Tuesday, May 20, 2014

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Beastly Beauties on Road - Prime Ministerial Car

 There need to be special cars for the head of a nation of 1.25 billion people and us in India have two heads – The PM and the President. So read on to find out how do they conquer the roads.





Narendra Modi or NaMo was about to take the oath of office as Prime Minister of India next week and it was the time when I had to think about how does a PM of India take the roads when he travels across the capital or country. My curiosities on this topic should already be known to the readers of blog based on my posts on Prime Ministerial / Presidential Flights (Air India One - That's How Indian VVIPs Fly !!) and Prime Ministerial Security – SPG (Protecting Indian PM – Special Protection Group!!). So the road transport became a logical extension. 

Prime Minister of India uses B7-level armored 2009 BMW 7 Series – the most secure vehicle in India. These were inducted for use by the PM after the threat perception made it imminent to phase out aging Ambassadors which had long been the symbol of government cars in India. There are four custom made units of these BMW cars which have been included in the PM’s convoy and have been modelled to offer the best of luxury and security to the executive head of largest democracy in the world. While most of the luxury features are already available in this super-premium car model, security-wise a number of upgrades have been undertaken at the behest of SPG. The armor-plated BMWs have powerful jammers to nullify any radio or electronic signal in the area to prevent an IED attack. The steel used for the body is reinforced several times and is supported by thick glass windows to provide immunity from any kind of bullet or blast. The car can hit over 180 kmph, turn full circle at high speeds without toppling if attacked and can run to safety even on flat tires. The vehicle has been designed based on specifications to ensure that it can deflect any heat-seeking missiles and bombs. A state-of-the-art communication system ensures that the leader can be in touch with any person in the country at his wish and the protection systems ensure he is secure at every time. There is also a gas-proof chamber with closed circuit breathing system leveraging its own oxygen supply for protection against gas attacks. These vehicles also have a protected fuel tank that does not explode when damaged. The Prime Minister's lead protective agent (from SPG) usually sits in the front passenger seat. The core of the car where the PM sits can be sealed and made inaccessible from driver’s cabin in case of a threat from the front.

These vehicles are escorted by the SPG in five armored black BMW X5s and multiple Tata Safaris which carry all the equipment, weaponry and personnel required for security of the PM. Apart from these, the convoy consists of an ambulance and a fire engine. In general, when the PM moves across the capital, the convoy is 20-25 cars strong, a number which multiplies several times when PM is out of the capital. While one of the cars would carry the PM, other three are decoy vehicles and all the four even carry same number plates to ensure no uniqueness to the car that carries PM. All these vehicles are managed, maintained and secured by Special Protection Group (SPG) that is responsible for the security of PM.

Drivers for this secure wheel are trained specially by BMW as part of its 'Training for Professionals' course. This training teaches the ways of vehicle control in extreme conditions under the guidance of highly experienced instructors in the security field. Drivers are trained for extremely sophisticated escape manoeuvres such as the slalom in reverse and the tactical turn in double formation.

But in the setup that we have in India, it is not enough to protect only the PM. Though PM is the executive head, first citizen of the country is still the President. The supreme commander of our armed forces and in-principle head of our state needs equally, if not more, secure vehicle for his moment. The aura attached to the presidential vehicle requires it to ensure the dignity and grandeur required for the post held by the person travelling in it. Hence, for the purpose, is used the Mercedes Benz - S 600 Guard Pullman limousine. The custom-built Presidential stretch limousine is an epitome of luxury with interiors that are plush, yet subtle. Once the President enters the car and the hydraulic doors shut with a soft thud, he is cocooned from the din outside. The President's portion of the limousine is separated from the driver's cabin by a sound-proof glass partition. Inside, he can tune into any genre of music or movie through an integrated entertainment system but or stay abreast of current news on television while on the move. The spacious passenger cabin has two rows of seats facing each other that will allow the President to hold face-to-face meetings. There is a refrigerator integrated into between the rear seats so that everyone can sip into something cool while discussing a burning issue. The Harmon-Kardon Logic 7 stereo sound system has 14 speakers, in-dash CD changer and hard drive based GPS satellite navigation system. Inside, there is fiber-optic ambient lighting for foot wells and other areas. The leather cushioned seats have heating and active ventilation system. While the seats will be warmed in winter, there are small fans to keep the seats cool in summer and prevent perspiration in long journeys.

While what's visible to the eye will wow the entire President's men, it is what is hidden—the car's incredible safety features—that actually makes the car a Presidential limousine. The heavily armored vehicle is ballistic resistant. Not only can it prevent penetration of gunshots from military rifles, it is also designed to withstand grenade attacks and fragments from explosives. The protection systems in the vehicle are in line with the best weapon technologies. The car is tested for protection against AK 47, M 67 US hand grenade, 3 X DM hand grenade and parcel bombs. The windshields and windows have 60 mm polycarbonate coating glass and act as a splinter shield. The 90-litre fuel tank is self-sealing and there is an automatic fire extinguisher system on board, just in case. The limousine is equipped with Tele Aid that uses GPS tracking and cell phone service to provide assistance. An automatic call is made for help if any of the eight dual-stage air bags or seat belt tensioners gets deployed. Also, there is an emergency fresh air system that filters the air and pumps it back into the cabin. The Michelin Pax 'bullet-proof' tires can continue to drive for 30 km at 80km/hr. with a total loss of air pressure. The car also has a panic alarm system that can be triggered from any seat. Once activated, all doors are automatically locked. The President or his staff can, without opening the windows or doors, speak to people around the car by an integrated communication system with interior and exterior microphones. The car also has a rear surveillance camera that provides the entire field of view, alerting the limousine driver in case of an ambush from behind. The vehicle's armor and the bevy of equipment factory-fitted equipment make it very heavy. Hence, it is powered by a brute of a V12 bi-turbo engine. If the chauffeur floors the accelerator after turning on the ignition, it can hit 0-100 km/h in 6.7 seconds flat.



So for all those curious, we in India provide the best combination of luxury and security when our leaders travel on roads. And none of this can be considered as an overhead or an avoidable expense. Being at the helm of the hierarchy of this vast nation, these leaders do work in a vulnerable environment with eminent threats ready to showcase themselves at an iota of complacency. We ought to provide the best of available vehicles to ensure that these leaders are as secure on roads as they are in their offices as not only the lives of leaders are in question here but also the reputation of us as a country. Any successful attack on these two leaders would simply mean that this great nation cannot afford or ensure the security of its top leaders and this is not something that we want to hear from our friends abroad.


PS: A lot of information here is from media coverage of these great wheels and have been put up in the sense of satiating curiosities. I do not have any inside - first hand - spied on information. So you know any resemblance of the information here to the reality of these vehicles is purely coincidental!! 

References: 
1. Times of India
2. India TV News
3. IBN Live News

1 comment:

  1. Hmm.. But the convoy size could be reduced. Such beastly beauties consume a lot of fuel !!

    ReplyDelete