal imaging equipment, which allows it to ‘see’ in the dark.

Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, Quentin Davies, said that a number of essential modifications where key to providing a vehicle fit for the frontline.

“We are confident that the new extremely tough, air-transportable and agile Panther vehicles will provide commanders on the ground with a vital asset suited to a variety of roles and operational environments,” Davies said.

The Panther, which weighs over 7t, has also been given extra protection against a range of threats including small arms, blast and anti-personnel mines.

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During a series of hot weather trials the vehicles where fitted with a rear view camera for improved situational awareness, protected engine compartment, the addition of a fourth crew member and theatre-specific electronic countermeasures.

The vehicles have been delivered first to the RAF regiment and the army’s close support logistics regiment. More vehicles are expected to be delivered to Afghanistan later this month.

More than 400 Panthers are being assembled by BAE Systems under a £160m contract. The Panther is intended to replace military vehicles including the combat reconnaissance vehicle, fighting vehicle 430, Saxon and Land Rover truck utility medium.

By Daniel Garrun.