Categories
South African APCs

Mamba Mk 2 and 3

South Africa (1995)
APC/MPV – 582 built

The Mamba Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) is one of several South African Mine Protected Vehicle (MPV) vehicles that have inspired the modern enclosed V-shaped Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles used by Western armies today. The Mamba was designed and produced when South Africa was still subject to international arms embargoes (UN Security Council adopted Resolution 418, 1977-1994) due to its segregation policies (Apartheid). This was set against the backdrop of the Cold War in Southern Africa, which saw many anti-colonial wars and internal liberation conflicts along political, ethnic, and tribal lines, supported variously by Eastern and Western benefactors. The Mamba is still widely used as a vehicle of choice for humanitarian and peacekeeping operations by the United Nations and is used by several countries for low intensity conflict operations.

Mamba Mk2 – African Aerospace and Defence 2018, D Venter

Development

With the South African Border War (1966-1989) still in progress, the rising threat of landmines and Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and civil unrest brewing in the South African townships, the need for an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) was identified. This new vehicle had to be capable of operating in an urban environment while still retaining an anti-mine capability. The goal was to develop an affordable mine-protected APC to be used in a defensive role where needed. The Buffel MPV was well suited for the bush but was too vulnerable in an urban setting due to its open tub (troop compartment). Additionally, the Buffel did not provide its occupants with good situational awareness due to its lack of all-round windows. In the background (1988-1994), a debate was raging in the South African Defence Force (SADF), especially in the infantry branch, regarding the suitability of various wheeled configurations such as 4×2, 4×4 or 6×6.

The first Mamba 4×2 variant (Mk1) was developed by MECHEM (MECHanical and ChEMical Research), a subsidiary of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which was tasked with the design of concept vehicles for later industrial production. This concept design was done under the leadership of Dr. Vernon Joint and his crew within 60 to 90 days. MECHEM reduced much of the limitations of 4×2 vehicles by placing 60% of the vehicle’s weight on the drive axle in conjunction with specialized Michelin tires. This is claimed to nearly equal a 4×4 design in performance.

MECHEM presented two Mamba APCs categorized as Mk1 to the South African Army for trial and evaluation. The Mamba Mk1 made use of Toyota Dyna 5-tonne driveline and parts. The rationale was to ease logistics as Toyota dealers would have been able to supply parts and services when required making use of off the shelf parts. TFM, an independent company making specialized trucks, was awarded the first industrialization contract in 1987 for around 157 vehicles. Mobility testing was done at various testing facilities and, once accepted by the SADF, the Mamba was tested at the ARMSCORs Gerotech testing facility in 1987. The mine blast testing was done at the Wallmansthal testing grounds.

Due to a dispute between MECHEM and TFM regarding royalties, MECHEM approached OMC Engineering, a Reunert subsidiary, in 1993 for assistance with vehicle production, which subsequently agreed to do so.

TFM began work on a 4×4 version which it designated RG31. MECHEM found out and immediately set out to produce their own 4×4 version making use of a Buffel Unimog 416-162 drivetrain (left-hand drive) and Mamba Mk1 chassis. MECHEM once again approached OMC/Sandock Austral, which at the time was being reorganized into Reumech (as Reunert had purchased Sandock Austral), for assistance, and the first prototype was produced in just 28 days and designated Mamba 4×4. The vehicle was taken to Gerotech and shown to the chief of the SADF, who immediately asked how many could be built, to which Sandock Austral responded “as many Buffels as you have”. The Mamba 4×4 would, in 1993, cost around R280,000.00 (R 1,370,000 equivalent to US$ 94,462 in 2020), which was just a tenth of the cost of the 6×6 APC Sandock Austral had developed at the time. A request for tender was issued in mid-1994 and ultimately Sandock Austral was awarded the contract. Sandock Austral awarded a contract to Mercedes Benz Trucks to strip the Buffel drivetrain (engine, gearbox, axles, drop down box etc.) to its bare components. These were then evaluated and refurbished where possible to the original manufacturer’s specifications in order for Mercedes Benz to be able to supply replacement parts in the future. The drivetrain was delivered to Sandock Austral which was part of the assembly line.

Preproduction vehicles were all right-hand drive, as driving in South Africa is done on the left side, making left-hand drive vehicles illegal to operate on roads as reduced visibility while overtaking other vehicles can be dangerous. An initial five vehicles were produced and taken on a roadshow around various infantry bases around South Africa to test the concept on all terrains and get user feedback. One of the pre-production Mambas was christened “Modder Varkie” (Mud Piglet) and, together with several other military vehicles, sent on a goodwill tour “Peace for Africa” from July to September 1993 with the end destination set at the BMW factory in Europe. The purpose was to test the vehicles in African conditions and promote the vehicles for possible sales. However, the tour was cut short due to trouble in Central Africa (Burundian Civil War and Republic of the Congo Civil War).

Armaments Company South Africa (ARMSCOR) drew up a list of requirements according to which the Mamba Mk2 would be tested including small arms fire and mine blast resistance. These mine blast tests were conducted on a pre-production vehicle at the Walmansdal testing range, which led to further refinement and improvements in safety that were incorporated into what would become the Mamba Mk2. Around 15 vehicles were produced a month and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) took delivery of the Mamba Mk2 in 1994.

During testing, Gerotech found that the Mamba Mk2 engine had difficulty during standardized 60 degree Celsius ambient temperature tests which required redeveloping and was subsequently addressed in the Mk3. The Mk3 prototype was ready in 2002 and mine testing was done in the same year. Additional improvements included improved small arms ballistic protection, improved braking and better stability, improved interior layout, and an overall lower operating cost. In 2006, the contract was awarded for 220 Mamba Mk2 vehicles to be upgraded to Mk3 standard under “Project Jury”. These vehicles were delivered in two batches which consisted of 100 and 120. Between 15 and 20 vehicles were completed a month.

A total of 582 Buffel drivelines would be rebuilt to manufacture the Mamba Mk2. The Mamba Mk2 and Mk3 can be found in all branches of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), and is extensively used by the SA Army. More than 20 other countries have purchased Mamba vehicles, with the UN being the lead customer for use in peacekeeping and demining operations globally. Current and former operators include the African Union (62), Democratic Republic of the Congo (18), Egypt (14), Equatorial Guinea (25), Estonia (7), Guinea (10), Iraq (115), Ivory Coast (10), Niger (6 – Mk7), Nigeria (25), Sierra Leone (5 – Mk5), South Africa (440), Saudi Arabia (25), South Sudan (10 – Reva-3), Sweden (6), Thailand (207 – Reva 3), Uganda (15), United Arab Emirates (56 – Reva), United Nations (17), United Kingdom (6 – Alvis 8) and Yemen (112 – Reva 3).

Design Features

The Mamba Mk2 and Mk3 are designed as all-terrain, all-weather MPVs which can operate in urban and rural areas for long-range patrol and transportation of personnel. The Mamba’s success is due to several key features. It does not have a chassis and the frame sits on the wheels at a height of 410 mm off the ground with a V-shaped armored underbelly which helps disperse and deflect mine blast energy away from the hull, thereby reducing the potential damage. It is of 4×4 design and pneumatically operated differential lock, allowing for effective cross-country use. Making use of commercially available parts reduces its logistical train as spare parts can be supplied easily off the shelf.

Mamba Mk3 – South African Army

Mobility

The Mamba Mk3’s 4×4 configuration was designed for the African battlespace and characterized by its versatility and cross-country capability. It has a ground clearance of 316 mm (12.4 in) and can ford water one meter (3 ft 3 in) deep and can cross a 900 mm-wide (35 in) ditch at a crawl. Its 4×4 configuration allows it to climb a 70% gradient. The Mk2 has a combat weight of 6.8 tonnes and the Mk3 6.2 tonnes. Both the Mk2 and Mk3 are equipped with the Mercedes Benz OM 352, four-stroke 6-cylinder, water-cooled, direct injection diesel engine which produces 123 hp (18.1 hp/t for the Mk2 and 19.8 hp/t for the Mk3). The engine is located at the front of the vehicle and is coupled to a Mercedes Benz UG 2/30, four-speed manual transmission in the Mk2 and eight-speed synchromesh in the Mk3. The driveline has eight forward (four high and four low) and four reverse gears. It can accelerate from 0 to 60 km/h in 25.2 seconds on a level tar road.

The Mk2 was fitted with drum brakes while the Mk3 was improved by fitting disc brakes. The Mamba Mk2 and Mk3 are claimed to be very stable off-road due to the design of the suspension and powertrain. The Mk2 and Mk3 suspension feature a single coil spring on the front axle and double coil spring on the rear which allows for a great degree of deflecting. The four wheels mount 12.5 x 20 Michelin XSL all-terrain tires. Steering is made possible through a hydraulically-assisted recirculating ball.

Endurance and Logistics

The Mamba Mk2 has a 200-liter diesel fuel tank which grants it an operational range of 900 km (599 miles) via road and 450 km (280 miles) cross country. The Mk3 has a 160-litre fuel tank which grants it an operational range of 800 km (497 miles) via road and 400 km (249 miles) cross country. They have a maximum road speed of 102 km/h (64 mph) and can maintain 90 km/h on-road (56 mph) and 25 km/h (16 mph) cross-country.

A modular design and commercial nature of the components ease maintenance and reduce the logistical burden. The Mamba is equipped with a B46 internal radio for tactical communications and has a one-kilometer range. The Mk2 is fitted with a 100-liter fresh water tank and can be accessed via a tap underneath the front left wheel. The Mk3 only has a 50-liter fresh water tank located on the left rear of the vehicle. The Mamba is equipped with a pneumatic tire inflation system. The system is active when the vehicle is idling with positive air pressure available when the vehicle accelerator is pushed down. The exterior storage bins on both sides of the vehicle are used for vehicle equipment, crew and passenger kits, but are not armored. The weight of the Mk3 is less than the Mk2 and was achieved by reducing the number and size of the exterior storage bins. The Mambas lightweight makes it easily air transportable via C-130 airplane.

Vehicle Layout

The Mamba follows a traditional layout with the engine located at the front of the vehicle, driver’s compartment in the center, and troop compartment to the rear. The engine and transmission are protected by the armored hull to reduce the chances of fatal damage if a mine is detonated.

The Mamba has a crew of two that consists of a driver and commander/gunner. The troop compartment can accommodate nine fully equipped soldiers who are seated facing inward in two rows with five seats on the left and four on the right. Each seat is equipped with a four-point safety harness and a weapon’s mount for safe storage. The Mk2 has two large rectangular windows on either side of the hull. The Mk3, on the other hand, has smaller side-facing windows. Access to the driver’s compartment is through the troop compartment rear door which is opened manually. A hinged step below the door allows for easier access. The driver’s compartment has two roof hatches that open to the rear of the vehicle while the troop compartment has six which open to their respective left or right sides of the hull. These hatches can be used as emergency exit points.

Collective photo showing the engine on the left, driver’s position in the center, and a view into the rear of the vehicle on the right.

Protection

The Mamba is officially designated as a light armored vehicle. It can protect its occupants against a single TM-57 mine blast under the hull or two TM-57 (12 kg TNT equivalent) mine blasts under any wheel. This is achieved by its V-shaped bottom armored monocoque hull design which deflects blast energy and fragments away from the hull. The fuel tank is externally mounted on the right-hand side of the hull and features a blast-proof cap, thereby reducing the chance that mine blasts would cause a secondary explosion as well as minimizing the risk of catastrophic fire to the crew and passengers. The Mk2 and MK3 have a portable fire extinguisher in the driver’s compartment.

The Mk2 hull is rated to protect against 7.62 x 51 mm NATO Ball ammunition. The Mk3 saw an improvement to its ballistic protection level to also include 5.56 x 45mm NATO Ball ammunition at 30 m by adding a layer of fiberglass plates. All windows are bullet-resistant and can protect against multiple 12.7 mm rounds. The Mk2 and Mk3 driver compartment’s left and right window have a firing port each for close-in protection.

The front and rear lights are protected by steel mesh covers. In the center of the roof to the front, protruding upwards, is a wire cutting pole. The purpose is to protect the crew and passengers from wires which could decapitate them while being exposed above the roof hatches.

Firepower

Although not fitted as standard, several barbettes or pintle-mounted weapon systems can be mounted. The weapon system is operated by the commander/gunner through a roof hatch in the driver’s compartment. The pintle mount is fitted to the roof, just forward of the commander’s hatch. An ammunition rack is located on the roof between the commander’s and driver’s hatches. Standard weapons include a 7.62 mm Browning Machine Gun (BMG) or 12.7 mm BMG and 40 mm Automatic Grenade Launcher (AGL).

Operational Doctrine

The Mamba is fielded by all South Africa`s Motorised Infantry Battalions. As a member of the United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU), South Africa is committed to peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sudan and South Sudan. The eastern part of the DRC, characterized by mountainous terrain, is plagued by rebel factions that are known for raping, pillaging and murdering civilians and aid workers. The UN Security Council resolution 2098 of 2013 and subsequent resolutions authorized the formation of a Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the DRC with a peace enforcement mandate. The FIB consists of three infantry battalions, one artillery and one Special Force and Reconnaissance company. South Africa makes extensive use of the Mamba for their duties as it excels as a quick reaction APC where the predominant threat is small arms fire and mines.

During late May 2019, a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) consisting of a platoon (Charlie Companie) of 7 SAI on rotation as part of the FIB, responded with four Mamba APC`s to an attack on a base at Ngite. While en route, they came under attack from Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels who set up trenches. The lieutenant in command ordered the use of 40 mm AGL to dislodge the ADF rebels from their trenches. While exiting, the ADF rebels crossed the firing line of the Mamba`s mounted 12.7 mm BMG. A total of 23 ADF rebels died in the firefight and a large number of small arms, LMG and mortars with ammunition were recovered.

The Mamba Family

Mamba Mk1

The original 2×4 was produced by TFM Industries (later Reumech OMC) and over 500 were built. It was later modified into the Springbuck Mk1, and the Reva Mk1 by ICP. The Puma is yet another variant powered by a Toyota Dyna 7-145 powerplant and drivetrain, quite common in Africa.

Mamba Mk2

The 4×4 version built by Sandock Austral for the SADF/SANDF and in service with 18 countries. Additional sub-variants includes the Mk2 EE for the Estonian Army, a Mk2 SW for the Swedish Army. The Komanche is a short wheel base (SWB) variant of the standard Mk2 and can accommodate seven soldiers. Some 582 were built for the SANDF. The Sabre had a slightly enlarged driver’s compartment which could accommodate four with a rear cargo bay instead of a passenger compartment.

Mamba Mk3

An up-armored, ergonomically and technically enhanced version of Mk2. Some 220 SANDF Mk2`s where upgraded to Mk3.

SANDF Mamba Mk3 as part of UN Peacekeeping Force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – T. Greyling

Mamba Mk4

The N4 Trucks (Pty) Ltd. company has designed and built a new Mamba designated Mk4 in their Pretoria factory. Blast testing by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) showed that the Mk4 could withstand the equivalent blast of 10 kg TNT under its hull and 14 kg of TNT under any wheel. It is marketed globally by Osprea Logistics and has been deployed by African Union (AU) peacekeepers in Somalia. Two variants are available, one built on the Magirius air-cooled drive train and the other on an Iveco Eurocargo drive train with a water-cooled configuration. In Iraq, it is used by private security contractors.

Mamba Mk5 IVECO and MAGIRUS

The Mk5 IVECO and MAGIRUS are fitted with an Iveco or Magirus drive train and provides improved ballistic and mine protection, improved performance, mobility and maneuverability compared to its predecessors. It retains all of the well-known design and performance capabilities of the Mamba family and is fitted with the latest improvements and modifications required for the new century.

Mamba Mk5 IVECO – OSPREA media page
Mamba Mk5 MAGIRUS – OSPREA media page

Mamba Mk6

No material or reference can be found on any Mk6 ever being produced.

Mamba Mk7 OSPREA

The latest version of the Mamba by Osprea is the Mk7 which builds on the success of the Mk5 IVECO and Mk5 MAGIRUS. The Mk7 provides even higher degrees of ballistic and mine-blast protection, excellent mobility, and more maneuverability than its predecessor. The vehicle is built in the United States of America and has more power, provides innovative tactical capacities, advanced technology, upgraded armor protection and makes use of US components.

Mamba Mk7 – OSPREA media page

Conclusion

The Mamba series of APC`s are arguably the trendsetters for the vast majority of MPV`s used today. It has been used by the AU and UN during peacekeeping missions as well as in the Middle East by various countries and military contractors. It can also conceivable that it is the most successful wheeled vehicle design produced to protect armed forces operating in mine-threatened environments in the world. The Mamba range of vehicles have been exported to dozens of countries and saw widespread use in UN, AU peacekeeping, peace enforcement operations in various conflicts. It has been widely copied and at least five types of derivatives are being sold worldwide under licence.



Springbuck Mk.1/Mamba Mark 1
Mamba Mk2
Mamba Mk.2
Alvis K
British Alvis K with IFOR in peacekeeping mission Bosnia 1997
Mamba Mk3
Mamba Mk.3
Mamba Mk5
Mamba Mk.5

Mamba Mk2 Specifications

Dimensions (l-w-h) 5.39 – 2.21 – 2.43 m (17.68 – 7.25 – 7.97 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 6.8 tonnes
Crew 2 + 9
Propulsion Mercedes Benz OM 352, four stroke 6-cylinder, water cooled diesel engine which produces 123 hp (18.1 hp/t)
Suspension Single coil spring on the front axle and double coil spring on the rear. Additionally it has a hydraulic double-acting telescopic shock absorbers which provide damping for the springs
Top Speed On-Road/Off-Road 102 km/h (64 mph) / 25 km/h (16 mph)
Range On-Road/Off-Road 900 km (599 miles) / 450 km (280 miles)
Armament 7.62 mm BMG
12.7 mm BMG
40 mm AGL
Armor 5 – 6mm (all arcs) armored steel
Total Production +800

Mamba Mk3 Specifications

Dimensions (l-w-h) 5.46 – 2.1 – 2.5 m (17.91 – 6.88 – 8.20 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 6.2 Tonnes
Crew 2 + 9
Propulsion Mercedes Benz OM 352, four stroke 6-cylinder, water cooled diesel engine which produces 123 hp (19.8 hp/t)
Suspension Single coil spring on the front axle and double coil spring on the rear. Additionally it has a hydraulic double-acting telescopic shock absorbers which provide damping for the springs
Top Speed On-Road/Off-Road 102 km/h (64 mph) / 25 km/h (16 mph)
Range On-Road/Off-Road 800 km (497 miles) / 400 km (249 miles)
Armament 7.62 mm BMG
12.7 mm BMG
40 mm AGL
Armor 5 – 6mm (all arcs) armored steel
Total Production 220

Bibliography

Camp, S. & Heitman, H.R. 2014. Surviving the ride: A pictorial history of South African manufactured mine protected vehicles. Pinetown, South Africa: 30° South Publishers.
DEFENCEWEB. 2019. Mamba could be used by SAMHS as a combat ambulance. Date of access: 15 Dec. 2019.
DEFENCEWEB. 2019. South African soldiers repulse ADF rebels in DRC firefight. Date of access: 16 Dec. 2019.
De Villiers, A. 2019. Telephone interview. Former engineer at Sandock Austral Engineering: Mamba develop and production. Date 2 Dec. 2019.
Gardner, D. 2019. Telephone interview. Former Director OMC Engineering: Mamba develop and production. Date 25 Nov. 2019.
Mabulani. 2018. Personal interview: 21SAI Battalion at Mamba display at the African Aerospace and Defence 2018. Date 21 Sep. 2019.
OPSREA. 2019. Mamba Mk7.
OPSREA. 2019. Mamba Mk5 Iveco.
Potgieter, M. 2019. Telephone interview. Former ARMSCOR project manager: Mamba Mk3. Date 4 Dec. 2019.
RVF. 2019. Armored Vehicle Market Report 2019. Mamba numbers. Date of access: 15 Dec. 2019.
SA ARMY. 2010. Vehicles: Mamba. Date of access: 7 Dec. 2019.
SA ARMY. 2010. Weapon systems infantry: Grenade Launchers. Date of access: 7 Dec. 2019.
SA ARMY. 2010. Weapon systems infantry: Machine Guns
http://www.army.mil.za/equipment/weaponsystems/infantry/Machine_Guns.htm Date of access: 7 Dec. 2019.
Sishuba. 2018. Personal interview: 21SAI Battalion at Mamba display during African Aerospace and Defense 2018. Date 21 Sep. 2019.
WORLD HERITAGE ENCYCLOPEDIA. 2019. Mamba APC. Date of access: 7 Dec. 2019.


Categories
South African APCs

Buffel APC/MPV

South Africa (1977) – Mine Protected Vehicle / Armored Personel Carrier – 2985 built

“Buffel” The African Buffalo

The Buffel was the first-ever mass-produced V-shaped hull, open-topped, Mine Protected Vehicle (MPV) / Armored Personnel Carrier (APC). It was made and used by the South African Defense Force (SADF) at a time when South Africa was subject to ever more strict international embargoes because of its segregation policies (Apartheid). This was set against the backdrop of the Cold War in Southern Africa, which saw many anti-colonial wars and internal liberation conflicts along political, ethnic, and tribal lines, supported by often competing Eastern and Western benefactors. The Buffel would become a staple vehicle for SADF motorized units in South West Africa (SWA), where it was primarily used for patrol duties along the Caprivi Strip along the northern border with Angola and Counter-Insurgency (COIN) operations. It was designed to be mobile and provide protection against anti-tank mines, small arms fire, and shrapnel. The Buffel was phased out of frontline SADF service during the late 1980s and was relegated to internal security use until it was replaced by the Mamba APC in 1995.

Buffel MPV/APC`s leaving Angola at the conclusion Operation Displace, August 1988. Published in PARATUS, September 1988. Photograph Martin Botha

South African Border War (1966-1989) political map (country names added). Created by GhePeU for Wikimedia Commons. Used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Development

From 1973 onwards, there was a sharp increase in landmine usage by the “South West Africa People’s Organization” (SWAPO), which was fighting an insurgency against South Africa for the independence of SWA. SWAPO operated from bases inside Angola and crossed SWA border over the Caprivi Strip. The SADF at that time had no dedicated mass-produced border-patrol MPV/APC which could protect the occupants against anti-personnel and anti-tank landmines.

Given the increased threat from landmines, the Defence Research Unit (DRU) was tasked by the SADF with improving the crew survivability of its Unimog fleet. The SADF made use of Mercedes-Benz Unimog S trucks, which they bought during the 1960s, of which 200 were upgraded by Messrs United Car and Diesel Distributors (UCDD) during 1973/4 with more powerful OM352 6-cylinder water-cooled diesel engines. The improvement program resulted in the Bosvark (Bushpig).

Bosvark Mk1 APC. Source unknown
The Bosvark featured a V-shaped rear tub which replaced the standard seat section, whilst the driver’s frontal cab section received a Barber deflection plate (mine detonation blast deflection plates). These improvements, while successful, did not protect the occupants from small arms fire. A total of 56 vehicles were produced and used successfully during Operation Savannah (1976). Operation Savannah was the first major military incursion into Angola by the SADF in support of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), which was fighting a war against the Cuban and Soviet-backed Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and the Angolan conventional army, the People’s Armed Forces of Liberation of Angola (FAPLA), for control of Angola.

Post-Operation Savannah, the SADF conducted a needs assessment of their entire fleet. This would later lead to the SAMIL (South African MILitary) range of vehicles. These were specifically designed for the Southern African battle space which required long travel distances without logistical support and in which the terrain itself could damage the vehicle.

Messrs UCDD, who upgraded the Unimogs, came to hear of the new developments and feared a loss in future military contracts. Thus, they set out to redevelop the Bosvark into a dedicated MPV which would function as an APC. Under the leadership of Koos de Wet, who worked at Messrs UCDD, the Bosvark II would take shape. Several improvements were identified and a presentation was made to ARMSCOR early in 1976. A wooden mockup was completed by April 1976 and presented to officials from SADF, ARMSCOR, the Board of Trade and Industry, and the DRU.

ARMSCOR, with the development of the SAMIL range of vehicles, was planning to phase out the Unimog. Subsequent assistance from ARMSCOR for the Bosvark II dried up and the development team had to rely on their own wit and assistance from the DRU to pull the project through. The final prototype was ready by late August 1976, when it presented to ARMSCOR who quickly lost interest and left the demonstration when it came to light that the Bosvark II was not tested.

Bosvark 2 during mobility and wheel displacement testing. With permission from Koos de Wet

Despite this, Messrs UCDD continued its support for the Bosvark II, and via contacts in the SADF and DRU, the necessary tests were arranged on a farm near Zeerust. Representatives from interested groups attended and put the Bosvark II through its paces from dusk until dawn. Some improvements were identified by the development team, but the Bosvark II was certified as tested. Nine more test vehicles were built and delivered to the SADF for testing in the then Northern Transvaal and Ovamboland. A quotation was requested for more vehicles from UCDD. The Defence Research Council (later Chemical Defence Unit) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), led by Dr. Vernon Joynt, made further improvements.
In 1976, a live blast test was arranged and Koos de Wet was invited to attend to witness the proceedings. Explosives were placed under the front left wheel of the vehicle. In place of a human occupant, an unlucky male baboon was drafted for SADF service, drugged, and strapped into the driver’s seat. After a massive explosion, the vehicle’s left wheel was nowhere to be found. The baboon survived and was given first aid for a cut on its lip. Whether the baboon received a medal for his bravery is unknown. Attendees were impressed and the experts agreed that the driver and passengers would survive a mine detonation. Koos de Wet was informed that the vehicle would be called the Buffel (Buffalo) if it were placed in SADF service. Both Messrs Busaf Border and Messrs Transverse, which contributed to the development, were excluded by the SADF and ARMSCOR from the Buffel production with no compensation given. Further tests were conducted by the SADF and ARMSCOR throughout early to mid-1977 and improvements made.

61 Base General Workshop (BGW) was often called upon to assist in projects and even at times to manufacture and develop prototypes. 61 BGW would become responsible for the disassembly of the SADF Unimog fleet and preparation for its conversion to the Buffel. The first 19 Buffels left Voortrekkerhoogte in Pretoria, South Africa for the major military logistics and supply base at Grootfontein in SWA during the latter half of 1977. The first Buffels were deployed operationally by late 1978 and some 2985 vehicles would be built over a period of 17 years.

Buffel MPV/APC at Etali military base in South West Africa, 1983/84. Was used during Ops Askari. With permission from Petrus Wiese.

The Buffel Mk1 was fitted with the same Mercedes Benz OM352 6-cylinder water-cooled diesel engine as had been used on the Unimog-based Bosvarks and received a bush guard on the front of the vehicle which helped protect it from damage caused by driving through the bush. The Mk1A was improved by being equipped with drum brakes and an Atlas Diesel OM352 6-cylinder water-cooled engine (a licensed copy of the Mercedes Benz engine). The Mk1B and subsequent variants used the same licensed engine and had the drum brakes replaced with disc brakes. The Buffel Mk2 saw the passenger tub being redesigned to feature all-round visibility through bullet-resistant windows, an armored roof, and a rear entry and exit door.

The Buffel would come to serve in virtually all the branches of the SADF until its retirement in 1995. The only country to ever buy Buffels from South African government directly was Sri Lanka (185). All other users either bought them through private sector auctions or from the United Nations. Only a handful of countries still use the Buffel (or variants thereof), which include Malawi, Sri Lanka, Uganda, and Zambia.

Design features

The Buffel was designed to maximize its occupants’ chances of survival when a mine was detonated anywhere under the hull. This was achieved through several key design elements which included high ground clearance, a V-shaped underbelly, and a purpose-built strengthened design which reduced the risk of shattered or buckled hull plates which could become debris.

The African terrain, which in and of itself can inflict severe punishment on a vehicle, necessitates a robust design. The Buffel’s design and simplicity made field repairs post-mine detonation possible. Most parts could be obtained commercially, which made the Buffel’s logistical train shorter and specialized maintenance support in the field unnecessary. The front of the vehicle was strengthened with a bush guard for driving through instead of around small trees and heavy brush, popularly referred to as bundu bashing (bush breaking ability).

Buffel MPV/APC at the War and Peace Revival 2019 show. With permission from Craig Moore

Mobility

The Buffel’s 4×4 configuration was designed specifically with the African battlespace in mind, which necessitated excellent cross-country mobility. Being wheeled, it also required less maintenance than a tracked vehicle. The suspension consisted of single-coil spring on the front wheels and a double coil springs on the rear wheels. The Buffel had a ground clearance of 420 mm (16.5 in) and could ford 1 meter (3 ft 3 in) of water. The high ground clearance and small width made the Buffel somewhat top-heavy, which occasionally caused problems for inexperienced drivers who would roll the vehicle over if they turned too sharply while at speed, or on uneven or wet and slippery terrain. For those not used to the vehicle’s sway and motion, the passenger tub would be nicknamed the “kots koets” (vomit carriage).

The engine produced 125 hp (20.4 hp/t) at 2800 rpm and was coupled to an eight-speed (eight forward and four reverse) synchromesh manual transmission, the transfer box of which was integrated with the gearbox. The transmission design allowed for in motion changing between 2×4 and 4×4 wheel drive and featured an equal 50% front and rear axle power distribution. The four wheels were 12.50 x 20 in size. They were often filled with water to help absorb the explosive force from a landmine. Conversely, this added around 1.2 tons of weight which negatively affected the vehicle’s range but helped make it more stable to a small degree.

Endurance and logistics

The Buffel had a 200-liter fuel tank which granted it an operational range of 1000 km (600 miles) via road and 500 km (300 miles) cross country. Its maximum road speed was 96 km/h (60 mph) and 30 km/h (19 mph) cross country. A modular design allowed for easier maintenance and reduced logistical requirements. Additionally, the commercial nature of the components made replacement easy and lowered the cost for parts.

Vehicle layout

The Buffel consisted of three main parts: chassis, armored driver’s cab at the front left of the vehicle, and an armored passenger tub at the center rear. The engine was located on the front right-hand side of the vehicle and the transmission in-between the engine and the armored driver’s cab. The engine and transmission placement facilitated easy replacement in the event of damage due to a mine detonation.

Buffel MPV/APC driver’s cab at the War and Peace Revival 2019 show. With permission from Craig Moore
The driver’s cab was surrounded by three rectangular bullet-resistant glass windows and an open-topped roof. The base was wedge-shaped and secured to the chassis via a cable. Early models had no door on the left-hand side, which required the driver to enter through the open-top roof. A single door would be installed on the left side of the driver’s cab to breach this shortcoming, as well as two steel steps. Later variants would also receive a high-density polyethylene roof cover over the driver’s cab. The gear selection was located on the right-hand side of the driver and a spare wheel was kept to the right of the driver’s cab. The driver’s and passenger’s seating was blast resistant and designed to protect the user’s spine in case of a mine detonation under the vehicle.

Access to the passenger tub was gained via two incremental pairs of steel steps on either side. The passenger tub seating was arranged in two rows of five seats, facing outward from the center. All seats were equipped with harnesses to secure the occupants in the case of a mine detonation or accidental rollover, which would otherwise see them thrown clear of the vehicle. A further feature was an anti-roll bar over the top of the passenger tub which would stop the passenger tub rolling over completely. The left and right sides of the passenger tub contained a horizontal panel with circular grooves to allow rifle fire from the passenger’s seating. During contact, the passengers would debus by jumping over the side of the vehicle. The panels were horizontally hinged which allowed them to be opened to ease disembarking. This was, however, rarely done while on the move, as the panels had a tendency to flip back up while crossing uneven terrain at speed, which could lead to injury.

Buffel MPV/APC passenger tub seating visible at the War and Peace Revival 2019 show – With permission from Craig Moore

Traditionally, the section leader would sit on the front left to facilitate communication with the driver. The section machine gun team sat at the rear left with the second-in-command (2IC), who operated the rear-facing machine gun. The number one rifleman sat in the front right and manned the front-facing machine gun, while the remainder of the section sat on the right.

On the rear of the passenger tub was a sizable storage box. The front was used by the passengers to store spare kit, while the top was for the driver’s use. On occasion, a road-killed warthog would be thrown in the storage box for later consumption. At the rear of the chassis was a water tap that was connected to a 100-liter freshwater tank.

Buffel MPV/APC with storage bin visible at the War and Peace Revival 2019 show. With permission from Craig Moore

Protection

The Buffel could protect its occupants against a single TM-57 anti-tank mine blast under the hull, which was equivalent to 6.34 kg of TNT, or a double TM-57 anti-tank mine blast under any wheel. Its V-shaped bottom armored hull design deflected blast energy and fragments away from the driver and passenger tub. The driver’s cab windows were all bulletproof (bulletproof is a misnomer, and should rather be called bullet-resistant). A plastic fuel and water tank was located above the V-shaped underbelly of the passenger tub, to the rear. These tanks would help absorb explosive blast energy from a mine detonation. The armored driver’s cab and passenger tub protected against common small arms fire in theater, which included 7.62 x 51mm NATO and 7.62 x 39mm AK-47 Ball as well as explosive fragments.

Buffel MPV/APC after it hit a TM57 double cheese mine (stacked mines), 1981. With permission from Granger Korff

Firepower

The Buffel’s standard armament was either a single or dual pintle-mounted 5.56 mm or 7.62 mm Light Machine Guns (LMG), which were located on the forward right-hand side of the passenger tub and/or rear left-hand side. Twin mountings have also been observed, with the gunners receiving a gun shield as well. In open terrain, this placement was convenient, but when the Buffel entered the thick bush, the primary armament being located forward would get turned around by branches, making their effective use difficult.

Rear-facing pintle-mounted 7.62 mm LMG. With permission Japie Oberholster

THE BUFFEL FAMILY

The Buffel spawned several variants, which includes a 2.5 ton Cargo Carrier and an Ambulance.

Cargo Carrier
Based on the Buffel Mk1B, the Cargo Carrier was produced in the early 1980s. It retained the one-man driver’s cab, however, the personnel tub was replaced with an open load bed. It could carry 2.6 tons of cargo over 900 km. A total of 57 were produced.

Buffel Mk1B Cargo carrier. With permission Steyns 4×4, Strand, Western Cape

Ambulance
Making use of the standard Buffel Mk1B, the Ambulance variant prototype retained the armored one-man driver’s cab at the front. The passenger tub was redeveloped to be enclosed and could accommodate two medical staff, four lying and one sitting patient. Access was gained to the passenger tub via a rear door. It was, however, concluded that the swaying motion of the passenger cab would make the treatment of casualties difficult and very uncomfortable. Subsequently, no orders were placed.

Moffel
When the Buffel was deployed in urban operations to quell the ever-increasing civil unrest and factional fighting (1991-1993) in South Africa, a redesign was needed to improve all-round safety. This involved enclosing the driver’s cab and passenger tub, which were vulnerable to petrol bombs and other dangerous flying objects. The passenger tub’s horizontal drop-down panels were replaced with bullet-resistant glass windows with two firing ports each. A rear access door with a bullet-resistant window was added to facilitate entry and exit from the tub. Additionally, a bullet-resistant window was fitted on the forward right side. The passengers could open hatches on the top of the cab. The subsequent redesign of the passenger tub reduced the available space from ten to eight passengers and the seating faced inwards. The overall improvements allowed better all-round visibility while vastly improving the safety of the passengers. The Moffel was not produced in great numbers, as the Mamba APC was already being developed.

Moffel MPV/APC, photo from Pinterest Solomon

Operational Doctrine

During the South African Border War, the Buffel was used as a dedicated transport, as well as for logistics and COIN operations as part of fighting groups. Sections were transported to designated points, from where they would conduct patrol on foot for between three and seven days before being picked up again or receive replenishment for a further seven days.

A fighting group consisted of between four to six Buffels, which would carry a platoon between them, with one or two Buffels serving as supply/logistics vehicles. Enough food, water, and ammunition were carried for seven days, which covered roughly 600-800 km. Replenishment would be done every six days if the patrol was to extended.

THE BUFFEL IN ACTION

The Buffel was such a versatile MPV/APC vehicle that it was used by every SADF infantry battalion which served in SWA as well as every major military operation from Operation Rheindeer (1978) to the secession of hostilities in 1989. Additionally, it was used in vast numbers for internal security.

32 Battalion, an elite light infantry unit consisting of Angolans under the command of SADF officers and NCO`s, received Buffels. Three-two, as they were better known, was most often used for reconnaissance and offensive operations in Angola. Having received Buffels, they became a light motorised unit and, during Operation Protea (1981), three motorised companies were attached to Battle Group 40. This consisted of one armored car squadron (Eland 90), a 120 mm mortar battery, four anti-tank teams, and two protection platoons (1 Platoon from B company of 202 Battalion and 1 other platoon). Battle Group 40 was tasked to find and destroy SWAPO command, training and logistical bases around the town of Xangongo (70 km north of the SWA border), secure the town and its bridge.

The attack would be carried out by Combat Team 41 from the northeast and Combat Team 42 from the southeast at around 1250 on 24 August. The town was defended by layers of trenches and bunkers which needed to be cleared first, followed by the fort and water tower. By 1730, the bridge was reached and prepared for demolition by the engineers. During the attack, FAPLA and PLAN officers, together with their Soviet military advisors, quickly fled, leaving the soldiers behind. By 25 August, all Battle Group 40`s objectives were reached. On 26 August, they set out to join Task Force Bravo, which was operating to the east against PLAN bases.

BTR-60 captured during Operation Rheindeer on display at the SA Armour Museum. Photo Dewald Venter

A SOLDIER’S ACCOUNT FROM OPERATION SCEPTIC 1980


SADF soldiers from 32 Battalion and 61 Mechanised Battalion preparing for a patrol near Onjiva with their Buffel MPV/APC during Operation Sceptic. With permission M. Beyl

Operation Sceptic was launched on 10 June 1980 as a lightning attack on a SWAPO base 80 km (50 mi) into South Angola and was supposed to conclude on 16 June 1980. Due to additional arms caches being found in SWAPO territory, it developed into an extended operation and lasted until 30 June 1980, with all SADF personal back in SWA on 1 July 1980. The operation saw the first serious clash be­tween the SADF and FAPLA as well as mechanised elements of SWAPO. SWAPO lost its forward base facilities and 380 dead. Several hundred tons of equipment and sup­plies, as well as many vehicles, were captured by the security forces. Seventeen SADF members lost their lives.

I was part of 1 Parachute Battalion – C Company. That operation was easily six weeks of living on a Buffel. I can’t remember all the details anymore, but we were the last unit still in Angola and the UN told SA at that time that the SA troops must get out of Angola.
 That “last morning” we went a few miles north to clear a “village” .. upon returning, we took turns to lead the Buffel convoy. The leading vehicle’s troops had to buckle up as mines were a real threat and any mine detonated would most probably be done by the lead Buffel.
 As the convoy progressed, it became our Buffel’s turn to lead the convoy. We probably only drove 5 km, when we detonated a landmine. It was deafening…with dust and sand everywhere…in your ears, nose, and mouth. The Buffel’s front left wheel was thrown clear about 30 m to 40 m and the vehicle itself a few meters in the air… luckily landing on its remaining three wheels. After a few seconds, we looked at each other and asked if everyone was ok. No one was seriously injured.., except for sore backs.
 The Buffel really is a special vehicle. We dismounted and moved to another Buffel, who turns luckily it wasn’t to lead the convoy. An hour later we made contact with FAPLA at Mangua where they set up an ambush with BTR vehicles. The battle lasted a couple of hours, with FAPLA taking more than 200 casualties.

A. Myburg

Conclusion

The Buffel is the first-ever mass-produced V-shaped hull, open-topped MPV/APC that was mine-protected. Although not very comfortable, it fulfilled its role as an MPV by saving the lives of countless SADF soldiers whose vehicles detonated landmines. It became the backbone of many SADF border patrol and COIN operations. The Buffel served for 17 years until it was replaced by the Mamba MPV/APC in 1995. Some 582 Buffels would be rebuilt around its driveline to manufacture the Mamba MPV/APC.

Buffel MPV/APC Specifications Mk1B

Dimensions (hull) (l-w-h) 5.10 m – 2.05 m – 2.96 m (16.73 ft – 6.72 ft – 9.71 ft)
Total weight, battle-ready 6.1 Tons
Crew + mounted infantry 1 + 10 mission dependent
Propulsion Atlas Diesel OM352 6-cylinder water cooled engine 125 hp (20.4 hp/t) at 2800 rpm.
Suspension Single coil spring on front wheels and two double coil springs on the rear wheels
Top speed road / off-road 96 km/h (60 mph) / 30 km/h (19 mph)
Range road/ off-road 1000 km (600 miles) / 500 km (300 miles)
Armament 1 x single or double 5.56 mm or 7.62mm pintle-mounted machine gun forward right and/or rear left
Armor 6-7mm (all arcs)

Buffel Videos

Buffel Mine-protected APC

South African Buffel, The War & Peace Revival 2014

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGLyWr91Jew
ANGOLA THE WAR Documentary Teaser

Buffel
SANDF Buffel, left view, open bay. The “buffalo” certainly is in the top three world’s ugliest AFV ever designed, but its only raison d’être lays with pure functionality. Dependable and Replaceable, it was for 20 years SANDF’s reference mine-proof APC.
Buffel, left view
SANDF Buffel, left view, closed bay, pale olive livery.
xxx
SANDF Buffel with closed bay. In the 1980s MkII was maintained in service with a rear compartment fully enclosed.
Sri Lanka Unicorn
Sri Lanka Unicorn (local Buffel). The Unibuffel is a locally modify, fully enclosed version.
All Illustrations are by Tank Encyclopedia’s David Bocquelet.

Bibliography

  • Army-guide.com. 2019. Buffel. https://www.army-guide.com/eng/product1080.html Date of access: 20 Sep. 2019.
  • Barnard, C. 2019. 61 Base Workshop, Buffel production. Facebook correspondence GRENSOORLOG/ BORDER WAR 1966-1989. Date 20 Oct. 2019.
  • Beyl, M. 2019. Operation Sceptic. Facebook correspondence SMOKESHELL. 10 JUNE 1980. Date 22 Oct. 2019.
  • Bouwer, M. 2019. Buffel operation doctrine. Facebook correspondence GRENSOORLOG/ BORDER WAR 1966-1989. Date 20 Sep. 2019.
  • Camp, S. & Heitman, H.R. 2014. Surviving the ride: A pictorial history of South African manufactured mine protected vehicles. Pinetown, South Africa: 30° South Publishers.
  • Harmse, K. & Sunstan, S. 2017.South African Armour of the Border War 1975-89. Oxford, Great Britain: Osprey Publishing.
  • Hattingh, D. 2019. Cover photo context. Facebook correspondence GRENSOORLOG/ BORDER WAR 1966-1989. Date 4 Oct. 2019.
  • Heitman, H.R. 1988. Krygstuig van Suid-Afrika. Struik.
  • Joubert, K. 2019. Former ARMSCOR head of procurement. Number of Buffels sold internationally. Telephone interview. Date 23 Oct. 2019.
  • Myburgh, A. 2019. Operation Sceptic 1980. Facebook correspondence. 1 Oct. 2019.
  • SA-Soldier.com. 2019. Buffel. https://www.sa-soldier.com/data/07-SADF-equipment/ Date of access: 20 Sep. 2019.
  • Savides A. 2019. Brig Gen (Ret) – 61 Base Workshop. Facebook correspondence. 4 Oct. 2019.
  • Stiff, P. 1986. Taming the Landmine. Alberton, South Africa: Galago Publishing.
  • Swanepoel, D. 2019. Buffel operation doctrine. Facebook correspondence GRENSOORLOG/ BORDER WAR 1966-1989. Date 20 Sep. 2019.
  • van der Linde, S. 2019. Buffel operation doctrine. Facebook correspondence GRENSOORLOG/ BORDER WAR 1966-1989. Date 20 Sep. 2019.
  • van der Merwe, C. 2019. First 19 Buffels. Facebook correspondence GRENSOORLOG/ BORDER WAR 1966-1989. Date 4 Oct. 2019.
  • Widd, P. 2019. Buffel operation doctrine. Facebook correspondence GRENSOORLOG/ BORDER WAR 1966-1989. Date 20 Sep. 2019.
Categories
South African Wheeled Vehicles

Eland Armoured Car

South Africa (1962)
Armoured Car – 1600 built

“Eland” The African Antelope

The Eland armored car, more affectionately known by its nickname, “Noddy Car”, (with reference to the popular Noddy in the Toyland TV program of the time) takes its Afrikaans name from the African Eland, the largest antelope in the world. Similar to its namesake, the Eland evolved to adapt to the tough Southern African environment. Its design, adaption, and production happened just before South Africa became the subject of international embargoes (1977) because of its racial segregation policies (Apartheid). Against the backdrop of the Cold War in Southern Africa which saw a steep rise in liberation movements backed by Eastern Bloc communist countries such as Cuba and the Soviet Union.
Eland 90, Grootfontein mid-1980s
Eland 90 Mk7 troop – Grootfontein mid-1980s, with permission from Eric Prinsloo

Development

Up until the late 1950s, the Union Defence Force (UDF), which would become the South African Defence Force (SADF), made use of the Ferret armored car. A subsequent macro environmental study in the early 1960s showed that the most likely conflict South Africa would become involved in would take the form of expeditionary missions and counter insurgencies for which the Ferret was not suited. This shortcoming necessitated the acquisition of more modern lightweight, lightly armored, well-armed, long-range reconnaissance vehicle. Initially, three armored cars were considered namely the Saladin, Panhard EBR (Panhard Engin Blindé de Reconnaissance: Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle), and Panhard AML (Auto Mitrailleuse Légère: Light Armoured Car). Ultimately, the four-wheeled AML was deemed the most appropriate to fulfill the desired role South Africa had in mind.
Eland 90 Mk7 troop - Grootfontein mid-1980s
Eland 90 Mk7 troop – Grootfontein mid-1980s, with permission from Eric Prinsloo

The initial testing of the AML 60 with it’s 60 mm Brandt Mle CM60A1 breech-loading gun-mortar was deemed lacking in firepower and South Africa requested more firepower. This led Panhard to design a new turret which would accommodate a DEFA 90 mm low-pressure quick-firing gun. South Africa purchased 100 AMLs as well as additional turrets, engines, and parts for the assembly of 800 more armored cars. The manufacturing of the AML 60 and 90 (rebranded the Eland 60 and 90) would become one of South Africa’s most ambitious weapons manufacturing programs, post-World War 2. Production by the South African industrial firm Sandrock-Austral of the AML 60 and 90 subsequently began in 1961 with the first batch entering service trials in 1962 as the Eland Mk1. In essence, they were still French AML 60 and 90s. These armored cars contained 40% local content, with the majority of parts being purchased from Panhard.

South Africa acquired the licenses to produce the vehicle chassis and turret independently from Panhard in 1964. The turret was manufactured by Austral Engineering in Wadeville and the hull by Sandock-Austral in Boksburg and Durban. What followed was a series of improvements which would make the armored car more suited for the African terrain. The Eland Mk2 featured an improved steering system and brakes, of which 56 were delivered. The Eland Mk3 saw the installation of a new custom-built fuel system. The Eland Mk4 incorporated two more modifications which included the replacement of the electric clutch with a more reliable conventional model and the movement of the fire control from the gunner’s feet to the turret hand crank. Additional smaller improvements were made, such as replacing the chain holding the fuel cap with a cable which made less noise. By 1967, the South African manufactured armored cars resembled their French counterparts externally while making use of 66% South African produced parts.
Eland 90 Mk6 outside Grootfontein 1977
Eland 90 Mk6 outside Grootfontein 1977. With permission from Neville Bowden
From 1972, 356 Eland Mk5 armored cars would be built. They featured a new Chevrolet 153 2.5 liter, water-cooled four-cylinder inline petrol engine which was mounted on rails to facilitate quicker replacement in the field (40 minutes) and reduce maintenance. Additional improvements included new communication equipment, spring shock absorbers, wheels, and run-flat tires.

In 1975, the Mk6 upgrade brought 1,016 (all the previously produced Eland Marks) up to the Mk5 standard. The final version of the Eland, the Mk7, was put into production in 1979 and featured a new raised commander’s cupola derived from the Ratel ICV, movement of the headlamps from the lower glacis to a raised position, new power brakes, improved transmission, and a lengthened frontal section to make the drivers station more comfortable for taller than average South African soldier.

The Eland 60 and 90 became the standard armored car for the SADF`s (South African Defence Force) armored car regiments and served in a reconnaissance role when assigned to the tank regiment. The SADF deployed the Eland with the permanent forces at the School of Armour, 1 Special Service Regiment and 2 Special Service Regiment. With the reserve forces, the Eland was used by Natal Mounted Rifles, Umvoti Mounted Rifles, Regiment Oranje Rivier (Cape Town), Regiment Mooirivier (Potchefstroom), Regiment Molopo (Potchefstroom), Light Horse, President Steyn, Prince Alfred Guards, 2 Armoured Car Regiment, 8th Division (Durban), Head of the Armed Forces Mobile Reserve and Armed Forces Mobile Centre (formerly 7th Division) . In South-West Africa, the Eland was used by the South West Territorial and 2 South African Infantry Battalion Group (Walvisbay) Forces.

The Eland was removed from frontline service in the late 1980s, when its indigenously produced replacement, the Rooikat 76 armored car, began to enter service. The Eland was officially retired from South African National Defence Force( SANDF) service in 1994. In South Africa, the Eland can be found at most military bases as gate guards and several pairs, in working condition, are preserved at military museums which includes the SA Armour Museum in Bloemfontein. Several Elands have also found their way into the hands of private collectors and foreign museums.
By the end of its production, more than 1600 vehicles were built. The Eland family of armored cars which also includes a 20 mm quick-firing cannon are still in service with foreign armies which include, Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Gabo, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Morocco, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Senegal, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.
Eland 90 Mk7 outside Katima 1980
Eland 90 Mk7 outside Katima 1980. With permission from Antonie Goosen

Design features

The Eland saw continued design improvements over the original AML throughout its production, making it more adept to the African battlespace. In line with its role as a lightweight, heavily armed reconnaissance vehicle, the Eland could pack a decisive punch when needed, making it a versatile weapons platform for its time. The following sections will specifically cover the Mk7 variant unless otherwise stated.

Mobility

The southern African battlespace favors a wheeled configuration, in which the Elands permanent 4×4 configuration was well suited. It was fitted with four split rim 12:00 x 16m run-flat Dunlop tires (designed to resist the effects of deflation when punctured) which resulted in more reliability and mobility.

The Eland has a manual transmission with a constant mesh gearbox. The gear selection range consists of both low and high range, with six forward, one neutral, and one reverse gear. For cross country use, the two low gears, one top gear, and reverse are used. When in low range, the normal drive’s four ratios of the high range are used for the four upper gears of the range (4-6). The high range is used for road driving and has three low gears and an overdrive.

The Eland is not amphibious, but it can ford 1.5 m of water with preparation (fitting plug in the floor). It is powered by a Chevrolet 153 4-cylinder, 2.5-liter petrol engine, which can produce 107 hp (80 kW) at 2400 rpm. This provides a 20.6 hp/t power to weight ratio for the Eland 60 and 17.8 hp/t for the Eland 90. The maximum official road speed is 90 km/h (56 mph) however non-standard and the unofficial test has reached a speed of 140 km/h (87 mph). The safe cruising speed is 80 km/h (50 mph). Over terrain, it could achieve 30 km/h (18.6 mph), which was sufficient to keep up with the Olifant Mk1A.

A 0.5 m wide ditch can be crossed at a crawl and it can climb a 60% gradient. On the front of the vehicle are two unditching channels which allow the Eland to cross ditches up to a meter wide. The Eland is equipped with a fully independent active trailing arms, coil springs, and shock-absorbers. The driver makes use of a power-assisted steering wheel which controls the front two wheels and foot pedals for acceleration and braking. The Eland has a ground clearance of 380 mm which, in combination with only four wheels, sometimes resulted in it becoming stuck over very rough terrain, which is far from ideal.
Eland 90 Mk6 outside Grootfontein 1977
Eland 90 Mk6 outside Grootfontein 1977. With permission from Neville Bowden

Endurance and logistics

The fuel capacity of the Eland is 142 liter (37.5 US gallons) which allows it to travel 450 km (280 miles) on road, 240 km (149 miles) off-road and 120 km (74.5 miles) over sand.

The Eland 90 and 60 are equipped with two 7.62mm M1919 Browning belt-fed machine guns, one mounted co-axially and the other on top of the turret structure, above the commander’s station for close protection from ground threats. The Eland 90 carries of 3,800 rounds for the machine gun, and the Eland 60, 2,400 rounds. It should be noted that creative stacking would allow for more machine gun rounds to be carried. The co-axial machine gun is mounted on the left side of both variants the main armament.

At the rear right-hand side of the turret, behind the gunner, is a B-56 long-range and B-26 short-range radio set for tactical communication which allows for reliable command and control, enhancing the armored car’s force multiplier effect on the battlefield. This communication combined with well-trained crews resulted in co-ordinated (but nail-biting) attacks on T-54/55 MBTs during various Border War operations (mentioned later).

The Eland Mk7 received a much-needed storage bin at the rear of the turret. Pre-Mk7 Elands did not have a built-in drinking water tank and crews subsequently had to carry water in a 20 liter (5.2 US gallons) jerry can which was carried on the outside of the driver’s left entry door in a bracket. Crews improvised and kept non-drinking water in the used ammunition boxes and spent main gun casings on the outside of the hull. The Mk7 featured a built-in 40 liter (10.5 US gallons) drinking water tank which was installed at the rear of the vehicle from where the crew could access it via a copper push tap.

The crew of an Eland 90 Mk7 at work freeing their vehicle, after it bogged down in a flooded shona (flood plain) during the annual rainy season in Owamboland – South West Africa/Namibia. With permission from Chris van der Walt.

Vehicle layout

The Eland carries a standard complement of three crew members, consisting of the commander, gunner, and driver.

The commander’s station is located on the left side of the turret while the gunner is seated on the right. Visibility for both is achieved through four L794B episcopes which provide all-round visibility. The gunner can also use the M37 sighting episcope which provides x6 magnification. Entry and exit for the commander and gunner of an Eland 90 are via a single-piece hatch cover for each which opens to the rear. The Eland 60 had one elongated hatch for both commander and gunner which also opened to the rear. In case of emergency, the gunner and commander can escape through the driver’s entry doors located on either side of the hull in-between the forward and rear wheel. Of interest is the pistol port located in the front left side of the hull through which the commander could shoot if necessary.

The driver’s station is situated in the front center of the hull and is accessible through the side entry doors as mentioned above or a single-piece hatch which opens to the right above the driver’s station. The driver’s station has limited adjustability making it difficult for tall drivers to operate. The single-piece hatch contains three integrated periscopes for enhanced visibility and situational awareness. The central periscope can be replaced with a passive night driving episcope (manufactured by Eloptro) allowing full day/night capability.

Eland 90 Mk7 driver’s station upper, Dewald Venter (SA Armour Museum)

Main armament

The Eland 90 was armed with the GIAT 90 mm F1 gun, which was designated the GT-2 in South Africa and manufactured by Denel Land Systems. For combat, it could fire a low-velocity High Explosive (HE), High Explosive Anti-Tank Tracer round (HEAT-T), White Phosphorus Smoke (WP-SMK), and Canister rounds. The HE was accurate up to 2200 m and the HEAT-T 1200 m and could penetrate up to 320 mm of Rolled Homogeneous Armor (RHA) at zero degrees and 150 mm at a 60-degree angle. The penetration and after armor effect of the HEAT-T round was devastating against the T-34/85 the South Africans faced in the early stages of the South African Border War. When the T-54/55 entered the conflict, South African Eland 90 crews had to make full use of their vehicles small size and speed to flank them. Multiple shots by the Eland 90 were necessary to disable and destroy the new tanks.

The HE round weighed in at 5.27 kg and was very effective against lightly armored vehicles, trenches, and bunkers. To control the recoil of the main gun a single-cylinder with permanent stress spring and a hydropneumatic recuperate is used to return the main gun to its original position after firing. A well-trained crew could fire the main gun either in a stationary or a short halt every 8-10 seconds. The turret could be rotated a full 360 degrees in under 25 seconds although the standard practice was not to exceed 90 degrees left or right of centre. The main gun can elevate from -8 degrees to +15 degrees. Due to its small size, the Eland 90 could only carry 29 main gun rounds of which 20 was stored in the rear of the turret and 9 in a rack between the gunner and vehicle commander.

The Eland 60 retained the original AML 60 turret and made use of the South African manufactured 60 mm M2 breech-loading gun-mortar. It could fire a 1.72 kg bomb at 200 m/s up to 2000 m in the direct role. A total of 56 bombs are carried which consisted of a combination of bombs and illumination rounds. The main armament can elevate from -11 to +75 degrees. The rate of fire was on average 6-8 bombs a minute. It was primarily used in the counter-insurgency and convoy protection role as its main gun was devastatingly effective against infantry and dug in positions such as bunkers and trenches. It primarily served in South West Africa (SWA) (Namibia) northern operational areas.

Eland 60 Mk6 ammunition complement outside Kwando 1976. With permission from Carel Viljoen

Fire Control System

The gunner makes use of an Eloptro 6x gunner’s day sight. Laying the Eland 90s gun is accomplished via hand-crank while sighting by the gunner is done via telescopic sight which was linked to the main gun. The Eland 90s main gun was not stabilized due to the lack of a turret drive. This required exceptionally skilled Eland 90 crews who had to work in concert to engage enemy targets as quickly as possible while minimizing their exposure and then withdrawing before they could be shot at.

Eland 90 Mk7 gunner’s station selector switch box (note the dual Afrikaans and English designations), Dewald Venter (SA Armour Museum)

Protection

The Eland consisted of a welded steel hull which is between 8 and 12 mm thick providing all-round protection against rifle fire, grenades, and medium artillery velocity fragments. It was, however, susceptible to anything bigger than 12.7 mm. Two banks of two electrically operated 81 mm smoke grenade launchers are located on the rear left and right side of the turret and are used for self-screening in an emergency. There are two tubes to the rear of the left smoke grenade launchers which are often confused with the former. They are used to house the main gun cleaning brush and OBS (Old Brown Sherry) when crews became cold. The frontal headlamps are under armoured covers and located on the frontal glacis where they are raised to protect against damage when driving through the bush. Due to its small size, it was never equipped with a fire suppression system. Crews had at their disposal several hand-held fire extinguishers, one on the front right exterior of the vehicle, above the right wheel and one inside the crew compartment.

Variants

Eland 20
In 1971, the SADF placed the requirement for an Eland fitted with a 20 mm main gun. An Eland 60 (named Vuilbaard [Dirty beard]) was fitted with a Hispano-Suiza 20 mm as a feasibility test. The results were not satisfactory and, in early 1972, the same was done but by fitting a F2 20 mm (imported for the Ratel 20 ICV project) to a turret. Both turrets were tested in a shoot-off against one another and the F2 came out on top. By that time, the SADF dropped the requirement and focused on the Eland 60 and 90. The Eland 20 made use of the exact same turret as used on the Ratel 20. The 20 mm F2 cannon can fire on single, single-automatic (80 rounds per minute) and automatic (750 rounds per minute). It had the added advantage of being dual fed, which meant that the gunner could switch between HE and AP with the flick of a switch. It also retained the co-axial 7.62 mm machine gun and could also mount an additional 7.62 mm machine gun on its roof. Morocco purchased several vehicles. Ultimately, Morocco purchased several Eland 20 armored cars around 1980-1982.

Interactive Eland 20 with permission from ARMSCor Studios .
Eland ENTAC
During the late 1960s, the SADF conducted a war game simulating an invasion of SWA. One of the shortcomings identified was that the Eland 90 lacked the punch necessary to engage potential enemy MBTs. To overcome this shortcoming, two external rails were added to the Eland turret, each of which could accommodate an ENTAC wire-guided anti-tank missile. The plan never went past the testing phase.

Eland 90TD
With the Eland phasing out of SADF service, Reumech OMC saw an opportunity to further improve the Eland Mk7 with the aim of achieving foreign sales. The Eland 90TD was fitted with a turbocharged, water cooled 4 cylinder diesel engines which produced similar HP to the petrol engine but was much more reliable and much less flammable. It is unclear if any Eland TD variants were ever sold.

Interactive Eland 90 with permission from ARMSCor Studios .

Operational History

The Eland served with distinction in the SADF for nearly three decades, the majority of the time spent during the South African Border War. As predicted, the conflict took the form of cross border insurgency and the Eland was subsequently deployed to the northern part of SWA in 1969 to counter the threat. People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) insurgents then began a campaign of mine warfare to disrupt the South African transportation and logistics network which lasted for two decades. Elands were tasked with escorting convoys and it soon became apparent that they were vulnerable to landmines. This resulted in South Africa’s drive to develop mine-resistant vehicles such as the Buffel Mine Protected Vehicle (MPV) and Casspir Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC), which would take over the patrol and counter-insurgency role. This need for mine-resistant vehicles inadvertently led South Africa to become a world leader in the field out of necessity.

The Eland 90 played a valuable role as a reconnaissance, anti-armor, and fire support platform during the conventional phase (1975 onwards) of the Border War. It was involved in various SADF operations which include Savannah (1975-1976), Reindeer (May 1978), Sceptic (June 1980), Protea (August 1981), and Askari (December 1983). It was during Operation Askari that the limitations of the Eland 90s were reached. The introduction by People’s Armed Forces of Liberation of Angola (FAPLA) of T-54/55 MBTs stretched the Eland 90 crews to their limit, as the MBTs required multiple hits from several armored cars to set them ablaze. The limited number of main gun rounds carried made such engagements problematic and hastened the fatigue of the main gun’s recoil system. Additionally, the Elands 90 could not match the cross country performance of the Ratel 90. A review panel post-Operation Askari noted the advancing age of the Eland 90 among the shortcomings of the operation. The subsequent anti-armor role was passed on to the Ratel 90, which made use of the same turrets as the Eland 90 but who’s height advantage gave it better situational awareness in addition to its better overall performance. The Eland 90 was subsequently withdrawn from front line service in Angola and gradually placed in the role for which it was intended, counter-insurgency. The Eland 60 and 90 were again relegated to escorting convoys, conducting joint patrols, guarding strategic installations, man roadblocks, and conducting search and destroy operations in SWA. The Eland 90 was also used as training vehicles for Ratel 90 crews.

The last major use of the Eland took place at the height of the Border War during Operation Modular (August 1987). On 5 October, Eland 90s supported by infantry equipped with anti-tank weaponry set up an ambush north of Ongiva. The ambush was a success and the SADF forces ambushed and destroyed a FAPLA motorized contingent consisting of BTR-60, BTR-40 APCs, and truck-mounted infantry as they advanced to Ongiva.

Conclusion

With the conclusion of the Border War in 1989 and subsequent peace, defense spending was drastically cut. Having been succeeded by the Rooikat 76, the Elands’ end was on the horizon. The SADF, for a brief period, considered keeping at least one squadron of Elands active, should the need arise for an air-portable armor capability. This was however quickly set aside as the need for deploying forces outside the border was very remote and the continued pressure to reduce the number of older equipment. Subsequently, the new SANDF retired the Eland from service in 1994. This decision would be proven wrong, as the SANDF would deploy across Africa as part of UN peacekeeping missions. The Eland is still in service with various African countries.

Eland 90 Mk7 Specifications

Dimensions (hull) (l-w-h) 4.04 m (13.2 ft)– 2.01 m (6.59 ft)– 2.5 m (8.2 ft)
Total weight, battle-ready 6 Tons
Crew 3
Propulsion Chevrolet 153 2.5 liter, water-cooled four-cylinder inline petrol engine which produces 107 hp @2400 rpm. (17.8 hp/t)
Suspension Fully independent active trailing arms
Top speed road / off-road 90 kph (56 mph) / 30 kph (18.6 mph)
Range road/ off-road 450 km (280 mi) / 240 km (149 mi)
Armament 90 mm GT-2 low recoil rifled gun
1 × 7.62 mm co-axial Browning MG
1 x 7.62 mm in front of commanders hatch
Armor 8 and 12 mm thick providing all-around protection against rifle fire, grenades, and medium artillery velocity fragments

 

Eland 60 Mk7 Specifications

Dimensions (hull) (l-w-h) 4.04 m (13.2 ft)– 2.01 m (6.59 ft)– 1.8 m (5.9 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 5.2 Tons
Crew 3
Propulsion Chevrolet 153 2.5 liter, water-cooled four-cylinder inline petrol engine which produces 107 hp @2400 rpm. (20.6 hp/t)
Suspension Fully independent active trailing arms
Top speed road / off-road 90 kph (56 mph) / 30 kph (18.6 mph)
Range road/ off-road 450 km (280 mi) / 240 km (149 mi)
Armament 60 mm M2 breech-loading gun-mortar
1 × 7.62 mm co-axial Browning MG
1 x 7.62 mm in front of commanders hatch
Armor 8 and 12 mm thick providing all-around protection against rifle fire, grenades, and medium artillery velocity fragments

Eland Videos

Eland 90 Armoured Car

Eland 60 Mobility track

The author would like to give a special thanks to the curator of the South African Armour Museum, Seargent Major Sieg Marais, for his assistance with the Eland research.

SADF Eland 60 Mk7

SADF Eland 90 Mk7, camouflaged, Angola, 1979.

Eland 20 Mk6

Eland 90 of the FAR (Royal Moroccan Armed Forces) dealing with Polisario, 1979.
All Illustrations are by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Bibliography

  • Abbot, P., Heitman, H.R. & Hannon, P. 1991. Modern African Wars (3): South-West Africa. Osprey Publishing.
  • Ansley, L. 2019. Eland 20 armoured car. Facebook correspondence on Pantserbond/Armour Association. 30 Jun. 2019
    Bowden, N. 2019. Cpt SANDF. Eland armoured car. Facebook correspondence on Pantserbond/Armour Association. 12 Jun. 2019
  • Camp, S. & Heitman, H.R. 2014. Surviving the ride: A pictorial history of South African manufactured mine protected vehicles. Pinetown, South Africa: 30° South Publishers
  • Combat and Survival. 1991. On Externals with the Eland. Volume 23. Westport, Connecticut: H.S. Stuttman Inc.
  • Foss, C.F. 2004. Jane’s Armour and Artillery. Volume 25. Macdonald and Jane’s Publishers Ltd.
  • Gardner, D. 2019. Lt (Ret). Eland hull and turret development. Facebook correspondence on Pantserbond/Armour Association. 12 Jun. 2019
  • Heitman, H.R. 1988. Krygstuig van Suid-Afrika. Struik.
  • Marais, S. 2019. Sgt Maj SANDF. Curator SA Armour Museum. Eland armoured car. Telephone correspondence. 14 Jun. 2019.
  • Moukambi, V. 2008. Relations between South Africa and France with special reference to military matters, 1960-1990. Stellenbosch: Stellenbosch University.
  • Oosthuizen, G.J.J. 2004. Regiment Mooirivier and South African transborder operations into Angola during 1975/76 and 1983/4. Historia, 49(1): 135-153.
  • Savides A. 2019. Brig Gen (Ret). Eland hull and turret development. Facebook correspondence on Pantserbond/Armour Association. 12 Jun. 2019
  • Selfe, A. 2019. Eland lights. Facebook correspondence on Pantserbond/Armour Association. 12 Jun. 2019
    Schenk, R. 2019. SSgt (Ret). Eland turret rear tube uses. Facebook correspondence on Pantserbond/Armour Association. 12 Jun. 2019
  • Steenkamp, W. & Heitman, H.R. 2016. Mobility Conquers: The story of 61 mechanised battalion group 1978-2005. West Midlands: Helion & Company Limited
  • Viljoen, C.R. 2019. Cpl (Ret). Eland 60 driver. Interview. 9 Jun. 2019
Categories
Modern South African Prototypes

Tank Technology Demonstrator (TTD)

South Africa (1992) – Main Battle Tank – 1 built

“Tank Technology Demonstrator” The Tank That Could Have Been

Years of technological development in South Africa have culminated in a locally-built prototype Main Battle Tank (MBT) called the ‘Tank Technology Demonstrator’ (TTD). As there was no perceived external threat the TTD served as a test bed for the most modern technologies of the time in the areas of firepower, mobility, and survivability. According to the then Defence Minister Kobie Coetsee (1993-1994), “the tank compares well with overseas systems such as the Leopard 2 and American Abrams“.

TTD on parade with rubber tracks. With permission from SA Army Armour Formation

Development

The South African Defence Force (SADF) identified, in the early 1980s, the need for a completely new generation of indigenous MBT.  This project, code-named “Loggim”, was assigned to the Reumech Olifant Manufacturing Company (OMC), which produced the hull and Lyttleton Engineering Works (LEW), which designed the turret and main gun. Other companies involved in the project were KENTRON (which later became Denel Dynamics), integrators of Systems Technology (iST) (now IST Dynamics), Grinaker Electronics, Eloptro (specializes in optics), Booyco Engineering (air conditioning systems for armored vehicles), M-TEK (specialises in the design, development, control and manufacture of precision electro-mechanical components and sub-systems), Prokura Diesel Services (PDS)(supply or develop powerpacks for armoured vehicles).

With the end of the Border War (1966-1989), defense spending was no longer a priority and funding was cut for the project in the early 1990s. Not wanting the technological advancements and effort to go to waste, the SADF and the Armaments Corporation of South Africa (ARMSCOR) decided to produce one vehicle to showcase the TTD`s potential capability and serve as a development platform. The TTD was completed in 1992.

By 1994, South Africa held its first free democratic elections, subsequently, sanctions were lifted and South Africa was again allowed to purchase and sell arms on the international market. It was argued by the new South African National Defence Force (SANDF) that a modern MBT could just as easily be purchased from an international supplier and at a far more competitive price than it would be to build locally. The TTD served as a culmination of all the technological research and industrial capacity available in South Africa during the early 1990s with subsequent comparisons to be made with other MBTs of the era. At the time of its development, the chief opposing MBT was considered the T-72M with its 125 mm main gun. It could be argued that, if the decision was taken to produce the new MBT, the final variant would have been strikingly similar to the TTD. It was envisaged that 282 of these MBT`s would be built on completion of the project in order to replace the Olifant Mk1A and Mk1B.
With the subsequent cancellation of the MBT project and no acquisition on the table, the TTD was donated to the South African Armour Museum in 1996/7.

TTD mobility demonstration. With permission from SA Army Armour Formation

Design features

The design, development, and production of the TTD were undertaken to showcase what would be possible if an indigenous MBT was produced. The TTD design made it easily possible to optimize the vehicle according to mission requirements, as subsystems could be tailor-made.

Mobility

One of the key design requirements of the TTD was that it had to be able to self-deploy quickly via road over distance if transports weren’t available. The TTD is powered by a twin-turbo intercooled V-8 diesel engine that delivers 1234 hp (920 kW) at 1200 rpm. This translates into a power-to-weight ratio of 21.16 hp/t. The maximum torque that can be produced is 4400 Nm at 1500 rpm, which allows the TTD to accelerate from 0 to 30 km/h (18.6 mph) within 5.1 seconds. It has a top speed of 71 km/h (44 mph) on road and 35 km/h (22 mph) cross country. The engine is cooled by a water-to-air system which involves splitting the air and water to the intake manifold. Additionally, the warm exhaust gasses are mixed with the cooled air to reduce the TTD`s Infrared (IR) signature. Doing so makes the TTD less visible to enemies using IR vision which detects thermal energy. The power pack is equipped with a Management System (MS) which regulates the power output at 100% at ambient temperatures of up to 48o C (118 °F). Higher temperatures require the MS to reduce power output to protect the powerpack, which subsequently aids in increasing its service life.

The engine is driven through an automatic 4F 2R cross drive gearbox with four forward and two reverse gears. The final drives incorporate a planetary gear reduction with an offset configuration which can handle up to 1500 hp (1120 kW) at 1200 rpm. With fuel efficiency in mind, the powerpack would switch from 8 to 4 cylinders when the TTD stood still. The steering allows the TTD to pivot turn and is infinitely variable for large, fixed and tight turns. A turning circle at low speed is 15 m (49 ft) wide and 36 m (118 ft) at high speed.

The suspension consists of a torsion bar with friction rotary dampers and hydraulic bump stops and makes use of live track which produces lower noise and lower transmission vibration which intern provides more stabilized fire while on the move. The live track runs over seven rubber-tired dual road wheels with a front idler, a rear driving sprocket and four return rollers. The TTD`s ground pressure is 0.93 kg/cm2. The TTD can climb a gradient of 60%, a side slope of 30% and can cross a 3.5 m (11.5 ft) trench. Unprepared, the TTD can ford 1.5 m (4.9 ft) of water.  

TTD live firing exercise. With permission from SA Army Armour Formation

The TTD had a minimum of 102 and a maximum of 112 track links, depending on the required track tension. The road wheels are mounted on a torsion bar system with 500 mm (19.7 in) of vertical travel (320 mm up and 180 mm down). The impact energy on the road wheels is absorbed by wear resistant, maintenance free hydraulic variable-resistance friction dampers and hydraulic bump stops. The braking system is integrated into the gearbox and comprises a primary retarder and double disc serve brakes. This allows the TTD to come to a complete halt from 56 km/h (35 mph) in 6.8 seconds. The resulting heat generated by the friction is dispersed through the brakes’ air-cooled system.  In case an emergency engine start is required, a hydraulic start system is incorporated should the electrical one or the starter fail.

Endurance and logistics

Another key design requirement was that the TTD had to be able to operate far away from any workshop support and was to be maintained by reservists. The TTD has a 1600L (422 gals) diesel fuel tank which gives it a road range of 400 km (249 mi) at 50 km/h (31 mph). Cross country range is 300 km (186 mi) at 35 km/h (22 mph). On sand, the range is reduced to 150 km (93 mi). The TTD has a maximum reverse speed of 32 km/h (20 mph). The TTD featured the most modern tactical radio communication equipment of the time, which allowed for reliable command and control, enhancing the tank’s force multiplier effect on the battlefield. The overall interior design assisted in reducing acoustic noise, thereby improving situational awareness and reducing crew fatigue. The TTD is fitted with a 7.62 mm coaxial Browning machine gun which is fed from a 2000 round bin. Additionally, a 7.62 mm General Purpose Machinegun (GPMG) can be fitted to the roof. The tank is equipped with an 80 liter (20 gals) internal drinking water tank for the crew which could be accessed at the loader’s and driver’s stations. A fume extractor fan helps clear the interior crew compartment of excess fumes produced when firing the main gun.

Vehicle layout

The TTD carries a standard complement of four crewmen, consisting of the commander, gunner, loader, and driver. The fighting compartment was designed with ergonomics in mind, which would maximize efficiency and reduce crew fatigue.  The commander’s station is located on the right side of the turret and is equipped with a sunken cupola which offered a 360-degree field of vision through six periscopes. The sunken cupola reduced the overall height of the vehicle as well as the chance that a partial hit could deflect into the crew compartment.  The commander’s station consisted of traditional mechanical sights. It was, however, planned that digital screens be installed at a later point, which would have linked to the gunner’s sight. The commander has at his disposal a CS60N primary stabilized commanders sight offering a 360-degree panoramic detection, recognition and identification view via a periscope in the cupola, which has x3 and x10 magnification options. It features a two-axis, gyro-stabilized mirror head. Additionally, a 3rd generation image intensifier night channel is incorporated, which significantly enhances situational awareness and combat ability in low-light conditions. The MBT variant would have seen a thermal imaging intensifier added.

CS60N commander’s-sight – From Denel marketing poster “Armoured Sighting System – CS60 – Primary Stabilized Commanders Sight”

Just below the commander’s station, on the right side of the turret, is the gunner’s station, which is equipped with day/night capabilities. This station would also have received digital display screens if the final MBT variant was built. Entry and exit for the commander and gunner are through the commander’s hatch. The loader’s station is on the left side of the turret and has a dedicated episcope for better situational awareness. Entry and exit for the loader were through his own dedicated hatch.

The driver’s station features an ergonomic design, with an analog instrument panel and a yoke-type steering stick which improved comfort and reduced driver fatigue. The driver’s station would also have received a digital screen overhaul in the final MBT variant. The driver makes use of three episcopes, allowing better visibility, thereby increasing situational awareness. The central episcope can be replaced with a passive night driving periscope allowing full night capability. The driver can enter and exit his station through a single-piece hatch above their station while an emergency escape hatch is located underneath their seat in the floor.

Main gun

For testing purposes, the TTD is fitted with a standard 105 mm GT3 QF semi-automatic main gun developed by LEW in South Africa. The 51 caliber barrel is rifled and is encased in a thermal shield. A total of 54 main gun rounds are carried, of which 6 are kept in the turret basket, 16 rounds are kept in a rotating carousel and 32 in ammunition racks to the left of the driver. Available main gun rounds consist of Armor Piercing Fin Stabilised Discarding Sabot-Tracer (APFSDS/T) with an effective range of 4000 m, High Explosive Anti Tank (HEAT) and High Explosive Squash Head (HESH) with an effective range of 2000 m and High Explosive Tracer (HE/T) with a range of 4500 m.
The production variant main gun would have been a LEW 120 mm smoothbore barrel or as part of its planned upgrade evolution a 140 mm smoothbore barrel. According to sources, three 120 mm main guns were built. The main gun can depress -10 degrees and elevate 20 degrees. The breech slides horizontally and is semi-automatic. Tests revealed that first-round hit probability of a T-72 sized target at 2 km is greater than 84% while static and 75% while in motion.

LEW 120 mm smooth-bore gun testing for the Tank Technology Demonstrator (Photo credit: Walter Volker)

The gun drive makes use of a 48 V compact brushless DC motor, two pinon azimuth drive and linear extension elevation drive. The azimuth drive can rotate the turret a full 360 degrees in less than 10 seconds with an acceleration of 0.6 rad/s. Elevation speed and acceleration are rated at 0.6 rad/s. Also included is a two-axis primary stabilized GS60 gunner sight with an x3 and x8 magnification. Additionally, a laser range finder with a 200 – 8000 m (218 – 8749 yd) range is integrated together with a 120 element thermal imager which is projected on monitors at both the commander and gunner stations. The gunner also has at his disposal a mechanical telescopic auxiliary backup sight.

GS60 Primary stabilized gunner sight – From Denel marketing poster “Armoured Sighting System – GS60 – Primary Stabilized Gunners Sight”

The main gun ammunition is stored in the turret and floor. The ready rounds are kept on the turret floor and turret bustle via a loading port. Ammunition is provided by a rotating carousel which supplies ammunition to the loader who can load between 6 and 8 rounds a minute.

Fire Control System

The Fire Control System (FCS) makes use of an RS485 serial databus linking all the sub-systems to allow for effective hunter-killer mode, allowing the gunner and commander to hunt for enemy targets independently. Once a target has been identified, the main gun is slaved on to the target by the gunner or by the commander with an override facility.

The fire directing system makes use of a compact 48VDC electro-mechanical gun drive with a fully integrated digital FCS. Reaction time from target acquisition to round on target is less than 9 seconds. The FCS calculates ballistic offsets and improves first-round hit probability by incorporating the TTD`s tilt angle and forward speed, the target moving speed, crosswind, barometric pressure, outside temperature, ammunition temperature, and target distance drop and flight speed. Additionally, the incorporated muzzle reference system allows for more accurate calibration purposes. The FCS computes a ballistic calculation in 0.01 mrad and has a cycle time of 5 ms.

Protection

The TTD`s passive armor comprises of multiple layers of spaced armor with the effective thickness of the frontal glacis being 750 mm. The turret thickness and composition are classified. Both the frontal hull and turret are said to protect against 125 mm APFSDS and HEAT rounds. The crew and critical subsystems are protected against 23 mm Armour Piercing (AP) round attacks from the flanks and rear. Top armor is rated against 155 mm air-burst rounds. The bottom hull is rated against anti-tank mine blasts under a track. Additional reactive armor packages were to be added to the turret and hull to counter anti-tank missiles.

The TTD`s onboard fire explosion suppression system is automatically activated by optical detectors which are fitted in the turret and driver’s compartment. Should an explosion occur in the turret bustle magazine, blow off panels allow the explosive energy to be directed outwards, thereby reducing the risk to the crew. The crew compartment is also isolated from the bustle, thereby maximizing survivability in case of a hit on the bustle.
The engine compartment has its own dedicated fire extinguishing system which activates automatically when a fire is detected. The system can also be activated manually. The fuel tank is filled with “Explosafe” which prevents the formation of destructive pressure after the ignition of vapors or gases.

The TTD has Biological and Chemical (BC) protection via seals and overpressure system at 600 Pa in addition to an air filtration system. The interior ergonomics allow for individual crew Biological-Chemical protection as well. Crew comfort in warm weather conditions is assured through an interior cooling system which consists of a 12 kW macro and 5 kW micro cooling which enhances crew durability.
The interior of the TTD is fully lined with an anti-spalling layer to reduce the chance of ricocheting shrapnel. The integrated cooling measure significantly reduces the TTD`s exterior IR signature. On either side of the turret, behind a sheet of armor, is a bank of four 81 mm smoke grenade launchers. The TTD is fitted with an exhaust smoke generating system.

TTD front-top-down view, notice the position of the smoke grenade launchers. With permission from SA Army Armour Formation

Conclusion

Lt Col. Coenraad Klopper of the SA Army Armour Formation, R&D summarises the TTD as follow:

“TTD consisted out of a well-advanced suspension, tracks and drive lines that were very much based on the Leopard 2 suspension. The gun drive system and to a smaller extent the power pack did have certain shortcomings. The power pack was MTU ship generator engine which generates 1234hp (920Kw) at 1200 rpm. This engine was upgraded and modified intensively to limitations to deliver optimal output for this specific application, which causes a risk in the long run. The transmission will be obsolete in the modern environment of MBTs. The turret did experience certain shortcomings with a sub-standard stabilizing system, with a 1.2 mills standard deviation. The acceptable standard deviation specification is 0.4 mills or better. The fire control system is inferior to the current world trend and not completely developed to its full potential. It can be believed that the TTD was much superior regarding his suspension, drive lines and power pack; however, the gun drive and fire control system did not meet specifications and expectations. I am of the opinion that TTD can still be a factor on the modern battlefield with the upgrade of its fire control system and gun drive system.”

The TTD embodied the most sophisticated technologies, technical expertise, and manufacturing capabilities available to South Africa in the mid-1990s. MBTs are very expensive to operate, maintain and even more so to deploy. They serve as a deterrent against aggression and are often only deployed during times of war which makes the justification to fund them very difficult to the general public. With the cancellation of the “Loggim” project and no orders placed for a new MBT by the SANDF, the TTD was donated to the SA Armour Museum where it is on display. In 1998, the South African government announced that no new MBT was to be funded in the foreseeable future, as the Air Force and Navy required a complete overhaul. This announcement sparked some heated concerns from South Africa’s neighbors. It could be argued that, if the envisaged 282 new MBTs were ordered domestically, their strategic influence on Southern Africa would have been significant and could very well have sparked a regional arms race. Between 2000 and 2005 South Africa upgraded 26 of its Olifant Mk1B to Mk2 standard which makes extensive use of various TTD subsystems.

TTD Specifications

Dimensions (hull) (l-w-h): 7.78 m (25.5ft) x 3.62 m (11.9ft) x 2.99 m (9.8ft)
Total weight, battle ready 58.3 Tons
Crew 4
Propulsion Twin-turbo intercooled V-8 diesel engine which produces 1234 hp (920Kw) @ 1200 rpm. (21.16 hp/t).
Suspension Torsion bar with hydraulic dampers
Top speed road / off-road 71 kph (44 mph) / 35 kph (22 mph)
Range road/ off-road 400 km (249 mi) / 300km (186 mi)
Armament 105 mm GT3 QF semi-automatic main gun for the testing version
120 mm GT6 QF semi-automatic smooth-bore main gun for production variant upgradable to 140 mm QF semi-automatic smooth-bore main gun
1 x 7.62 coaxial Browning machine gun
Armor The effective thickness of the frontal glacis is 750 mm.
Turret thickness and composition classified. Multiple layers of spaced armor to protect against 125 mm APFSDS and HEAT rounds.
Additional reactive armor packages can be added to the turret and hull to counter anti-tank missiles.
Total Production (Hulls) 1

Tank Technology Demonstrator Video

The author would like to thank the team at DENEL VEHICLE SYSTEMS: OMC for digitizing the TTD videos and allowing Tank Encyclopedia to feature them in the article.

 Bibliography

DEFENCEWEB. 2009. SANDF projects: past, present & future. https://www.defenceweb.co.za/sa-defence/sa-defence-sa-defence/sandf-projects-past-present-future/  Date of access: 20 Jan. 2019

DENEL. Date unknown. Armoured Sighting System: CS60 – Primary Stabilized Gunner Sight. https://sturgeonshouse.ipbhost.com/topic/652-general-afv-thread/page/90/Date of access: 20 Feb. 2019

DENEL. Date unknown. Gunner Armoured Sighting System: GS60 – Primary Stabilized Gunner Sight. https://sturgeonshouse.ipbhost.com/topic/652-general-afv-thread/page/90/Date of access: 20 Feb. 2019

Citizen Reporter. 1993/4. The Citizen: SA tank ‘compares with the best in the world’. Date of publication: unknown.

Harmse, K. 2019. South African tank gun designations. Facebook correspondence. 6 Mar. 2019
Klopper, C. 2019. SO1 R&D SA Army Armour Formation. Email correspondence. 20 Feb. 2019

Malan, D. 2019. ARMSCOR. Email correspondence. 20 Feb. 2019

Reumech-OMC. Date unknown. TTD technical specification brochure.https://sturgeonshouse.ipbhost.com/profile/1197-stimpy75/content/page/6/?type=forums_topic_post Date of access: 12 Sep. 2018

Savides A. 2019. Brig Gen (Ret) – TTD company acronyms. Facebook correspondence. 5 Mar. 2019

Volker, W. 1994. PARATUS: LEW smooth-bore gun for the Tank Technology Demonstrator. Feb, page 67.

TTD MBT

Tank Technology Demonstrator Illustration by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

 

Categories
South African Artillery Vehicles

Bateleur FV2

 South Africa (1989)
Multiple Rocket Launcher – 25 built

“Bateleur” The African Bird of Prey

The Bateleur FV2 takes its name from a mid-sized eagle native to the open savannah and woodlands of Sub-Saharan Africa. The Multiple Rocket Launcher (MRL) is aptly named as it was built to operate in the same environment. The Bateleur is a true African born MRL, adapted for the African battle space and the lessons learned from the South African Border War (1966-1989). As with many indigenous South African military vehicles, the Bateleur was designed and produced when South Africa was under strict international embargo because of its racial segregation policies, known as the “apartheid”. The Bateleur was planned at the height of the Cold War by the South Africa Defence Force (SADF) in 1983 to replace its smaller predecessor the Visarend (Fisheagle) FV1. The Bateleurs role was to provide the SADF with first strike capabilities in support of its artillery philosophy as set out in 1974. 

Bateleur FV2 with launcher in firing position at the African Aerospace and Defence 2018 – (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Development

The development of a South African MRL was already underway in 1974 under Project Furrow at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) which led to the Visarend. The Visarend was based on captured Soviet BM-21 Grad MRLS. The BM-21 could fire its 122 mm rockets at 20 km which was further than most South African artillery systems at the time. The BM-21 could saturate a football field sized area with HE rockets within seconds whereas an entire artillery battery (8 guns) would be needed to achieve the same effect in the same time frame. The South African Border War shifted from an insurgency to a conventional war with Operation Savannah in 1975. The conflict steadily escalated as newer Soviet equipment found its way to Angola. The Visarend was not robust enough for the demands placed on it by the rough terrain and a more suitable vehicle was required. What was needed was a vehicle with improved mobility and protection, increased payload which would lead to a more effective weapons system based on the technology available.
Work on the Bateleur (initially called the Visarend FV2) began in the mid-1980s and ended in 1986. SOMCHEM was responsible for the Bateleurs development and DENEL (South African armaments development and manufacturing company) and ARMSCOR (Armaments Corporation of South Africa) CSIR provided technical assistance as needed. The first vehicles were ready to be fielded just as the war came to close in 1989.
The Bateleur is only in service with the South Africa National Defence Force (SANDF). According to a 2013 article by Defence Web, four of the 25 Bateleurs produced are in storage.

Visarend (Fisheagle), the predecessor of the Bateleur at the School of Artillery near Potchefstroom – (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Design features

The design, development, and production of the Bateleur were undertaken to improve on the shortcomings of the Visarend which included poor protection and lack of mobility over rough terrain. The Bateleur is a three-axle, 6 x 6 all-wheel drive, 40 tube MRL, based on the robust South African Military (SAMIL) Kwêvoël 100 Withings mine protected chassis which itself was a proven system. The chassis is V-shaped to deflect mine blasts under the hull, away from the crew cabin. The primary purpose of the Bateleur is to destroy High-Value Targets (HVT) and High Impact Targets (HIT), which include counter-battery strikes against enemy artillery and air defense emplacements.

Bateleur with launcher in traveling position at the School of Artillery near Potchefstroom – (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Mobility

The southern African battle space favors a wheeled configuration, due to low force density and large distances that need to be traveled. The Bateleur is a six-wheel configuration offered more reliability and required less maintenance than a tracked vehicle. The Bateleur makes use of a ZF 56-65 synchromesh gearbox with a gear selection range of eight forward and one reverse. The engine is a type FIOL 413 V10 air-cooled 4-stroke Deutz diesel with direct injection which produces 268 hp at 2650 rpm. This provides a 12.5 hp/t power to weight ratio which is more than adequate for its role as an MRL operating behind forward elements.
The Bateleur can achieve a maximum road speed of 90 km/h (56 mph), and 30 km/h (18.6 mph) off-road. It can ford 1.2 m of water without preparation and can cross a 0.5 m ditch at a crawl. The driver’s task is made easier by a power steering system while acceleration and braking are done via foot pedals. The vehicle makes use of a WITHINGS suspension and has 355 mm of ground clearance.

Endurance and logistics

To facilitate strategic mobility the Bateleur has two 200 liters (52.8 US gallons) diesel fuel tank which gives it an effective range of 1000 km (621 mi) on road, 500 km (310 mi) cross country and 250 km (155 mi) over sand. It is also fitted with a 200 liter (52.8 US gallons) water tank underneath the crew compartment. The crew can access the water via a tap located above the front left wheel. The rear launcher carries 40 x 127 mm rockets in launch tubes. Rockets are supplied by a SAMIL Kwêvoël 100 ammunition truck carrying 96 rockets and personnel who assist with the reloading process.

SAMIL Kwêvoël 100 ammunition truck- (Photo: Alex Connolly on Twitter)

Vehicle layout

The Bateleur can be divided into two parts, namely the vehicle which consists of the chassis, crew cabin and engine and secondly the weapon system which includes the mounting, cradle and tube pack which includes the sighting and laying system stabilisers. The engine is located at the front of the vehicle with the raised crew cabin behind it the length of which is built on a V-shaped hull. The engine features a trapezoidal ventilation grid at the front of the hood and beneath it is a forward facing V-shaped bumper to assist in bundu bashing (driving through dense vegetation).  The crew cabin is rectangular in shape with two forward facing rectangular windows. On either side of the cabin are two armored entry and exit doors with a rectangular bullet resistant window. The roof is armored and protects against medium artillery fragments. This setup provides all-round protection against small arms fire and the V-shaped hull protects the crew from mine blast underneath the hull.  Access to either side of crew cabin doors is via chain ladder. At the rear of the vehicle, hydraulically operated stabilizer legs are deployed when the launcher is to be fired.
The driver station (Bombardier/ Lance Bombardier) is located on the forward right side of the cabin with the crew commander (Sergeant) seated on the forward left. Behind them are three seats with the Layer (Lance Bombardier) seated behind the driver, 2IC  (Bombardier) in the center and ammunition loader and gunner (Lance Bombardier) on the left.
The vehicle commander is responsible for communication via the AS2000 command system. The driver station has a range of mobility options depending on terrain type from a panel to his front left. When not driving he assists with the reloading of rockets. The Layer is responsible for laying and orientating the launcher, while the Bombardier mans the roof Light Machine Gun (LMG) while in the crew cabin.

Interior view of the Bateleur crew cabin at the African Aerospace and Defence 2018 – (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Main armament

The launcher carries 40 x 127 mm rockets in two packs of 5 x 4 launcher tubes. Rockets are fired in 0.5-second intervals with a full rocket salvo lasting 20 seconds. The launcher is electro-hydraulically operated via a joystick and can elevate to a maximum of 50° and traverse 90° left and 19° right dependant on the elevation. At sea level, the minimum range of the standard 127 mm rockets is 7.5 km with a large drag ring and maximum range of 22,5 km with no drag ring. Experimental long range 127 mm rockets have been tested which have a firing range of 37 km. A standard HE-Frag rocket is 2.95 m long, weighs 62 kg and contains 8500 x 5.5 mm steel balls cast in a resin sleeve filled with an RDX/TNT mix which can be set to detonate either on direct contact or proximity fuse depending on the tactical requirements and nature of the target. Six Bateleurs firing 10 rockets each will hit a targeted area of 350 m x 250 m and deliver 516,000 high-velocity steel balls (5.9 balls per square meter) in the space of five seconds. Such devastation would be lethal to all unarmored targets. 
The launcher is integrated into the locally developed SAA Artillery Target Engagement System (ATES) which address tactical, terminal and technical fire control as well as individual launcher control through the appropriate hard and software with integrated digital communication. The selection of rockets, sequence, and arming of the rockets to be fired is selected from a panel located on the dashboard.
At the rear of the vehicle behind the launcher and chassis is a platform that can slide out which provides an elevated position to handle and load the rockets from. Loading the launcher simply requires the sliding of a rocket in each of the 40 tubes. It takes between 15 and 20 minutes to reload the launcher. A well-trained crew could be in and out of action in three minutes. For close-up protection, the vehicle can be equipped with a 7.62 mm (LMG) which can be mounted on the roof of the crew cabin.

127 mm rocket No drag ring Small drag ring Medium drag ring Large drag ring
Standard 12-22.5 km 9-15 km 8-11.5 km 7-9.5 km
Extended range  37 km Unknown Unknown Unknown

Note: All firing ranges are at sea level.

Bateleur FV2 in traveling configuration.

Bateleur FV2  in load configuration.

Both Illustrations are by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.


A 127 mm rocket and drag rings (left) on display at the African Aerospace and Defence 2018 – (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Fire Control System

After a target(s) has been acquired by the appropriate target acquisition resource, and analyzed the decision to engage is taken at the applicable artillery tactical headquarters (HQ). Orders are given for the launcher(s) to move to a loading area where it is loaded while the firing position is reconnoitered and prepared. The launcher(s) moves to the firing position where they are accurately orientated on a selected bearing which is typically the center of the target area. The ATES computer in the Fire Control Post (FCP) determines the bearing and range to the target and then computes the ballistic corrections required to compensate for the existing non-standard conditions. The firing data is transmitted to the launcher(s) in the form of Fire Orders (FO) which detail the bearing and elevation at which the pack is to be layed as well as the drag ring confirmation, the number of rounds and the time on target. After firing the launcher(s) vacate the firing position (shoot and scoot) due to the danger of being spotted by the enemy due to the characteristic launch signature of any MRL system.
 

Bateleur FV2 with the launcher in firing position with hydraulically operated stabilizer legs deployed at the African Aerospace and Defence 2018 (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Protection

The crew cabin is protected all round from 7.62 mm fire and the roof is rated against medium fragmentation. The V-shaped hull has been tested and proven against three TM-57 landmines or the equivalent of 21 kg of TNT under the crew cabin.

Conclusion

The Bateleur fulfills a niche role in the SANDF as a medium MRL. Built according to the same fundamental principles as other wheeled South African military vehicles which places emphasis on long-range fire, speed, mobility, flexibility, and simple logistics. Although never used in anger, the devastating firepower of an MRL was proven by its smaller predecessor the Visarend when a single battery (eight) consisting of two troops (4 each) destroyed an entire FAPLA battalion during the Second Congress offensive from Cuito Cuanavale to Mavingo in 1985 with a single salvo each (24 rockets) while they were crossing a river. The success of the Valkyrie served as a further catalyst for the accelerated development of the Bateleur.

Bateleur FV2 Specifications

Dimensions (hull) (l-w-h): 8.53 m (27.98 ft)– 2.45 m (8 ft)– 3.13 m (10.26 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 12.5 tons
Crew 5 (Crew Cdr (No 1) Sgt, 2IC Bdr, Layer (No3) LBdr, Ammo Number Gnr, Dvr Bdr/LBdr).
Propulsion Type FIOL  413 V10 air-cooled 4-stroke Deutz diesel with direct injection which produces 268 hp at 2650 rpm (12.5 hp/t)
Suspension Withings suspension
Top speed road / off-road 90 km/h (56 mph)  / 30 km/h (18.6 mph)
Range road/ off-road >1000 km (621 mi) / 500 km (310 mi) / 250 km ( 155 mi)
Main armament
Secondary armament
40 x 127 mm rockets (two rocket packs of 4 x 5 configuration)
1 × 7.62mm roof mounted Browning MG
Armour Small arms 7.62 mm
Medium artillery fragments
Three x TM-57 landmine or equivalent of 21 kg of TNT under the crew cabin
Total Production (Hulls) 25

Bateleur FV2 Videos

South African Bateleur

Promotional video

Bateleur firing at Artillery School open day 2018

Sources

Camp, S. & Heitman, H.R. 2014. Surviving the ride: A pictorial history of South African manufactured mine protected vehicles. Pinetown, South Africa: 30° South Publishers.
De Jager, A. 2018. Bateleur FV2. Date 11 Nov 2018. Facebook correspondence.
De Villiers, D, J. 2018. Col (Retd) SM MMM, SSO R& D SA Army Artillery Fmn & MG Nam. Bateleur. 3 Dec 2018. E-mail correspondence.
defenceWeb. 2013. South African National Defence Force. Available at https://www.defenceweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=29273:south-africa&catid=119:african-militaries&Itemid=255 Date of access: 30 Nov 2018.
Heyneke, D. 2018. Bateleur FV2 project team member and instructor on the Visarend. 16 Nov 2018. Facebook correspondence.
Samil 100 Kwêvoël Mk II armored truck personal carrier South Africa Army technical data sheet
www.armyrecognition.com
SANDF personnel. 2017. Bateleur FV2 [personal interview and vehicle inspection]. 25 Apr. School of Artillery Klipdrift Military Base, Potchefstroom.
SANDF personnel. 2018. Bateleur FV2 [personal interview and vehicle inspection]. 21 Sep. African Aerospace and Defence 2018, Waterkloof Air Force Base, Pretoria.

Categories
South African Tanks

Olifant Mk2 Main Battle Tank

 

 South Africa (2005)
Main Battle Tank – 26 built

“Olifant” The African Elephant Mk2

The Olifant Mk2 takes its Afrikaans name from the African Elephant. The Elephant is the largest land animal and, conversely, the Olifant Main Battle Tank (MBT) is aptly named as it is the heaviest military vehicle in service with the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). The Olifant Mk2 was adapted for the African battlespace based on the lessons learned from the South African Border War (1966-1989). It was designed and produced at a time when South Africa was no longer subject to international embargoes. Set against the backdrop of a relatively stable Southern Africa, the need for large numbers of new MBTs was put aside in favour of agiler and air transportable vehicles for peacekeeping missions in Africa under the umbrella of the United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU).

Olifant Mk2 – African Aerospace and Defence 2016, Waterkloof Air Force Base (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Development

The official planned replacement of the Olifant Mk1A was evaluated in the 1990s. Possible contenders were the French Tropicalised AMX-56 Leclerc (developed for Saudi Arabia) and the British Vickers Defence Systems Challenger 2E. Initial SANDF requirements asked for 96 new MBTs, six armored recovery vehicles and four armored vehicle-launched bridges on a similar chassis. However, in 1998, the South African government announced that no new MBT was to be funded in the foreseeable future, as the Air Force and Navy required a complete overhaul. Originally an entire new hull would have been build but due to a lack of funds the only solution available to the SANDF was to upgrade the existing Mk1Bs which were on hand to the desired specifications sought by the South African Armoured Corps. The Olifant Manufacturing Company (OMC) was tasked with improving on the shortcomings of the Mk1B with the Mk2.
Externally, the Mk2 looks identical to the original Mk1B but features an upgraded Continental 29 Litre turbo-charged V12 diesel engine that produces 1040 hp. The only prominent identification feature is the box-shaped commander’s sight. Additional improvements included an upgraded Fire Control System (FCS) and Computerised Battle System (CBS) which gave the Mk2 a fire-on-the-move, all-weather, day or night fighting capability. Furthermore, the Mk2 features the much sought after hunter-killer mode which enables the commander and gunner to hunt for enemy targets independently, thereby maximising the chance of achieving the first hit probability as well as better target tracking and management. This makes the Mk2 superior to any other MBT currently in Southern Africa. 
A total of 26 Mk2 were built from 2005. The Mk2 is in service only with the SANDF, which is using four for training at the School of Armour at Tempe while the remaining 22 are in storage.

Olifant Mk2 – African Aerospace and Defence 2014, Waterkloof Air Force Base  (Photo: Johannes Botha)

Design features

The design, development and production of the Mk2 were undertaken to correct the shortcomings of the Mk1B. It was particularly feared that T-72M MBTs would be acquired by some of its neighbours, which would require a much more lethal South African MBT.

Mobility

Although the African battle space favours a wheeled configuration, the Mk2 would retain its predecessor’s role as an MBT. The Mk2 can ford 1.5 m of water without preparation. With regards to the mobility, the Mk2 kept the Continental 29 Litre turbocharged V12 diesel engine of the Mk1B, but improvements to the engine raised the overall performance to 1040 hp, with an increase of the power-to-weight ratio from 14.4 hp/t in the Mk1B to 17.19 hp/t in the Mk2. This is a significant improvement considering that the Mk2 only weighs 1.5t more than the Mk1B. 
The Mk2 retained the Mk1B’s automatic transmission (AMTRA 3) which was manufactured by Gear Ratio and provided double-differential steering (four forward gears and two reverse), two-speed mechanical steering drive and hydraulic retarder. The additional 190hp, coupled with the automatic transmission, allowed the Mk2 the same top speed of 58 km/h (36mp/h) on road as the Mk1B, albeit accelerating 25% quicker than the Mk1B. The Mk2 also retains the Mk1B’s torsion bar suspension system with hydraulic dampers and bump stops fitted to the first and last pair of road wheels which dramatically improved off-road mobility. The overall result is a less taxing driving experience, especially over rough terrain. The steering of the Mk2 also remained the same as the Mk1B, which is done via a yoke. 

Endurance and logistics

The fuel capacity was reduced from 1382L (328 gal) in the Mk1B to 1285L (339 gal) in the Mk2. The reduction in fuel capacity had little impact on the overall range the Mk2 could travel and remained the same as the Mk1B, namely 360 km (224 mi) on-road and 260 km (162 mi) off-road. Having retained the same engine as the Mk1B, no further changes were made to the size of the engine compartment. The road wheels retained the polyurethane surface, which has an operational range of 1200 km. The Mk2 also retained the same number of track links (109). The grease nipples on the road wheels were reduced from 108 in the Olifant Mk1A to 12 in the Mk2, which significantly reduced crew fatigue. 
The Mk2 is equipped with one 7.62 mm coaxial machine-gun which has a 2000 round ready bin with 6600 rounds of 7.62 mm being carried. The Mk2 features tactical radio communication, allowing for reliable command and control and enhancing the tank’s force multiplier effect on the battlefield. Improvements were made to reduce acoustic noise, thereby improving situational awareness and reducing crew fatigue. 
Based on the lessons learnt during the South African Border War with the Mk1A, the Mk2 is equipped with two drinking water tanks (one left and one right) inside the turret with a combined capacity of 101 litres. The water can be accessed from the commander’s and loader’s stations and reduces the necessity to leave the tank and continue water replenishment from the echelon.  The addition of a fume extractor fan helped clear the interior crew compartment of excess fumes.

Vehicle layout

The Mk2 carries a standard complement of four crew, consisting of the commander, gunner, loader and driver. Further changes were made to the interior layout to enhance the ergonomics of the fighting compartment to maximise efficiency and reduce crew fatigue.  
The commander’s station is located on the right side of the turret and is equipped with a more modern cupola, offering a 360-degree field of vision. The commander’s station also features a digital screen which is linked to the gunner’s sight. The commander received a Commander’s Observation Platform (COP) which is fully stabilised and equipped with thermal imaging which significantly enhances situational awareness and combat ability. The COP located on the turret roof is the most prominent feature distinguishing the Mk2 from the Mk1B. It should be noted that the COP is removed when not in operational use.
On the right side of the turret, below the commander’s station, is the gunner’s station which is equipped with day/night capabilities that are displayed on a digital display screen. The loader also sports an episcope for better situational awareness. Entry and exit for the former and latter are through the commander’s hatch and, in case of emergency, the loader can escape through a hatch above his station.
The driver’s station retained the ergonomic overhaul, digital instrument panel and a yoke-type steering stick from the Mk1B which improved comfort and reduced driver fatigue. Driver visibility consists three episcopes, allowing better visibility, thereby increasing situational awareness. The central episcope can be replaced with a passive night driving periscope allowing full night capability. The driver can enter and exit his station through a single-piece hatch above their station while an emergency escape hatch is located under his seat in the floor.

Main gun

The Mk2 retained the South African produced 105 mm GT3B rifled gun barrel manufactured by Lyttleton Engineering Works (LEW). A standard thermal sleeve and fume extractor helps sustain accurate fire and reduces barrel droop due to heat by as much as 70%-90%. The Mk2 is issued with four types of main gun rounds. The High Explosive Squash Head (HESH) (effective against soft and lightly armoured targets) and White Phosphorus round (used to mark targets and making a smoke screen to mask movement ) has a muzzle velocity of 730 m/s and an effective range of 7.5 km (4.6 mi). The M9210 High Explosive (HE) round (used against infantry and soft targets) has a muzzle velocity of 700 m/s and an effective range of 7.5 km (4.6 mi).  The M9718 Armour-Piercing Fin-Stabilised Discarding Sabot (APFSDS) rounds travel at 1455 m/s (4774 ft/s) with a maximum effective range of 3 km (1.86 mi) can penetrate 580 mm (22 in) of Rolled Homogenous Armour (RHA) at 10 m (3 ft) range and 450mm (17 in) RHA at 3 km (1.86 mi).
The fighting compartment saw safety improvements with a total of 64 main gun rounds carried, some in protected stowage bins below the turret ring, while a number is kept in ready bins for immediate use. The extended bustle (compared to the Olifant Mk1A) not only allowed for more room for crew equipment but also helped balance the overall turret weight distribution. This, in turn, puts far less strain on the new solid state electrical gun control system and turret drive which could traverse the turret a full 360 degrees in 16 seconds.

Fire Control System

The Mk2 features a completely integrated FCS. The FCS allows to gunner or commander to target an enemy which engages the auto-tracking feature to keep the main gun on target while the tank is moving. The gunner makes use of a digital display screen to select a target and which displays the results of the integrated ballistic computer. The laser rangefinder is integrated into the system and is accurate to up to 10 km. Data from the rangefinder was by design fed into an integrated ballistic computer, which applied elevation to the main gun. Tests revealed that the system was accurate within 30 mm x 30mm at 2 km which was perfect for the South African Lowveld (open stretches of grass plains).
An additional feature that makes the Mk2 so lethal is its hunter-killer capability. This allows the commander and gunner to independently scan for targets thereby maximizing the chance of spotting and engaging an enemy first. The commander can override the gunner’s aim with the flip of a switch to put the main cannon on target.  A well-trained crew could lase a target, load the main gun round and fire every 8 seconds.

Protection

The Mk2 retained the Mk1A armor, which consisted of 118 mm (4.64in) on the frontal glacis at 60 degrees, 152 mm frontal turret (6in), 51mm (2in) on the sides, 40 mm (1.57in) on top and 19 mm (0.7in) in the rear. An armor upgrade program took the form of several passive composite armor packages, one over the frontal glacis plate and several on the turret (front, sides and top). A gap was left in-between the original Centurion turret and the added armor package to act as spaced armor. The total thickness and composition of these armor packages are classified. However, given the threat level posed, it would be reasonable to argue that they would be sufficient to stop a 115 mm HEAT rounds used by the T-62 tanks. 
The entire hull can shrug off the feared 23 mm armour piercing (AP) rounds. The threat posed to the Olifant Mk1A by Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG-7) is negated with the mentioned upgrades to the Mk2 armor. Additionally, the armored steel skirts of the Mk1A were redesigned for the Mk2 to protect the running gear from incoming missiles by prematurely detonating incoming HEAT rounds.  The constant threat of landmines in Southern Africa necessitated the addition of a double armored floor (with the torsion bars between the floor plates). A new fire suppression system (automatic and/or manual) was installed in the crew and engine compartment to reduce the likelihood of a catastrophic fire or explosion if hit.
The Mk2 has two banks of four smoke grenade launchers fitted to the rear of the turret, which lessens the possibility of damage when “bundu bashing”. Additionally, the Mk2 can also generate a smoke screen by injecting fuel into the engine exhaust. The hull headlamps are armored, and a V-shape bush basher bar can be added to the nose of the hull.

Olifant Mk2 – AAD 2018, Air Force Base Waterkloof (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Conclusion

The Mk2 addresses the shortcomings originally found in the Mk1B to make the tank fightable by incorporating the hunter-killer capability. Furthermore, a more powerful engine improves the tank’s overall performance. The Mk2 is a leap forward in protection, mobility and firepower and is currently the pinnacle of tank technology in Southern Africa. The role of MBT’s is essentially to act as a deterrent to outside aggressors. MBT’s are prohibitively expensive to operate and maintain, are often only deployed during times of war which makes the justification to fund them very difficult to the general public. The South African defence industries ingenuity has stretched the life expectancy of the Olifant MBT impressively. It should, however, be noted that the fleet needs to be replaced as the hulls are essentially nearing 50 years.  

Olifant Mk2 Specifications

Dimensions (hull) (l-w-h): 8.30 m (26.3 ft.)– 3.43 m (10.8 ft.)– 3.04 m (9.64 ft.)
Total weight, battle ready 60.5 Tons
Crew 4
Propulsion Continental 29 litre turbo-charged air-cooled V12 diesel engine produces 1040 hp @2400rpm. (17.19 hp/t)
Suspension Torsion bar with hydraulic dampers
Top speed road / off-road 58 kph (36 mph) / 30 kph (18.6 mph)
Range road/ off-road >350km (217 miles) / 240km (149 miles)
Main armament
Secondary armament
105mm GT3B semi-automatic quick firing gun (L7)
1 × 7.62mm co-axial Browning MG
Armour 118mm (4.64in.) glacis @ 60 degrees + add-on armour package
152mm (6in.) turret + add-on ceramic armour package
51mm (2in.) sides
40mm (1.57in.) top
31mm (1.22in.) rear
Total Production (Hulls) 26

Olifant Videos

Olifant Mk2 Mobility Track

Bibliography

Carroll, S. 2017. Olifant Mk2. Date 2-4 Oct. SA Armour Museum, Bloemfontein.
DEFENCEWEB. 2011. R96.8m for Olifant, Rooikat ammo. 
Erasmus, R. 2017. Olifant Mk2. Date 2-4 Oct. SA Armour Museum, Bloemfontein.
VEG Magazine. 2005. The development of the Olifant Mk1B & Mk2. Issue 8. Victor Logistics.
Voortrekker Monument Military Festival. 2018. SANDF information display: Olifant Mk2 Main Battle Tank.

Olifant Mk2  Illustration by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

 

Categories
South African Wheeled Vehicles

Badger

South Africa (2018)
Infantry Combat Vehicle – 22 Built (244 to be built)

“Badger” – The Modern African Bushfighter

South Africa has a long tradition of designing highly mobile wheeled armored vehicles such as the CasspirRatel, Rhino and Rooikat. The terrain and climate in the region, as well as the strategic defence needs of South Africa, require a highly mobile Infantry Fighting Vehicle (ICV) able to travel large distances and fulfil a wide variety of roles. The Badger ICV adopts its name from its predecessor, the “Ratel”. This animal, despite its small size, is a fierce creature which can sustain a large amount of physical damage as well as inflict it with its long claws. The Badger is therefore well named as its modern armament, enhanced protection, and vastly improved mobility over its predecessor the Ratel make it a formidable opponent. It is designed and produced at a time when South Africa, as a fully-fledged democracy, is undertaking more peacekeeping responsibilities on the African continent. While its neighbours still rely heavily on Soviet-designed equipment, South Africa chose to continue its tradition of self-reliance by making use of more than 70% local content for the Badger.

Section variant – With permission Andre Smith 

Development

With the venerable Ratel ICV passing 40 years of service in 2016, the need for a more modern ICV is seen as paramount. Having formed the backbone of South African mechanised battalions for 13 years during the South African Border War (1968-1989) and continuing to serve until the present day, the Ratel is starting to show its age. Shortages of dedicated parts make logistics very difficult, resulting in cannibalization of surplus vehicles.
The need for a modern ICV was already laid down in 1995 with the writing up of the required operational capability by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). This was subsequently approved and followed by the staff target and staff requirement, which consists of a functional user requirement and logistical user requirement. In essence, a wish list of capabilities. The Armaments Corporation of South Africa SOC Ltd (ARMSCOR) was tasked with translating these requirements into technical engineering terms. During the following three years, the SANDF decided to prioritise the modernisation of its Navy (4 Valour class frigates and 3 x 209 Class diesel submarines) and Air Force (26 Gripen C/D and 24 Hawk 120). Subsequently, the Army had to make do with what it had for at least another ten years.
By early 2005, eight South African and four international defence contractors were asked to submit proposals and budgets for a new ICV under the code name “Project Hoefyster (Horseshoe)”. Only one bid was received from a consortium which consisted of the Finnish Patria and its part-owner, EADS (European Aeronautic, Defence and Space Company), Denel, OMC (Olifant Manufacturing Company) and Land Mobility Technologies (LMT). The proposed vehicle was the Patria’s 8×8 Armored Modular Vehicle (AMV), which would be redesigned for southern African battle space by LMT. OMC would manufacture the hulls and Denel the turrets and main armaments. The approved budget for the project was around US$780 million.
In May 2007, Denel Land Systems (DLS) was contracted to do the internal fits and supply one prototype of each of the envisaged five variants using the Patria hulls that arrived in South Africa. Each was evaluated and accepted by the SANDF which led to 22 pre-production vehicles being built by Patria in Finland. During late 2010, the SANDF awarded DLS a further contract to develop Badger ICV products. The then Minister of Defence approved “Project Hoefyster” in 2013 after the initial development phase was complete. The original order called for 264 vehicles but was later reduced to 238. The final number of vehicles to be delivered now rests on 244 ICV`s after increasing advance payments to the industry. The final 244 ICV`s will consist of 97 Section, 14 Fire support, 41 Mortar, 70 Command, 14 Missile, and 8 Ambulance vehicles. According to Denel, the first battalion of 88 vehicles will be completed in 2019. The entire production order is set to be complete by 2022.
The vehicles will be primarily used by 1 South African Infantry Battalion (SAI) based in Bloemfontein and 8 SAI situated in Upington. Some variants will be allocated for utilisation by Brigade Headquarters while a small number will be assigned to Signal and Artillery Formations. The Badger combines a good mix of firepower, protection and mobility and overshadows all current regional rivals. It is highly maneuverable for its size and continues the SANDF`s tradition of mobile warfare based on an indirect approach and low force density. The principal tasks of the Badger are variant specific and include troop transport, fire support, anti-armor, command and control, and medical transport.

Design features

The design, development and production of the Badger was undertaken due to the need for a more modern ICV to replace the Ratel presently in service with the SANDF. The Badger is characterized by eight big wheels, mobility, bush breaking ability, and versatility as a weapons platform which will be well adapted for its role as a modern ICV in the Southern African battle space.

Mobility

The African battle space favors a wheeled configuration, which makes the Badger the perfect candidate for its role as an ICV. The Badger makes use of an automatic ZF gearbox with seven forward and one reverse gears with the option for the driver to also change gears manually if required. The Badger can ford 1.2 m of water without preparation and has 400 mm of ground clearance. It is powered by a Scania fuel injected diesel engine which produces 543 hp @ 2100 rpm and provides a 20 hp/t ratio. This horsepower to weight ratio allows the Badger to accelerate from 0-60 km/h (0-37.2 mph) in under 20 seconds and 60-100 km/h (37-62 mph) in under 40 seconds, and achieve a top speed of 104 km/h (64 mph). The Badger retains 70% mobility with the loss of one wheel and 30% with the loss of two wheels. The wheels feature a central tire inflation system. It can cross a 2 m trench at a 3km/h crawl, and can climb a gradient of 60%, and has a side slope rating of 30%. The suspension system makes use of hydro-pneumatic struts which allows for true independent wheel movement over rough terrain, thereby dramatically increasing the stability of the vehicle and ensuring a smoother ride for the occupants (see Mobility track demonstration, AAD 2016 video below at 0.37 sec). All wheels are equipped with ABS brakes. The auxiliary power unit (APU) allows all onboard systems to remain powered even if the engine is switched off.

Endurance and logistics

The fuel capacity of the Badger is 450 litres (118.8 US gallons) which allows it to travel 1000 km (621 mi) on the road and 750 km (311 mi) off-road. 190 litres (50.2 US gallons) are stored in the left fuel tank and 230 litres (60.7 US gallons) in the right one, while another 27 litres (7.1 US gallons) are located in the transfer tank. The Badger is fitted with a mix of up to 2 x VHF, 3 x HF tactical radios which allow for reliable inter-crew and multivehicle communication. This command and control system enhances the ICV`s force multiplier effect on the battlefield. The Badger features four built-in drinking water tanks with a total capacity of 130 litres (34.3 US gallons).

Vehicle layout

Most Badgers carry a standard complement of four crew members, consisting of the troop commander, vehicle commander, gunner, and driver. The vehicle commander’s station is located on the left side and the gunner’s station on the right of the turret. The troop commander is positioned behind the driver who is seated in the forward left side of the hull. Each station in the turret has six vision blocks which provide a 270-degree field of view. The vehicle commander has at his disposal a day video sight which offers a stabilised 360-degree capability. Both the vehicle commander and the gunner have a 360-degree situational awareness through episcopes and multi-function flat panel video displays. Additionally, the vehicle commander has the ability, via the video sight, to override the gunner’s control and slave the main gun onto a target. The gunner’s station is fitted with an x8 day and night, thermal sight periscope as well as an auxiliary gunner sight with direct view optics with aiming reticules. Entry and exit for the former and latter are through the gunner’s and vehicle commander’s cupola. In an emergency, the gunner and vehicle commander can escape through the rear of the vehicle. The driver’s station is located on the front left of the hull and is accessible through the fighting compartment or a single-piece hatch above the driver’s station. The driver’s station is adjustable and features three periscopes for enhanced visibility and situational awareness. The central periscope can be substituted with a passive night driving periscope allowing full day/night capability. The driver can make use of compressed air to clean his periscopes while buttoned up, a feature particularly useful in the dusty climates in which the Badger will operate. The driver makes use of power-assisted steering wheel to drive while acceleration and braking are controlled with foot pedals.
The rear compartment has seating space for passengers the number of which is variant specific. The Badgers crew and passenger compartment feature an air conditioning unit, which helps reduce crew and passenger fatigue. The passenger seats face inward and are fitted to a frame which is attached to the hull in such a way that should a mine detonate under a wheel or hull the minimum amount of mine blast energy reaches the passenger seats, thereby reducing the possibility of spinal injury. Additionally, each seat is fitted with a footrest which allows the passenger across from the seat to rest their feet off the floor, also to reduce the possibility of injury should a mine be detonated. The Badger is fitted with several hull encased, all-round camera video system for enhanced situational awareness. The troop compartment is equipped with several monitors displaying the camera views and a dedicated section leader monitor for planning and presentation purposes. The hydraulically operated rear door was designed in South Africa and doubles as a weapons and equipment rack which can hold entrenching tools, light machine gun (LMG), 40mm six round grenade launcher, RPG-7, 60mm patrol mortar and ammunition for the aforementioned weapons. The advantage of such an arrangement is that it frees up the troop compartment from unnecessary clutter and provides quick access to troops disembarking from the rear. Entry and exit from the rear door are made easier by a step which deploys mechanically as the door opens and retracts when the rear door closes.

Main gun

The Badger makes use of the Light Combat Turret (LCT) which forms part of a Modular Infantry Combat Turret (MICT) family developed by Denel as part of the New Generation Infantry Combat Vehicle (NGICV) programme for the SANDF. The turret family is built around the Fighting Compartment Module (FMC) principle which allows various weapons and sighting systems to be integrated with ease. Such a design vastly reduces logistical requirements, operational costs, training time and ensures maximum commonality and re-use of components within the modules. Both the Section variant and the Fire Support variant make use of the LCT-30 turret which can make a full 360-degree rotation in 13 seconds. The Mortar variant is equipped with the LCT-60 while the command variant is equipped with the LCT-12.7, and the Missile variant uses the LCT-Missile turret.

Modular Infantry Combat Turret Variants – Screengrab from AMICT brochure (see bibliography)
The Section variant is armed with a Denel 30 mm dual feed linkless Camgun (EMAK 30) which can engage targets effectively at 4000 m. The Camgun features a double baffle muzzle-brake and has a single recoil mechanism. Rapid fire consists of a 3-round burst mode which provides 60 rounds per minute. Empty cartridges are ejected on the left side of the turret. The section variant carries 400 x 30 mm cannon rounds. The rounds carried consist of Armor-Piercing-Fin-Stabilised-Discarding-Sabot (APFSDS) for use against armored targets and Semi-Armor-Piercing-High-Explosive-Incendiary (SAPHEI) for use against soft targets. Literature searches reveal that modern 30 mm cannon rounds such as the APFSDS have a muzzle velocity of 1430 m/s and can penetrate < 100 mm of Rolled Homogeneous Armor (RHA) at 1000 m. This is significant considering that Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV) such as the BMP-2 and BMP-3 only have 33 mm and 35 mm of frontal armor respectively. Furthermore, this means that the Badger Section variant is capable of knocking out T-55T-62 and T-72 Main Battle Tanks (MBT) found in the region from the sides and rear from range. It should, however, be stressed that the Section variant is not supposed to engage MBT`s directly. The SAPHEI has a muzzle velocity of 1100 m/s and can penetrate 30 mm of steel plate at 30 degrees at 200 m.
All but the Ambulance variant is armed with a co-axial 7.62 mm belt-fed machine gun with a total of 4000 rounds (20 belts of 200 rounds each). The vehicle commander has at his disposal a stabilised panoramic sight and a primary stabilised main sight which can track targets automatically. All variants have a day/night sight capability as standard with some variation of the fire-control system which is variant specific.

Fire Control System

The Badger is equipped with the FDS digital fire control system which receives information from a laser rangefinder and accurately places rounds on target with the main gun. The laser rangefinder is accurate to within 5 m at 10 km. The variations are automatically calculated and compensated according to the ammunition selected by the gunner. The fire control system allows the gunner to select a target in less than two seconds. The fire solution is given allowing the gunner to fire on target which adjusts the main guns auto lay aim. The commander can override the gunner’s aim with the flip of a switch to put the main cannon on target. This effectively provides the Badger with hunter-killer capability. The digital fire control system allows hits on a moving target while the Badger is on the move itself by adjusting the main gun’s aim after taking into account the distance to the target, the relative speeds and relative direction, thereby maximising first round hit probability. The single shot hit probability while static at a 2.4 m x 2.4 m target at 2000 m is greater than 65%.

Protection

The Badger is based on the Finnish Patria Armored Modular Vehicle (AMV). Unlike its European counterpart, the Badger has numerous modifications such as dedicated bush protection to enhance its durability for use in the African bush. The Badger features a dual hull design to enhance survivability against kinetic and high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) projectiles. The total thickness of the outer/inner hull and add-on armor package and composition thereof are classified. The outer hull (which can be removed) functions as a first line defence against light and medium arms. This is followed by an empty space of classified width which can act either as spaced armor or can be fitted with an add-on armor package developed by Armscor`s Armor Technology Institute. The add-on armor over the frontal arc is left in place during peacetime whereas the left and right sides add-on armor is removed. Lastly is the inner hull which serves as the last line of defence. The inner hull is fitted with an anti-spall lining to reduce crew vulnerability to fragments in case of penetration. It was reported from Afghanistan, where the Badger’s cousin the Patria was deployed, that two such vehicles equipped with add-on armor package, survived direct hits from RPG-7s which did not penetrate the inner hull. It is unclear what types the RPG rounds were. The Badger is protected against 30 mm APFSDS rounds over the frontal arch and 23 mm Armor Piercing (AP) rounds around the remaining hull. The roof is rated against heavy artillery blast and fragmentation.
Due to the prevalence of anti-tank (AT) and anti-personnel mines in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Badger features a flat bottom mine protected hull (not found in the Patria) which absorbs the blast and shock produced by a mine detonation. The technology was developed by Land Mobility Technology (LMT) and offers protection against the equivalent of a 6 kg mine anywhere under the hull.
The Badger features two automatic fire suppression systems, one for the engine and the other for the crew/troop compartment. The system can also be engaged manually. The Badger is fully Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) capable as it comes standard with an overpressure system. Two banks of two smoke grenade launchers are located on the roof of the turret, behind the commander and gunner’s station to protect them from damage when “bundu bashing” (driving through dense vegetation). The hull headlamps are encased in the hull, and an armored screen was added to protect them from damage while “bundu bashing”. A recent addition to all the Badger variants is a guide rail/cage on the turret, the main purpose of which is to guide branches over the commander’s sight to avoid damage to it.

Section variant with additional bush protection over the front lights – With permission Andre Smith

SANDF Badger
Section variant (early development). Illustration by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.
Bagder SPAAML
Missile variant (early development). Illustration by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Variants

There are six variants of the Badger, of which five are armed, namely the Section variant (30 mm), Fire support variant (30 mm), Mortar variant (60 mm), Command variant (12.7 mm) and Missile variant (Ingwe). The Ambulance variant is not armed.

Section variant

The Section variant is armed with a Denel 30 mm dual feed linkless Cam Gun (EMAK 30) which can engage targets up to 4000 m when firing one round at a time. Rapid fire consists of 3-round bursts. The Section variant carries 400, 30 x 173mm rounds. The rear compartment of the Section variant has seating space for four passengers on the left and three passengers on the right.

Section variant at the African Aerospace and Defence 2016 – notice the guardrail on the left side of the turret. (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Fire support variant

The Fire support variant carries the same main armament as the Section variant but has additional main armament ammunition which is kept in storage racks on the right-hand side of the passenger compartment.  Seating in the passenger compartment is limited to two for use by a dedicated two man anti-tank team.

Mortar variant

The primary purpose of the Mortar variant is to supply indirect fire support to attacking forces. It is equipped with a 60 mm DLS breech loading, water-cooled mortar which can engage targets directly at 1500 m in line of sight or 6200 m indirectly. The mortar variant carries 256 x 60 mm bombs and has a firing rate of 6 bombs per minute (one every 10 seconds) and accuracy of 2.4 m x 2.4 m at 1500 m. It has a 40% better lethality and effectiveness than the old 81mm mortar bombs. The variant has four crew members, namely the vehicle commander, gunner, driver, and technician. The bombs are kept in bin racks on either side of the rear compartment with the technician’s seat on the left.

Mortar variant – With permission Andre Smith 

Command variant

The Command variant is armed with a primary 12.7 mm machine gun which allows more room for Command and Control (C&C) equipment and personnel. The command variant carries 1200 x 12.7 mm rounds. This variant has a standard crew of three (driver, vehicle commander, and gunner) and two to three communication staff in the rear.

Missile variant

The Missile variant is armed with the Denel Dynamics ‘Ingwe’ (Leopard) laser-guided, jam-resistant, beam-riding missile which has an effective engagement range of over 5000 m. The Ingwe has a tandem warhead that can defeat Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) and can penetrate up to 1000 mm of RHA. On either side of the turret is a missile launcher system, which accommodates two missiles. When not in use, the missile launcher reverts to a 45-degree nose down sloped position behind a protective plate to protect the launcher from small arms fire and possible damage when “bundu bashing”. When a target is to be engaged, the missile launchers nose rises 45 degrees up to a level position, from where the missile can be fired. A total of 12 missiles are carried in the rear compartment racks on either side of the hull. The Missile variant carries a driver, vehicle commander, gunner and loader. The missile launchers are rearmed from within the vehicle via guide rails. Each Ingwe weighs 34 kg and requires two people to load.

Missile Variant – With permission Andre Smith

Ambulance variant

The Ambulance variant has a crew complement of 3 which consists of a driver two medical personnel. The Ambulance variant has no turret and instead has a higher roof than the other variants. It features an effective patient handling system allowing for the minimum effort of moving patients using rails and winch system. The rear compartment is better lit than the other variants. Three patients lying down can be carried at a time or two patients lying down and four seated.

Ambulance variant – With permission Andre Smith

Conclusion

The Badger is the first new ICV in the SANDF inventory since the Ratel was introduced in 1975. The Badger is one of the best-protected vehicles of its class in the world. This, combined with its mobility and firepower, makes for a formidable adversary. As such, the Badger is a worthy successor and vast improvement over its predecessor, the Ratel. Although the cost of the Badger might seem high to most, it is very affordable when compared to other modern wheeled ICV`s such as the MOWAG Piranha, Boxer and  French IFV’s.

Badger Section variant specifications

Dimensions (hull) (l-w-h): 8.01 m (26.3 ft.) –  3.44 m (11.3ft.) – 2.83 m (9.28 ft.)
Total weight, battle ready 28 Tons
Crew 4 crew + 7 troops
Propulsion Scania fuel injected diesel engine which produces 543 hp @ 2100 rpm. (21.7 hp/t).
Suspension Hydro pneumatic struts
Top speed road / off-road 104 km/h (64 mph) / 60 km/h (37 mph)
Range road / off-road / sand 1000 km (621 mi) / 750 km (466 mi)
Main armament (see notes) Secondary armament Denel 30 mm linkless Cam Gun (EMAK 30)
1 × 7.62mm co-axial Browning MG
Armor Exact armor thickness classified.
The Bader is protected against 30mm APFSDS rounds over the frontal arch and 23mm AP rounds around the remaining hull. The roof is rated against heavy artillery blast and fragmentation.
The hull was tested and proven against the 6 kg anti-tank mine.
Total Production (Hulls) 244

Badger Videos

Mobility track demonstration, AAD 2016

AAD 2016: Denel Badger Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV)

Bibliography

Reynolds, J. 2012. Denel Land Systems Shows GI-30: 30mm Camgun.  African Armed Forces Journal, 2:11.
DEFENCEWEB. 2017. First locally produced pre-production Badger expected later this year. Date of access: 5 May. 2018. (LINK)
DENEL. 2018.  ADVANCED MODULAR INFANTRY COMBAT TURRET. Date of access: 22 Apr. 2018. (PDF)
Camp, S. & Heitman, H.R. 2014. Surviving the ride: A pictorial history of South African manufactured mine protected vehicles. Pinetown, South Africa: 30° South Publishers
GLOBAL SECURITY.ORG. 2016. Hoefyster (Horseshoe) / Badger. Date of access: 4 May. 2018. (LINK)
MILITARY-TODAY. 2014. Badger Infantry Fighting Vehicle. Date of access: 17 Apr. 2017. (LINK)
Martin, G. 2016. Defence Equipment for South Africa. Military Technology, 40(9): 64-69.
NAMMO. 2018. Nammo ammunition handbook. 5th Ed. Date of access: 15 Apr. 2018. (PDF)
Smit, A. 2018. Interview with Badger, project manager Denel. Date 9 Feb. 2018.
VEG Magazine. 2005. Die vervaning van `n legende: Projek Hoefyster. Issue 8. Victor Logistics.
Denel Badger
Help support tank’s encyclopedia with the official Denel’s Badger poster !

Categories
South African Wheeled Vehicles

Rooikat

South Africa (1989)
Armored Car – 242 built

“Rooikat” – The African Caracal

The Rooikat armored car takes its Afrikaans name from the African Caracal (a type of wild cat). Similar to its namesake, the Rooikat armored car is fast and nimble, being used by the South African Defence Force (SADF) and its successor, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). The Rooikat is a completely indigenous military vehicle, adapted for the southern African battlespace. It was designed and produced at a time when South Africa was still subject to international embargoes because of its racial segregation policies (Apartheid). This was set against the backdrop of the Cold War in Southern Africa which saw a steep rise in liberation movements backed by Eastern Bloc communist countries such as Cuba and the Soviet Union.

Rooikat 76 Mk1D at African Aerospace and Defence 2016. (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Development

The SADF relied heavily on the Eland 90 armored car (heavily based on the French Panhard AML 90) during the mid-1970’s and early 1980’s conventional battles of the South African Border War (1966-1989) such as Operation Savannah. Although successfully used in combat, the Eland 90`s poor power to weight ration resulted in poor forward acceleration. This resulted in it lagging behind the more powerful Ratel IFV`s, which it was suppose to escort. What was required was a domestically built armored car suited to the southern African battle space which necessitates long-range strategic mobility. A wheeled configuration was chosen due to its benefits over tracked vehicles which included better mobility, longer range, less maintenance, better reliability, and less overall logistical support. A wheeled configuration is also more suitable for a mine-riddled theatre, as a wheel could be lost during a mine detonation without disabling the vehicle, whereas a tracked vehicle losing its track would become immobile.

The development of the Rooikat was one of South Africa’s most ambitious undertakings, with the project approval of a new generation armored car being granted in 1974. The user requirements were completed in November 1976, after which the Armaments Corporation of South Africa (Armscor) began compiling technical specifications which led to several research studies of 6×6 and 8×8 configurations by South African manufacturers. A decision was made in August of 1978 that three prototypes would be built for evaluation purposes which were delivered in 1979. Although the decision to adopt a naval 76 mm main gun already took place in 1978, all the prototypes were fitted with a British 77 mm Mk2 gun from retired South African Comet tanks. The three prototypes were based on and modified from existing hulls used in the SADF, namely the Ratel Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICV) (Concept 1), Eland armored car (Concept 2) and Saracen Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) (Concept 3) and were of 8×8 configuration. None of the three prototypes was deemed suitable after trials held in 1979 and the project was put on ice.

Concept 1 based on the Ratel ICV at the SA Armour Museum – (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Concept 2 based on the Eland armoured car at the SA Armour Museum –  (turret was the same as fitted to the Concept 1 and 3 vehicle) (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Concept 3 based on the Saracen APC at the SA Armour Museum – (Photo: Dewald Venter)

The staff requirements for the new generation armored car were put forward in 1980. Three new prototypes were built by Sandock Austral for trials which were held in March 1982. The prototypes were divided into a light, medium and heavy class (1-3).  The Class 1 prototype, nicknamed Cheetah Mk1, was built according to the required light specifications which were for a 17 tonnes vehicle in a 6×6 configuration and mounting a 76 mm high-pressure main gun turret. It featured basic protection to increase power to weight ratio. The Class 2 prototype came in two variants, 2A and 2B. The Class 2A`s engine was located in the front which left sufficient space at the rear to be used as a troop compartment. The Class 2B`s had a traditional layout with the engine mounted in the rear. The Class 2B was nicknamed Cheetah Mk2 and was built according to the required medium specifications which were for a 23-tonne vehicle in an 8×8 configuration with a 76 mm high-pressure main gun turret. The Class 3 prototype, nicknamed Bismarck, was built according to the required heavy specifications, which were for a 30-tonne vehicle in 8×8 configuration with a 105 mm L7 main gun turret.

Class 1 prototype (turret destroyed during trials) at the SA Armour Museum – (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Rooikat 76 Class 2B prototype at SA School of Armour, Tempe Military Base – (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Class 3 prototype at the SA Armour Museum – (Photo: Dewald Venter)

After the trials, the Class 2B prototype was selected for further development and manufacturing. In 1986/7, Sandrock Brakpan completed an additional five advanced development models. Four of these were used for operational testing and assessment by the SADF in 1987 and christened the Rooikat armored car, while the remaining two were divided between Armscor and Ermetek for testing and development. By late 1988, three more Rooikats were delivered in conjunction with 23 pre-production model (PPM). The first SADF Rooikat squadron was delivered to 1 Special Service Battalion (1SSB) in mid-August 1989. Full production of the Rooikat began in June 1990 and lasted until 2000.  Production was done in a series of four lots. The first lot consisted of the 28 PPMs. The second (Mk1A), third (Mk1B) and fourth (Mk1C) lot each consisted of a regiment (72) of Rooikat armored cars. With each progressive production lot after the first, slight improvements were made as indicated by their mark designation.

A total of 214 Rooikat armored cars were produced by 2000, which brought the total to 242. Lyttelton Engineering Works (LEW), a world leader in combat reconnaissance turrets, was responsible for the design, development and building the Rooikat turrets. Several subcontractors were involved, such as Elopto who supplied the optical equipment for the turret while Kentron manufactured the gyros for the stabilisation system. The Sandock-Austral was responsible for the design, development, and building of the Rooikat hull. A performance and reliability enhancement programme was launched in 2000 under project Arum Lily and lasted until 2006 which saw 80 Rooikat armored cars being upgraded from the Mk1C to Mk1D standard, which is the most modern variant.

The Rooikat armored car was designed with an emphasis on mobility. Firepower was the second most important feature. Protection was the least important as additional armor would have come at the cost of mobility. The principal tasks of the Rooikat as set out by the SADF included combat reconnaissance, seek and destroy operations, combat support, anti-armor and anti-guerrilla operations. Present SANDF doctrine places emphasis during combat operations on combat reconnaissance, harassment of enemy concentrations and rear guard units, disruption of enemy cohesion, logistical centres and supply trains and attacking targets of opportunity. During peacekeeping operations, the Rooikat can be used to monitor ceasefires, protection key points, escorting of convoys, act as a deterrent, reconnaissance and crowd control. In total, the SADF took delivery of 242 Rooikat armored cars. Presently, there are 80 Mk1D Rooikat armored cars in service with the SANDF while a further 92 remain in storage. The Rooikat is assigned to the SA Army School of Armour and 1 SSB at Tempe Military Base in Bloemfontein. In addition, three Reserve Force units are also allocated Rooikat armored cars, namely Umvoti Mounted Rifles in Durban, Regiment Oranjerivier in Cape Town and Regiment Mooirivier in Potchefstroom.

Design features

The design, development, and production of the Rooikat were undertaken due to the increasing need for a purpose-built armored car which was suited for the southern African battlespace. Furthermore, there was a dire need for an armored car which could keep up with mechanised formations to protect its flanks. The terrain it would operate in would be some of the most hostile in the world, which alone inflicts harsh punishment. Characterized by its eight massive wheels, mobility, bush breaking ability and versatility as a weapons platform, the Rooikat is well adapted for its role as a modern armored car.
According to the then Lt. Gen. Andreas (Kat) Liebenberg (1988), chief of the Army, “the Rooikat would be pushed into service because it can outmaneuver and attack tanks in battle conditions common to southern Africa, where engagements often are at close quarters.”

The following sections will specifically cover the Mk1D variant unless otherwise stated.

Rooikat 76 Mk1D at SA School of Armour, Tempe Military Base. (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Interactive Rooikat 76 MK1D with permission from ARMSCor Studios .

Mobility

The southern African battlespace favours a wheeled configuration, in which the Rooikat 8×8 configuration excels. An eight-wheel run flat (designed to resist the effects of deflation when punctured) configuration offered more reliability and required less maintenance than a tracked vehicle. The Rooikat has a hydro-mechanical, manual shift, drop down gearbox. The gear selection range consists of six forward, a neutral and one reverse gear. The Rooikat can ford 1m of water without preparation and 1.5m with preparation. The Rooikat is powered by a twin-turbocharged, water cooled, 10-cylinder diesel Atlantis engine fitted with an intercooler which can produce 563 hp. This provides a 20.1 hp/t power to weight ratio. The Rooikat Mk1D can accelerate from 0 km/h to 60 km/h in 21 seconds and can achieve a maximum road speed of 120 km/h, with a safe cruising speed of 90 km/h. Changes were made to the engine from the Mk1C to the Mk1D which involved better connection points which improved the overall reliability of the engine. Due to the dusty conditions in Southern Africa, the engine has a primary and secondary dust filter. A 2m wide ditch can be crossed at a crawl. The Rooikat is capable of retaining mobility even with just one steerable wheel on either side.

The Rooikat is equipped with a fully independent internally driven trailing arms, coil springs, and shock-absorbers. The driver makes use of a power assisted steering wheel which controls the front four wheels and foot pedals for acceleration and braking. The Rooikat has a ground clearance of 380 mm and 350 mm with the addition of a mine protection plate.

Rooikat 76 Mk1C twin-turbocharged, water-cooled, 10-cylinder diesel Atlantis engine, SA School of Armour, Tempe Military Base. (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Endurance and logistics

The fuel capacity of the Rooikat is 540 litres (143 US gallons) which allows it to travel 1000 km (621 mi) on road, 500 km (311 mi) off-road and 150 km (93 mi) over sand on a single tank. The Rooikat Mk1C was equipped with two 7.62mm belt-fed machine guns with a total of 3800 rounds. One machine gun was co-axially mounted on the left side of the main gun while the other was located on top of the turret structure above the commander’s station for close protection against ground and air threats. The Mk1D saw the removal of the second machine gun. The Rooikat is fitted with very high-frequency tactical communication radios which allow for reliable inter-crew communication, command and control which enhances the armored car’s force multiplier effect on the battlefield. The Rooikat features a built-in drinking water tank with a 40-litre water capacity accessible on the outside of the hull on the left.

Vehicle layout

The Rooikat carries a standard complement of four crew members, consisting of the commander, gunner, loader, and driver. The commander’s station is located on the right side of the turret and features a 360-degree field of vision through eight vision blocks which provide all-round visibility. Forward of the commander’s station on the roof structure is a day panoramic sight which allows commander a 360 degree x12 magnification capability without the need to move his head. Additionally, the commander has the ability to override the gunner’s control and slave the main gun onto a target via the panoramic sight which is coupled to the integrated fire control system. This allows for extreme accuracy and quick reaction times.

On the right side of the turret, below the commander’s station, is the gunner’s station which is equipped with day/night capabilities that are displayed on a digital display screen.

On the left side of the turret is the loader’s station. The loader has access to two periscopes, one facing forward and the other facing aft, both fitted on the left-hand side of the turret roof structure which can each rotate 270 degrees for better overall situational awareness. Entry and exit for the loader are via a single-piece hatch cover. In case of emergency, the loader, gunner and commander can escape through service hatches located on either side of the hull in-between the second and third wheel.

The driver’s station is situated in the front centre of the hull and is accessible through the fighting compartment or a single-piece hatch above the driver’s station. The driver’s station is fully adjustable and features three periscopes for enhanced visibility and situational awareness. The central periscope can be replaced with a passive night driving periscope (manufactured by Eloptro) allowing full day/night capability. Making use of compressed air the driver can clean his periscopes while buttoned up. The ergonomic design and layout of the equipment in each section allows the crew to work fast and accurately under stressful battle conditions.

Rooikat 76Mk1D at the SA School of Armour, Tempe Military Base. Service hatch visible on side of the hull in-between the second and third wheel. (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Main gun

The main armament is a South African GT4 76 mm quick-firing semi-automatic gun manufactured by Lyttleton Engineering Works (LEW). The main gun is a derivative of the Italian Otobreda 76 mm compact naval gun and has the same chamber volume. The Armor Piercing Fin Stabilised Discarding Sabot-Tracer (APFSDS-T) round made with a tungsten alloy penetrator has a muzzle velocity of over 1600m/s and is capable of penetrating 311 mm of RHA at 10 m. This allows the Rooikat to penetrate the front hull (275 mm RHA) and turret (230 mm RHA) of a T-62 MBT at 2000 m. The APFSDS-T weighs in at 9.1kg and is 873 mm long. The High Explosive Tracer (HE-T) round carries 0.6kg of RDX/TNT and has an effective range of 3000 m when used in direct fire and 12,000 m in the indirect fire role. Canister ammunition can be used effectively at up to 150 m with a high probability of killing and up to 500 m with a high degree of maiming. The gun barrel is equipped with a thermal anti-distortion sleeve and reinforced fiberglass fume extractor which helps improve sustained accuracy when firing and reduces barrel droop due to heat.

76 mm APFSDS-T round made with a tungsten alloy penetrator round used by the Rooikat 76, SA Armour Museum (Photo: Dewald Venter)

76 mm HE-T round used by the Rooikat 76, SA Armour Museum (Photo: Dewald Venter)

The standard rate of fire for the main gun either in a stationary or a short halt is 6 rounds a minute.  The turret drive can traverse the turret a full 360 degrees in 9 seconds. The main gun can elevate from -10 degrees to +20 degrees. The smaller calibre main gun (76 mm) of the Rooikat allows for a greater number of rounds than would have been possible if a 105 mm was chosen. This additional carrying capacity facilitates the Rooikat`s role in combat reconnaissance, execute seek and destroy operations and harassing enemy rear guard units when resupply proves difficult. Also, the recoil of the 76mm main gun has a normal range of 320mm and a maximum of 350mm which is less than that of a 105mm main gun. The fighting compartment of the Mk1D can carry a total of 49 main gun rounds of which 9 are ready rounds stowed vertically below the turret ring.

Fire Control System

The gunner makes use of an Eloptro 8x gunner’s day sight with an integrated ballistic computer which was added to the gunner’s sight. The integrated fire control system (IFCS) produced by ESD receives information from the laser rangefinder and environmental sensors which accurately measure meteorological conditions such as ambient temperature and wind speed which could affect the fire accuracy of the main gun rounds. Such variations are automatically calculated and compensated for in conjunction with the ammunition selected and fed into the gunner’s sights and main gun’s auto lay aim. The IFCS can hit a moving target while on the move itself by adjusting the main gun’s aim after incorporating the target’s distance, speed and relative speed thereby maximising first round hit probability. From the moment the gunner selects a target the IFCS produces a fire solution within two seconds. When the main gun is ready, the gunner is notified via a ready to firelight. The total engagement process takes roughly nine seconds. The development of the solid state gun drive systems by ESD as part of the Reutech Group was a big step forward for the Armoured Corps as it brought fire on the move capabilities to Rooikat.

Protection

The Rooikat`s hull is made of all welded steel armor and is sufficient to afford all-round protection against shrapnel and small arms fire from close range. Over the entire front 30 degree arc, the Rooikat is protected against 23mm armor-piercing projectiles fired from medium range (+500m) while the sides and rear offer protection against 12.7mm (.50 cal.) rounds. The hull was tested and proven against the TM46 anti-tank mine when fitted with a special protection plate under the hull. Additionally, the hull is rated to withstand a 1000 lb (454kg) Improvised Explosive Device (IED). A mine detonation under a wheel would result in the destruction thereof but continued operation of the Rooikat. A fire suppression system (automatic & manual) was installed in the crew and engine compartment to reduce the likelihood of a catastrophic fire or explosion if hit.

Lessons learned during the South African Border War showed that smoke grenade banks were prone to damage when “bundu bashing” (driving through dense vegetation) which necessitated the placement thereof to the rear sides of the turret. Two banks of four electrically operated 81 mm smoke grenade launchers are used for self-screening in an emergency. The Rooikat is also fitted with an instantaneous smoke emission system that can produce a smoke screen by injecting fuel into the engine exhaust which exists at the rear left of the hull. The operation of the screen is controlled by the driver. The frontal headlamps are under armored covers to protect against damage. The Rooikat is also capable of full Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) protection but is not fitted as standard.

Variants

Rooikat 105 

In an attempt to up-gun the Rooikat, Reumeck OMC created a variant with a GT7 105 mm gun, with development being completed in 1994. The Rooikat 105 shared the same general design as the Rooikat 76, only differing in the larger calibre gun and modernized fire control system. It was slightly longer and weighed 1200kg more. The main armament could fire all current NATO types set for this calibre, including HESH and APFSDS. The gun was fitted with a 51 calibre thermal sleeve and a larger fume extractor. With training, the rate of fire can reach six rounds a minute. Combined with the high velocity of the round, the Rooikat 105 could defeat the T-72A frontally making it an efficient tank hunter against all MBTs encountered in the region. No orders where ever placed and only one prototype was ever manufactured. Although the Rooikat 105 would have been a valuable addition to the SANDF inventory, the conclusion was reached that the Rooikat 76 variant was sufficiently suitable to handle any armored threat in the region, including the T-72A from the flanks and the rear.

Rooikat 105 – Denel Media Center 

Medium Turret Technology Demonstrator

There is a general belief that the vehicle below is a purpose-built Rooikat 105/120. This is, in fact, not true. The Medium Turret Technology Demonstrator (MTTD) was an independent project to develop and test the feasibility of a 105 mm high-pressure and 120 mm low-pressure main gun mounted on a remote turret in conjunction with an autoloading system and various other technologies. The loader (left side of the turret) and crew commander (right side of the turret) positions were moved into the hull giving rise to the depressions in the hull on either side of the main gun. The MTTD also features a mockup of an Active Protection System (APS) launcher on the rear of the turret. The APS would have increased the survivability of the platform when facing anti-tank missiles. The decision to mount the MTTD on the Rooikat hull was made by the defense industry as it was easier to transport and display.  There are no currently known plans for building Rooikats fitted with this turret and gun.

Medium Turret Technology Demonstrator mounted on a Rooikat hull, equipped with a 105 mm gun and autoloader – SA Armour Museum (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Interactive Medium Turret Technology Demonstrator with permission from ARMSCor Studios

Rooikat SPADS

During the South African Bush War, the SADF lacked a dedicated and modern ground to air defence system which could engage communist Warsaw Pact supplied aeroplanes such as the MiG-17, MiG-21, MiG-23 and Mig-25. The skies over Angola were, by the mid-1980`s, the most hotly contested airspace in the world. Project Prima was to be South Africa’s answer to the desperate need for a modern Self-Propelled Air Defence System (SPADS) which was capable of moving with its mechanised combat groups. The task of designing the SPADS was given to Armscor, Kentron and Electronics System Development (LEW), who finished the project study in 1983. Utilising the Rooikat hull with its excellent cross-country mobility was deemed the best option. Two prototypes were completed. One prototype was a Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun (SPAAG) and the other a Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Missile (SPAAM). Each was fitted with the newly designed EDR 110 radar developed by ESD which could track up to 100 air targets at the same time. The radar antenna was capable of being raised to a height of about 5 metres for increased visibility which would be very beneficial in the African bush. It was capable of detecting aircraft at 12 km and helicopters at 6 km. The entire SPADS system was designed to operate as an integrated air defence system in which targeting data could be shared between nearby SPAAGs\SPAAM and other air defence systems without radars.

Rooikat ZA-35 SPAAG

The SPAAG was designated the ZA-35 and would be responsible for close-in air defence. LEW designed a new turret, ammunition feed system and two Lyttleton Engineering M-35 35 mm guns which were fitted either side of the turret. The guns were capable of firing 1100 rounds a minute (18.3 per second) of either High Explosive Fragmentation (HE-FRAG) against air targets or Armor Piercing Incendiary (AP-I) against lightly armored vehicles. The new ammunition feed system was much less complicated and required less working parts than other similar systems, thereby easing logistics and reducing the likelihood of breakage. A total of 230+230 rounds were in a ready to fire position and would engage targets in 2-3 second bursts. The computerised fire control system featured a fully stabilised electro-optical gunner’s sight and tracking system with a high-resolution video camera and a laser rangefinder for optimal target identification and tracking. Additionally, the electro-optical auto tracker allowed the passive tracking which neutralised electronic countermeasures.

Rooikat ZA-35 SPAAG – With permission from Pierre Victor

Interactive ZA-35 SPAAG with permission from ARMSCor Studios .Early concept sketch of a two cannon Rooikat SPAAG. Image courtesy of Len Bramwell.

Rooikat SPAAM

The SPAAM was to provide medium-range air defence utilising the locally developed New Generation Missile (NGM) and South African High-Velocity Missile (SAHV) which later became the Umkhonto (spear) missile. The SPAAM could carry a total of four missiles divided into pairs on either side of the turret. The SPAAM made use of the same subsystems as the SPAAG which would have eased the required logistical train.  With the withdrawal of the SADF from Angola in 1989 the need for such an advanced integrated ground to air defence system was deemed no longer as urgently needed. The defence budget saw massive cuts in defence expenditure which ultimately led to the subsequent scrapping of the project.

Rooikat SPAAM – With permission from Pierre Victor

SPAAM with radar deployed – Graphical illustration by Dana Beck

Early concept sketches of a Rooikat-based SPAAM. The chassis seemse to be significantly modified at the front. The weapon system is either dismountable or was meant to have a fixed version as well. Image courtesy of Len Bramwell.

Combat vehicle electric-drive demonstrator

Following several years of research by Armscor on other platforms, the SANDF approved the fitting of an electric-drive system to a Rooikat. This Rooikat became known as the combat vehicle electric-drive demonstrator (CVED). Each wheel was fitted with an electric motor measuring 50 cm. The mechanical drive system was replaced with an electric-drive system which reduced the total weight by 2 tons. The E-drive system allows the CVED to move short distances without using its diesel engine, which results in a virtually noiseless approach. Although the evidence that an E-drive system could effectively be incorporated into a complex combat system, the project was placed on the backburner in 2012 due to a lack of funds. There are however plans to potentially upgrade the Rooikat fleet with E-Drive technology in the future.

Rooikat ATGM

The Rooikat ATGM vehicle is a joint offspring of the South African Mechanology Design Bureau and Jordanian King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau. The purpose was to upgrade the capabilities of the Rooikat to include a direct anti-tank capability. The picture below was taken during the SOFEX 2004 arms expo in Jordan. No further information is available.
Rooikat ATGM – Source ArmyRecognition.com

Rooikat 35/ZT-3

Not much is known about this Rooikat 35. It featured a redesigned turret to accommodate (presumably) a Lyttleton Engineering M-35 35 mm guns well as a ZT3 Anti-Tank Guided Missle launcher (the same as the Ratel ZT-3). Only one prototype was built.

Rooikat 35 – Source unknown

Operational History

The Rooikat 76 arrived too late for the South African Bush War. In line with its role in peacekeeping operations, the Rooikat 76 was deployed to conduct internal patrols during South Africa’s first democratic election in 1994. In 1998, the country of Lesotho (which is landlocked by South Africa) saw widespread rioting, looting, and lawlessness following a contested election. South Africa, together with Botswana, was tasked by the South African Development Community (SADC) under Operation Boleas to restore the rule of law and order in Lesotho. The South African Army deployed the Rooikat 76 from 1SSB to assist the already deployed mechanised units in Lesotho who were engaging in skirmishes with Lesotho army mutineers.

Conclusion

The Rooikat armored car is considered one of the most versatile weapons systems produced by South Africa and in use by the South African Armoured Corps. Its exceptional mobility, good armament, and balanced protection make the Rooikat 76 one of the most formidable armored cars in the world, suitable for employment during conventional warfare and peacekeeping operations. According to the defense industry draft document, the Rooikat remains valuable not only in its assigned role but also because it can rapidly deploy in Africa with tactical air support. Additionally, it has been identified as a milestone that some Rooikat 76 could in future see an upgrade to 105mm and used for direct combat instead of reconnaissance. The possibility also exists that the diesel-electric drive development will be integrated into the Rooikat and/or South Africa`s medium combat vehicle fleet in the near future.

Rooikat Mk1D Specifications

Dimensions (hull) (l-w-h): 7.1m (23.3ft)– 2.9m (9.5ft)– 2.9m (9.5ft)/td>
Total weight, battle ready 28 Tons
Crew 4
Propulsion Twin-turbocharged, water cooled, 10-cylinder diesel Atlantis engine fitted with an intercooler which can produce 563 hp @ 2400rpm. (20.1 hp/t).
Suspension Fully independent internally driven trailing arms, coil springs and shock-absorbers.
Top speed road / off-road 120 kph (75 mph) / 50 kph (31.6 mph)
Range road / off-road / sand 1000 km (621 mi) / 500 km (311 mi) / 150 km (93 mi)
Main armament (see notes)
Secondary armament
GT4 76 mm quick-firing semi-automatic gun
1 × 7.62mm co-axial Browning MG
Armour Exact armour thickness unknown.
Protected against 23mm armor-piercing projectiles fired from medium range (+500 m) Over the entire front 30-degree arc.
Sides and rear offer protection against 12.7 mm (.50 cal.) rounds.
The hull was tested and proven against the TM46 anti-tank mine when fitted with a special protection plate under the hull.
Total Production (Hulls) 242

Rooikat Videos

Rooikat Mk1C launch

Rooikat

Rooikat 76Mk1D African Aerospace and Defence mobility course white smoke

Bibliography

  • Armed Forces. 1991. Magazine. November edition.
  • Camp, S. & Heitman, H.R. 2014. Surviving the ride: A pictorial history of South African manufactured mine protected vehicles. Pinetown, South Africa: 30° South Publishers
  • DENEL. 2018. Media center. https://www.denel.co.za/album/Armour-Products/41 Date of access. 9 Jan. 2018.
  • Erasmus, R. 2017. Interview with a member of SA Armour Museum. Date 2-4 Oct. 2017.
  • Foss, C.F. 1989. Rooikat: ARMSCOR`s new hit-and-run lynx. International Defense Review, 22 (November) :1563-1566.
  • Zulkamen, I. 1994. From the ‘Red Kestrel’ to the ‘Red Cat’ – South Africa’s Rooikat 105 AFV. Asian Defence Journal, 4 (1994): 42.
  • Hohls, R.R. 2017. Interview with a member of SA Armour Museum. Date 2-4 Oct. 2017.Hohls, R.R. 2017. Interview with a member of SA Armour Museum. Date 2-4 Oct. 2017.
  • Gardner, D. 2018. Facebook conversation. 25 Jan. 2018.
    Ihlenfeldt, C. 2018. Interview with a member of School of Armour. Date 11 Jan. 2018.
  • Shipway, S.P. 2017. Interview with a member of School of Armour. Date 2-4 Oct. 2017.
  • September. D. 2017. Interview with a member of School of Armour. Date 2-4 Oct. 2017.
  • Swart, H.J.B. 2018. Rooikat project manager 2001. Telephone interview. Date 11 Jan. 2018.
  • Washington Post. 1988. S. Africa unveils war machine for sale abroad. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1988/10/23/s-africa-unveils-war-machine-for-sale-abroad/47974c0b-101b-4d9b-9e54-c303061f3db2/?utm_term=.4128664bf15d Date of access. 11 Jan. 2018.
  • National Defence Industry Council. 2017. Defence industry strategy: version 5.8, draft. https://www.dod.mil.za/advert/ndic/doc/Defence%20Industry%20Strategy%20Draft_v5.8_Internet.pdf Date of access. 11 Jan. 2018.

Rooikat 76 Mk1C. Illustration by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Rooikat 76 Mk1D, camouflaged. Illustration by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Rooikat 105. Illustration by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Rooikat ZA-35 SPAAG. Illustration by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Categories
South African Tanks

Olifant Mk1B Main Battle Tank

South Africa (1991)
Main Battle Tank – 44 built

“Olifant” The African Elephant Mk1B

The Olifant Mk1B Main Battle Tank (MBT) takes its Afrikaans name from the African Elephant. The Olifant is the largest land animal and in a similar vein the Olifant MBT is the heaviest military vehicle in the then South African Defence Force (SADF) and its successor the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). The Olifant Mk1B is a complete rebuild of the Olifant Mk1A, adapted for the African battlespace and the lessons learned from the South African Border War (1966-1989). It was designed and produced at a time when South Africa was still subject to international embargoes because of its racial segregation policies (Apartheid). Set against the backdrop of the Cold War in Southern Africa which saw a steep rise in liberation movements backed by Eastern Bloc communist countries such as Cuba and the Soviet Union.

Olifant Mk1B left hand view- SA Armour Museum, Tempe Military Base (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Development

Unlike the Mk1A, which is an upgrade from the Centurion Mk.3/5 hull, the Mk1B was a complete rebuild and in doing so left behind the legacy, features and outer look of the Centurion MBT. Development of the Mk1B commenced soon after the Mk1 went into production in 1981. The Olifant Manufacturing Company (OMC) set out to design and build an interim MBT that would improve on the shortcomings of the Mk1A which were exposed during the South African Border War such as poor armor, poor mobility, improved firepower and taxing maintenance requirements. The Mk1B was designed to face off against T-55, T-62, and T-72A MBTs, which are equipped respectively with 100mm, 115mm and 125mm main guns. The primary focus, therefore, was placed on protection followed by improved firepower capabilities, then mobility, and lastly reduction of vehicle maintenance and crew fatigue.

A total of 44 Mk1B (2 x prototype + 42) would be built starting in 1991. South Africa is the sole user of the Mk1B of which 26 were upgraded to Mk2 standard in 2005. Presently 12 Mk1Bs are in storage with 1 South African Tank Regiment.

Olifant Mk1B front view- SA Armour Museum, Tempe Military Base (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Design features

The design, development and production of the Mk1B were undertaken due to the increasing number of Soviet-supplied tanks in Southern Africa. It was particularly feared that the Soviet-backed Cuban forces in Angola would ship T-72A MBTs to the Angolan theatre. The possible deployment of T-72A MBTs necessitated a much better protected, mobile and lethal South African MBT than the  Mk1A.

Mobility

Although the African battle space favours a wheeled configuration, the Mk1B was envisaged to retain its predecessor’s role as an MBT. The Mk1B can ford 1.2m of water without preparation. With regards to the mobility question, the Mk1B kept the Continental 29 litre turbo-charged V12 diesel engine of the Mk1A. Improvements to the engine enabled an additional 100hp which totaled 850hp and raised the horsepower per tonne from 13.39hp/t to 14.4hp/t. A necessary improvement considering that the Mk1B weighed 3 tons more than the Mk1A. A new automatic transmission called AMTRA 3 was assembled by Gear Ration and installed in the Mk1B which provided double-differential steering (four forward gears and two reverse), two-speed mechanical steering drive and hydraulic retarder. The additional 100hp and new automatic transmission allowed the Mk1B to achieve a top speed of 58km/h (36mp/h) on a road which was a further improvement over the Mk1A’s 45km/h (28mp/h).

The old Centurion Horstmann suspension was replaced with a new torsion bar suspension system with hydraulic dampers which provides an overall 300-400% improvement in wheel travel if compared to the Mk1A. Bump stops where fitted to all the road wheels in order to improve off-road mobility while telescopic dampers were fitted to the front and two back stations to reduce rocking when stopping the tank.  Steering is done via a yoke instead of tillers. The overall result of the improvements is a less taxing driving experience for driver and crew, especially over rough terrain.

Continental 29 litre turbo-charged air-cooled V12 diesel engine, SA Armour Museum (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Endurance and logistics

The fuel capacity remained the same as the Mk1A, 1240 litres (328 US gallons). Subsequently, the Mk1B can travel 350km (217mi) on road, 240km (149mi) off-road and 150km (93mi) on sand. With the redesigning of the hull, the engine compartment was extended, allowing more space for easier maintenance and if required, removal and replacement of the entire power pack. In an effort to reduce the frequency of road wheel replacements an outer polyurethane surface was applied which increased the road wheel life from 300km (of the Mk1A) to 1200km on the Mk1B. With the extended engine compartment which lengthened the overall hull, an additional track link was added which brought the total to 109 track links on each side.
The Mk1B is equipped with one 7.62mm coaxial machine gun with a 2000 round ready bin that replaced the 200 round boxes used in the Mk1A. At least 6000 rounds of 7.62mm are carried. The Mk1B features tactical radio communication which allows for reliable command and control, enhancing the tank’s force multiplier effect on the battlefield.

Based on the lessons learned during the South African Border War with the Mk1A, the Mk1B features two drinking water tanks (one left and one right) inside the turret with a combined capacity of 101 litres. The water can be accessed from the commander’s and loader’s station and reduces the necessity to leave the tank to fetch water. Less logistical tasks reduced the need for replenishment from an administration and logistic support vehicles from the echelon.  The addition of a fume extractor fan helps clear the interior crew compartment of excess fumes from the main gun. New and more comfortable seats were also installed to help reduce crew fatigue.

Vehicle layout

The Mk1B carried a standard complement of four crew members, consisting of the commander, gunner, loader, and driver. The commander’s station is located on the right side of the turret and features a newly designed cupola also offering a 360-degree field of vision through six vision blocks. Entry and exit from the commander’s station are achieved through a hatch. On the right side of the turret, just below the commander`s station is the gunner’s station which is fitted with a day and night sight and to the left of the turret is the loader’s station. The loader also sports a periscope for better overall situational awareness. Entry and exit for the former and latter are through the gunner’s and commander’s cupola and in case of emergency, the loader can escape through a hatch of his own. The driver’s station received a more ergonomic overhaul and a new digital instrument panel and a yoke-type steering stick which improved comfort and reduced driver fatigue. Driver visibility was improved with the addition of a third driver’s periscope thereby increasing situational awareness. The central periscope can be replaced with a passive night driving periscope allowing full day/night capability. The driver can enter and exit his station through a new single-piece hatch or in emergencies escape hatch in the floor.

Main gun

The Mk1B retained the South African produced 105mm GT3B rifled gun barrel manufactured by Lyttleton Engineering Works (LEW). A new thermal sleeve and fume extractor help improved sustained accuracy when firing and reduce barrel droop due to heat by as much as 70%-90%. The M456 High Explosive Antitank (HEAT) rounds could effectively penetrate 420mm of Rolled Homogenous Armour (RHA) at any range. Armour Piercing Fin-stabilised Discarding Sabot (APFSDS) rounds with the ability to penetrate 580mm of RHA is also used. All the main gun rounds were imported with the exception of the High Explosive (HE) round which is manufactured by Denel in South Africa. The Denel M9210 HE round contains a TNT/HNS filling with an effective blast radius of 17m. The round is fired with a muzzle velocity of 700m/s to a maximum range of 9km. Dispersion at 3 km is within 0.3m x 0.3m.

The fighting compartment saw safety improvements with a total of 65 main gun rounds carried in protected stowage bins below the turret ring. The turret bustle was extended which added more room for crew equipment. The bustle extension also helped balance the overall turret weight distribution, putting much less strain on the new solid state electrical gun control system and turret drive which could traverse the turret in a full circle in 16 seconds (an improvement of 10 seconds over the Mk1A). An infrared/white searchlight was added above the main gun.

Fire Control System

In 1990 the SADF tasked Reutech Systems to develop a new fire control system to replace the 30-year-old system on the Mk1A. The fire control system was known as the High Frequency Tank Fire Directing System (HIFF) and consisted of a state of the art (for the time) ballistic computer system and sight drive electronics coupled to a touch button control system and sensors which accurately measured meteorological conditions such as ambient temperature and wind speed from the environmental sensors which could affect the fire accuracy of the main gun. The new system allowed the gunner to select a target and in less than two seconds the fire control system would calculate a fire solution and notify the gunner via a ready to fire light that the main gun was on target and ready to fire.  The system could also hit a moving target while on the move itself by adjusting the main guns aim after incorporating the targets distance, speed and relative speed thereby maximising first round hit probability. The gunner makes use of an Eloptro 8x gunner’s day sight with an integrated ballistic computer which was added to the gunner’s sight. Co-mounted is a laser range finder which is accurate up to 10km. Data from the rangefinder is fed into the split range drum, which applies elevation to the main gun. Tests revealed that the system is accurate within 50m x 50 m at 2 km which is perfect for the South African Lowveld (open stretches of grass plains).


Interior view of Olifant Mk1B gunners station. Source: SALUT MAGAZINE. 

Protection

Having established that the Mk1A is vulnerable to Soviet T-55, T-62 and T-72A MBT`s, an upgrade of the Mk1B’s armor was undertaken. The Mk1B retained the original Mk1A’s armor, which consisted of 118mm (4.64in) on the frontal glacis at 60 degrees, 152mm frontal turret (6in), 51mm (2in) on the sides, 40mm (1.57in) on top and 19mm (0.7in) in the rear. An armor upgrade installation program took the form of several passive composite armor packages over the frontal glacis plate and turret (front, sides and top). A gap in between the original Mk1A turret and the add-on turret package was left open to act as spaced armor against High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) rounds or which could be filled if needed in future. The total thickness of the armor package upgrade and the composition thereof is classified, however, given the threat level posed it would be reasonable to argue that they would be sufficient to deal with 115mm HEAT rounds used by Soviet T-62 tanks. Being modular the add-on armor package can be replaced in the field if it is damaged.

The entire hull could shrug off the feared 23mm anti-aircraft gunfire. Furthermore, the threat posed to the Mk1A by Rocket Propelled Grenades such as the RPG-7 is negated with the mentioned upgrades to the Mk1B. The armored steel skirts of the Mk1A redesigned allowing for easier removal while still providing additional protection against RPG-7s. The constant threat of landmines in Southern Africa necessitated the addition of a double armored floor (with the torsion bars between the floor plates). A new fire suppression system (automatic & manual) was installed in the crew and engine compartment to reduce the likelihood of a catastrophic fire or explosion if hit. The stowage bins received lids to reduce the chances of content ignition if the Mk1A’s is hit. The smoke grenade banks were prone to damage when “bundu bashing” (driving through dense vegetation) which encouraged the relocation thereof to the rear of the turret on the Mk1B.

Two banks of four smoke grenade launchers were fitted. Additionally, the Mk1B can also generate a smoke screen by injecting fuel into the engine exhaust. The hull headlamps are armored and a V-shape bush basher bar could be added to the nose of the hull. The total additional weight adds up to just over 3 tons.

Olifant Mk1B rear bustle view- SA Armour Museum, Tempe Military Base (Photo: Dewald Venter)

VARIANTS

Olifant Bridge Laying Tank
Two Mk1B Bridge Laying Tank (BLT) were built which are employed by the SANDF engineering corps.

Tank Technology Demonstrator and Olifant Mk1B Optimum
The Mk1B was developed as a stop gap while the SADF were looking to acquire a brand new MBT. The Logim project was aimed at researching, developing and manufacturing a complete domestic MBT. The project reached the prototype phase with one working model build known as the Tank Technology Demonstrator (TTD) which looked very similar to the Leopard 2A4. The technology developed for the TTD would eventually be transferred to the Mk1B Optimum in addition to a new lighter turret made of advanced ceramics with a reminiscent shape found on the Leopard 2A5. Additionally, the Mk1B Optimum would feature rubber side plates to detonate medium HEAT rounds and at the same time, save weight. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the 1994 democratic elections, the new SANDF had a significantly reduced budget. Hence the TTD and Optimum projects were cancelled. Most of the technologies would eventually be transferred to the Mk2.

Olifant Mk1B Optimum – SA Armour Museum, Tempe Military Base (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Conclusion

The Mk1B was, for all practical purposes, a leap forward in protection, mobility and firepower over its predecessor, the Mk1A. However, several problems came to light, such as the poor power to weight ratio and the failure of the main gun system to exceed the performance of the Mk1A. Additionally, the desired fight ability improvement was not achieved. These shortcomings motivated the SANDF to look for further improvements which led to the Mk2 which made use of many of the TTD technologies.

Olifant Mk1B Specifications

Dimensions (hull) (l-w-h): 8.30m (26.3ft.)– 3.43m (10.8ft.)– 3.04m (9.64ft.)
Total weight, battle ready 59 Tons
Crew 4
Propulsion Continental 29 litre turbo-charged air-cooled V12 diesel engine produces 850 hp @2400rpm. (14.4 hp/t)
Suspension Torsion bar
Top speed road / off-road 58 kph (36 mph) / 30 kph (18.6 mph)
Range road/ off-road >350km (217 miles) / 240km (149 miles)
Armament (see notes) 105mm GT3B semi-automatic quick firing gun (L7)
1 × 7.62mm co-axial Browning MG
Armour 118mm (4.64in.) glacis @ 60 degrees + add-on armour package
152mm (6in.) turret + add-on ceramic armour package
51mm (2in.) sides
40mm (1.57in.) top
31mm (1.22in.) rear
Total Production (Hulls) 44

Olifant Videos

Olifant Mk1A and Mk1B demonstration

Tank Technology Demonstrator

 Bibliography

  • Carroll, S. 2017. Olifant Mk1B. Date 2-4 Oct. SA Armour Museum, Bloemfontein.
  • Erasmus, R. 2017. Olifant Mk1B. Date 2-4 Oct. SA Armour Museum, Bloemfontein.
  • Erasmus, R. 2017. Olifant Mk1B. Date 21 Nov. Telephone interview with Olifant Mk1B project leader.
  • Harmse, K. 2017. Olifant Mk1B. Date 16 Nov. Vaal Mall, Vanderbijlpark.
  • Global security group. 2015. Olifant Mk1B. https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/rsa/olifant-1b.htm Date of access: 16 Sep. 2017.
  • SALUT Magazine. 1996. Advance technology. October Edition.
  • SADF living history group.  2015. Armour. https://sadfgroup.org/equipment/armour/ Date of access: 16 Sep. 2017.
  • Steenkamp, W. & Heitman, H.R.  2016.  Mobility Conquers: The story of 61 mechanised battalion group 1978-2005.  West Midlands: Helion & Company Limited
  • VEG Magazine. 2005. The development of the Olifant Mk1B & Mk2. Issue 8. Victor Logistics.

Olifant Mk1B.


Mk1B Optimum. Both Illustration by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

 

Categories
South African Tanks

Olifant Mk1A Main Battle Tank

South Africa (1983)
Main Battle Tank – 153 built

“Olifant” The African Elephant

The Olifant Mk1A Main Battle Tank (MBT) takes its Afrikaans name from the African Elephant. The Olifant is the largest land animal and thus, the Olifant MBT is aptly named as it was the heaviest military vehicle in the then South African Defence Force (SADF) and post-democratic South African National Defence Force (SANDF). The Olifant Mk1A is adapted for the African battlespace. It was designed and produced at a time when South Africa was subject to ever more strict international arms embargoes because of its segregation policies (Apartheid), set against the backdrop of the Cold War in Southern Africa which saw a steep rise in liberation movements backed by Eastern Bloc communist countries such as Cuba and the Soviet Union.
Olifant Mk1A - With permission from SA Army Armour Formation
Olifant Mk1A – With permission from SA Army Armour Formation

Development

The Olifant Mk1A was the final evolutionary development of the British Centurions in South Africa service before the end of the Cold War. During 1953, South Africa, as part of the Commonwealth, purchased 87 Mk.3 and 116 Mk.5 Centurions from Great Britain. One hundred Centurions were sold to Switzerland in the 1960’s to generate funds for the purchase of Mirage fighter airplanes. As part of the purchase agreement, Switzerland was allowed to pick the best 100 Centurions from the South African inventory, which they did. This action virtually halved the South African tank capability. In the years that followed, the remaining tanks were used for training and large-scale exercises such as those held in 1966.

In 1964, the United Nations enacted a strict arms embargo on South Africa due to its racial segregation policy, known as “Apartheid”. Regardless of the sanctions, South Africa was able to obtain some of the equipment and parts necessary for the upkeep of the Centurion fleet. The exception was the 650hp water-cooled V-12 Rolls Royce Meteor engine which was prone to overheating in the warm African weather. The strain brought on by the rocky terrain took its toll on the Centurion’s road wheels and suspension. The changing global political environment against South Africa necessitated an increased requirement on self-reliance which led to the establishment of the Armaments Corporation of South Africa (ARMSCOR) in 1964, which would take on procurement, research and development tasks. With some sleight of hand and creative wording, ARMSCOR was able to procure diesel engines from General Motors under the pretext of them being used for farming. Although suitable, the engines, meant for the cold weather use of Europe, constantly overheated in the African heat. General Motors got wind of the engine’s final destination and pulled the supply thereof in 1970.

In 1973, ARMSCOR acquired several air-cooled Continental V-12 engine used in the M46/47 Patton which produced 810hp. With some creative modifications, they were installed in the South African Centurions. However, the new engines were far from perfect as they consumed a ridiculous amount of fuel, limiting the operational range off road to just 40km. Additionally, the original tiller bars for driving were replaced by a steering handlebar system. Besides the three test models build by 61 Base Workshop, another six were produced by Sandock-Austral and all nine were pushed into service as an interim measure as the ‘Skokiaan’ (an African alcoholic drink) while the Centurion Mk.5A was being developed. The Centurion Mk.5A was nicknamed ‘Semel’ (bran/cereal) which referred to its project development code name. Using the same engine as the ‘Skokiaan’, a total of 35 ‘Semels’ were built from 1974 and featured the repositioning of the air filters (to avoid getting clogged), increased fuel capacity (1400 litres), redesigned steering and brakes which made use of hydraulics. They were sent to Walvis Bay in South West Africa (Namibia).

Skokiaan on display, School of Armour, Tempe Military Base (Photo: Dewald Venter)
While the interim Semels and Skokiaans were being produced the South African Armoured Corps submitted a request to the upgrade of the Centurion fleet to the standards of the Israeli ‘Sho`t’. This request saw the birth of the Olifant MBT project which involved cooperation between the South African Technical Service Corps, ARMSCOR and Barlow’s through the subsidiary Barlow’s Heavy Engineering, which established a division called the ‘Olifant Manufacturing Company’ (OMC) in 1976. Lacking sufficient Centurion hulls due to the sale of a hundred Centurions in the 1960`s an extensive search led to the acquisition of 200 Centurion tanks (in various states of disrepair) from Jordan. The first pre-production variant of the Olifant (Mk1) was sent to the School of Armour at Tempe Military Base for testing in 1976 followed by a second in 1977 and a third in 1978.
The Olifant Mk1 was officially introduced in 1978 and mainly featured a 750 hp diesel engine coupled to a semi-automatic transmission. Production commenced in 1979 and lasted until 1984 with a total of 153 Mk.3 Centurions being converted to the Olifant Mk1 standard. As luck would have it, South Africa confiscated a shipment of T-55 tanks bound for Tanzania from a cargo ship which “mistakenly docked” in the Durban harbour. Subsequent trials against the T-55 revealed several inadequacies of the Olifant Mk1. Luckily, development of the Olifant Mk1A had already begun in 1981, with production starting in 1983. The new Olifant Mk1A upgrade of the Olifant Mk1 was ready for service from 1985 onward and featured a stabilized and upgraded locally produced 105mm GT3B canon (L7), which gave a bigger and more accurate punch than the Centurion Mk5A’s 84mm. The fire control system was improved and passive night vision sight on a night elbow installed as well as a laser rangefinder. Other external differences saw the addition of storage racks at the rear of the turret for camouflage netting etc.

Olifant Mk1A De Brug shooting range. Notice the additional storage rack at the back of the turret. (Photo: Dewald Venter)
A total of 153 Olifant Mk1A`s were built by the late 1980s. The SADF deployed the Olifant Mk1A for use at the School of Armour, 1 South African Tank Regiment, Pretoria Regiment, Natal Mounted Rifles and President Steyn. South Africa is the sole user of the Olifant Mk1A which was eventually superseded by the Olifant Mk2. Some Olifant Mk1A’s are still used for training purposes by the SANDF.

Design features

According to Major General Roland de Vries (retd.). “The Olifant is a prime example of what ingenuity and technical expertise can accomplish. It took a long time and much effort, but by the time we had finished, almost nothing (30%) of the old Centurions remained except the characteristic hulls, turret shells and track skirts.”

Mobility

Although the African battle space favours a wheeled configuration, the Olifant Mk1A was to prove adept at its role as a (MBT) sledgehammer aimed at a precise point. The Olifant Mk1A has 508mm of ground clearance and can ford 1.2m of water without preparation. The Olifant Mk1A retained the Horstman suspension from the Centurion. The South African environment produced an exceptional amount of fine dust which necessitated the fitting of improved air filters which allowed the optimum use of the new Continental 29 litre turbo-charged air-cooled V12 diesel engine which produced 750hp (13.39 hp/t). A new rail system was installed allowing the power pack to be quickly changed in the field with the use of a crane in less than 30 minutes. The engine is coupled to the new improved and robust semi-automatic transmission system with two forward (low and high range) and one reverse gear allowing the Olifant Mk1A to achieve 45 km/h (28 mph) on road which was a significant improvement over the Centurion Mk5’s 35 km/h (22 mph). Steering was done via a handlebar system. The added improvements only contributed 5 tons of additional mass (totalling 56t) which is negligible considering the level of improvements made to the overall engine.

Olifant Mk1A Continental 29 litre turbo-charged air-cooled V12 diesel engine, SA Armour Museum (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Endurance and logistics

The fuel capacity was improved from 458L (121gal) of the Centurion Mk5 to 1240L (328gal) in the Olifant Mk1A. Subsequently, the Olifant Mk1A could travel 350km (217mi) on road and 240km (149mi) off-road and 150km (93mi) on sand as opposed to the Centurion Mk5’s 190km (118mi) on road and 80km (49mi) off-road and 50km (31mi) on sand. Considerable effort was put into making the Olifant Mk1A easier to maintain by ensuring that both mechanical and electronic subsystems were easy to access as the tank was to be employed on longer missions over rugged and variable terrain with less logistical support than before. The Olifant Mk1A tracks consisted of 108 links over twenty-four road wheels (12 per side), each of which had an average service life of 300km-500km which necessitated regular maintenance and replacement. Operations in Angola would soon prove the merit of the former upgrades which reduced crew fatigue considerably.
The Olifant Mk1A is equipped with two 7.62mm machine guns, one in the coaxial position and one on the commander’s cupola. A 12.7mm Browning heavy machine gun was used as a sub-calibre training aid. At least 5600 rounds consisting of 28 belts of 200 rounds of 7.62mm were carried.
The Olifant Mk1A features tactical radio communication which allowed for reliable command and control. This proved very useful in the thick Angolan bush, enhancing the tank’s force multiplier effect on the battlefield. Spare whip aerials for the radio were carried in a tube on the hull as they had a tendency to bend when doing ‘bundu basing’ (driving through dense vegetation). Each Olifant Mk1A carried its own water in jerry cans and cooking stove, tool kit, tow bar, cable and spare parts in the tote. The Olifant Mk1A relied on daily replenishment from the administration and logistic support vehicles from the echelon.

Vehicle layout

The Olifant Mk1A carries a standard crew complement of four consisting of the commander, gunner, loader and driver. The commander’s station is located on the right side of the turret and retained the commander’s cupola of the Centurion which offered a 360-degree field of vision through eight vision blocks. An additional vision block is provided which can swivel independently. Entry and exit from this station are achieved through a hatch. Also on the right side of the turret, just in front and below the commander’s station is the gunner’s station. On the left of the turret is the loader’s station. Entry and exit for the commander and gunner was through the commander’s hatch while the loader has a separate hatch. The driver’s compartment is located at the front and right of the hull, from where he has 90-degree forward visibility through two driver’s episcopes. The driver can enter and exit the vehicle through a hatch located above his seat.

Main gun


Olifant Mk1A and crew. Main gun rounds front from left to right APDS, APFSDS, HEAT, HESH and White phosphor – With permission from S. Coetzee.
The Olifant Mk1A was initially equipped with a 105mm L7 rifled gun barrel sourced from Israel. Later on, an improved South African produced 105mm GT3B semi-automatic quick firing gun manufactured by Lyttleton Engineering Works (LEW) was fitted. The 105mm made use of L52 Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot (APDS) rounds and M456 High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) rounds sourced from Israel. The HEAT rounds could effectively penetrate 420mm of Rolled Homogenous Armour (RHA) at any range. By 1987, South Africa received the improved Armour Piercing Fin-stabilised Discarding Sabot (APFSDS) M111 rounds which have a muzzle velocity of 1455m/s, range of 3km and could penetrate 390mm of RHA at 10 meters. Additionally, the Olifant MK1A can fire the Denel M9210 High Explosive (HE) round which contains a TNT/HNS filling and an effective blast radius of 17m. The round is fired with a muzzle velocity of 700m/s to a maximum range of 9km. Dispersion at 3 km is within 0.3 x 0.3m. White phosphorus rounds can also be fired at a distance of 9km.

105mm APFSDS-T round used by an Olifant Mk1A, SA Armour Museum (Photo: Dewald Venter)
With the rising threat of Soviet-supplied T-55, T-62 and possible T-72M tanks, a substantial effort was made to acquire more potent APFSDS-T rounds with the ability to penetrate 580mm of RHA. The level of penetration was more than sufficient to slice through the frontal glacis and turret of T-55 and T-62 MBT`s it was envisaged to face. Subsequent combat action during the final stages of the South African Border War (1966-1989) would prove this to be correct.
A new electrical gun and turret drive was developed for the Olifant Mk1A, while improved gun stabilisation was also incorporated. The turret drive can traverse the turret 360 degrees in 26 seconds.
The fighting compartment saw improvements to the layout of the 105mm ammunition which increased the total carrying capacity to 72 rounds which is an improvement of 8 rounds over the contemporary Centurion Mk13 which could only carry 64 rounds.

Fire Control System

The fire control system was also improved which allowed quicker and more accurate engagements. The original Centurion 6x stadia sight was replaced with an Eloptro 8x gunner’s day sight. Co-mounted was a laser range finder which was accurate to 10km. Data from the rangefinder was by design fed into the split range drum, which applied elevation to the main gun. Tests revealed that the system is accurate within 50 cm x 50 cm at 2 km which was perfect for the South African Lowveld (open stretches of grass plains) but would prove overcomplicated for the average 100m engagements in the Angolan bush.

Protection

The Olifant Mk1A retained the Centurion armor which consisted of 118mm (4.64in) on the frontal glacis at 60 degrees, 152mm frontal turret (6in), 51mm (2in) on the sides, 40mm (1.57in) on top and 29mm (1.14in) in the rear of the tank. The entire hull can shrug off the feared ZU-23mm armor piercing (AP) rounds used by FAPLA in the ground role against the Ratel Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICV). The armored side skirts were quickly removed in the bush as foliage became stuck between skirts and the tracks. The removal also made track repairs quicker.
Even though the Olifant Mk1A could penetrate a T-55 and T-62 frontally at 2 km, the former and latter armed with a 100mm and 115mm main gun respectively could also destroy the Olifant Mk1A. The Olifant Mk1A is also vulnerable to Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG-7).
Two banks of four 81mm smoke grenade launchers were fitted either side if the turret, replacing the outdated smoke grenade launchers of the Centurion Mk5. Latter improvements would also include the fitting of a protective frame to protect against vegetation while bundu bashing.

Mine clearing rollers and plough kit

SADF/SANDF evaluated the use of mine clearing roller and plough kit for the Olifant Mk1A. Southern African conditions proved that a plough-type, electro-hydraulic dozer blade was not feasible as test models bend in the hard soil and could not uproot trees. Additionally, the extra strain on the MBT would overheat the engine, especially on sandy terrain.

Olifant Mk1A with mine clearing rollers – With permission from A. Retief

Variants

Olifant Mk1 Armoured Recovery Vehicle
At least one Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV) based on the chassis of the Olifant Mk1 was completed by OMC in 1979, with an additional two being ready in 1984 for use in Operation Thunder Chariot. The Olifant ARV`s primary task is to extract disabled vehicles under enemy fire. At the rear is a spade ground anchor which enables the main winch equipped with a 58kw motor to pull a 120-ton load via a 3:1 snatch block. On the rear-right is a digging arm. The ARV has a crew of four which have at their disposal jacks, cables, chains, power saws, spades and oxyacetylene cutting and welding torch which is stored in the exterior side bins or is equipped with a small crane jib at the rear which is used to tow a damaged vehicle out of action. One would be assigned per tank squadron and four per tank regiment. The ARVs were assigned to 61 Mechanised Battalion Group. A total of 14 ARV`s where built.
Olifant Mk1 ARV, South African Museum of Military History
Olifant Mk1 ARV, South African Museum of Military History (Photo: Dewald Venter)

The Olifant in Action

The South African Border War came to a finale during Operations Moduler, Hooper, and Packer (1987-1988). The SADF jumped to the aid of their allies, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) who were facing annihilation. The Cuban and Soviet-backed People’s Armed Forces of Liberation of Angola (FAPLA) gathered eight brigades and an extensive auxiliary support force (aided by Soviet advisors) and advanced east-south-east from Cuito Cuanavale to attack UNITA’s primary operating bases at Jamba and Mavinga. What followed is best described as the largest conventional battle ever seen on African soil since World War 2. What marked this armored conflict as exceptional was the extreme close ranges (50m-150m) in which the Olifant Mk1, Mk1A tanks and Ratel 90s would engage FAPLA tanks and armoured cars. Two squadrons of Olifant tanks (Mk1 & Mk1A) were sent to Angola to strengthen the Ratel 90s there and to face off against 150 Soviet-supplied T-54/55s.
Olifant Mk1, F-Squadron racing back to Calueque in Angola 1988
Olifant Mk1, F-Squadron racing back to Calueque in Angola 1988 – With permission from C. Van Schoor
The Olifant Mk1 and Mk1A were deployed in squadrons which consisted of 11 tanks + 2 command tank. The Olifant Mk1A made its combat debut with E-Squadron in 1987, during Operation Moduler. The SADF tank crews preferred using HEAT rounds which were equally effective against soft-skinned and armored vehicles. Even though the thick bush could prematurely detonate a HEAT round it produced a much more visible impact when an enemy target was hit compared to the APFSDS rounds. The HEAT rounds also did not feature a Safety Arming Device (SAD) which would arm after penetrating 150mm. The APFSDS was sparsely used as there was a fear that trees could deflect the rounds. Due to the thick bush which limited visibility, armored engagements were seldom further than 150m and often as close as 50m. The use of HEAT rounds allowed the Olifant Mk1A to instantly engage dug in T-55s located behind defensive sand walls to be quickly followed by another HEAT round or APFSDS.
As part of Operation Moduler, E-squadron engaged FAPLA’s 16th Brigade during the battle of Chambinga on the 9th of November 1987. Lt. Hein Fourie destroyed the first enemy T-55 with an Olifant Mk1A, followed by another to the gun of Lt. Abrie Strauss and his crew.
Operation Hooper was launched on the 2nd of January 1988 and saw F-squadron under Major Tim Rudman take the lead with the aim of dislodging FAPLA’s 21st Brigade from the River Cuatir. A counterattack by Cuban forces soon followed in which one Olifant Mk1A was damaged, two Olifant Mk1 from F-squadron were detracked by anti-tank mines while a third threw its tracks. Despite repeated attempts to salvage the tanks, they had to be abandoned due to intense enemy artillery and ground fire. The two detracked Olifant tanks can still be found where they were immobilized while the third was captured intact by FAPLA. The turret was shipped to the Soviet Union while the hull can be found at Menongue airport in Angola. Furthermore, a Ratel was destroyed and 4 SADF soldiers killed while the Cuban forces and FAPLA lost 21 T-55s and suffered 480 casualties.
Olifant Mk1 from F-Squadron preparing for Ops Hooper, Angola 1987
Olifant Mk1 from F-Squadron preparing for Ops Hooper, Angola 1987 – With permission from C. Van Schoor
Soviet officers posing for a photo with one of the abandoned Olifant Mk1 tank
Soviet officers posing for a photo with one of the abandoned Olifant Mk1 tank. Source: South African Defence Industry & Military Related

Conclusion

The Olifant Mk1A became a true African MBT as it had to be adapted to suit the unique operational and tactical requirements found in the Southern African battlespace. With some creativity and ingenuity, the South African arms industry was able to upgrade a 40-year-old MBT into one that went toe to toe against an enemy with numerically superior tanks. The Olifant Mk1A was soon to have a facelift in the form of the Mk1B, but unlike before, the Mk1B would be a complete rebuild which could face down and beat the venerable T-72M.

Olifant Mk1A Specifications

Dimensions (hull) (l-w-h): 7.56m (24.8ft)– 3.39m (11.12ft)– 2.94m (9.64ft)
Total weight, battle ready 56 Tons
Crew 4
Propulsion Continental 29 litre turbo-charged air-cooled V12 diesel engine produces 750hp @2400rpm. (13.39 hp/t).
Suspension Six Horstmann suspension units (three per side)
Top speed road / off-road 45 kph (28 mph) / 30 kph (18.6 mph)
Range road/ off-road >350km (217 miles) / 240km (149 miles)
Main armament (see notes)
Secondary armament
105mm GT3B semi-automatic quick firing gun (L7)
1 × 7.62mm co-axial Browning MG
1 x 7.62mm turret Browning MG
Armour 118mm (4.64in) glacis @ 60 degrees
152mm (6in) turret
51mm (2in) sides
40mm (1.57in) top
31mm (1.22in) rear
Total Production (Hulls) 153

Olifant Videos

Olifant obstacle course

Olifant Mk1A Night shoot

Bibliography

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https://www.61mech.org.za/equipment/olifant-mk-1a Date of access: 16 Sep. 2017.
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SADF living history group. 2015. Armour. https://sadfgroup.org/equipment/armour/ Date of access: 16 Sep. 2017.
Steenkamp, W. & Heitman, H.R. 2016. Mobility Conquers: The story of 61 mechanised battalion group 1978-2005. West Midlands: Helion & Company Limited
VEG Magazine. 2005. The development of the Olifant tank: Centurion Mk3. Issue 2. Victor Logistics.
VEG Magazine. 2005. The development of the Olifant tank: Centurion Mk5. Issue 3. Victor Logistics.
VEG Magazine. 2005. The development of the Olifant tank: Goodbye to the Centurion. Issue 4. Victor Logistics.
VEG Magazine. 2005. The development of the Olifant tank: Olifant Mk1A. Issue 6. Victor Logistics.
VEG Magazine. 2005. The development of the Olifant tank: Olifant Mk1A & 1A GHV. Issue 7. Victor Logistics.

Olifant Mk1A dark sand livery
Olifant Mk1A dark sand livery. Illustration by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.