Thursday, February 18, 2010

Electric Anti-Terrorist Assault Cart

Can you picture this bullet proof golf buggy in a five-star Hilton hotel lobby? The Anti-Terrorist Assault Cart (ATAC) debuted yesterday at the DefExpo 2010 arms fair in India. The battery is said to last up to six hours, has a top speed of 15 mph, and will cost around $45,000 (two million rupee) if it ever becomes a reality.

The half-ton mini-tank has four firing ports, bulletproof windows and can carry two fully-armed personnel. No mention if the tires and front end are bullet-proof, what the armor can take, if the belly can take a grenade blast, air filtration system, or is actually field-tested.

The ATAC was designed in the aftermath of the Mumbai (Bombay) terrorists attacks in 2008 where 17 security personnel died. The mayhem occurred in two luxury hotels in a 60 hour stand-off. All told, 183 people were killed in the melee, including two NSG commandos and 15 Maharashtra police personnel. Metaltech managing director JB Sehrawat told the AFP news agency, "It's a product of our sense of helplessness over the casualties we took in the attacks. We put our heads and hearts together and came up with the ATAC."

According to some Israel Security Force officials, and the Rand Report, the Indian National Security Guard (NSG) and their "Black Cat" commandos engaging "Operation Black Tornado" were slow to the draw. Mumbai security forces had no local Hostage Recovery Team and equipment was lacking. To counteract that, Metaltech prototypes (a.k.a. Anti-Terrorist Assault Cats) will be offered to India's elite NSG units for testing as well as to the sponsors of the upcoming November 2010 Commonwealth Games to be held in in New Delhi.

The stealthy-quiet armored attack cart was designed to fit in tight quarters found in airports, sports stadiums, hospitals, casinos, hotel hallways and other areas traditional security vehicles can't go. Metaltech claims it can even fit inside most service elevators.

According to the Rand Report "Terrorists Can Think Strategically - Lessons Learned from the Mumbai Attacks" given to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in January of 2009, "Terrorist attacks on flagship hotels are increasing in number, in total casualties, and in casualties per incident." You may see this type of vehicle making its way into upscale hotels just for liability sake as well as perceived vulnerability and a security officers challenge of prevention, preparedness and response.

Just a hunch, but David "Brad" Bonnell, Director of Global Security for Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) may be in line for a few new ATACs. Two of the IHGs Mumbai properties were involved in the 2008 attack. You can read more about the legal and moral duty of a hotel concerning safety and security in Bonnell's well-written "The Mumbai Attacks: A Wake-Up Call for America's Business Sector." In it Bonnell states, "The threat of a terrorist attack against a hotel has now become a conspicuously forseeable and predictable threat, particularly in those parts of the world where a Jihadist threat exists."

Additional reading on the shift of terrorists to "soft targets" such as hotels - among the most prominent symbol of Western culture - can be found in the Stratfor Global Intelligence document "Special Security Report: The Militant Threat to Hotels."