BAE Systems, Denel & Jorsin keeps Ratels at the ready

Five work orders for the maintenance and repair of the veteran BAE Systems Ratel Mk3 infantry combat vehicle product system takes the known amount spent on keeping the operational with the South African Army to over R96 613 428.41 since 2007.

The contracts include work worth R7 891 905.91 to Jorsin the Group CC for general maintenance and repair and R3 001 285.50 to Denel Land Systems for the supply of 20mm automatic gun and 90mm turret items as well as four contracts to BAE Systems for the maintenance and repair of transmissions (R3 625 836.00), the maintenance and repair of dropdown gearboxes (R380 411.10), the supply of various A and E class spares (R6 270 741.20) and the maintenance and repair Ratel MK3 A-class spares and components (R9 043 214,00).

The Ratel has now been in service for 34 years. It is an indigenous design developed in the early 1970s to replace the Saracen armoured personnel carrier. The prototype was delivered in 1974 and the first production vehicle in 1976. The Mk2 entered production in 1979 and the Mk3 in 1988. The Mk3 fleet was upgraded in 2001 when about 70 modifications were made.

Writing in the Engineering News in October 2008, Keith Campbell described the development of the Ratel as follows: “This programme started in the early 1970s, when the South African Army evaluated four AFVs – the Unimog UR-416 from Germany, the French Panhard M3, the Brazilian Engesa Urutu, and a vehicle from local company Springfield Bussing, confusingly named Buffel” [confusingly, as this name was already being used for a mine-protected troop carrier].

Campbell added the three foreign designs were all armoured personnel carriers – “basically, armoured ‘battle taxis’, armed only with a machine gun, which carried troops into battle, at which point they had to disembark to fight”. He noted the SA Army decided to go with a new concept instead. Variously called the armoured infantry fighting vehicle (AIFV) or infantry combat vehicle (ICV), this was pioneered by the Soviet Army in the form of the BMP-1 and the West German Army in the shape of the Marder.

“An AIFV carries a powerful gun (20 mm or 30 mm) as well as a squad of troops, who have their own vision ports and firing ports, so that they can fight from within the vehicle,” Campbell wrote. “So, around 1975/1976, the South African Army decided to adopt an AIFV based on the Springfield Bussing vehicle. This became the Ratel (honey badger, in English), which was mass-produced by Sandock Austral. A monocoque design, the Ratel hulls were made in Sandock Austral’s Durban dockyard and taken by rail to Boksburg for fitting out. The turrets were based on those on the Eland armoured cars – the 20-mm gun turret of the standard Ratel IFV, for example, was a redesigned Eland 90 turret.

A whole family of Ratels was developed – command vehicles, fire support vehicles (with 90mm gun turrets taken from Eland), mortar vehicles (with 60mm breech-loading mortar turrets taken from Eland 60s), and, later, tank destroyers armed with Denel Dynamics ZT3 Ingwe antitank missiles, and mortar carriers with 81mm muzzle-loading mortars carried in what had been the troop compartment.

The Ratel is scheduled for partial replacement by the Badger, some 264 of which are slated for production under Project Hoefyster.



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