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Choosing the right vehicle
Learn all about armour and
protecting the car.
How to stay legal when overseas
Car travel in most places in the world is inherently dangerous, especially and specifically if some terrorist or criminal is out there trying to kill you. But you do not need to be the target of a criminal or terrorist gang. Some might say that these days just being on the road is probably the most dangerous situation you can be in. In some cities, it seems like everyone on the road is trying to kill you!
Close Protection Cars
It is a fact that a very large percentage of all attacks or kidnap attempts take place in or near the Principal’s motor car. The reason for this is clear. The criminal or terrorist will know that your Principal will have lots security in place at his home and office. But when their ‘target’ leaves all this security behind to travel in a vehicle, even one with an escort, this is where he can be most vulnerable. It’s because of this vulnerability that we must practise our vehicle drills until they become instinctive, why we try to stay one jump ahead of an attacker and why we are always on the lookout for the surveillance that will invariably precede these attacks.
An International Driving Permit (IDP) is an internationally recognised, low cost document which, when accompanied by your driving licence, will allow you to drive a private motor vehicle in a foreign country. An IDP is proof that you hold a valid driving licence in your own country. It is not always necessary to have one, since many countries recognise each other’s licenses, but possessing an IDP has many advantages.
It is intended to overcome the difficulties drivers might have while travelling in other countries, which may have widely varying license requirements. Because the Close Protection
Officer might find himself driving in another country at a moment’s notice, the IDP is really a ‘must have’ document that can prove to be very useful. The IDP is printed in ten languages – the five United Nations official languages (English, French, Spanish, Russian and Chinese) plus German, Arabic, Italian, the Scandinavian languages and Portuguese. It can also prove to be a useful form of pictured ID in the case of a lost or stolen passport.
IDP’s must be applied for in the country that the licence was issued. In the UK they can be obtained through all of the motoring organisations such as, the AA, RAC and Green Flag all of which can be found in any copy of the yellow pages. In the USA applications can be made to The American Automobile Association, 1000 AAA Drive, Mail Stop 28, Heathrow, Florida 32746-5063, Telephone number (407) 444-4240/700, fax: (407) 444-3780.
You should always take your original driving licence with you when driving abroad, even if you’re a holder of an IDP. You may need to present it when hiring a car and might, if requested, have to show it to the local authorities.
This list of countries which require you to carry a permit is a quick reference guide only. You must refer to your IDP application form for a full listing and for any special conditions which may apply. If the country you are travelling to is not listed then we would still recommend that you contact an approved IDP outlet to check motoring regulations.
Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Benin, Bhutan, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cayman Isles, Central African Rep., Chad, CIS, Colombia, Comoros, Curacao, Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Czech Republic, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Kampuchea, Korea (South), Kuwait, Leeward Islands, Macao, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Rwanda, Senegal, Slovenia, Somalia, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Zaire, Zimbabwe. The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) comprises Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Leeward Islands are Antigua, Dominica, Montserrat, St Christopher, Nevis and Anguilla.
If you are driving then it is your responsibility to ensure that you are insured for the vehicle you are driving. You should have had sight of the insurance document, and either noted your name or more likely that it is an open policy that includes you. A common open policy will allow ‘any driver with a clean licence and who is over twenty five’. “I thought I was insured” is not a defence in law. The best practise is to keep a copy of the insurance document in each vehicle.
Choosing the right vehicles.
On many occasions the vehicles that you use in Close Protection will be ‘inherited’. By that I mean they will already be there at the assignment and you will have to make do with them. If you have the opportunity to specify vehicles for an assignment then there is plenty for you to consider. The basics will be obvious; you will of course need to know how many people will be travelling, including the escort section. Do you need vehicles for backup and luggage?
With these questions answered you should easily arrive at the number of vehicles you require. But what colour should you buy? Should they all be the same colour? If you want to maintain a high profile and show off the security as a deterrent then a convoy of cars the same colour will do that for you. Even if the cars are nondescript and common, as soon as you put three of them the same colour on the same bit of road you will be noticed. Any team that has hired cars from an airport for a quick CP job and not specified different cars or at least different colours has felt pretty conspicuous as they left the airport. All cars, whenever possible, should have run flat tyres, or at the least have self-healing tyres, by using a chemical that can be purchased at most good auto parts stores.
The Principal’s car
Different colours, sizes and models will lower the profile. The Principal’s vehicle may or may not be your choice, but this rarely matters as comfort, power and handling often do come together in the better vehicles. The top of the range cars such as Jaguars, BMW’s Mercedes and Cadillacs are seen time and time again and are all excellent in a protection role.
If your Principal is one of those from the green camp and has invested in ‘green’ electric cars, then it is especially important that the escort vehicles are not green and they have some power to remove you from a situation at speed.
The Escort Vehicles
My absolute favourite escort vehicle is the Range Rover. This vehicle can fit in anywhere. It can sit outside the best hotels in London and New York, on the quay in the South of France or on the drive of your Principal’s remote country residence and look as though its meant to be there The high seating gives superb visibility and enables you to get out of the vehicle at a run. It can easily jump kerbs, travel on verges or cross country; its ramming capability is also excellent. As long as you don’t buy the diesel version, the Range Rover will keep up with all other vehicles, even powerful sports cars.
If your Principal’s budget does not stretch to 4.6 litre Range Rovers, then any powerful four-door saloon will suffice. People carriers and Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) are good choices. Petrol or Turbo Diesel models are equally capable and it is rare that someone who employs a CP team worries about miles per gallon and running costs, but it has been known!
When choosing a vehicle you should be mindful of the profile that you wish to portray. It is difficult to maintain a low profile if your Principal insists on travelling in a gold Rolls Royce, with a private number plate and a flag flying on the bonnet. Clearly, in situations like these everyone is aware that the guys sat in the car behind, even if that car is nondescript, are members of the security team. If your Principal’s car stands out, then nine times out of ten the escort should too. Even if your escort car is nondescript, a rifle barrel or two, sticking out the window, as can be seen in places like Iraq, certainly does increase the deterrent value
Hardening the vehicle
You might think that ‘hardening the vehicle’ means that we cover it in armour and, in some cases, you might be right. We will discuss armour later but meanwhile there is a lot more that you can do to harden your vehicle.
‘Run flat’ tyres are almost a pre-requisite, even if you are not anticipating that your tyres are going to be shot out from under you. This is a simple device fitted to the wheel that stops the tyre from coming off the wheel. If you do ever suffer a puncture, imagine how much more convenient it is to continue your journey and get the tyre fixed later rather than have the Principal wait on the side of the road while you are messing about with the jack and a tyre lever! The second-best option is to use the widely available chemical compounds that can be purchased to make your regular tyres run flat. Early do-it-yourself kits were of dubious quality and best suited to bicycles and children’s buggies. In contrast, the modern equivalents are much better. As long as the side wall remains intact and the tyre stays on the rim the tyres will run flat.
Fuel tanks need to be protected. Firstly you need to stop anyone contaminating your fuel. Vehicles will not travel far with contaminated fuel and you could easily be ambushed while you are ‘broken down’. The locks on fuel filler caps are often poorly designed. Higher security caps are available so if any of your vehicles appears vulnerable in this area you should be able to rectify it.
Fuel tanks do not explode nearly as much as Hollywood might have us believe, and accidents, even high speed ones, rarely result in pyrotechnical displays. However if the vehicle does come under attack from bullets or bombs then the chances of the fuel tank exploding become very real. Anti-explosion tanks can be purchased or your original tank modified so that they are rendered very unlikely to explode.
Explosive http://www.explosafe.ch is a leading manufacturer of explosion suppression systems; their system can prevent a fuel tank from exploding from various causes of ignition, including sparking, electrostatic discharge, external crash fires, gunfire, or terrorist activity. The explosafe system is based on a matrix of expanded aluminum alloy foil, slit and expanded to form a mesh of hexagonal-shaped openings. When layered, the mesh results in an open-celled bulk baffle, which can be cut to shapes and sizes to fit any container/fuel tank. How the system works is ingenious and it is worth a visit to their website to check out the product.
Years ago, large cars often came with two tanks; some had manual switch-overs that could embarrass you if you forgot to switch them over! These twin tanks are now rare and while you do not have to remember to switch tanks anymore, you could end up being stuck if the one tank that you do have to use loses its fuel. This is why some armoured car manufacturers build in a small auxiliary tank for use in an emergency; it may only have enough fuel for a few miles, but that should be enough to get you out of trouble.
Ideally all cars on the protection operation should be fitted with alarms. When working in a one-on-one situation this is an absolute must. Equally the alarms should text or page you when it is activated. While leaving a restaurant with the Principal it is nice to know that the car is there and hasn’t been tampered with. You know its okay because your pager would have told you if anything had happened. If your vehicle is locked and alarmed a bomb could still be placed underneath it or next to it. So a locked and alarmed vehicle in a locked and alarmed garage is ideal but not always practical. I know of a chauffeur that locks and alarms his Bentley and then sprinkles talcum powder on the floor, to show up the footprints of anyone that has entered the locked and alarmed garage.
One of the first armoured cars for a political leader is thought to have been a limousine built by the engineering firm O’Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt, for President Harry S. Truman in 1949.
Today, the technology has greatly moved on from these early tank-like vehicles that can save lives and do so even in the worst case scenarios. An excellent example of an armoured car saving its occupants is when Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze survived an assassination attempt in 1998. A dozen heavily armed men ambushed his motorcade, opening fire on his vehicle with small arms, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Three people were killed but thanks to the armour in his limousine, which had been a present from friendly governments in the West, the President survived the attack and is probably now a devoted fan of armoured cars. Armoured car manufactures work on protecting the car’s occupants at three points:
- Protection at point of attack
- Provide the ability to evade and escape
- Allow the occupants to fight back with counter-measures
Protection at point of attack
The prime concern at the point of attack is the integrity of the passenger cabin; the occupants are surrounded by armour bullet-proof composites and bullet-resistant glass. In the most secure vehicles, the transparent side glass will be more than two inches thick and capable of withstanding direct arms fire. Today’s top of the range cars can withstand sustained direct fire from AK-47 and other high velocity rifles, as well as the effects of grenade explosions.
Of great concern to the manufacturers and occupants is to defend an attack by a roadside bomb or mine. Today’s cars are much more capable of doing so than they were in 1992 when the armoured car that Italy’s top anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone was travelling in was blown up by a bomb that had been placed in trenches dug by the side of the road. The bomb was detonated as he passed. Even though he was travelling at around 100mph the car suffered severe damage and Falcone died along with his wife and three Bodyguards
All of the modern protection that the manufactures build in is designed to help the occupants of the armoured car withstand a serious assault until help arrives. However if even the defences of a military tank can be breached if it is a sitting target, so the next aim of the manufacturer is to give the vehicle the chance to evade its attackers.
Provide the ability to evade and escape
Standard on any good armoured car is top quality run-flat tyres. In the event of the armoured tyres disintegrating under attack (unlikely, as the tyres are designed to run if flat), the wide steel rims are strong enough for the vehicle to remain responsive and still enable a speedy escape. Outside of the passenger compartment, essential parts of the vehicle such as the battery, fuel tanks and engine block carry just as much armour. Some vehicles also have the radiator protected and use clever air ducting so that the radiator can still do its job. There are also systems to automatically seal the fuel tank to prevent explosions. Night vision systems can be incorporated so that when driving lights are shot out the driver can still see. Vehicles such as President Bush’s Cadillac DeVille use an infrared camera to scan the road ahead. The heat signature of all objects ahead is converted into a view of the road which is projected onto the inside of the windscreen. Being stuck in a killing-zone is not conducive to long life. Evading an attack may often be the only way of surviving it.
Allow the occupants to fight back with counter measures
Gun ports give the occupants the ability to deliver counter attacks. An excellent counter measure for the Close Protection Officer is one-way bullet-resistant glass. This stops bullets from the outside but allows you to shoot at an attacker from the inside. This type of bullet-resistant glass is made by laminating a brittle sheet of material with a flexible material. When a person outside the car shoots a bullet into the window, the bullet strikes the brittle side first. This brittle material shatters around the point of impact and absorbs the energy over a large area. A bullet fired from inside the same car can easily pass through the glass because the bullet’s force is concentrated on a small area, which causes the material to flex. This causes the brittle material to break outwards, allowing the bullet to pierce the flexible material and hopefully strike the assailant. While this tactic will probably be hard on the ear drums, it is one hundred times better to be able to return some fire and can easily make the difference between dying in or surviving an attack.
Armoured cars are mostly modified versions of normal cars, made by replacing the windows with bullet-proof glass and inserting layers of armour under the outer skin of the car. A quick glance and the car looks like any normal car, but closer inspection will turn up a few clues. The glass can be the biggest giveaway to the novice, especially when trying to read the tax disc or licence stuck on the inside, because it is then that the glass thickness is apparent.
A fully armoured car, one that withstands a sustained attack with high-velocity bullets, can be heavy. The manufacturers will, of course, upgrade the suspension and the brakes, but the vehicle’s handling will be forever impaired. If you drive your Principal in an armoured car then practising defensive and evasive driving in a regular car is a waste of time; you must practise in the armoured car. Just make sure that you have plenty of space to train in! Some armoured cars drive terribly, with slow acceleration and handling. The worst ones corner and stop like a boat! There are exceptions of course, and things are getting better every year. Advances in new lightweight synthetic laminates and much improving ballistic glass with moulded door and window overlaps makes armoured car performance get better and better. It’s not uncommon though for an armoured car to be ten or more years old and still in service. Just be aware of the car’s capabilities and limitations and tailor your driving accordingly.
There are many makers of armoured cars and the cars that they armour are not all Bentleys and Rolls. Popular choices are the large BMW’s, Range Rovers and Mercedes but many more common nondescript cars are armoured, such as Land Cruisers and BMW Saloons. Even cheap Skodas are armoured and can be used where a low profile needs to be maintained.
It does not matter how many vehicles your Principal owns, in fact using different vehicles is to be recommended as it makes it more difficult for anyone that may have you under surveillance. But every vehicle should be hardened as much as possible. While you would not expect the Principal owns a vintage car to get it armoured, you should convince him to at least put run flat tyres on it if he drives it on the public road. Always ensure that you are one hundred percent legal for the country you are operating in, this includes licences and insurance as well as the traffic laws.