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International SOTV-B disguises military armour beneath HiLux body

International SOTV-B all-terrain military vehicle.

This might look like any old generic ute but it isn't. That's the point.

It is an all-terrain military vehicle, complete with armour protection, designed to blend in. The custom machine is made by Navistar Defence, an arm of the company that builds International and CAT trucks.

Called the International SOTV-B, it uses the logic that rolling into a remote area in the Middle East with a great big Chevy Silverado or Humvee is a good way for US forces to get noticed.

The stealth ute is a variant of the SOTV-A — Special Operations Tactical Vehicle — which is best described as a Humvee replacement.

The regular A model looks every bit a military machine with armour plating and the regulation khaki paint. The machine gun mount on the roof leaves no doubt about its purpose.

It is a crew cab with a high level of armour protection, it was designed from the ground up for military use, which means everything is stronger and more resilient than any civilian vehicle and it has outstanding off-road capability.

Its modular design allows for several variants. The basic body and chassis remain but all the other panels, including the bonnet and front guards, door skins, tailgate and tub sides, can be replaced.

It is not a direct copy of any model, but the naked eye could easily confuse it with a fifth-generation Toyota HiLux

This is where the SOTV-B comes in. It has the same basic mechanicals as the overt Army version but has generic ute exterior panels.

It is not a direct copy of any model, but the naked eye could easily confuse it with a fifth-generation Toyota HiLux, which was built for a decade after being introduced in 1988. 

This is intentional, given old HiLux models have been used extensively throughout the Middle East, sometimes by terrorist groups.

Indeed, during the trial of Osama bin Laden's driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, it was revealed he drove the world's most wanted man around in a Toyota ute.

The SOTV-B has a payload of 1361kg-1814kg depending on the weight of the armour plating and other equipment on board. To cross shallow streams, it has a fording depth of 610mm — not as deep as a Ford Ranger but the Ranger isn't armour plated.

The suspension is fully independent front and rear, not to enhance ride quality but for maximum wheel articulation and off-road capability. It can be ordered as a rear-drive, but most will be ordered with four-wheel drive.

The engine is a tough 4.4-litre in-line four-cylinder turbo diesel from US brand Cummins. It generates 187kW of power but more than useful torque, peaking at 800Nm.

The SOTV-B is available with run-flat tyres designed to withstand gunfire

A low-stress engine designed with maximum durability in mind, it turns a regular six-speed torque converter automatic from US company Allison and can propel the stealth ute to 160km/h.

The SOTV-B is available with run-flat tyres designed to withstand gunfire. Infra-red lighting enables the ute to operate in stealth mode at night.

Its is relatively compact for a military vehicle — it measures 300mm less from nose to tail than a Ranger crew cab. This allows it to fit neatly inside a Boeing CH-47 Chinook, a venerable supply helicopter.

International views the SOTV-A as the better bet for times when the vehicle is likely to come under fire, as it has thicker armour plating. It says the SOTV-B is better suited to surveillance and reconnaissance work.