Armored car (VIP)
A VIP armored car is a civilian vehicle with a reinforced structure that is designed to protect its occupants from assaults, bullets and blasts. Armored cars are typically manufactured with bulletproof glass and layers of armor plating, often with a variety of other defensive mechanisms and features to aid the individuals inside. Unlike military armored vehicles, a civilian armored car is designed to be inconspicuous and similar to its factory version.
Armored cars are used internationally and often used to protect high-profile individuals such as world leaders, political figures, businesspersons and VIPs. They may also be used by governmental law enforcement agencies as well as private military contractors.
Most civilian armored cars are created by fitting aftermarket upgrades to standard production cars. Several car manufacturers produce armored car models from the factory, such as the Audi Security Vehicles (A6 and A8 models), Lincoln Town Car BPS, Hyundai Equus, BMW Security series (3 Series, 5 Series, 7 Series and X5 models), the Mercedes Benz Guard vehicles (E, ML, GL, G & S Class).
Some civilian armored cars may be one-off unique vehicles with no standard equivalent, such as the current Presidential state car of the USA which is built on a medium-duty truck platform styled like a Cadillac.
Common upgrades featured on armored cars are replacing the windows with bulletproof glass and inserting layers of armor plate under the outer skin of the car. Materials such as Aramid, Ultra high molecular weight polyethylene, composites or ballistic stainless steel plates are often used. The exterior of the car is often designed to be indistinguishable from an un-armored model, although some vehicles may appear discrete.
Besides the armor itself, many other protective modifications are available: automatic fire extinguishers, run-flat tyres, an explosive-resistant fuel tank, electric door handles, smoke screens, road tack dispensing systems, remote starting of the car, CCTV Vehicle Camera Systems, GPS link, pressure and temperature control of the tyres, a siren or alarm, and an intercom between the exterior and interior of the car, and a PA system, so that bodyguards or protection officers inside the car can communicate via a megaphone to individuals outside the car. The inside of the vehicle can be sealed or pressurized and instead use its dedicated oxygen supply to protect against biological attacks, such as poison gas or tear gas. As a side benefit, armored cars give occupants added protection from intrusion during car accidents.
Armored cars may be provided by governments for elected officials and senior officials who are at risk. Sometimes regular officials, public servants, and controversial figures may be protected with armored vehicles in higher-risk situations. Diplomatic missions and private military contractors typically use armored cars as standard vehicles.
Due to the sizable weight of the added armor that can substantially affect the handling of the armored car, drivers of these vehicles typically have specialized training in tactical driving. This training is provided by bodyguard schools and by police and military units.
The engine, brakes and shock absorbers are often upgraded, to compensate for the increased mass of the added armor and protective modifications. The increased mass means that the mechanical parts of an armored car are subjected to higher forces than normal, which can reduce the service life of the car unless these parts are also upgraded.
- Ballistics Rating (BR): This is a European standard which certifies the materials used both transparent (BR - DIN EN 1063) and opaque (FB - DIN EN 1522/23), general guidelines on vehicle construction and covers 3 levels from 2 to 7 . This is usually grouped under a single definition of B, e.g. B6
- Vereinigung der Prüfstellen für angriffshemmende Materialien und Konstruktionen (VPAM) - VPAM have a number of standards that relate to non-military armored vehicles, they are:
- APR 2006 - These are the general test guidelines for armored products.
- PM 2007 - This covers the materials used.
- BRV 1999 and 2009 - This certification indicates that the whole vehicle has been tested instead of just the materials used.
- ERV 2010 - Blast protection certification.
- Vehicle Security Advisory Group (VASG) - A British Standard for armored car construction and testing.
- National Institute for Justice (NIJ) - The American National Institute of Justice certification, covers body armor as well as vehicles and covers 5 levels.