The Mercedes-Benz G-Class is a fourth potential UK GSUP (General Service Utility Platform) contender which featured at DVD 2022, reports Bob Morrison.
The Mercedes-Benz G-Class, formerly known as the Geländewagen (translates as off-road / all-terrain car) or G-wagen, first conceived by Mercedes-Benz AG of Germany in partnership with Steyr-Daimler-Puch of Austria fifty years ago and which first entered Bundeswehr service thirty years ago, has seen widespread use across NATO armies but only a small number have served with UK Armed Forces. However the latest generation, the Model Series 464 which was unveiled to specialist defence media in Graz in late September 2021 (see New G-Class for Rescue and Special Operations) is arguably the most serious contender so far for the UK MoD’s GSUP requirement.
Originally inspired by the last Shah of Iran (Mohammad Reza Pahlav who was overthrown in 1979) when he was looking to modernise his nation’s armed forces in the 1970s, the Geländewagen was first procured for military use by Argentina. A small quantity of their new G-wagen fleet was sent to the Falkland Islands when the Argentinians invaded the British Dependencies in the South Atlantic April 1992, only to be captured with some then being sent back to Europe; in addition to the most famous of these, the Fleet Air Arm’s war trophy which was passed onto the FAA museum at Yeovilton, at least two others were used by the RAF in Germany and the BRIXMIS military liaison team in Berlin also used the type (as, incidentally, did US Forces in Berlin).
As I have already covered the launch of the G-464 model, I don’t plan to bore readers by repeating myself here but will merely first draw attention to the latest generation vehicles exhibited at DVD 2022 at Millbrook last September. Two of the sand coloured demonstrator fleet, both left hand drive models though M-B confirmed to us in Graz that right hand drive would be an option, were at the expo with one on static display on the Jankel stand and the other doing tours of the off-road course from its base on the Mercedes-Benz stand; neither of these vehicles were militarised.
When we visited the Mercedes-Benz off-road display in the Erzberg iron ore mines north of Graz in Austria in September 2021, where I had my second opportunity to discover the capabilities of the new model, it dawned on me that the dark green demonstrator out on the course (briefly photographed the previous day at the G-Class Experience in Graz) was at least partially militarised. If you look closely at the accompanying photos you should spot night convoy lighting above the front bumper, air transportation tie-down shackles at the rear, and grommet-plugged holes for antennae mount boxes and cables either side of the rear door.
My first opportunity to photograph full military specification G-Class variants would come at Eurosatory 2022 in Paris, where both a two-door crew cab with troop carrier rear body conversion from ACS plus an ambulance conversion were on static displayed on the Mercedes-Benz stand. If proof were needed that the company is looking to continue its forty plus year of providing military Geländewagens, this was it.
Footnote: We have recently received confirmation that at least one of the major American defence vehicle manufacturers is also seriously contemplating entering the UK Ministry of Defence market for a Land Rover Defender replacement, as well as chasing other potential NATO vehicle replacement contracts, and hope to bring you more on this in a couple of weeks time; insha’Allah, as our friends to the east say.
[images © Bob Morrison unless noted]
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