Republic of 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.
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 ratio resulted in poor forward acceleration. This resulted in it lagging behind the more powerful Ratel IFV`s, which it was supposed 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, leading 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 Mk.2 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.
The staff requirements for the new generation armored car were put forward in 1980. Sandock Austral built three new prototypes for trials which were held in March 1982. The prototypes were divided into 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 the 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, leaving 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 for a 30-tonne vehicle in 8×8 configuration with a 105 mm L7 main gun turret.
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 models (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 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 designing, developing, 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 emphasizes 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 monitor ceasefires, protect key points, escort 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.
The design, development, and production of the Rooikat were undertaken due to the increasing need for a purpose-built armored car that was suited for the southern African battlespace. Furthermore, there was a dire need for an armored car that 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 outmanoeuvre 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.
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 that 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 that 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 can retain mobility even with just one steerable wheel on either side.
The Rooikat is equipped with fully independent internally driven trailing arms, coil springs, and shock-absorbers. The driver uses 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.
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 that allow for reliable inter-crew communication, command and control, enhancing 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 outside the hull on the left.
The Rooikat carries a standard complement of four crew members: 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 the commander a 360 degree x12 magnification capability without the need to move his head. Additionally, the commander can override the gunner’s control and slave the main gun onto a target via the panoramic sight coupled with 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. Using compressed air the driver can clean his periscopes while buttoned up. The ergonomic design and layout of the equipment in each section allow the crew to work fast and accurately under stressful battle conditions.
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 Armour 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.
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, executing seek and destroy operations and harassing enemy rearguard 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 uses an Eloptro 8x gunner’s day sight with an integrated ballistic computer 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. The gunner is notified via a ready-to-firelight when the main gun is ready. The total engagement process takes roughly nine seconds. The development of ESD’s solid-state gun drive systems as part of the Reutech Group was a big step forward for the Armoured Corps as it brought fire to Rooikat’s movement capabilities.
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) necessitating placement to the turret’s rear sides. 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 driver controls the operation of the screen. 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.
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 were 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.
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.
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 could detect 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 on 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 fewer working parts than similar systems, 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 passive tracking which neutralised electronic countermeasures.
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 used 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 no longer urgently needed. The defence budget saw massive cuts in defence expenditure, ultimately leading to the project’s subsequent scrapping.
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.
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.
Not much is known about this Rooikat 35. It featured a redesigned turret to accommodate (presumably) a Lyttleton Engineering M-35 35 mm gun and a ZT3 Anti-Tank Guided Missle launcher (the same as the Ratel ZT-3). Only one prototype was built.
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 and Botswana were 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.
The Rooikat armored car is considered one of the most versatile weapons systems produced by South Africa and used 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, budget depended.
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
Twin-turbocharged, water cooled, 10-cylinder diesel Atlantis engine fitted with an intercooler which can produce 563 hp @ 2400rpm. (20.1 hp/t).
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)
The exact armour thickness is unknown.
Protected against 23mm armour-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)
Rooikat 76 Mk1D African Aerospace and Defence mobility course white smoke
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
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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.
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.
South African Armoured Fighting Vehicles: A History of Innovation and Excellence, 1960-2020 ([email protected])
During the Cold War, Africa became a prime location for proxy wars between the East and the West. Against the backdrop of a steep rise in liberation movements backed by Eastern Bloc communist countries such as Cuba and the Soviet Union, southern Africa saw one of the most intense wars ever fought on the continent.
Subjected to international sanctions due to its policies of racial segregation, known as Apartheid, South Africa was cut off from sources of major arms systems from 1977. Over the following years, the country became involved in the war in Angola, which gradually grew in ferocity and converted into a conventional war. With the available equipment being ill-suited to the local, hot, dry and dusty climate, and confronted with the omnipresent threat of land mines, the South Africans began researching and developing their own, often groundbreaking and innovative weapon systems.
The results were designs for some of the most robust armored vehicles produced anywhere in the world for their time, and highly influential for further development in multiple fields ever since. Decades later, the lineage of some of the vehicles in question can still be seen on many battlefields around the world, especially those riddled by land mines and so-called improvised explosive devices.
South African Armoured Fighting Vehicles takes an in-depth look at 13 iconic South African armored vehicles. The development of each vehicle is rolled out in the form of a breakdown of their main features, layout and design, equipment, capabilities, variants and service experiences. Illustrated by over 100 authentic photographs and more than two dozen custom-drawn color profiles, this volume provides an exclusive and indispensable source of reference. Buy this book on Amazon!
19 replies on “Rooikat”
Just a tip for the illustration artist. The co-axial machine gun does not stick out of the front of the turret.
When I joined the army in 2007 I qualified as a driver on the last batch of Rooikat Mk1Cs to be used by 1SSB, we went to the Mob Centre in 2008 to exchange the Mk1Cs for Mk1Ds. There was no mounting for a commander’s machine gun nor anywhere one could be fitted on the Mk1Cs. The commander’s machine gun must have been fitted to one or all for the previous versions, however there is provision for the mounting of a remotely operated machine gun on the Rooikat Mk1D, between the turret hatches, which was never been fitted on the Rooikatte that are currently in service.
See video clip :0:13-0:23. The LMG is clearly visible on the left of the commander’s hatch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFYzq5Wk2rI&t=1s
Yes, but that is either a Mk1A or Mk1B as the commander’s sight is not the same as the one on the Mk1C.
As far as I understood the first model to be taken into service was the Mk1C. They skipped A and B as part of the prototype range.
If that is correct then this articles “Development” section is incorrect, as it states that the Rooikat Mk1A was the first of the four production batches and not a prototype. Also watch the “Rooikat TV News” video, you will see that the first Rooikatte to enter service have a different Commander’s Sight to the one used on the Rooikat Mk1C/D. I do not know when the current sight was installed on the Rooikat (possibly from the Mk1C, with the Mk1A and B having the original sight). I do know that due to it being larger then the original sight there was no room for a Commander’s machine gun and thus the Rooikat Mk1C and D done not have it. However as a said before the D has provision for a remotely operated machine gun between the turret hatches. As far as I know this was only tested and has not been permanently mounted to the Rooikatte currently in service.
Having reread the article, my previous comment on the Mk1C being the first is incorrect, therefore the Mk1A was the first as the article states. I spoke to the project head yesterday and he commented that each successive batch between A and C had small improvements. I`ll follow up on the remotely operated machinegun, however, no mention was made of it during my inspection of the vehicle, most probably because the idea was abandoned due to lack of funds. I’ll also follow up on the commander’s sight improvement between A and C, but I`m not hopeful of nailing were and when it was done.
With regards to the Rooikat prototypes the South African Armour Museum has the Class 2 prototypes displayed as Class 2B (Cheetah Mk2) and 2C (front engined hull), however you state that they are Class 2B (Cheetah Mk2) and 2A (front engined hull) or were there three Class 2 prototypes (2A, 2B, 2C), with both 2A and 2C being front engined?
There were 3 Class prototypes. light, medium and heavy of which the medium came in a front and rear engine variant.
Yes, which is the correct numbering of the Class 2 prototypes?
I don’t recall. I’ll need to check when I`m at 1 SSB again.
It won’t help going to SSB. The prototype (2A/C) is at the Armour Museum, at the back of Lesakeng.
I was referring to the location in general. There were two Class 2 variants built, one with rear and the other with a front mounted engine. I was informed that the front mounted engine variant was classified as the Class 2A while the rear mounted engine variant was classified as Class 2B.
There’s a spelling error at the end of the “Fire Control System” section: “…Armoured Core…” should be “…Armoured Corps…”.
I was a Rooikat gunner in 1990 at 1SSB. (I believe we were only the second crew trained.) The “Katte” that we had then, could carry four belts (800 rounds) of browning ammo and had storage for another 800 rounds in the turret, if I recall correctly. What we did is to feed an extra few belts to the browning from an ammo box on the floor and linked the lot together. That way we had around 1200 or so rounds. Our cartridge bag under the browning once burst open and dumped thousands of empty cartridges and links in every nook and cranny during “Operation Sweepslag.” That night it took us several hours to unscrew plates and what not to get it out. Even the battery compartment had blooming cartridges all over. Must say, it did not stop me from firing! I preferred to use the foot pedal to fire the browning, not the electric solenoid.
“My” loader was the best of the bunch, and with a “stormbaan” I could fire three rounds accurately in ten seconds, few others got to two in 10. We were allowed to stop for a maximum of 10 seconds to fire. Fire on the run was only done to disrupt, not destroy because it was too inaccurate.
There were no fume extractors, we always smelled like burned whatever was used for a charge! The “fume extractor” was only active while the hatches were sealed and we were running in “BNC mode.” (Bio/Nuclear/Chemical) Then the positive pressure pushed air out the barrel when the breach opened. We sometimes turned on the BNC in convoy to keep the dust out – was useless in any case, because of the open hatches and it was noisy, but at least sort of forced the dust back a bit. (The actual BNC filters was never fitted, although it was theoretically available in the turret bin.) It was never even issued to us.
The 40l water tank was used to top up the radiator, wash hands and shave! We did not dare drink it! LOL! I kept my water bottle under the gunner’s seat next to the air and water tank that clean the gun sights. My “ratpack” fitted neatly behind the firing computer. There also was an emergency gunsight co-axially mounted in case the periscopic sight was knocked out. It was the same sight as on the Eland 90.
Oh and the image of the HE round is probably a practice round. As back in the 90’s all practice (non-explosive) rounds had turquoise tips and HE had a dark green tip. I still have a 76mm shell casing next to my study desk. I designed and 3D printed my own “APFSD” sabbot and dart round to tip it off. My wife used to stick an umbrella in the casing, but it was too undignified for a shell I fired 30 years ago at some target in Lohatla. And I confer that the co-ax browing did not stick out from the turret. If I remember correctly, it also had a flap you have to open when installing the browning. There was a rather tight seal close to the barrel tip, I suppose it was done because the barrel sleeve of the browning were full of holes and would leak too much air during BNC. All pictures on this page have the “newer” commander’s periscope. The small arms bin seems to have disapeared that was behind the turret hatches. Our R5’s went in there. Oh and there was a rack at the radios behind the loader for hand and smoke grenades that was not mentioned. During RPG drills, or driving over occupied trenches the loader dropped a grenade out of the side port into the trench as good measure – I suppose to discourage lying low and attacking from behind! I often wondered how wise that was in case the loader drops the grenade between the ready rounds.
Further to my previous long winded comment. It appears that the “mesh” bin behind the turret was replaced with a solid bin. The mesh bin was used to store a cammo net, “chopper” tent and other camping gear. I loathed it, because our gear was either wet, dusty or muddy and mostly all three.
The commander’s periscope is also completely different. I have two foto’s where you can see the periscopes we had then. It was much lower on the turret roof.
I see you mention that 26 PPVs have been produced. Not trying to be pedantic, it was actually 28 PPV vehicles that were produced. PPV, the correct term is PPM (Pre-Production Model)
Thank you Deon.
I am building the 1/35 Trumpeter kit of the Rooikat and was wondering if there was antislip/antiskip on the hull and turrent? Photos look like there is but it has been hard to pin down if it is only in certain sections or the entire upper hull and top of the turret.