Categories
South African Wheeled Vehicles

Eland Armoured Car

South Africa (1962)
Armoured Car – 1600 built

“Eland” The African Antelope

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

Eland 90 Mk7 troop – Grootfontein mid-1980s, with permission from Eric Prinsloo

Development

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

Eland 90 Mk6 troop – Grootfontein mid-1980s, with permission from Eric Prinsloo

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

South Africa acquired the licenses to produce the vehicle chassis and turret independently from Panhard in 1964. The turret was manufactured by Austral Engineering in Wadeville and the hull by Sandock-Austral in Boksburg and Durban. What followed was a series of improvements which would make the armored car more suited for the African terrain. The Eland Mk2 featured an improved steering system and brakes, of which 56 were delivered. The Eland Mk3 saw the installation of a new custom-built fuel system. The Eland Mk4 incorporated two more modifications which included the replacement of the electric clutch with a more reliable conventional model and the movement of the fire control from the gunner’s feet to the turret hand crank. Additional smaller improvements were made, such as replacing the chain holding the fuel cap with a cable which made less noise. By 1967, the South African manufactured armored cars resembled their French counterparts externally while making use of 66% South African produced parts.

Eland 90 Mk6 outside Grootfontein 1977. With permission from Neville Bowden

From 1972, 356 Eland Mk5 armored cars would be built. They featured a new Chevrolet 153 2.5 liter, water-cooled four-cylinder inline petrol engine which was mounted on rails to facilitate quicker replacement in the field (40 minutes) and reduce maintenance. Additional improvements included new communication equipment, spring shock absorbers, wheels, and run-flat tires.

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

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

The Eland was removed from frontline service in the late 1980s, when its indigenously produced replacement, the Rooikat 76 armored car, began to enter service. The Eland was officially retired from South African National Defence Force( SANDF) service in 1994. In South Africa, the Eland can be found at most military bases as gate guards and several pairs, in working condition, are preserved at military museums which includes the SA Armour Museum in Bloemfontein. Several Elands have also found their way into the hands of private collectors and foreign museums.

By the end of its production, more than 1600 vehicles were built. The Eland family of armored cars which also includes a 20 mm quick-firing cannon are still in service with foreign armies which include, Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Gabo, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Morocco, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Senegal, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

Eland 90 Mk7 Ditsong National Museum of Military History. S. Tegner

Design features

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

Mobility

The Southern African battlespace favours a wheeled configuration, in which the Eland’s permanent 4×4 configuration is well suited. It is fitted with four split rims 12:00 x 16 track grip tubeless run-flat Dunlop tyres (designed to resist the effects of deflation when punctured) which resulted in more reliability and mobility. The Elands suspension consists of fully independent trailing arm type, single spiral coil springs and double action hydraulic shock absorbers on each wheel station.

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

The Eland is not amphibious, but it can ford 82 cm of water with preparation (fitting plugs in the floor). It is powered by a General Motors 4-cylinder, 2.5- litre petrol engine, which can produce 87 hp (65 kW) at 4600 rpm. This provides a 16.4 hp/t power to weight ratio for the Eland 60 and 14.5 hp/t for the Eland 90. The maximum road speed is 90 km/h (56 mph) with a recommended safe cruising speed of 80 km/h (50 mph). Over terrain, it could achieve 30 km/h (18.6 mph).

A 0.5 m wide ditch can be crossed at a crawl, and it can climb a 51% gradient. On the front of the vehicle are two ditching crossing channels which allow the Eland to cross a ditches up to 3.2 meters wide when using four channels. The Eland is equipped with fully independent active trailing arms, coil springs, and shock-absorbers. Steering is via a steering wheel with rack and pinion assisted power gearbox. The mechanical power steering box improves the drivers steering ability on rough terrain. Steering is controlled with the front two wheels and foot pedals for acceleration and braking. The Eland 90 has a ground clearance of 380 mm and the Eland 60 400mm which in combination with only four wheels sometimes resulted in it becoming stuck when travelling off-road, which is far from ideal.

Eland 90 Mk6 outside Grootfontein 1977. With permission from Neville Bowden

Endurance and logistics

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

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

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

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

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

Vehicle layout

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

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

Eland 90 Mk7 view from commanders seat, facing forward. Visible on the left is where the co-axial BMG would be. In the middle is the main armament. S. Tegner.

Eland 90 Mk7 view from gunners seat, facing forward. Visible on the left is the main armaments breech block. The crank on the right side of the breechblock is called the vertical aim drive and on the right is the gunner`s turret hand crank and firing switches.  S. Tegner.

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

Eland 90 Mk7 driver’s station. S. Tegner

Main armament

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

The HE round weighed in at 5.27 kg and was very effective against lightly armoured vehicles, trenches, and bunkers. To control the recoil of the main gun a single-cylinder with permanent stress spring and a hydropneumatic recuperator is used to return the main gun to its original position after firing. A well-trained crew could fire the main gun either when static or at a short halt every 8-10 seconds. The turret could be rotated a full 360 degrees in under 25 seconds although the standard practice was not to exceed 90 degrees left or right of centre. The main gun can elevate from -8 degrees to +15 degrees. Due to its small size, the Eland 90 carries 29 main gun rounds. A total of 16 is stored in the rear of the turret, five behind the vehicle commander and gunners seat respectively and a further three at the bottom right of the turret basket.

Eland 90 Mk7 view from gunners seat, facing back. Visible on the left and right are two sets of six ammunition racks. On the far right is other rack which holds 4 gun rounds. The empty space in the middle was where the radio equipment was kept. Photo with permission from S. Tegner.

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

Fire Control System

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

Protection

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

Variants

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

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

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

Interactive Eland 90 with permission from ARMSCor Studios .

Operational History

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Eland 90 Mk7 Specifications

Dimensions (hull) (l-w-h) 4.04 m (13.2 ft)– 2.01 m (6.59 ft)– 2.5 m (8.2 ft)
Total weight, battle-ready 6 Tons
Crew 3
Propulsion Chevrolet 153 2.5 liter, water-cooled four-cylinder inline petrol engine which produces 87hp @4600 rpm. (14.5 hp/t)
Suspension Fully independent active trailing arms
Top speed road / off-road 90 kph (56 mph) / 30 kph (18.6 mph)
Range road/ off-road 450 km (280 mi) / 240 km (149 mi)
Armament 90 mm GT-2 quick-firing gun
1 × 7.62 mm co-axial Browning MG
1 x 7.62 mm in front of commanders hatch
Armor 8 and 12 mm thick providing all-around protection against rifle fire, grenades, and medium artillery velocity fragments

 

Eland 60 Mk7 Specifications

Dimensions (hull) (l-w-h) 4.04 m (13.2 ft)– 2.01 m (6.59 ft)– 1.8 m (5.9 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 5.2 Tons
Crew 3
Propulsion Chevrolet 153 2.5 liter, water-cooled four-cylinder inline petrol engine which produces 86hp @4600 rpm. (16.4 hp/t)
Suspension Fully independent active trailing arms
Top speed road / off-road 90 kph (56 mph) / 30 kph (18.6 mph)
Range road/ off-road 450 km (280 mi) / 240 km (149 mi)
Armament 60 mm M2 breech-loading gun-mortar
1 × 7.62 mm co-axial Browning MG
1 x 7.62 mm in front of commanders hatch
Armor 8 and 12 mm thick providing all-around protection against rifle fire, grenades, and medium artillery velocity fragments

Eland Videos

Eland 90 Armoured Car

Eland 60 Mobility track

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

SADF Eland 60 Mk7

Eland 90 Mk7, Rhodesian camouflage

Eland 20 Mk6

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

Bibliography

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

Badger

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

“Badger” – The Modern African Bushfighter

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

Section variant – With permission Andre Smith 

Development

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

Design features

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

Mobility

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

Endurance and logistics

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

Vehicle layout

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

Main gun

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

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

Fire Control System

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

Protection

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

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

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

Variants

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

Section variant

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

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

Fire support variant

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

Mortar variant

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

Mortar variant – With permission Andre Smith 

Command variant

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

Missile variant

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

Missile Variant – With permission Andre Smith

Ambulance variant

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

Ambulance variant – With permission Andre Smith

Conclusion

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

Badger Section variant specifications

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

Badger Videos

Mobility track demonstration, AAD 2016

AAD 2016: Denel Badger Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV)

Bibliography

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

Rooikat

South Africa (1989)
Armored Car – 242 built

“Rooikat” – The African Caracal

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

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

Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Design features

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

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

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

Interactive Rooikat 76 MK1D with permission from ARMSCor Studios .

Mobility

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

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

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

Endurance and logistics

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

Vehicle layout

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

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

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

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

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

Main gun

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

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

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

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

Fire Control System

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

Protection

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

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

Variants

Rooikat 105 

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

Rooikat 105 – Denel Media Center 

Medium Turret Technology Demonstrator

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

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

Interactive Medium Turret Technology Demonstrator with permission from ARMSCor Studios

Rooikat SPADS

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

Rooikat ZA-35 SPAAG

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

Rooikat ZA-35 SPAAG – With permission from Pierre Victor

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

Rooikat SPAAM

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

Rooikat SPAAM – With permission from Pierre Victor

SPAAM with radar deployed – Graphical illustration by Dana Beck

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

Combat vehicle electric-drive demonstrator

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

Rooikat ATGM

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

Rooikat 35/ZT-3

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

Rooikat 35 – Source unknown

Operational History

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

Conclusion

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

Rooikat Mk1D Specifications

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

Rooikat Videos

Rooikat Mk1C launch

Rooikat

Rooikat 76Mk1D African Aerospace and Defence mobility course white smoke

Bibliography

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
South African Wheeled Vehicles

Ratel

 South Africa (1975) – Infantry Combat Vehicle – 1400+ built

“Ratel”, the African Bush Fighter

The Ratel Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICV) takes its Afrikaans name from the South African honey badger. This animal, despite its small size, is a fierce creature which is able to absorb a large amount of physical damage as well as dish it out with its long claws. The Ratel vehicle is therefore well named as it armament and mobility make it a formidable opponent. It was designed and produced at a time when South Africa was subject to ever more strict international embargoes because of its segregation policies (Apartheid). The historical background is also set in the backdrop of the Cold War in Southern Africa which saw a steep rise in liberation movements backed by Eastern Bloc communist countries such as the Soviet Union.
Ratel 20 during Operation Meebos, Angola 1982.
Ratel 20 during Operation Meebos, Angola 1982 – With permission from HC Hennie Le Roux

Development

During the mid-1960`s there was a growing realization in the South African Defence Force (SADF) that foreign imported armoured troop vehicles, such as the Saracen, were not up to the task against modern threats and the requirements based on the challenges found in the Southern African environment. What was needed was a highly manoeuvrable, ultra-reliable and easy to maintain ICV armed to the teeth, which could fulfil the doctrine requirements being developed by the SADF for mobile warfare based on an indirect approach and low force density. The “indirect approach” is based on surprise and flanking attacks and avoids frontal attacks on well-prepared defended positions. “Low force density” describes the ratio between the number of troops and the ground they need to hold. In the SADF’s case, few troops over a large area necessitated quick movement, something the Ratel ICV was built for.
Design work on the 6×6 wheeled Ratel began in 1968. It was intended to carry troops rapidly into and out of battle, making mobility the primary characteristic, followed by firepower and armor. The first prototype Ratel was made of soft steel which allowed quicker modification work. The first four production Ratels were put through their paces at the Elandsfontein vehicle testing grounds near Pretoria in 1975. The first batch of 13 Ratels (Mk.1) was delivered from the production line at Sandrock-Austral in Boksburg from 1975 onwards.
After operational field trial tests, improvements were implemented which focused on enhancing the Ratel`s “bush breaking capability” such as large covers to protect external headlights (which were covered by mesh wire at first) and a screen cover to keep leaves from being sucked into the engine. These modifications were only later designated as the Mk.2 standard. The Ratel 20 was put into production and operationally deployed in 1976. The final upgrade of the Ratel to the Mk.3 standard was implemented in 1985 and included more than 135 modifications such as an improved cooling system, additional fuel filters, digital acceleration meter and more robust bush protection (moving the front exterior lights lower and the steps to enter and exit the Ratel were strengthened).
One of the first Ratel 20s during the 1975 evaluations
One of the first Ratel 20s during the 1975 evaluations – With permission from Tony Savides
The Ratel allowed the SADF to wage conventional warfare from 1976 onwards as the South African Border War escalated and cross-border operations became more frequent and more complex. The primary liberation movement for South West Africa (Namibia), the “South West Africa People’s Organization” (SWAPO) conducted increasing daring cross-border sabotage, intimidation and assassination raids from their bases in Angola into South West Africa. Ratels, with their high speed and endurance, were employed to intercept SWAPO raiders when they crossed the border. High-mobility operations saw Ratel formations often consisting of battalion-sized columns with mixtures of other South African produced military vehicles (Buffel, Eland, Samil etc.) leaving their bases located near the northern border of South West Africa to conduct deep incursions into Angola against SWAPO training and logistic camps.
These cross-border incursions by South Africa saw an alliance between itself and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) which were engaged in a more conventional 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. The war escalated as Cuba, backed by Soviet advisors, sent troops and equipment into the fray. The SADF doctrine of mobile warfare made maximum use of the Ratel`s characteristics and allowed them to influence the flow of the war and hold the line against numerically superior adversaries until peace was declared in 1988.
Approximately 1400 Ratels were built. They were fielded with SADF units such as the 61 Mechanised Battalion Group, 32 Battalion and 4 South African Infantry Battalion. Other units that made use of the Ratel were Citizen Force Mechanised Infantry units as well as other branches of the then SADF such as artillery, engineers and signals. Ratels have also been exported to Cameroon, Djibouti, Ghana, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Rwanda, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Senegal, Yemen and Zambia.

Design Features

According to Major General Roland de Vries (retd.), who was closely involved with the Ratel design and doctrine development, the Ratel was the best vehicle ever made for the ultra-mobile African bush warfare. The terrain it operates in is some of the most hostile in the world, which alone inflicts harsh punishment. Characterized by its large wheels, swiftness, bush breaking ability, and versatility as a weapons platform, it was a fearsome adversary in skilled hands during the South African Border War.
Ratels on exercise
Ratels on exercise – With permission from Gerhard Höll 

Mobility

The Ratel`s 6×6 wheeled configuration was designed for the African battle space and characterized by its versatility and cross-country capability. A six-wheel 14:00 x 20, run flat (designed to resist the effects of deflation when punctured) configuration offered more reliability and required less maintenance than tracked vehicle such as the American Bradley and Warsaw Pact BMP. The Ratel has 350 mm of ground clearance and can ford 1.2 m of water. Unintentional tests have proven that the Ratel is as amphibious as a brick. The Ratel makes use of the Büssing D 3256 BTXF six-cylinder direct injection turbocharged diesel engine which produces 282 hp (14.8 hp/t). The engine is located at the rear left of the vehicle and proved more than sufficient to navigate rough terrain and to push through dense bush and small trees.
The power pack can be field stripped and replaced in roughly 30 minutes by two men using a crane. The engine is coupled to an automatic powershift gearbox containing a hydrodynamic torque converter which eases driving. The gearbox can also be operated manually and had a mechanical emergency gearshift. The power is transmitted to the three axles in two stages with a final decrease using a planetary gearing which is located in the wheel hubs. Each of the three axles has their own lockable differential and longitudinal differential locks. The suspension utilized progressive acting coil springs as well as large hydraulic shock absorbers.

Endurance & Logistics

Remarkably, the Ratel`s operational range was a 1000 km via road and 600 km cross country, which enables flexible force movement in order to achieve surprise. This implies long missions over rugged and variable terrain with little logistical support. It needs to be well armed and self-sustaining, carrying its own supplies, spare parts and a section of infantry. All Ratels can operate over long distances and are loaded with all sorts of equipment and supplies. Spare wheels are lashed to the roof of the hull, while food is stored in every available space (as well as a few cases of beer). The average number of 7.62 mm machinegun rounds carried is at least 6000. All Ratels feature tactical radio communication which enables reliable command and control which further enhances the vehicle’s force multiplier effect. Spare whip aerials for the radio are always carried somewhere on the hull as they have a tendency to break when driving through the brush. The Ratel is equipped with two drinking water tanks as standard and each vehicle carries a cooking stove, tool kit, tow bar, cable and spare parts. One in every four Ratel’s carries a field shower kit. The overall emphasis is on self-sufficiency, from fire support to first aid.

Vehicle Layout

The Ratel was the first wheeled ICV to ever enter service. It featured a proper commander’s cupola which offered a 360-degree field of vision. The commander was located on the left side of the turret while the gunner sat on the right. The driver’s compartment is located at the front and center of the vehicle, from where he has an excellent 270-degree visibility through three large bullet-resistant windows. During the battle, the driver can activate three armored shields which pop up and to cover the windows for extra protection. When the armored shields are activated the driver uses three day-periscopes with a view of the front, left and right to drive. The driver can enter and exit the vehicle from either a roof hatch located above his seat or through the interior of the vehicle. All Ratels can be fitted with a small crane jib or tow bar at the rear which is used to tow a damaged vehicle out of action.
Ratel 90 - View from through commanders cupola
Ratel 90 – View from through gunners cupola (Photo: Dewald Venter)
The hull has entry doors on the left and right which are operated with a hydraulic system to ensure the doors close at any angle while the door at the rear of the hull is manu-matic. The Ratel has several roof hatches which can be used for loading and emergency exiting should the need require.
A Ratel 20 carries a standard complement of three crew and up to eight fully armed and equipped troops. The Ratel`s interior can be considered crowded and although not standard procedure, space can be found for an additional three passengers when required. The mounted troops sat back to back allowing them to shoot out of the four firing ports located on either side of the vehicle. The section leader was also the vehicle commander and sat on the left side of the turret from where he could see through the driver’s window. Located at the rear of the vehicle, another hatch could be equipped with a 7.62 mm Browning on a mount which was primarily used for local and air defense. The success of this air defense arrangement was useless but was sometimes used to great effect in the ground role. The Ratel carries four 81 mm smoke grenade launchers, two on either side of the turret.

Operational Doctrine

Ratels could either fight through an objective by firing its main weapon while the infantry fired out of the firing ports or alternatively, the Ratel would fire its main armament while the infantry dismounted from the entry doors on either side of the hull. While on operations, the roof hatches were often kept open due to the heat. The infantry often sat on top of the hull whenever safe to do so.

Protection

The Ratel was designed for speed and mobility at the cost of armor. The Ratel has effective thickness of 20 mm (at 60 degrees) over the frontal arc.  The upper hull sides are 8 mm (at 65 degrees), lower hull 10 mm (at 90 degrees), rear hull 10 mm (at 90 degrees), top hull 6 mm and floor hull 8 mm. The frontal arc offers protection against 12.7 mm armor piercing (AP) rounds while the rest of the hull is sufficiently protected against shrapnel and 7.62 mm AP rounds. Ratels are extremely susceptible to fire from Russian-supplied 20 mm and 23 mm anti-aircraft weapons (often employed in a ground defense role by the MPLA and Cuban forces). Contrary to popular belief, the Ratel, although designed with the threat of mines in mind, does not feature a V-shaped underbelly. It’s mine resistance is derived from the hull`s height above the ground, which is due to its large oversized wheels. The wheels are also designed to blow off and thereby disperse some of the explosive energy. Additionally, the wheel arches form a V-shape which helps deflect mine blasts. During the South African Border War, only one Ratel mine fatality was recorded when a Ratel drove over a double anti-tank mine which detonated under the belly of the vehicle during Operation Meebos in 1982.

The Ratel Family

The Ratel platform served as the basis for an entire family of fighting vehicles which forms the backbone of the South African Mechanised armed forces and includes the basic Ratel 20, Ratel Command, Ratel 60, Ratel 90, Ratel 81, Ratel ZT-3, Ratel Ambulance, Ratel Logistic, Ratel EAOS and the Ratel Recovery.

Ratel 20 – 1975

The Ratel 20 carries three crew members and can accommodate anywhere from eight to eleven mounted infantry (mission dependent). In line with the doctrine of offensive operations, which requires rapid closing with and destruction of the enemy, the main variant of the Ratel features a two-man turret with the first ever dual fed F2 20 mm quick firing cannon. This is a licensed copy of the French GIAT gun and produced in South Africa by LIW, which later became Denel Land Systems. The cannon’s primary purposes are to lay down sustained suppressive fire, engage enemy troops and to destroy soft skinned and lightly armored enemy vehicles. The canon can elevate +38 degrees and -8 degrees. The 20 mm cannon produces a high rate of fire to support dismounting infantry with high explosive (HE) rounds effectively up to 2000 m and armor piercing (AP) rounds up to 1000 m. The Ratel 20 also carries three 7.62mm Browning machine guns, one coaxial, one on the turret and one at the rear of the vehicle, which was primarily used for local and air defense.
Ratel 20 - Crew taking a break during training 1981
Ratel 20 – Crew taking a break during training 1981 – With permission from Stephen van Aardt

Interactive Ratel 20 with permission from ARMSCor Studios

Ratel 12.7 Command – 1979/1980

The Ratel Command is equipped with a turret which traditionally houses a 12.7 mm Browning heavy machine gun as well as the standard coaxial 7.62 mm Browning machine gun and an additional machine gun on top of the turret. The smaller main gun allows for a more spacious turret interior compared to the Ratel 20. The Ratel Command carries the standard three-man crew (vehicle commander, driver and main gunner) with space for six command post personnel. The troop compartment is fitted with map tables, communication equipment to fulfill its designed role specifications. To keep the additional communications equipment from overheating an air-conditioning system was fitted. Other variants included Ratel 20 Command and Ratel 60 Command.
Ratel Command
Ratel Command – With permission Jaco Rothmann

Ratel 60 – 1980/1981

One Ratel 60 is typically assigned to an armored car troop for the purpose of reconnaissance, fire support and anti-ambushing. It is fitted with a turret that carries a short 60 mm M2 breech-loading mortar and the standard coaxial 7.62 mm Browning machine gun. In the direct role, the 60 mm mortar is effective up to 300 meters, or 1700 meters in the indirect role. The 60 mm mortar can fire HE, canister, smoke and illuminating rounds. The vehicle most often operates from the rear to supply indirect fire.
Ratel 60 - Tempe Military Base
Ratel 20 (Barrel removed)- Tempe Military Base (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Ratel 90 – 1979/1980

The Ratel 90 is based on the Ratel 20, but mounts a turret with a low velocity 90 mm gun, all identical to the Eland 90 which it replaced. Further changes involve the reworking of the roof lining and a reduction of the troop compartment roof hatches from four to two. The Ratel 90 also carries one less passenger in order to make room for more ammunition for its main gun with the installation of extra ammunition racks.
The Ratel 90 serves as a fire support vehicle used to knock out strong points and, while not originally designed for the anti-tank role, proved more than a match for the T-34/85 encountered early on during the South African Border War. As from 1981, the stakes were raised when FAPLA received T-54, T-55 and T-62 tanks from the Soviet Union and Cuba. Mechanised Infantry Groups fielding Ratel 90s achieved success by skillfully outmaneuvering the newer Soviet tanks which required multiple hits with 90 mm high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds from their 90 mm guns, often at point blank range at vulnerable points (engine vents, turret rings) in order to disable them.
Ratel 90 - Tempe Military Base
Ratel 90 – Tempe Military Base (Photo: Dewald Venter)


Interactive Ratel 90 with permission from ARMSCor Studios

Ratel 81 – 1986/1987

The first four prototypes of the Ratel 81 were delivered to 1 South African Infantry (1SAI) on 12 November 1985. The Ratel 81 has no turret and instead receives a commander’s cupola where the turret would have been located. It is equipped with an 81 mm mortar firing through the roof hatches located in the center of the vehicle. The 81 mm mortar is mounted on a turntable with can traverse a full 360 degrees. This version only has two firing ports on either side of the vehicle. Besides the standard three-man crew the Ratel 81 carries the three-man mortar team and 148 mortar rounds (although this can be increased through creative stacking). The vehicle mostly operates from the rear to supply indirect fire through shoot and scoot tactics.

Ratel 120 – 1993

The Ratel 120 was a Ratel 81 fitted with a 120 mm mortar with only a few modifications necessary. Successful tests were conducted in 1993 at Alkantpan which showed that the 120 mm mortar firing at maximum charge had no negative effect on the Ratel`s suspension system. No Ratel 120 vehicles were produced beyond the prototype.

Ratel ZT-3 – 1987/1988

The ZT-3 is a dedicated anti-armor, support, and reconnaissance vehicle and is equipped with a state of the art 127 mm anti-tank missile system. Due to international sanctions, the SADF had no anti-tank missile which could effectively deal with modern main battle tanks. The South Africans produced the Ingwe (Leopard) missile and launch system, which was developed to breach the said gap. The Ratel ZT-3 was the end result of the marriage of the Ratel and Ingwe missile system. This was the first truly modern anti-tank system in the South African military inventory which could engage and destroy modern military main battle tanks.
The Ingwe has a 5000 m standoff range and makes use of laser beam riding. It mounts a tandem warhead to counter explosive reactive armor. The missile system is mounted on a modified Ratel 60 turret and, unlike most dedicated AT platforms, carries three missiles instead of the standard two. A total of 12 missiles are carried inside the hull for manual reloading. The Ratel ZT-3 made its combat debut while still in preproduction, in September 1987 as part of Operation Moduler, when four ZT-3 vehicles were assigned to 32 Battalion. One of the ZT-3 vehicles destroyed three Soviet tanks at 2000 m in a space of 10 minutes. A sound bite of this engagement can be listened to by clicking here. The SANDF has 53 ZT-3 vehicles.
Ratel ZT3 Ingwe anti-tank missile (early version) penetration on steel block, SA Armour Museum
Ratel ZT3 Ingwe anti-tank missile (early version) penetration on steel block, SA Armour Museum (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Early concept sketch of what would become the ZT3 missile tank destroyer. Image courtesy of Len Bramwell.
Ratel ZT3-A2, Zwartkop AFB
Ratel ZT3-A2, Zwartkop AFB (Photo: Dewald Venter)

The Ratel in Action

Since its introduction in 1974 and subsequent evolution variants, the Ratel family of vehicles has formed the backbone of all mechanized operations by the former SADF during the South African Border War. It played an integral role during the 1998 Southern African Development Community (SADC) intervention in Lesotho which was led by the SANDF. Various United Nations peacekeeping forces make use of the Ratel in conflict zones. Exported Ratels have also been used during the Libyan Civil War, Yemeni Revolution and Yemeni Crisis (2011–present).

Conclusion

The Ratel was the first true wheeled ICV to enter military service anywhere in the world and for its time, was one of the best ICVs anywhere. It is regarded by most military analysts as the grandfather of all subsequent ICV designs. The Ratel became the backbone of the SADF mechanized battalions and served with distinction during the 26 years South African Border War. In an interview with LITNET (2013), Major General Roland de Vries (retd) summarised the Ratel (translated from Afrikaans):
“The Ratel was remarkable. If we didn’t have the Ratel in Angola during the 80`s, we would not now have peace in our land. The Ratel was much more than a weapon. The combination of firepower, mobility, armor protection and flexibility in its application allowed the vehicle itself to be an integrated combat system.”
The Ratel has left a legacy of 40-year service which few other military vehicles can overshadow. The Ratel is in its final operation service stretch. The SANDF, through “Project Hoefyster”, has chosen to replace two mechanized battalions worth of Ratels with the Patria family of ICV vehicles. These vehicles are patented and produced in South Africa as the aptly named “Badger ICV”.
Badger IFV, Waterkloof AFB
Badger ICV, Waterkloof AFB (Photo: Dewald Venter)

Ratel 20 specifications

Dimensions (H,W,L) 7.21m x 2.7m x 2.9m
Total weight, battle ready 18.5 tons
Crew 3 + 8 = 11 (mission dependent)
Propulsion Büssing D 3256 BTXF six-cylinder direct injection turbocharged diesel engine
282 hp (14.8 hp/t)
Suspension Progressive acting coil springs
Large hydraulic shock absorbers
Speed (road)/(off-road) 105 kph (62 mph) / 60 kph (37 mph)
Range (road) /(off-road) 1000 km (620 miles) / 600 km (372 miles)
Armament Dual fed F2 20 mm quick firing cannon.
7.62mm co-axial Browning MG
7.62mm turret Browning MG
7.62mm Browning MG in AA mount on rear of vehicle
Armour 20 mm (frontal arc), 8-12 mm (all other arcs)
Total production ~1400 (560 remain in service)


Concept sketch of a two-cannon SPAAG version based on the Ratel. Image courtesy of Len Bramwell.

Links/sources

Videos

Ratel 90 obstacle course
Ratel Infantry Fighting Vehicle
Anit-Tank Ratel ATGM

 Bibliography

Ratel 90
Ratel 90

Ratel 90 - Late 1980`s colour scheme
Ratel 90 – Late 1980`s color scheme

Ratel Command Vehicle
Ratel Command Vehicle

Ratel 81
Ratel 81

Ratel 60
Ratel 60

Ratel 20
Ratel 20

Ratel
Ratel ZT3