panthers After Modifications, Panther Set for Afghan Duty By andrew chuter Published: 13 May 2009 07:39 LONDON - A new command and liaison vehicle has been declared operational with British troops in Afghanistan but only following a string of modifications to bring the platform up to the required theatre entry standard. The Panther, built by Iveco Defence of Italy and fitted out by BAE Systems at its armored vehicle plant in Newcastle, has been extensively customized with more than a dozen changes to meet the requirements of current operations. Among the significant modifications is the installation of a revised Bowman communications system, which allows the British to make room for a fourth crew member on the vehicle for its envisaged role in Afghanistan. All the vehicles originally ordered by the British in 2003 were destined to be fitted with a full General Dynamics UK Bowman voice and data suite to meet the command and liaison role. That reduced expected crew numbers from four to three. Now, however, a slimmed down Bowman system has been installed to meet the changing role requirements of the British forces in Afghanistan. BAE said in a statement that the Panther had been modified to a "fourâseat configuration with the Bowman digital communication system installed between the two rear seats." The full command and liaison version of the Panther will continue to carry the larger communications fit and the reduced crew of three. The MoD was unable to respond questions about the new austere Bowman fit. Other modifications on Panther include provision of a rear view camera for improved situational awareness, a protected engine compartment, theatre-specific electronic devices to counter improvised explosive devices, larger roof hatches and a new rear cargo pod. The first vehicles in theatre will be used by the Royal Air Force Regiment and the Army's Close Support Logistics Regiment. Panther entered service with the British in June 2008s but this is the first time the vehicle has been deployed operationally. The vehicle has though been tested in Afghanistan and Oman. BAE secured the order for 401 Panthers in 2003. Delivery of the last of those vehicles from the Newcastle factory of the company's Global Combat Systems business unit is expected in September. Panther will replace a range of vehicles including some roles undertaken by the tracked CVR(T) reconnaissance platform, the FV430 tracked carrier and the Land Rover medium utility truck.