New tanks for the German police

The German riot police replace their armoured „Special Wagons“ with a new model. A tender for 55 cars, which cost around 1.1 million euros each, will end in the summer

Since 1984, federal and state police forces have been using the armoured „Special Wagon 4“ („SW4“), which is mostly painted in dark or poisonous green and is mainly used in large-scale police operations. It is based on the chassis of the well-known „Unimog“ from Mercedes and was built by the former Thyssen group. The „SW4“ are usually found together with water cannons, two vehicles are assigned to each water cannon squadron. They are equipped with clearing blades for this purpose.

The governing coalition now wants to modernize the fleet and replace it with a „Special Wagon 5“. Details have recently been provided by the federal government in answers to parliamentary questions. Currently, it is planned to purchase 45 „SW5“ for the state riot police forces and 10 for the federal one. Like their predecessors, most of them will be assigned to the „water cannon special car units“. The old armoured vehicles will afterwards be scrapped.

The old „Special Wagon 4“ (Image: CrazyD, CC BY-SA 3.0).

According to the German government, the „replacement procurement“ is to cost 64 million euros, or about 1.16 million per vehicle. Financing will be provided by the procurement office of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, which is responsible for the riot police. As with the renewal of the water cannons to the „WaWe10“, the office will select a model which will then be introduced nationwide.

Like its predecessor, the „Sonderwagen 5“ is considered a riot police „all-purpose vehicle“, which should cope with various deployment situations. It should be able to withstand machine gun fire, withstand improvised explosive devices, be all-terrain and „mudflat-capable“. Among the requirements is the transport of at least eight persons, for this the „SW4“ was considered much too narrow. The new Special Wagon should therefore have a height of 2.70 metres. Finally, the „SW5“ should also be able to be armed.

Which companies will be commissioned with the delivery of the „SW5“ is still open. The procurement office has published a tender, which will end in June. After selecting the model and manufacturer, the countries can acquire further Special Wagons on their own. However, before this additional equipment is to be ordered, the Federal Ministry of the Interior wants to analyse „potential terrorist threat scenarios with the danger of parallel situations“ for each federal state. For Bavaria, this evaluation has apparently already been carried out; according to the answer to a freedom of information request, the state is planning to purchase five additional „SW5“.

The „SurvivorR“ from Rheinmetall and Achleitner.

Not all state governments follow the approach of using a common model. For example, the police in Hamburg have already procured a „Survivor II“ from the Austrian company Achleitner before the G20 summit in 2017. The vehicle costs up to 1.4 million euros, depending on its equipment. Brandenburg has spent that much money on an „SW 5“ from Achleitner. It has barred windows, a clearing blade, a fire extinguishing system and a ventilation system for operational situations involving nuclear, biological and chemical warfare agents.

Together with Achleitner, the arms company Rheinmetall has also developed a „Survivor R“. In its basic version, the vehicle, which weighs around 15 tons, is expected to cost 500,000 euros; other sources speak of up to 1.5 million euros, depending on its equipment. Berlin had bought a „Survivor R“ two years ago, Saxony two. The purchase caused a scandal because the Saxonian police had the seat covers decorated with an oak wreath and embroideries in fracture writing, that recall National Socialist times.

The Swiss „Mowag Eagle“ at G20 in Hamburg (Image: Bundespolizei).

Presumably, the Swiss manufacturer General Dynamics European Land Systems might also bid for the 55 new „SW5“. The company is building the lightly armored „Eagle IV“, of which the federal police are already deploying ten vehicles at airports or at major locations such as the G20 summit.

The distribution of the Special Wagons among the different riot police should not become public. According to the Ministery of Interior, making this information public would „be likely to jeopardize police operations“. The ministry was similarly secretive about the new „WaWe10“. The reason given was that the announcement of the locations for the water cannons would allow unspecified persons to „direct disturbances against public safety and order“. However, the same authority had already disclosed the distribution in 2014. According to this, Hamburg will receive the most vehicles with six, while states such as Thuringia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Bremen will receive only two. With this information it is also clear, where the „SW5“ for the „water cannon special car units“ will be stationed.

Image: The „Survivor“ from Achleitner (Police Brandenburg).

Autor: Matthias Monroy

Knowledge worker, activist, editor of the German civil rights journal Bürgerrechte & Polizei/CILIP.