WELP Group in Focus
There’s a clear trend towards “high ballistic levels”
WELP Group in Focus
In the course of an interview with WELP Group Managing Director, Dipl. Ing. Ronald Gerschewski, wt learns a few things about the company, its portfolio of products and technological advances in the field of armoured protection.
wt: What range of items does the WELP Group supply to official organisations?
Gerschewski: Our portfolio of products ranges from unmarked vehicles without armouring to special armoured versions fitted on car, SUV or minibus bodies with seating for up to 12 persons. The vehicle’s equipment can be highly customised, thanks to our use of modular systems, and our range likewise includes additional security features and personal protective equipment.
wt: You’ve just obtained certification for a VR9 vehicle. What are customers currently demanding, and is there any identifiable trend in this respect?
Gerschewski: There’s a clear trend towards “high ballistic levels”, particularly in terms of protection against anti-tank weapons and improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, designed for side detonation. So, customers are fundamentally asking for higher ballistic levels, as evidenced by the requirements of authorities within Europe, where ballistic levels are increasing to include VR6, and also by inquiries from certain crisis regions, where VR9 with added protection against mines and IEDs has become the standard.
wt: Will VR9 vehicles make the demand for VR6/7 obsolete?
Gerschewski: In principle, the demand for enhanced VR9 vehicles won’t render the VR7 class obsolete. One of the reasons for this is that VR7 vehicles offer a good balance between cost and weight, while also offering good protection, which makes them particularly useful for crisis regions with medium levels of risk. So, with this in mind, there’ll be a reduction in terms of the number of VR7s in demand, but not a total drop-off.
wt: One important factor is the ability to carry out repairs in the field. Is this possible with your vehicles, after an accident for example?
Gerschewski: Vehicles supplied by WELP Armouring can normally be repaired in such scenarios, though this is naturally always reliant on the severity of the damage we’re talking about. It depends on the vehicles’ design principle. WELP Armouring vehicles are fitted with bolt-in armouring supplied in kit form. This means that a relatively simple set of tools is sufficient for attaching and removing the individual components concerned. Partial repairs, even of serious damage to the body or armouring elements, are therefore possible. We can also supply assistance in various regions of the world via the so-called “flying doctors”, employed by our corporate group or by our regional partners, who have received training from us and have access to the corresponding spare parts.
wt: You use your own grades of steel. Why is this, and how are they different to “normal” armoured steel?
Gerschewski: Welp Armouring has developed its own steel, which is manufactured for us exclusively in various grades. This came about because we’ve been engaged in press hardening and constantly developing the materials we use for many years, especially in Wilkau-Hasslau, the site of our IndiKar brand. We recently inaugurated a technology centre for press hardening at this Saxony facility. For us, press hardening is a very efficient means of manufacturing components that offer the required hardness up to ballistic level VR10, even in complex three-dimensional shapes.
Through this ultramodern technology, we can eliminate the need to weld together individual subassemblies. But another advantage of press hardening is the weight-optimised, space-saving design of the modules.
That being said, WELP Armouring continues to use other conventional grades of armouring, and even other metals in its armouring. The bottom line here is that we constantly strive to find the ideal balance between weight, cost and material thickness.
wt: What makes you stand out from the competition in terms of vehicle design and your corporate philosophy? (bolt-in armouring, for example.)
Gerschewski: With respect to special and armoured vehicles, the key features of our corporate group are based quite clearly on our company’s automotive experience. We’ve been a development company and production partner for car manufacturers for well over 30 years. We’ve applied this expertise and know-how to special and armoured vehicles. In other words, all of our vehicles are based on a very comprehensive design which, in the end, is all made possible through our 60-strong in-house team of designers.
We also have outstanding specialist knowledge in the field of material development. This includes, for example, our in-house material testing lab and our officially certified firing range, which is not only used for preliminary testing but also for the final testing of vehicles, including on an off-road track.
But our philosophy as such goes well beyond all this! The fundamental armouring principle embodied by our corporate group is also driven by our experience in the automotive sector, in other words by our activities as a systems supplier to car manufacturers.
It’s because of this experience that we’ve been able to develop our sophisticated bolt-in system. This bolt-in armouring system comes in the form of a kit, which, unlike conventional armouring methods, is bolted into the vehicle.
Using this type of armouring, we can create an intrinsically highly robust but very flexible cage. This approach to armouring, which is designed to comply with the corresponding ballistic requirements, is likewise flexible enough to deal with high-energy IEDs.
wt: What technological advances can we expect in the future?
Gerschewski: We’re working on various areas of material development. These efforts are also being driven by our new technology centre for press hardening. We’re focusing on new materials and on combinations of materials that can in part be created through heat and corresponding pressure.
These include composite materials and light alloys that we process, but also coating aspects.
We’re also working on new vehicle systems, particularly those with a better protection rating that enable a greater number of persons to be conveyed, the aim being to make the vehicle design as modular as possible in order to cater to the requirements set out by authorities in urban areas and also, at least partly, to enable them to be used under the most extreme road conditions; so, in other words, civilian vehicles that offer significantly greater protection and user value.
We likewise intend to expand our basic range; not only in terms of vehicle technology, but also with respect to the services that we provide. Our plans include creating an aluminium centre and a service centre through which we will supply official authorities and major organisations with an extensive portfolio of services that ranges from pure repair work and training to advanced driver training courses.
We’re also developing various modular systems for customers to select features as they would from a catalogue, allowing them to configure the levels of comfort and security of their own vehicle.
wt: Thank you very much.