The Austrian Army is set to modernise the combat team's Pandur armoured transport vehicles in preparation for a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo later this year.
Around 12 Pandur vehicles are scheduled to be upgraded, two per month until August, to help enhance the protection of crews working abroad, mainly in observation and crisis situations.
Valued at €23m, the upgrade involves integration of an electrically-powered remotely-operated weapon station that can rotate 360°, enabling the gunner to safely operate the heavy machine gun from inside the vehicle.
The vehicles will also be fitted with a daylight camera, a laser rangefinder, a thermal imaging camera and a searchlight to boost observation of the battlefield during the day and night, while a smoke grenade launcher is also installed to improve security when leaving danger zones.
Austrian Defence Minister Gerald Klug said: "This investment shows that step-by-step we are investing in the protection and the equipment of our soldiers.
"The modern equipment is a prerequisite to allow our soldiers to fulfil their missions successfully and above all safely."
The army has already taken delivery of five upgraded vehicles, and transferred three of them to the 17th Battalion in Strass in southern Styria, whose soldiers were deployed for missions in Chad, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, in recent years.
Built by Steyr-Daimler-Puch, the Pandur II 6x6 wheeled armoured vehicle is configured to carry a driver, gunner, and commander with six fully equipped soldiers. The vehicle can also be armed with weapons up to calibre 90mm.
Apart from Austria, the vehicles are also operated by the Czech Republic and Portuguese armies.
Image: A Pandur wheeled armoured personnel carrier with a remotely-operated weapon station. Photo: courtesy of GUNTER PUSCH/ Bundesheer.