Armored car (VIP)
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A civilian armored car is a security vehicle which is made by replacing the windows of a standard vehicle (typically a limousine or SUV) with bulletproof glass and inserting layers of armor plate into the body panels. Unlike a military armored car, which has armor plate mounted on the outside of the vehicle, a civilian armored car typically looks no different from a standard vehicle.
Civilian armored cars are either (in the majority of cases) retrofitted versions of series cars, or (in only a few cases) factory produced, such as the Audi Security Vehicles (A6 & A8), Lincoln Town Car BPS, the Hyundai Equus, the BMW Security series (3 Series Security, 5 Series Security, X5 Security & Security Plus and 7 Series High-Security), the Mercedes Benz Guard vehicles (E, ML, GL, G & S Class). Civilian armored cars may have obvious armor protection such as the Knight XV, or they may be totally indistinguishable from an unarmored model. There are also armored variants of smaller cars, such as the VW Golf, to further conceal their function and capabilities. Large SUVs such as RX 350 are sometimes used as armored vehicles. Some civilian armored cars may be one-off unique vehicles with no regular equivalent, such as the current Presidential state car of the USA which is medium-duty truck platform styled like a Cadillac.
A security vehicle is made by replacing the windows with bulletproof glass and inserting layers of armor plate under the outer skin of the car, a labor-intensive process that generally takes a few weeks and most often costs upward of $100,000 USD. The makers usually leave the external appearance of the car unchanged, in order that it look as inconspicuous as possible. In most cases materials like Aramid (e.g. Kevlar), HMPE (e.g. Dyneema), composites or ballistic stainless steel plates are used.
Besides the armor itself, many other protective modifications are available: automatic fire extinguishers, run-flat tires, an explosion-resistant fuel tank, remote starting of the car, pressure and temperature control of the tires, a siren or alarm, and an intercom between the exterior and interior of the car, and a PA system, so that the bodyguards inside the car can communicate via a megaphone to individuals outside the car. Sometimes the inside can be sealed or over-pressured, using its own air supply, to protect against poison gas or tear gas attacks. As a side benefit, armored cars give occupants added protection from intrusion during a car accident.
The increased mass of the added armor and protective modifications is offset by a more powerful engine and brakes and stronger shock absorbers. The increased weight means that the mechanical parts of an armored car are subjected to higher forces than normal, which in turn reduces the service life of the car, though this may be offset somewhat by using heavy duty components not normally found in the security vehicle's regular counterpart.
Armored cars may be provided by governments for elected officials and senior officials who are at risk. In higher-risk areas including Iraq, Afghanistan and Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, even regular officials and public servants may be protected with armored vehicles. Diplomatic missions and private military contractors typically use armored cars as standard vehicles.
Due to the substantial weight of an armored car which substantially affects handling, drivers of these vehicles typically have specialized training in tactical driving. This training is provided by bodyguard schools and by police and military units (e.g., the United States Secret Service).
The armored car of a high-profile government official is often part of a motorcade consisting of dozens of other vehicles, including security, police, first aid ambulance, the press, and route-clearing, among others.
Armored Cars are available in a variety of armoring levels, ranging from small calibre hand-guns up to high-powered rifles
Manufacturers of vehicles often certify their products according to a specific level, based on standards from one of several standards bodies, including:
- VPAM, typically cited as a "VR (Vehicle Resistance)" rating such as VR6 - VR9.
- Ballistics Rating - This is the most common type of rating and is based on a specification of the material used in the armoring process as well as some other considerations (such as having a sealed "protected" compartment as required by B7), typically referred to as B or BR