The recent SOFINS 2019 expo held at a Special Forces base near Bordeaux gave me a chance to photograph some rarely seen Durisotti Defenders, writes Bob Morrison.
I have previously looked at the mainstream French Army Defender 110 Station Wagons supplied by coachbuilders Durisotti, in MLR Pt.14, but until SOFINS 2019 I was unaware that the type was used by French Army Special Forces Command (COM FST) units, though I presumed they might have a few. However, the existence of Durisotti Defender 90 three-door, four-seat Station Wagons used by French Navy Special Forces (FORFUSCO) was totally unknown to me until last month.
The Durisotti D110 which first caught my eye at SOFINS 2019 was the Stone coloured vehicle in the lead photo, complete with external rollover protection, kangaroo bars at the front, and mesh screens to all glazing, which was being used by the JTAC (Joint Terminal Attack Controller) liaising with the fixed wing C-160 Transall transport aircraft conducting the TALO (Tactical Air Land Operation), the light aircraft from which the HALO team from 13e RDF inserted, and the various 4e RHFS helicopters landing and recovering troops and providing ground support. One of the 6092-series (see MLR Pt.14) vehicles, it had also been modified with a raised air intake which suggests to me, along with the sandy colour, that it may have been converted for operational deployments in sub-Saharan Africa. The severely dented LMT steering guard also suggests that this Land Rover has probably seen some serious off-road use rather than it just being a training area run-around, like many others in the 6092-series. Also of note are the LED lights on the roll cage over the windscreen and doors. Unfortunately, on security grounds I was unable to photograph this vehicle from the other side.
There was a second French Army Defender 110 five-door Station Wagon (pictured above) with the same type of external roll-cage as the JTAC Land Rover, but this was bright red and fielded by the military fire, rescue and security team providing Crash Rescue coverage for the airfield at Camp de Souge. Another Durisotti conversion, as evidenced by the name badge above the radiator grille, this vehicle also sported the squarish antenna mount box on the front left wing top and was fitted with an LMT steering guard and lighting protection like the more mainstream military Defenders.
When I previously covered the standard French military 6092-series five-door D110 batch I used images taken in passing by my colleague Carl Schulze, who was unable to do walk-round shots of the same vehicle as snapping Land Rovers was not his primary aim at the time. At SOFINS I had both the opportunity and time to snap typical vehicles from both sides while they were parked up. However, as with the other photos on this page, because they were used by Special Forces units I was asked by some military personnel to obscure the last four numerals of registration plates; to err on the side of caution I have done the same with all vehicles on this page. As far as I could see, there was nothing externally different about these vehicles from similar Station Wagons Carl and I have previously photographed and if they had not been inside the inner security perimeter at a specialist expo and conference on a base where almost everybody in French uniform was a member of the Special Forces they were sufficiently anonymous to attract little attention.
In addition to the sage green Army Defender 110s, I also spotted similar colour Defender 90 three-door Station Wagons sporting 8121-series registration plates and, from the logo on the left side of the plates, these belonged to the French Navy. Although seemingly of similar build specification to the Army D110 batch, these Land Rovers had two wing top antenna mount boxes, rather than one, plus a more compact and pedestrian-friendly ‘roo bar. The yellow markings on the bumper – 1D, 1G, 4D and 4G – relate to the shackle (Droite & Gauche / Right and Left) positions for lashing-down aboard ships or inside transport aircraft. Like the Army D110s, the Navy D90s have NATO-type towing jaws on a height-adjustment plate. A look into the cab confirmed communications equipment is carried between driver and commander seats up front and the rear seats are forward facing. Like their longer wheelbase Army cousins, the Navy Defenders were powered by the Ford Duratorq (Puma) engine.
[ images © Bob Morrison ]
Gallery image cations, from top left to bottom right:-
- Diagonally opposite view of above five-door 6092-series Army Station Wagon [©BM]
- Diagonally opposite view of above three-door 8121-series Navy Station Wagon [©BM]
- Front/left view of a second five-door 6092-series Army Station Wagon [©BM]
- Rear/right view of the second five-door 6092-series Army Station Wagon [©BM]
- Right/front view of a second 8121-series Navy Station Wagon [©BM]
- Left/rear view of the second 8121-series Navy Station Wagon [©BM]
Footnote: For the last year HOBSON INDUSTRIES, the Land Rover Approved UK Supplier of genuine military and ex-military Land Rover parts & spares, have been sponsoring this specialist sub-section of JOINT-FORCES.com to allow us to establish the website. Peter and Barbara, you have my heartfelt thanks.