Archive for the ‘Equipment’ Category



Poncho roll and ‘tou’ detail.


The Valkiri (Valkyrie) is a South African self-propelled multiple rocket launcher developed in the
1980s by Somchem, a division of the Denel corporation.

Development of the system was completed in 1981. It was fielded in 1987 and 1988 by the South African Defense
Force (SADF) in southern Angola against Cuban supported FAPLA forces, specifically during operations Hooper and Modular.

It is closely based on, but not a copy of, the Soviet BM-21 (Grad). The most significant differences are:

Different rockets (127 mm versus 122 mm).
Improved range and accuracy of rockets.
Smaller, lighter more mobile 4×4 2-ton truck chassis.
Could easily be disguised as small canvas covered truck.

It was designed to be a self contained system that could be easily transportable in a C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft.

The standard 127 mm rocket is 2.68 m long and designed for use against personnel or soft skinned targets.
The pre-fragmented warhead is designed with a proximity fuze for detonation at a certain height above ground.


Valkiri-22 (original version): 24 launch tubes
Bateleur (current version): 40 launch tubes


Configuration 4 x 4
Engine 6 cylinder diesel (130 bhp)
Dimensions 5.5 x 2.3 x 2.6m
Fuel capacity 160l
Turning radius 6.9m
Max speed 90 km/h (on road)
Range Not available
Vertical obstacle Not available
Crew 2
Armament 127mm Valkiri multiple rocket launcher


The Ratel is the basic Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) of the South African National Defence Force’s mechanized infantry battalions, and is named after an African animal known in English as the Honey Badger, which has a reputation as a ferocious fighter.

The South African Army used the British Alvis Saracen APC before the acquisition of spare parts become problematic due to the international arms embargo of apartheid South Africa. The South Africans were therefore forced to design and manufacture their own new vehicle in order to meet requirements of the army during the South African Border War.

The 6×6 Ratel was indigenously developed by Sandock-Austral (now owned by Land Systems OMC, part of BAE Systems) and produced in volume for the South African Army in subsequent decades. Design work began in 1968, with prototypes completed in 1974. Production of the basic Ratel-20 started in 1976, which entered operational service in 1977. Other variants, including the improved Mark II and Mark III versions of the basic Ratel, were phased in over the subsequent decade. Mark I vehicles were upgraded to Mark II and III standard during refits. Over a thousand Ratel vehicles have been manufactured.

The Ratel was the first wheeled IFV to enter military service, and is generally regarded as an influential design; a number of other countries have since produced vehicles similar to the Ratel, including the Sibmas from Belgium, which is all but a direct copy, as well as a number of South American designs. The Ratel-20 is the primary squad IFV, with the Ratel-60, Ratel-90, and Ratel-ZT3 (the anti-tank guided missile version) used primarily in anti-armour, support, and reconnaissance elements within a battalion. The vehicle usually carries a crew of four or five men, with a seven-man infantry squad.


Configuration 6 x 6
Engine Turbo-charged 6 cylinder diesel (282bhp)
Dimensions 7.2 x 2.5 x 2.9m
Fuel capacity 430l
Turning radius 8.5m
Max speed 105km/h (on road)
Range 1000km (on road)
Vertical obstacle 0.6m
Crew 11
Main Armament G12 20mm rapid fire automatic cannon

Vehicle Characteristics

The vehicle was designed with the South African environment and the combat experience of the South African Defence Force (SADF) foremost in mind. For example, it has considerably more firepower than most comparable infantry fighting vehicles–ranging from machine guns up to a 90-mm cannon. Modern versions can therefore be considered to have evolved into multi-role armoured vehicles from their original infantry fighting vehicle design.


It is wheeled, with six run-flat tires for the long-distance speed, mobility, and ease of maintenance that tracked vehicles lack. Furthermore, unlike the United States Army’s M2/M3 Bradley or Warsaw Pact’s BMP designs, the Ratel does not need to be transported long distances on trains or trailer trucks; it can simply be driven to the destination. The Ratel’s ground clearance and cross-country performance are very good–certainly adequate for the generally rolling and arid terrain it usually operates in– and the vehicle has a ride which SADF crews often compared— favourably to civilian cars. SADF crews also frequently praised the visibility imparted by the vehicle’s high profile; although it makes the Ratel a bigger target, it enables the crews to see the surrounding area more easily, a key factor when maneuvering in the bush, where grass can grow to three meters in height.

Landmine protection

The Ratel’s design also gives far more consideration to protection against land mines than most armoured vehicles, reflecting SADF experience and priorities. Like the Casspir and Buffel vehicles, the bottom of the hull is angled and reinforced so as to deflect mine blasts out to the sides. The Ratel’s wheels, if damaged, are also much easier to repair or replace than tracks. The vehicle also has multiple doors and hatches; the two main doors are located in the vehicle’s sides, but a small rear door and roof hatches allow the crew to exit the vehicle from many directions at once, or to more easily dismount under cover during an ambush.


The Ratel is relatively lightly armoured, in order to preserve mobility, weapons space, and range. The vehicle is well-protected against bullets and artillery shell splinters, but is vulnerable to anti-tank guns, automatic cannon such as the Warsaw Pact 23 mm AA guns (which were often used in a ground-fire role in Namibia and Angola), rocket-propelled grenades and guided missiles. The SADF’s experience during the South African Border War in Namibia and Angola showed that Ratels were far more likely to be faced with small-arms fire and mines in small-unit actions or ambushes than to run into main battle tanks in pitched battles. More to the point, the Ratel is a personnel carrier and not a tank, and is by definition not intended to engage main battle tanks.


The basic Ratel’s (designated Ratel-20) primary armament consists of a 20 mm automatic cannon mounted in a non-powered turret at the front of the vehicle, supplemented by a coaxial 7.62 × 51 mm NATO machine gun and a 7.62 × 51 mm calibre pintle-mounted machine gun mounted by the commander’s roof hatch. The Ratel also has four rifle ports on each side of the vehicle, allowing the infantrymen to fire from within the vehicle. An additional pintle-mounted dual machine gun (removed on later models), accessed from a roof hatch, is located at the rear of the Ratel’s upper deck and provides cover for the Ratel’s rear quarter. The crew consists of commander, driver, gunner, and radio operator, as well as seven infantrymen.


Configuration 6 x 6
Engine Turbo-charged 6 cylinder diesel (282 bhp)
Dimensions 7.2 x 2.5 x 2.9m
Fuel capacity 430l
Turning radius 8.5m
Max speed 105 km/h (on road)
Range 1000 km (on road)
Vertical obstacle 0.6m
Crew 11
Armament 90mm GT2 semi- automatic F1 gun

The Ratel-60 and Ratel-90 variants are otherwise identical, save that the former mounts a 60 mm breech-loading mortar in turrets taken from the Eland 60 armoured cars, and the Ratel-90 mounts a 90 mm low-velocity gun and also has a three-man crew. The 60 mm mortar is most effectively used in firing smoke shells, and is generally useless against armoured vehicles or dug-in troops.

The Ratel-90 fire-support variant is an unusual vehicle in that it can carry an infantry squad while retaining a 90 mm turret gun. The Ratel-90 does not normally carry a full squad, but it at least such a squad has fire support from the 90 mm gun. Although the Squadrons issued the Ratel-90 were referred to as Anti-Tank, IT is not a tank destroyer, but has occasionally been used as one, albeit with some difficulty.

Anti-tank capabilities

The low-velocity 90 mm gun, a license-made copy of the 1950s-vintage French GIAT F1, is very accurate out to 2 km range. It is generally considered to be inadequate for facing modern main battle tanks, but it is quite capable against armoured personnel carriers or other lighter AFVs, unarmoured vehicles, exposed infantry, and buildings or entrenchments. The 90 mm gun cannot be fired from a moving Ratel because the fire-control system is decidedly primitive and not stabilised; the turret and gun are manually traversed.

On the rare occasions when SADF Ratels encountered enemy armour, such as the Soviet-made tanks encountered in Operation Protea (1981) and Operations Modular, Hooper, and Packer in 1988, they achieved successes through maneuvrebility and only at very short ranges. The 61 Mechanised Infantry Battalion Group found that each enemy T-55 and T-62 required multiple shots from the 90 mm guns to disable it, and that the SADF vehicles had to attack in groups, fire from point-blank range, and hit the tanks in the engine vents, turret rim, or similar weak points in order to have an effect, the 90 mm shells being otherwise ineffective against the Soviet tanks’ armour. For this reason, the SADF’s Olifants (modified Centurion) tanks were considerably more effective against enemy armour than Ratels, Elands, or other vehicles.

Anti-tank missile

The anti-tank guided missile variant, the Ratel ZT-3, was originally equipped with the indigenously-developed ZT-3 heavy anti-tank missile, while the latest versions (ZT3-A2) is armed with the new 127 mm Ingwe (Leopard) anti-tank guided missile (ATGM). The Ratel ZT3 is basically a Ratel-20 with a different turret, which is fitted with a three-round missile launcher. Other missiles are carried within the hull.

The original ZT-3 laser-guided ATGM was roughly comparable to the European HOT or American TOW missiles in performance; in fact, there have been allegations[who?] of it being based on a TOW prototype design which the Central Intelligence Agency provided to South Africa during the 1980s. The new Ingwe missile is however laser guided as opposed to the wire guided TOW missile which is a fundamental difference in design and operation.

The Ratel ZT-3 entered service in the late 1980s, in time for Operation Modular, and gave yeoman service against enemy armour at the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale. The SADF was previously limited to the obsolete French-designed ENTAC wire-guided ATGM, which was usually transported in Land Rovers or other unarmoured vehicles.

Typical deployment

A typical SADF mechanized company consists of 16 Ratels, with three four-vehicle rifle platoons and a two-vehicle command section. A battalion’s support company consists of; 3 Ratel 90s, 3 MILAN teams in APCs or Ratel-ZT3s, 6 Ratel 81 mm Mortar vehicles and 3 Ystervark self-propelled 20 mm AA vehicles.

Since SADF units frequently operated in ad hoc task forces during the South African Border War, unit structures and equipment varied widely. At the time of Operation Modular in 1988, for example, the 61 Mechanised Infantry Battalion Group’s task force consisted of two infantry companies with Ratel 20s, an armoured car squadron with fourteen Ratel 90s, a mortar platoon with twelve 81mm Ratels, an anti-tank company with a mix of ATGW and Ratel 90 vehicles, as well as other attachments.


The G5 is a South African towed howitzer of 155 mm calibre manufactured by Denel. Initial versions of it were
based on the 45-calibre GC-45 howitzer designed by Gerald Bull, though it has gone through many modifications
and variations to reach its latest model: the 52-calibre G5-2000.

It is mounted on a slightly-modified version of a towed chassis design by NORICUM, which also includes a
small APU to allow it to dig itself in and move short distances at up to 16 km/h. Using the normal Extended
Range, Full Bore ammunition the normal range is 39 km, which can be extended to about 53 km with the use
of base bleed or rocket assisted rounds. It is regarded as one of the most potent artillery pieces on the modern battlefield.

The G5 gun has been placed on an OMC 6×6 chassis to produce the fully self-propelled G6 howitzer, and won
major export sales in this form to the United Arab Emirates and Oman. In response to a request from India it
has also been tested on the back of a 4×4 wheeled truck, a combination known as the T5-2000.
It has also been fitted into a turret that can be placed on any suitable vehicle. The turret is marketed as the
T6 which has already been fitted on the T-72.

The South African Army at the start of the Angolan conflict was equipped with WW2-era artillery
pieces, notable the G1 (25pdr) and the G2 (5.5 inch or 140 mm). With the help of the Canadian scientist
Gerald Bull and his company, Space Research Corporation, they developed the GC-45 howitzer. As a stopgap
the G3 155 mm gun (American WWII vintage M-2 “Long Tom”) and the G4 155 mm gun (Israeli
SOLTAM M-68) was secretly operated. Deliveries of the G5 (developed from the GC-45) started in 1982.


The Eland is a South African light armoured car based on the Panhard AML. Its permanent 4×4 drive gives it its
mobility, and it can carry either a 90 mm quick firing low pressure gun, or a 60 mm breech loading mortar as
main weapons. Night vision equipment provides effective night time operations, and it is provided with a
modern telecommunications system.


Configuration 4 x 4
Engine Turbo-charged 4 cylinder diesel (77Kw)
Dimensions 5.2 x 2.01 x 2.2m
Fuel capacity 156l
Turning radius 6m
Max speed 85km/h (on road)
Range 450km (on road)
Vertical obstacle 0.3m
Crew 3
Armament 90mm GT2 semi- automatic F1 gun

South Africa signed a contract with the French company Panhard for AML armoured cars. 100 were delivered
from France and local production started in 1962 for 500 units. Later further production was undertaken – bringing
the total number of locally produced vehicles to 1300. The Eland Mk7 is derived from the Panhard AML 60-7
armoured car and has been extensively modified (e.g. diesel conversion) by Reumech OMC for use in the
harsh African environment. Some were exported to Lesotho, Malawi and Zimbabwe. The South African
Army has replaced the Eland with the Rooikat AFV.

Elands were used extensively by the SADF during the Angolan Civil War, and were known to crews as “Noddy Cars”.
They were effective against light armored vehicles and older tanks such as the T-34/85 that were used by the Cubans
and the MPLA.

The Eland replaced the Daimler Ferret.


The Casspir is a landmine-protected personnel carrier (APC) that has been in use in South Africa
for over 20 years. It is a four wheeled armoured vehicle, used for transport of troops. It can hold a
crew of two, plus 12 additional soldiers and associated gear. The Casspir was unique in design when
launched, providing for passive mine defence. The main body of the vehicle is V-shaped and raised
above the ground, so that if a mine is detonated, the explosion is less likely to damage the crew compartment
and kill the occupants. The cross-section of the hull is V-shaped, directing the force of the explosion
outwards, further protecting the occupants. The vehicle is also armoured for added mine safety, as well as
protection from small arms fire.

The name ‘Casspir’ is an anagram of the abbreviations of the customer, the South African Police (SAP),
and the design company, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). Although the Casspir was
deployed in townships during the apartheid era, it was initially designed specifically for conditions encountered
in the South African Border War. In particular, this conflict called for protection from land mines combined
with high manoeuvrability to cover long distances – these requirements led to the distinctive V-shaped
hull (for mine protection) and a wheeled chassis.

The Casspir was designed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) specifically to
protect vehicle occupants against landmines. It is certified to protect its occupants against a triple TM-57
mine blast (equivalent to 21kg of TNT) under a wheel, or a double blast (14kg of TNT) under the hull.

The Casspir has V-bottomed armoured monocoque hull, designed to deflect the force of an
explosion outwards, to which a leaf-spring suspension is attached.


The Casspir was built in different configurations:

APC – armoured personnel carrier
Artillery Fire Control vehicle
Blesbok Freighter – with drop side cargo area for up to 5 tons (160 built).
Duiker Tanker – 5000 litres tank (30 built)
FISTV – Fire Support Team vehicle
Gemsbok Recovery vehicle – 15 ton capacity (30 built)
Mechem Mine clearing vehicle – uses steel wheels to detonate mines
MEDDS Mine Sensor vehicle
Plofadder Mine clearing System – carrier of the containerised Plofadder 160AT rocket propelled mine clearing system
Riot Control vehicle – Police version with larger windows to increase visibility
Rinkhals Ambulance


Configuration 4 x 4
Engine Turbo-charged 6 cylinder diesel (170 bhp)
Dimensions 6.8 x 2.4 x 2.8m
Fuel capacity 220l
Turning radius 10.5m
Max speed 90km/h (on road)
Range 850km (on road)
Vertical obstacle 0.6m
Crew 14
Armament 20mm GA1 rapid fire automatic cannon


The Buffel is a mine-protected APC used by the South African Army during the South African
Border War. It was certainly not the most comfortable vehicle, but it offered the necessary protection
against mine attack. The Buffel was also used as an armoured fighting vehicle and proved itself in this role.

The Buffel was introduced in 1978 after it was found that the South African Army had the need for
a basic mine protected vehicle. More than 1400 were delivered before production stopped. A few
of these vehicles found their way into other armies.

The Buffel was not a wholly South African built vehicle, but made use of the chassis, engine and some other components
of the Mercedes-Benz Unimog, which were married to the armoured driver’s cab and separate armoured troop
compartment. The driver’s cab was situated on the left with the engine compartment on the right. Later models
replaced the original Mercedes engine with copies built by Atlantis Diesel Engines factory near Cape Town.

Land mine protection was provided by the V-shaped hull underneath these compartments, which quite effectively
deflected the blast. The troop compartment contained two plastic tanks in the vee beneath the floor, a 200 litre
diesel tank and a 100 litre water tank. The water tank provided drinking water to the occupants by means of a
tap at the rear of the vehicle. It was a commonly held misconception amongst the troops that the weight
of the water added to the blast protection.


Configuration 4 x 4
Engine 6 cylinder diesel (125bhp)
Dimensions 5.1 x 2.05 x 2.9m
Fuel capacity 200l
Turning radius Not available
Max speed 96 km/h (on road)
Range 1000km (on road)
Vertical obstacle Not available
Crew 1 + 10
Armament 7.62mm Browning machine gun


The Olifant started life as Centurion tanks modernised by South Africa, considered the best indigenous tank design on the African continent.
The Olifant Mk 1B main battle tank was developed and produced by the Olifant Manufacturing
Company, OMC Engineering PTY Ltd, based in South Africa. Development of the Olifant started in
1976 and first entered service with the South African Armoured Corps in the late 1970s. OMC Engineering
later became Reumech OMC, then Vickers OMC and, in September 2002 was renamed Alvis OMC, following
the acquisition of Vickers Defence by Alvis plc. In September 2004, Alvis OMC became part of BAE Systems Land Systems.

The layout of the Olifant Mark 1 was very similar to that of the South African Semel tank which was based
on an upgraded conversion of the British Centurion tanks. The Olifant has been continually upgraded.
The Mark 1A entered full-scale production in 1983 and the first were in service by 1985. In the same
year that the Mark 1A entered the production phase, development work was started on the Mark 1B, and
these tanks were in production during the 1990s and are operational in the South African Armed Forces.

Semel (1974): 810 hp fuel-injected petrol engine, three-speed semi-automatic transmission.
Olifant Mk 1 (1978): 750 hp diesel engine, semi-automatic transmission.
Olifant Mk 1A (1985): Retains the fire control system of the original Centurion, but has a hand-held
laser rangefinder for the commander and image-intensifier for the gunner.
Olifant Mk 1B (1991): Torsion bar suspension, lengthened hull, additional armor on the glacis plate and
turret, V-12 950 hp diesel engine, computerised fire control system, laser rangefinder.


Configuration Not applicable
Engine Turbo-charged V12 diesel (900bhp)
Dimensions 8.6 x 3.4 x 2.9m
Fuel capacity 1240l
Turning radius Not applicable
Max speed 60 km/h (on road)
Range 350km (cross country)
Vertical obstacle 1m
Crew 4
Armament 105mm GT3 quick firing semi-automatic gun

The Comet was an upgrade of the Cromwell hull. Fast, reliable, low profile with a high powered
variant of the 17lb gun, mounted sideways in the turret. It was lighter and smaller than
a Sherman, but carried thicker and better sloped armour.
The Rolls Royce Meteor engine and wide tracks gave it excellent mobility as well, and the illustration is of
a tank recovery variant.

Shongololo means millipede. This recovery vehicle is based on a MAN TTV.

The Withings MK 1A (6 × 6) recovery vehicle is based on the chassis of the
SAMIL 100 (6 × 6) 10,000 kg truck, suitably modified for the recovery role. The vehicle is
fitted with a fully enclosed mineproof cab which also protects the occupants from small
arms fire and shell splinters. The cab is provided with bullet-proof windows in the front and sides.

Aloutte III

SA-33 Puma

Super Frelon

Atlas Kudu

C47 Dakota

DC4 Skymaster



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