Atop a Simba

We had our class field trip of the UP-Mindanao's MA students (DM231 Development Perspectives) last July 5 in Calinan and Mintal. We had a community dialog with Kasilak-Stanfilco, a visit at the Philippine Eagle in Malagos, and an offsite class and tour at the PNP-XI's Regional Training School, where we witnessed an on-going police training of newly recruited PNP personnel.

One of the tour's highlights was our close encounter with the steel-armored Simba, aka locally as Lawin. Simba belongs to the generic Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) tank type, also known as the Simba Light Combat Vehicle (SLCV). We also had a good peek of the interior and its technology, but we were prevented from taking pictures for security reasons. So we just delighted with the body muscle and exterior endowments of this APC.

APCs became popular in WWI, with the bulky British Mark IX tanks. In WWII, the US M3 and German SdKfz 251 APC tanks dominated the battle fields. Most armoured personnel carriers use diesel engines comparable to that used in a large truck or in a typical city bus. APCs are often known to troops as 'Battle Taxis' or 'Battle Buses.' The modern American M113 for instance used the same engine as the standard General Motors urban buses.

APCs come in many variants. Apart from the Mark IX, M3 and SdKfz 251 tanks of Britain, US and Germany, there is also the mini-bus type of the Polish DziK-3s tanks used by Iraq, or the GTK Boxer German/Dutch APC. Interestingly, the VAB APCs (Véhicule de l'Avant Blindé or Armoured Vanguard Vehicles) of the French Army are similar to the Philippine SLCVs (Simba APCs), which are designed and manufactured by the British GKN Engineering Company.

The Philippine's all-terrain Simba is amazing! Small but terribble, and very reliable in deploying reinforcements and supplies, transporting infantry and providing frontline defense cover against enemy shrapnel and ambush attacks. It also doubles as an offensive assault tank in small scale armed operations with its mountable machine guns and grenade launchers. The Simba is likewise very useful in mopping-up operations.

What makes it more amazing is its tag price at 34 million pesos each. It has four big steel-rubber tires costing at about 320,000 pesos each. Easily, each Simba's four tires can reach about 1.5 million pesos.

We gathered the PNP has about 17 regions, with each region having about 8 Simba APCs. That's a whopping 578 million pesos! The caveat is, more than half of these APCs are not functional! However, public documents show that the Philippine Army as a whole purchased about 150 SLCV units in the 1990s. It should be interesting to know of the current status of the Philippine APC stock!

Cross fingers, these amounts are not over-priced! C'mon, we need a break!