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


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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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.
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SA ARMY. 2010. Weapon systems infantry: Grenade Launchers. Date of access: 7 Dec. 2019.
SA ARMY. 2010. Weapon systems infantry: Machine Guns 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.

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


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


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


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


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 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

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.

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 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


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


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
ANGOLA THE WAR Documentary Teaser

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.
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.


  • 2019. Buffel. 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.
  • 2019. Buffel. 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.
South African APCs


South Africa (1979)
Mine Protected Vehicle – +2800 built

Koevoet Casspir APC fighting group on patrol in Angola, 1984 – With permission from J. Durand

The African Mine Tamer

The Casspir Mine Protected Vehicle (MPV) is considered by many to be the father of all modern enclosed V-shaped monocoque hulled Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles which have been developed and deployed by many Western armies. The name Casspir was first coined by Eddie Caromba in May 1979 and is derived from the anagram of South African Police (SAP) and CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research). The Casspir was designed and produced at a time when South Africa was subject to ever more strict international embargoes because of its segregation policies (Apartheid). Set against the backdrop of the Cold War in Southern Africa which saw many anti-colonial wars, internal liberation conflict along political, ethnic and tribal lines, supported by Eastern Bloc and Western benefactors. Today, the Casspir is also widely used as the vehicle of choice for demining, which involves the removal of anti-personnel and anti-tank landmines, but also in humanitarian and peacekeeping operations by the United Nations around the globe.


During the mid-1970`s the Defence Research Unit (DRU) of the CSIR commenced work on a monocoque hull MPV concept. During the same time the South African Police (SAP) requested a vehicle with good off-road capability, mine protected, field repairable (if a mine is detonated), with sufficient armor against small arms fire and which could carry a sufficient number of counter-insurgency personnel. It was to be fielded by the SAP-Counter Insurgency (COIN) and South West Africa Police (SWAPOL)-COIN units. The latter SWAPOL-COIN unit was referred to as “Koevoet” (crowbar) operating in the northern part of South West Africa (Namibia) against the “South West Africa People’s Organization” (SWAPO). The Casspir also saw extensive use with the 101 Battalion and Romeo Mike (Reaksie Mag “Reaction Force”) units. From their bases in Angola, SWAPO insurgents would cross the border into South West Africa and conduct sabotage, intimidation and assassination raids. SWAPO often made use of landmines which were mostly sourced from Warsaw Pact countries such as the USSR. More often than not, innocent civilians would pay the ultimate price.
The first prototype named “Flossie” was delivered by CSIR in 1978. The design was somewhat primitive with numerous problems and shortcomings. Made from Bedford truck parts, the vehicle featured a V-bottom armored monocoque hull design with the suspension modules located on the outside to ease repair and replacement should the module be blown off by a mine. An attempt was made to install a Unimog 352 engine, but was unsuccessful. The UCCD which was the biggest importer of Mercedes Benz (MB) parts to South Africa was approached to assist in improving the design with MB parts. A  Mercedes Benz LA1113/42 driveline was fitted successfully in addition to 4×4 truck components which included the engine (OM352), axles, gearbox and transfer box. The first prototype was ready in May 1979 and after a brief trial period, the Casspir was accepted by the SAP who placed an order for 140 vehicles early in 1980. Ultimately, 190 Casspir MK1 vehicles were manufactured by Henred Fruehauf.
From 1981 production of the Casspir APC was transferred to TFM Limited who designed the MK2. On the outside, the MK1 and MK2 were very similar with the latter having the escape hatch located on the left side of the vehicle removed. Additionally, TFM Limited designed a whole range of support vehicles in 1982 based on the Casspir APC hull (to be covered later in the article). Being so impressed by the vehicle`s successful use against SWAPO insurgents, the South African Defence Force (SADF) showed interest as early as 1982/3 and came to incorporate the Casspir APC MK2 and MK3 into the 32 Battalion and the elite 5 Reconnaissance Regiment better known as Recces after the South African Border War.
The Casspir production companies have changed hands over the past 25 years on a regular basis. For clarity the sequence is as follow: TFM was taken over by Reumech. Reumech , in turn, was taken over by the UK-based Vickers Defence Systems and subsequently renamed Vickers OMC. When Alvis purchased Vickers Defence Systems to become Alvis Vickers, Vickers OMC became Alvis OMC. In 2004, British Aerospace (BAE) Systems acquired Alvis Vickers and Alvis OMC was renamed Land Systems OMC. In 2015, the South African defence firm Denel purchased a 75% controlling share in Land Systems OMC which brought the ownership of the Casspir back to South Africa so to speak. New hull designs have emerged such as the NG2000 and NG2000B, which will covered in another article. As of 2017, more than 2800 Casspirs` in various variants have been produced for the South African and the export market. Among the foreign users are Angola, Benin, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and the United States.

Design features

Casspir MK3 APC, Waterkloof AFB – AAD2016 (Photo: Dewald Venter)
Interactive Casspir Mk2 with permission from ARMSCor Studios
The Casspir was designed primarily as a mine resistant APC which could operate in some of the most hostile terrains in the world, which in themselves could inflict severe punishment. The Casspir has several characteristics which have led to its success.  It is of 4×4 design coupled with differential lock, making use of four large run-flat tyres which are designed to resist the effects of deflation when punctured. It has a high ground clearance (365mm) which, coupled with the all-important V-shaped armored underbelly, helps disperse and deflect mine blast energy away from the hull. Making use of commercially available parts reduces its reliance on specialised logistical train (the process of producing and supplying parts) with the added benefit of decreasing the need for support vehicles for spare parts and specialized maintenance while deployed. The front of the vehicle is strengthened and optimized for driving through instead of around small trees and heavy brush popularly referred to as bundu bashing (bush breaking ability). It can travel long distances (800 km/500 mi on road) without having to refuel and at a comfortable pace of 90 km/h on road (56 mph), which arguably makes it one of the most versatile APCs ever fielded. The MK3 (and subsequent variants) used by the SADF has a thicker V-shaped hull, 14.00xR20 tyres and a different engine. The MK3 standard also includes structural alterations for improved mobility, with more robust axles.


The Casspir’s 4×4 configuration was designed for the African battle space and characterized by its versatility and cross-country capability. As with all wheeled vehicles, it requires less maintenance than their tracked counterparts. It has a ground clearance of 365mm and can ford 1 meter (3 ft 3 in) of water. The MK2 is equipped with the ADE 352T six-cylinder turbocharged, water cooled diesel engine which produces 166 hp (15.5 hp/t). The engine is located at the front of the vehicle and is coupled to a Mercedes Benz MB G5, five speed synchromesh manual transmission. It has five forward gears and one reverse. The transfer box is the Mercedes-Benz VG 500-3W. The power is transferred to axles (MK1 and MK2 used Mercedes-Benz axles and MK3 ZF axles) of which the rear has a differential lock.
The Casspir MK2C(I) variant makes use of an upgraded Tata driveline system developed by Denel Mechem in 2010. The power pack of the MK2C(I) consists of a Tata 697 TC diesel engine that develops 157 hp at 2,800 rpm coupled to a Tata GBS-50 transmission with five forward and one reverse gear as well as a Tata transfer case. The front axles are Tata FA 106 rated at 6,500 kg while the rear axles are Tata RA 106 rated at 10,000 kg. As with most other South African designed military wheeled vehicles, the Casspir was designed with the challenges of the African Bush in mind. The Casspir is incredibly stable and has excellent off-road mobility due to its simple and innovatively designed suspension and powertrain. It features a semi-elliptic leaf spring (front and rear) which allows for a great degree of deflecting. To improve stability and maximize comfort, check straps were incorporated to counter the axle rebound.

Endurance and logistics

The Casspir has a 200-litre fuel tank which grants it an operational range of 800 km (500 miles) via road and 400 km (250 miles) cross country. It has a road speed of 90 km/h (56 mph) and a cross-country speed of 28 km/h (17 mph). A modular design was chosen in order to ease maintenance and reduce logistical requirement. The Casspir makes use of interchangeable components which are easily accessible. The Casspir APC also featured a 200/220 litre water tank which is vital given the expected lengths and conditions the vehicle spend in the field.
Although the Casspir APC is not fitted with weapons as standard, a primary gun mount is sometimes added above the driver’s compartment. The armament usually consists of either a 7.62mm or 12.7mm machine-gun. During the South African Border War, some Casspirs were fitted with 20mm Hispano cannons originating from retired South African Air Force (SAAF) fighter planes such as the Spitfire MKIX and DeHavilland Vampire jets. Other units such as Koevoet made use of captured weapons which included KPV/KPVT 14.5mm heavy machine gun. The co-driver’s front window can also be equipped with a machinegun making use of a gimbal mount. Six gun ports are located on either side of the troop compartment as well as two in the rear doors for close in defense.

Koevoet Casspir APC armed with a 20mm Hispano cannon at Oluno Ovambo training base, Ondangwa 1984 – With permission from J. Durand

Vehicle layout

The engine and transmission are also located inside the armored hull to reduce major damage if a mine was detonated. The Casspir APC has a crew of two which consists of a driver and vehicle commander/gunner and can accommodate 10-12 passengers. The crew compartment is located in the front of the vehicle, behind the engine with the troop compartment extending right to the rear. The troop compartment has three rectangle bullet resistant windows and six firing ports on either side of the hull. Passenger seats face inwards and are equipped with a four-point safety harness.  Access to the troop compartment is provided via two air-operated rear doors which can be remotely opened by the driver. The doors are equipped with bullet-resistant window blocks. During the South African Border War, the roof hatches in the driving compartment where often left open especially during summer, allowing much needed air to enter. Early Casspirs had a small fan, retrofitted to keep on board equipment cool. Modern variants are often fitted with air-conditioning units.


Being a dedicated MPV, the Casspir could protect its occupants against a triple TM-57 mine blast under any wheel or a double mine blast under the hull. The success of the Casspir as an MPV lies in its V-bottom armored monocoque hull design which deflects blast energy and debris away from the hull. The fuel tank features a blast proof cap and is located on the inside of the armored hull to protect it from mine blasts thereby reducing the chances of a secondary explosion. The hull is rated to protect against 7.62x51mm NATO and 7.62x39mm AK-47 Ball.

Casspir MK2 APC with co driver’s front window equipped with gimbal mount for a light machine gun – Sandstone Heritage Estate – 2015 (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Operational doctrine

During the South African Border War, Casspirs APC operated by “Koevoet” would travel in fighting groups of four with a Blesbok (supply/logistics) and Duiker (diesel/fuel) in tow for between 5-7 days covering roughly 600-800km. Each Casspir has a built in 200L water tank, and two spare tires mounted either side of the lower troop compartment or either side to the rear of the troop compartment.

Koevoet fighting group on patrol Angola, 1984 – With permission from J. Durand

The Casspir Family

The versatility of the Casspir APC hull is best illustrated when evaluating the entire family of combat and support vehicles which have spawned therefrom. South African Motorized Infantry forces field a variety of these vehicles, built on the MK2 and MK3 hull, which includes the following variants: Dedicated weapons platform, artillery fire control, Blesbok cargo support, Duiker fuel bowser, Gemsbok recovery vehicle, Plofadder mine clearing, ambulance and vehicle mounted metal detection system, Groundshout psychological warfare system and law enforcement.

Dedicated weapons platform

Some interesting Dedicated Weapons Platforms (DWP) have evolved making use of the Casspir MK3. These dedicated weapons platforms include a 81mm mortar system and a 106 mm recoilless gun.

81 mm mortar weapons platform

The 81mm mortar weapons platform is based on the Casspir MK3 and is a rebuild of an existing vehicle. This version features a fully enclosed crew compartment at the front of the vehicle while the rear mortar section offers armor protection on the sides and rear. The sides and rear are fitted with bullet resistant windows for better all-round vision. It can carry a total of 192 mortar rounds, stored in ready to use racks with the associated number of charges and fuses. By combining an 81mm mortar with a Casspir, the time into and out of action is reduced which leads to quicker target engagement and a reduction in the possibility of the mortar weapon’s platform being located and neutralized through counter battery fire. To enhance its tactical flexibility, the mortar can be removed and used in the ground role should it be required or if the vehicle is disabled. A 7.62mm machinegun is mounted on the roof for all round defense.

81 mm mortar weapons platform based on Casspir MK3. Credit South African Defense Industry & Military Related

106 Recoilless gun weapons platform

Also based on the Casspir MK3 rebuilt from an existing vehicle, the Recoilless gun weapons platform features a fully enclosed crew (front) and troop (middle) compartment with the 106mm M40 recoilless gun located at the rear. The side and rear panels can be folded down allowing the gun to be laid on target (aimed). A total of 12 rounds of High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) rounds are carried in a ready to use state. To enhance the tactical flexibility of the weapons platform, the gun can be removed and utilized in a ground role should it be required or if the vehicle is disabled. A 7.62mm machinegun is mounted on the roof for all round defense. There are 32 in operational service with the SANDF.

106 Recoilless gun weapons platform. Credit to D. Haugh

Artillery fire control

The SANDF has a several artillery fire-control vehicles based on the Casspir. Externally, they are set apart by the additional radio antenna and a larger telescopic mast.

Blesbok cargo support vehicle

A dedicated logistics vehicle used by the COIN units during the South African Border War. Each fighting group of four Casspir APC`s would be allocated one Blesbok cargo support logistics vehicle which would carry ammunition, rations, spares, fuel and camping equipment. This allowed the fighting groups to operate independently for up to a week without resupply. The Blesbok consisted of an armored two-man driving cab at the front with individual doors for the driver and commander. The cargo area was located at the rear and was equipped with drop sides for easy loading and offloading. It had a carrying capacity of 5 tones and could also be fitted with a 1000L water or fuel tank. A single 5.56mm Vector Mini-SS light machine gun could be mounted on the roof as well as in the front left window. A total of 160 vehicles were built for the SAP.

Blesbok, Sandstone Heritage Estate – 2015 (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Duiker fuel bowser

The Duiker is a dedicated diesel fuel bowser and consisted of an armored two-man driving cab at the front with individual doors for the driver and commander and a 3000L or 5000L bowser at the rear. It featured a gravity feed system with an optional electric pump. A single 5.56mm Vector Mini-SS light machine gun could be mounted on the roof as well as in the front left window. A total of 30 vehicles were built for the SAP.

Duiker fuel bowser. Credit to D. Haugh

SAPS Air Wing Duiker fuel bowser. With permission from D. Badenhorst

Gemsbok recovery

The Gemsbok is a dedicated 15-ton recovery vehicle with an extended armored five-man driving cab at the front. The cab has an individual door for the driver and commander with an additional side door fitted on the left-hand side. The recovery equipment is located at the rear of the vehicle. The vehicle itself weighs 15.8 tones. Some 30 Gemsbok were produced for the SAP.

Gemsbok recovery. Credit to M. Cameron

Casspir MK2 dark sand livery. Illustration by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Casspir MK3 Ambulance

Casspir MK3

Casspir MK3 Koevoet Angola 1983

Casspir MK3 Command

Casspir MK3 mortar

Casspir MK3 in UN colors

Casspir MK2 based FK412 of a police unit
Visual references from the web

Plofadder mine clearing

The Plofadder serves as a dedicated mine clearing vehicle. It consists of an armored two-man driving cab at the front and makes use of a 160AT rocket-propelled mine clearing system which is slid into the back of the Casspir on rails from where it is launched through the open roof. Rails for loading the containers are carried on the side of the vehicle. The cable drum for the remote control system to fire the rocket is located on the right side of the vehicle.


Making use of the standard Casspir APC, the Casspir ambulance features an armored two-man driving cab at the front with individual doors for the driver and commander. The rear passenger compartment has been modified to carry two stretcher cases and three seats. Provision was made for storage of standard medical equipment such as a rack for drips. The rear compartment is also fitted with blackout curtains.

Casspir used as an ambulance by 61 Mechanized Battalion at Rooikop, Walvis Bay, 1991. – With permission from C. de Jager

Mechem vehicle mounted metal detection system (MVMMDS)

Developed by Denel Mechem, the Vehicle Mounted Metal Detection System (MVMMDS) makes use of a modified Casspir which tows a rubber mat containing the Vehicle Array Mine Detection System (VAMIDS) system which detects and marks the location of a landmine with white marking fluid. This system has had wide success in Sudan and Eritrea.

Vehicle mounted metal detection system. Credit Denel Mechem 

Groundshout psychological warfare system

The Groundshout psychological warfare system variant of the Casspir was used for psychological warfare by Chief of Defence Staff Intelligence (CSI) as early as 1986. It was assigned to 101 Battalion under the command of Cmdt Les Rudman in 1987 near Mavingo. The Casspir was equipped with 3600 Watts from 4 900 watt AEM amps that drove 32 speakers with a 45 volt 100 amp engine driven alternator using a 36 volt Gates SBS110 battery. The equipment was mounted on a steel chassis which was bolted onto the seat belt bolts. Making use of a hydraulic telescopic boom designed by Skyjacks the speakers were elevated for broadcast and could be turned left and right as well as up and down. According to sources, FAPLA was very disturbed by this Groundshout System especially those in the trenches on the Lomba who absolutely hated it. Their morale was already low from the constant fighting with the SADF followed at night by the screaming, animal (Hyaena) and armored vehicle movement emanating from the Groundshout System.  The system could be heard from as far as 8 km.

Groundshout psychological warfare system. Credit to A. Durand

Law enforcement

As the original user of the Casspir the South African Police (SAP) maintained a large contingent of Casspirs to maintain civil order during the pre-democratic South Africa. After the first democratic elections in 1994 the SAP was renamed the South African Police Service (SAPS). With less need for Casspir`s the SAPS sold a large number of the vehicles. The remainder were allocated to dedicated public order police units specializing in riot control. The present SAPS Casspir features larger bullet resistant windows for increased visibility in urban areas with added grills against rocks. The grill for the commander’s and driver’s windscreen can be pneumatically raised to increase visibility. An innovative feature is a front buffer (Bullbar) which can be lowered from inside the vehicle to bulldoze barricades and other obstructions. Additionally, a wire cutter can be mounted on the roof.

South African Police Casspir 1986 – With permission from T. de Klerk

South African Public Order Police Casspir 2015 – Credit to A. Mathey

The Sesspir Prototype

The Sesspir was a six wheel variant (hence the name “Ses” which is Afrikaans for “six”) for trials in 1984-85 based on feedback received from SADF troops whose Casspirs lost their front wheel in a landmine detonation which immobilised them during a contact situation. Featuring an extended nose to accommodate the additional front wheels the Sesspir, however, made use of the standard Casspir engine. Two Sesspirs were built and issued to 101 Battalion during 1987 for operational trials of which one was destroyed during Operation Firewood.  It was found that the additional wheels placed too much demand on the standard Casspir engine which needed to push along the front wheels. The remaining Sesspir was converted back to an ordinary Casspir.

Sesspir APC,  Owambo land near Mahnene, Northern Namibia 1988 – With permission from A. Swanepoel

The Casspir in Action

Since its introduction in 1984 and subsequent evolution variants, the Casspir family of MPV has formed an integral part of motorized operations by the former SADF during the South African Border War were it was used extensively by motorized infantry of the 101 Battalion. The 101 Battalion was a quick reaction unit stationed in north South West Africa (SWA) (Namibia), south of the Angolan border. Making use of the Casspir mobility and speed they would respond with force to insurgency raids by SWAPO from Angola into SWA. Each team in a company would consist of four Casspirs generally armed with 2 x Hispano Suiza 20mm cannons, 6 x 50 cal Browning machine guns, 4 x 7.62 Light Machine Guns (LMG) and 4 x 60mm patrol mortars. Expert Bushman trackers would follow the insurgent “spoor” (tracks) while the Casspirs with heavy armament would be a short breath behind to provide direct and overwhelming fire support as soon as contact was made with the insurgents.
The combination of speed, mobility and firepower made the Casspirs exceptionally effective against the insurgents. There were on average 200 contacts during a year with insurgent groups numbering between 5-200 members. The 101 Battalion was disbanded in 1991 when SWA gained its independence as Namibia. Casspirs were deployed during the 1998 Southern African Development Community (SADC) intervention in Lesotho which was led by the SANDF. The Casspir has become the face of the United Nations peacekeeping forces in mine-riddled conflict zones in Africa. Exported Casspirs have seen extensive service in the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan where they have saved countless coalition soldiers’ lives.
The notoriety of the Casspirs use by (COIN) units or Koevoet in the South African Border War was captured by the author Peter Stiff in his book “Taming the Landmine”.


The Casspir is the first enclosed monocoque hull MPV to enter military service anywhere in the world and is regarded by military analysts as the grandfather for all subsequent MPV designs. The Casspir set the standard for modern MRAP vehicles fielded by the United States of America and most Western nations. For its time it was one of the best MPVs in the world. The Casspir has left a 35-year legacy, and through continued research and modifications still maintain a defining benchmark against which other wheeled MPV can be measured. The Casspir family of vehicles became the backbone of the SADF motorized battalions and served with distinction during the 26 years South African Border War. Since 1993/94 no production of the Casspir family of vehicles took place for the SANDF. However, an extensive rebuilding programme of old series Casspirs was commissioned as part of Project Gijimain in 2004, with 174 MK2 being refurbished and upgraded to MK3 by 2007. The SANDF has an estimated 370 Casspirs in service primarily assigned to its Motorized Infantry Battalions. There is presently no foreseen replacement for the Casspir in the SANDF. Building on the success of the Casspir, Denel Mechem has introduced a new generation of Casspir originally designated as MK4 and re-branded as the Casspir NG2000 series of vehicles which is a complete improvement on the original using new production techniques. The NG2000 will be covered in a separate article.

Casspir APC Specifications MK2

Dimensions (l-w-h) 6.90 – 2.45 – 3.12 m
22.63 – 7.87 – 10.24 ft
Total weight, battle-ready 10.7 Tons
Crew + mounted infantry 2 + 12 mission dependent
Propulsion MK2: ADE 352T six-cylinder, four-stroke, water cooled, and turbocharged diesel engine, 166 hp (15.5 hp/t)
Suspension Semi‐elliptical leaf spring front and rear.
Telescopic double acting oil filled shock absorbers in the front and rear.
Front axle articulation limited by check straps.
Top speed road / off-road 90 / 40 km/h (56 / 28 mph)
Range road/ off-road 800 / 400 km (500 / 250 miles)
Armament 7.62 or 12.7 mm roof mounted Browning Machine gun
Armour 6-7 mm (all arcs)
Total Production (Hulls) +3000

Ratel Video Links

Casspir Mine-Demolition demonstration

Casspir marketing video

The South African Casspir Mk1-Mk3 Mine Resistant APC

Bibliography 2017. Casspir MK III – Date of access: 9 Jul. 2017.
Army recognition. 2016. Casspir.  Date of access: 9 Jul. 2017.
Baxter, P. 2015. Casspir appreciation group. Groundshout post: 6 Dec. 2015. Date of access: 27  Aug. 2017.
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.Defence Web.  2016.  SANDF projects – Date of access: 10 Jul. 2017.
Du Toit, C.G. Casspir appreciation group. Interview. 27 Aug. 2017.
Harmse, K. & Sunstan, S. 2017.South African Armour of the Border War 1975-89. Oxford, Great Britain: Osprey Publishing.
Sabatier, P. 2015. Casspir appreciation group. Groundshout post: 6 Dec. 2015. Date of access: 27  Aug. 2017.
Sabatier, P. 2019.  Casspir appreciation group. Groundshout post: 11 Jun. 2019. Date of access: 11 June. 2019.
SADF living history group.  2015.  Casspir – Date of access: 10 Jul. 2017.

South African APCs

Paramount Marauder

South African South Africa (2008) MRAP – around 250 built.

About Paramount Group

South African global defence, internal security and peacekeeping industries group Paramount was created back in 1994 by Ivor Ichikowitz, based in Johannesburg. Outside MRAPs and security vehicles like the Maverick, Mbombe and Matador (and the Marauder), this group was the first to create a dedicated Reconnaissance/Counter-insurgency and surveillance plane, the AHRLAC. While the company expanding its selling areas with a partnership in Abu Dhabi (UAE), the Marauder was also made famous in English-speaking countries by one famous Richard Hammond’s episode of Top Gear 2011 featuring a red Marauder in South Africa…

Design of the Marauder

Like most MRAPs, the Marauder is a beast, tailored for the challenge of protecting its occupants despite rolling over a mine or being blasted by an IED. It has a Curb weight of 9,900 kg (21,780 lb) and up to 15 tons in combat configuration, ten average touring cars. But it can carry 6 tons and a crew of ten (driver, cdr, 8 infantry) in a perfectly isolated environment and double-skin monocoque, with bulletproof glass, and a STANAG 4569 level III armour meaning proof against 7.62 × 51 mm AP WC Core/30 m range. More importantly, it was tested at the STANAG 4569 3a and 3b meaning proof against a single anti-tank mine (8 kg of TNT) under the belly or roadwheels. The underbelly protection is of course due to a high Ground clearance of 420 mm, V-shaped to deflect the blast.
The Marauder is propelled by a Cummins ISBe4-300 Diesel which developed 300hp @2500rpm, and 1100Nm @1200-1800rpm, or in alternative a diesel MAN D0836LOH for 240hp @2300rpm (176kW) and 925Nm @1200 to 1800rpm. Depending on the tyre it uses, top speed is around 100 to 120 km/h for a 700 km (435 mi) range. The basic configuration is 4×4. Apparently, a 6×6 was also developed but rarely seen.
The Marauder is designed for reconnaissance and peacekeeping missions (especially in urban environments), and armament is optional. However, in most cases it is armed with a remote station or remotely operated cal.50 (12,7 mm) Browning M2HB HMG placed right at the rear of the driving compartment. The payload is very modular as well as the weapon station, which can receive light or heavy MGs, a minigun, and ATGM. The interior can be adapted to carry a mortar but also command and control systems.

Service records

The Marauder was launched officially at the 2007 International Defence Exhibition (IDEX) and Conference in Abu Dhabi, covering all the middle east military market. It was sold first to Jordan, Paramount has a manufacturing agreement with the King Abdullah Design and Development Bureau (KADDB). The Jordan armed forces have around 50 vehicles in service today. Azerbaijan was the second user, and most prolific with around 165 vehicles so far, partially manufactured locally. Of course, SANDF, the South African Forces purchased around 50 vehicles too. Contrary to what is sometimes seen, the US Forces operated in Iraq and Afghanistan never operated the Marauder but instead the RG-31 Nyala which is relatively similar in shape except lighter and smaller.


The Marauder on Wikipedia
Official page.

Marauder specifications

Dimensions (l-w-h): 6.14 oa x 2.48 x 2.66 m
Total weight, battle ready: 9-12 Tons
Crew : 2+8
Propulsion: Cummins ISBe4-300 Diesel 300hp (221kW)/MAN diesel
Suspensions: Independent coil Springs, schock absorbers
Top Speed 100-120 kph (70 mph)
Range (road) 400 km (250 mi)
Armament (see notes) Standard 12.7 mm RWS. see notes.
Armour STANAG III (small arms fire, AT mines up to 8 kgs TNT)
Total Production 250
SANDF Paramount Marauder
Azeri Marauder
Azeri (Azerbaijan) Marauder, armed with a cal.50 RWS


Marauder showcased in a Baku parad, army day.

Azerbaidjani Marauder.

Same. Parade in Baku, army day.

Top gear 2011 Richard Hammond: The Marauder