Inside Nimr, the armoured vehicle company on a mission to bring soldiers home safe and well

In a factory deep in the Abu Dhabi desert, personnel carriers that can withstand mine and rocket blasts roll off the production line

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Deep in Abu Dhabi’s vast desert lies a sprawling factory where vehicles are built to withstand the worst of warfare.

From mere nuts and bolts and sheets of ballistic steel, heavy personnel carriers are forged and roll off the production line in the hundreds.

This is home to Nimr – the 'tiger' of the UAE's defence industry.

The company produces everything from the Jais - a heavily armoured six-wheeled vehicle with a mounted turret, to the Ajban - a fast, open-topped buggy used by special forces.

We are in the business of preserving life and using our vehicles to ensure that our brave soldiers come back safely

"All our vehicles have been used by the UAE Armed Forces," said Khaled Al Zaabi, chief commercial officer, as he gave The National a tour of Nimr's factory in Tawazun Industrial Park.

"We are in the business of preserving life and using our vehicles to ensure that our brave soldiers come back safely."

Nimr, the Arabic word for tiger, is the UAE's leading manufacturer of military vehicles, produced almost entirely in-house, from design to manufacture. It is part of Abu Dhabi defence conglomerate Edge.

The steel for its vehicles is cut and forged in a smaller facility in Al Ain and the vehicles are assembled and tested in Tawazun, which has its own electromagnetic chamber and testing track.

Assembly begins with a skeleton of a vehicle, with each part added piece by piece until a complete military machine is created. It is then checked, tested and put out for production.

“It is essentially three main stages,” said Mr Al Zaabi.

"The first is the fabrication, where the hull is welded; the second is divided into two main parts – the assembly of the chassis and the cabin; and then the last stage is the marriage between the chassis and the cabin."

The masterstroke behind it, said Mr Al Zaabi, is in the design of the hull, suspension and power pack.

Nimr's vehicles must be able to withstand whatever insurgents, terrorists or enemy armies can throw at them.

These include direct fire weapons, rocket projectiles and mines designed to detonate beneath vehicles.

Last week, the company celebrated 20 years of supplying the UAE Armed Forces with armoured vehicles, as well as exporting them to other countries with harsh desert climates, including in North Africa and Jordan.

"We consider ourselves as one of the most advanced simply because we have our own in-house capabilities to develop our own intellectual property and technology and have the privilege of being one of the very few that have battle-proven vehicles," Mr Al Zaabi said.

Nimr is confident of its vehicles' ability to withstand modern firepower.

At the International Defence Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi in 2017,  the company exhibited a battle-scarred Jais that had just returned from Yemen, under the banner 'Nimr Saves Lives'.

The vehicle had flat tyres and had taken direct gunfire on the windscreen, but had protected all of those inside.

However, safety is only one aspect of Nimr's vehicles. Other main criteria are payload and cost.

“Anybody can produce an extremely advanced vehicle, but the trick is to produce such a vehicle and for it to be commercially sensible,” said Mr Al Zaabi.

“It is about having a vehicle that fulfils the mission requirements better than other competitors.”

Mr Al Zaabi said Nimr will sign a major regional contract in the coming weeks, but declined to say who this was with.

“The biggest measure of success is if you are able to export your vehicles, because it is only when other countries procure your capabilities that you are recognised as an international brand,” he said.

In 20 years, Mr Al Zaabi said much has changed.

“We started basic and today we have a 37,500 square metre facility and, to me, that capability is what matters... to have an actual brand that can compete globally.”

On patrol with Nimr - Tawazun Industrial Park.