Categories
Cold War Belgium armor

Canon Antitank d’Infanterie 90 mm (CATI 90)

Belgium (1953-62)
Tank Destroyer – Aprx. 32 Converted

The Canon Antitank d’Infanterie 90 mm (CATI 90, Infantry Anti-Tank Gun) was a light tank destroyer developed in Belgium in 1953 and based on the British Loyd Carrier vehicle from World War 2. By adding a light but powerful gun to the old carrier, the Belgian Army had created a cheap vehicle which provided direct infantry support, especially to be used against enemy armored vehicles.

The most famous picture of the CATI showing it with the left armor plate hinged down, and a crew of three. The photo is likely to have been taken by the fourth crewmember on a firing range. Source: N/A

Background

After the end of the Second World War, the Belgian army was equipped with an array of surplus British armored vehicles, among them a rather large quantity of Loyd Carrier TTs. During the early 1950s, the army initiated a large re-equipment program which was largely made possible by the USA with their Mutual Defence Assistance Program (MDAP). The army received large quantities of US tanks, half-tracks, and self-propelled guns. However, the army still felt a need for an armored vehicle to directly support the infantry. To keep costs low, it was decided to convert Loyd carriers into tank destroyers as these carriers were largely available.
The light carriers, however, could not carry a large gun with heavy recoil. During the early 1950s, the Belgian joint-stock company MECAR S.A. (Mécanique et Armement – Mechanics and Armament), which was situated in the city of Roeulx-lez-Nivelles, had been developing a low pressure semi-automatic 90 mm gun. Due to its low pressure, the gun had very low recoil and low weight. This gun could be mounted on the carrier without too many issues.
Construction of the new vehicles was initiated in 1953 and the guns were mounted onto the Loyd carriers by Usines Émile Henricot (Émile Henricot Factories), located at Court-Saint-Etienne, central Belgium. In 1954, each infantry battalion was equipped with a platoon of four of these CATI vehicles together with four regular carriers which served as ammunition carriers.

Two CATIs with tactical numbers 016 and 018. The relatively small size of the CATI can be appreciated as one of the crew members in front offers a good size comparison. Source: museumbsd
The idea to repurpose an older chassis by mounting a rather large gun did not come out of the blue. In fact, before the Second World War, such an idea was already executed in Belgium, which resulted in the T13 tank destroyer.
The Loyd carrier had been used as a gun carrier before as well, although this conversion was attempted out by the UK during the Second World War, when they tried to mount a 25 pounder gun on the Loyd chassis. This attempt failed.

A blurry picture of the CATI, seen from the front left. Source: Royal Army Museum Brussels

Design

The Loyd Carrier was designed just before the war by Captain Vivian G. Loyd. The vehicle was based upon the 4×2 Fordson 7V truck 15cwt and used the same chassis, gearbox, transmission, front axle, and 85 hp Ford V8 Side-valve engine. On this chassis, a bodywork made of mild steel was added, against which 7 mm armor plates were installed. A total of 26,000 of these carriers were built until 1944 when production was ceased. The vehicle, which had a top speed of 48 km/h and weighed 4.5 tons, had dimensions of 4.24 x 2.06 x 1.42 meters.
To accommodate the gun, a hole was made in the front armor plate. This also meant that the storage box which was located on the front had to be divided into two smaller ones. The gun had a movement to each side of 22°, could be elevated 15°, and depressed 13°. The side armor plates were also changed, on both sides the middle section of the armor was hinged, which eased the accessibility of the vehicle.
The vehicle was operated by a crew of four, a driver who sat on the right side of the gun, a gunner who sat left of the gun, a commander, and a loader, who were both seated behind the gun.

This CATI bears the registration number 59412 and shows its gun in the depressed position. Source: De Carapat no.1 2017


Illustration of the Canon Antitank d’Infanterie 90 mm (CATI 90), produced by Ardhya Anargha, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Gun

The CATI 90 was the first armored vehicle that was equipped with the low-pressure MECAR 90 mm gun. The total weight of the gun was only 274 kg and featured a hydraulic recoil system. The gun had a recoil of 2500 kg and a recoil length of 40 cm, both of which are relatively low. The breech mechanism was semi-automatically cam-operated, the cases were ejected automatically. The rifling of the gun was unconventional as it was thin, shallow, and with a very low inclination.
The CATIs were equipped with two kinds of ammunition, HE and HEAT. The HEAT projectile weighed 2.28 kg and its accuracy and stabilization were achieved by the combination of the projectiles’ initial low rotation and eight stabilizing fins. It had a relatively low velocity of 633 m/s and an effective range of only 1 km, and a maximum range of 3.5 km. Within the effective range, the HEAT projectile could penetrate 350 mm of armor or 1200 mm of concrete. The HE projectile had an effective range of 2.1 km and a maximum range of 4 km. The maximum rate of fire consisted of 10 rounds per minute, with a sustainable rate of fire of 7 rounds per minute. The CATI had an ammunition load-out of 18 shells, the ammunition carrier could carry 54 additional rounds

The MECAR 90/28 mm gun, which was mounted on the CATI. Source: Jane’s Armoured Fighting Vehicle Retrofit Systems 1993-94

Production and Service

How many CATIs were eventually made is still unclear. It is known that each infantry battalion was equipped with four CATIs and four Loyd ammunition carriers, forming anti-tank companies, but the actual number of infantry battalions in the Belgian Army during the 1960s is hard to come by. We may find a clue in the history of the Kanonenjagdpanzer 90, of which eighty were used by Belgium, ten for each infantry battalion. These vehicles were put in service in 1973, twenty years later than the CATI, so it is likely that during the 1960s there were eight infantry battalions as well. This would implicate that probably 32 CATIs were made. According to Alexander Lüdeke, a German historian, up to a hundred CATIs were used by the Belgian army, however, this number seems unlikely as Belgium never had 25 infantry battalions in service, although some vehicles could have been kept in reserve.
Known registration numbers, visible on photographs, include 59603, 59412, and 59568. On two photographs, tactical numbers are visible, one having 016 and the other 018.

The only CATI that survived resides now at the Royal Museum of Armored Forces and Military History in Brussels. Source: Wikimedia

Fate

After the vehicles were taken out of service in 1962, most were scrapped and only one example is known to have survived. It is on display at the Royal Army Museum in Brussels. Some of the guns were re-used and mounted in the FN-AB (Auto Blindée) armored cars. These armored cars were produced by FN Herstal and based upon their 4RM-62F truck chassis. 61 of these armored cars were produced from 1965-1968 in three variants. 24 of these vehicles were armed with the 90 mm gun. This version was called FN-ABC (Auto-Blindée Canon). The FN-AB armored cars were in use by the Gendarmerie Nationale, the Belgian military police.
The CATIs were replaced in service by ENTAC AT missiles, either mounted on jeeps or AMX-VCI. 2500 of these missiles were ordered from France in 1961 and delivered until 1966. The AMX-VCI was put into service between 1963-1969.

The FN-4RM-62F ABC mounted the same MECAR 90/28 gun. They were taken out of service in 1977 and replaced by the BDX APC. Source: milinfo.org

Specifications

Dimensions 5.7 x 2.06 x 1.42 meters
Total weight, battle ready 4.8 tonnes
Crew 4 (Gunner, Loader, Commander, Driver)
Propulsion No.1 British Ford V8 petrol
85 bhp at 3500 rpm
Propulsion No.2 US Ford V8 petrol
90 bhp at 3500 rpm
Propulsion Canadian Ford V8 petrol
85 bhp at 3500 rpm
Speed 35 km/h
Armor up 7 mm (0.28in)
Total Production Aprx. 32

Sources

Les Chars et les Vehicules Terrestres du Musée Royal de l’Armée à Bruxelles, R. Surlemont, Tank Museum A.S.B.L., 1984.
Leichte Panzer und Jagdpanzer: seit 1945, Alexander Lüdeke, Motorbuch Verlag, 2014
Jane’s Armoured Fighting Vehicle Retrofit Systems 1993-94. Online.
De Carapat, Vriendenkring Carabiniers en Carabiniers-Grenadiers, 2017. PDF.
CATI 90 walkaround.
ENTAC delivery on SIPRI trade registers.
The FN-4RM 62F AB on milinfo.org.

Categories
Cold War Belgium armor

M8 Greyhound in Katangese Service

Belgium Kingdom of Belgium/State Katanga State of Katanga/ Democratic Republic of Congo

Armored Car – 2 Built

For many colonial powers, the period following World War Two was very hard. After the war, these nations faced crippling debt, austerity, huge damage to infrastructure needing repair and restoration of their exhausted military. Belgium, having been occupied by the Germans since 1940 until late in 1944 was no different. Their colonial possession of Congo was supposed to be decolonialised in keeping with post-war decolonisation efforts.
The Belgian Congo (modern-day Democratic Republic of Congo), as a colony, had been very badly treated under Belgian rule. Despite efforts throughout the 1950’s to maintain order, the nation was progressively descending into chaos with major demonstrations in Leopoldville up to independence in June 1960. The neighboring colonies of Ruanda-Urundi (modern day Rwanda and Burundi) were not granted independence until July 1962.

Descent Into Anarchy

Within days of gaining its independence, the country fell rapidly from chaos into anarchy, completely dashing any hopes for an effective self-governed post-colonial nation. Elements of the new Congolese National Army (known as CNA’ or, more correctly, the ‘ANC’ Armee Nationale Congolaise’) mutinied and severe ethnic and tribal violence erupted. The former colonial power of Belgium sent troops primarily to protect white civilians without having sought permission from the new government of the Congo under President Joseph Kasuvubu and his Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba. This military intervention by Belgium was despite a resolution from the United Nations in July calling for a total withdrawal of Belgian forces.
Not long afterward, the southern province of Katanga (with Belgian support) declared independence in July and then the province of South Kasai also seceded in August.

Flag of the State of Katanga, note the crosses. Image: Wikimedia
Forces from Organisation des Nations Unies au Congo (ONUC), consisting of troops from many UN countries, were supposed to detain any foreign mercenary forces they encountered during their mission. The mining-rich provinces of Katanga and South Kasai (both of which still retained major Belgian mining interests) had been recruiting mainly white mercenaries from South Africa and Rhodesia to assist in their independence efforts.
In September 1961, Operation Morthor had been launched by the UN and went badly wrong leading to the Siege of Jadotville where Katangese forces supported by mercenaries fought Irish UN peacekeeping troops, taking numerous prisoner. Perhaps as a result of the failure of the UN involvement and efforts to crush the Katanga revolt, in November 1961, the UN rejected the Katangese claim of independence and finally, fully sided with the government forces. In December 1962, even Belgian support had waned and it finally withdrew support for Katanga. By the end of 1962, the UN and Katangese forces were fighting in the city of Elisabethville. Fighting continued up until the end of January 1963, when the leader of the rebel state Moise Tshombe surrendered at Kolwezi. Despite this, Belgian forces still fought in the Congo on and off until 1978.
During their time as a colonial power and following the brokered peace, Belgium left behind military equipment including various armored vehicles. It is not known if the M8 Greyhounds which were eventually used by Katangese forces came directly from these post-colonial stocks or were part of American aid to President Mobutu but wherever they came from they were put to use by the rebels.

The M8 Greyhound

The Armored Car M8 Greyhound was an American vehicle, produced by the Ford Motor Company for the American Military from 1943. It was a 6×6 armored car, powered by a Hercules JXD 6 cylinder 4-cycle inline gasoline engine rated at 110 hp, giving the vehicle a top speed of 55 mph (89 km/h).
Main armament of M8 consisted of the 37mm Gun M6, mounted in a fully rotatable turret. There was also a coaxial and box mounted Browning .30 Cal (7.62 mm machine gun, as well as Browning M2 .50 Cal (12.7 mm), mounted on the turret. The crew consisted of four men; commander/loader, gunner, driver and assistant driver.
The armoured car remained in service with the US Army until the end of the Second World War, by which time it was considered obsolete. As such it was given to numerous countries as part of military aid schemes. In this capacity, it has served for many years and is still in service with multiple armies worldwide.

The Modifications to the M8

At least two M8 Greyhound armoured cars are known to have been modified for use during this messy and convoluted civil conflict and featured several modifications to the turret. It is highly unlikely that any documented evidence remains as to the work done, by whom, or how much it cost. It is not clear if there was a particular design being followed either. Both designs follow the same principle of raising the turret for improved visibility and mounting the gun as high as possible.

Photo: Overvalwagen.com

M8 Greyhound specifications

Dimensions (L-w-h) 4.64m x 2.97m x 1.94 m (15’3″ x 9’9″ x 6’4″ ft.in)
Total weight, battle ready 8.6 short tons (7.8 tons)
Crew 4 (driver, commander/radio, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Hercules JXD 6-cyl gasoline, 110 hp (82 kW)
Suspension 6×6 individual leaf spring
Speed 56 mph (90 km/h)
Range 560 km at medium speed (350 mi)
Armament Main: 37 mm (1.46 in) M6 QF AT gun
Secondary: cal.50 (12.7 mm) and cal.30 (7.62 mm) Browning M1919
Armor From 8 to 15 mm (0.31-0.59 in)
Total production 8523 built


Video (starting at 45:05) of a Type 2 M8 Armored Car in combat in Elisabethville

Type 1

Type 1

The first type of modified M8 Greyhound featured relatively crude roughly cylindrical addition to the turret roof mounting a heavy machine gun and spot lamp. The vehicle retained the original 37mm gun in the turret. Both the machine gun on top of the turret and the original main gun face in the same direction. Only a single photograph of this vehicle is known to exist which displays the white crosses on the hull signifying it is in the hands of the pro-Katangese forces.

The modified M8 in service. Photo: Overvalwagen.com
Type 2

Type 2

The second type of modification was much more extensive. Featuring a much higher cylinder extending the top of the turret, the cylinder actually starts about halfway down the vertical height of the turret where it is wider than at the roof level. It is not clear if the turret retained its hatches. The original machine gun mounting on the back of the turret was retained even though the new weapon did not use it. In the front half of this large vertical cylinder was a large projection with the vertically curved gun shield behind which was mounted a .30 caliber machine gun. This modified turret was so large that it had space for at least two men side by side. The reason for having the new machine gun face in the opposite direction to the main gun is not clear, although the back of this cylinder appears to be mostly open save for large angular plates functioning perhaps as a means of access.

Second type of M8 Greyhound Modified, still in Katangese markings but knocked out by fire from ONUC forces (see the circled penetration marks in the turret). Photo: Courtesy of the Archives of the United Nations

Conclusion

Only two types of modifications are known and at least two vehicles can be confirmed to have been made. A possible third vehicle is seen in photographs with what appears to be additional armour protection over the front wheels with the same type 2 turret modification. It is likely that this is a different vehicle to the other type 2 turret mounting vehicle which could mean that there were several vehicles modified.

Rear of the Katangese M8 Greyhound looking at the left-hand side of the modified turret and another penetration mark (white circle) delivered by ONUC forces. Source: Courtesy of the Archives of the United Nations.
Photographic records are very sketchy and there is little documentation to work from. Remarkably, however, despite this, video footage of the second type of Greyhound exists. The footage shows the vehicle being used in combat during the battle for Elisabethville and the very high turret shows its value, allowing the crew to see over the very high hedges in the city to deliver machine gun fire. At least one of Type 2 turreted vehicles is known to have been knocked out after being hit by at least two shells fired by UNOC forces.
No records detailing the final fate of any of these modified vehicles which are assumed to have been either scrapped or returned to their original configuration after the war.

Second type of M8 Greyhound, with no armament fitted and possibly abandoned – note the additional protection over the front wheels. Photo: Overvalwagen.com

Links, Resources & Further Reading

Overvalwagen.com
UN Intel. Report 5-0816 ‘MIL INFO – Katanga Area’ – Archives of the United Nations