|Place of origin||South Africa|
|In service||1962 –|
|Used by||See Operators|
|Wars||Angolan Civil War
Rhodesian Bush War
South African Border War
Namibian War of Independence
1994 Bophuthatswana coup d'état
Western Sahara War
Second Congo War
Chadian Civil War
Northern Mali conflict
|Produced||1964 – 1980s|
|Weight||6 tonnes (6.6 short tons; 5.9 long tons)|
|Length||5.12 m (16 ft 10 in)|
|length||4.04 m (13 ft 3 in) (hull)|
|Width||2.01 m (6 ft 7 in)|
|Height||2.5 m (8 ft 2 in)|
|Crew||3 (commander, driver, gunner)|
|90mm Denel GT-2 (29 rounds)
60mm Brandt mortar (56 rounds)
|2x 7.62mm M1919 Browning machine guns (2400 - 3800 rounds)|
|Engine||General Motors 2.5 l (150 cu in) inline 4-cylinder water-cooled petrol|
|Transmission||6-speed manual constant mesh|
|Suspension||Independent 4X4; active trailing arms|
|Ground clearance||380 mm|
|Fuel capacity||142 litres|
The Eland is an air portable light armoured car based on the Panhard AML. Designed and built by South Africa for long-range reconnaissance, it mounts either a 60mm breech-loading mortar or a GIAT 90mm gun on a very compact chassis. Although lightly armoured, the vehicle's permanent 4X4 drive makes it faster over flat terrain than many tanks.
Eland was developed for the South African Defence Force (SADF) in South Africa's first major arms programme since World War II, with prototypes completed in 1963. By 1991, 1,600 examples had been built for home and export; prominent foreign operators included Morocco and Zimbabwe. Local overhauls incorporating lessons from internal operations have resulted in a vehicle capable of withstanding the unforgiving Southern African environment and highly mobile operational style of the SADF.
- 1 Development history
- 2 Combat history
- 3 Design
- 4 Variants and upgrades
- 5 Operators
- 6 In popular culture
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
For many years the standard armoured car of the South African Defence Force was the Daimler Ferret, which was developed in the late 1940s and armed with a single general-purpose machine gun. By the mid 1960s, Ferret spares were becoming difficult to obtain, and its armament was obviously less than adequate. In 1961, South Africa accordingly secured a similar platform with a much wider range of armament installations: the French Panhard AML. Between 1962 and 1964, Panhard approved a licence for the AML's domestic production in South African plants. The result was the VA (Vehicle A) Mk2, first offered to the SADF's armoured car regiments and reconnaissance commands in 1964. Bids were accepted from four local companies for the manufacture of 300 AMLs with working armament, along with another 150 turretless demonstrators; this contract was claimed by Sandock-Austral, now Land Systems OMC.
Sandock VAs initially fared rather poorly; all 56 models furbished in 1966 were rejected by the South African Army. An extensive rebuild programme followed - the Panhards were returned to the manufacturer, completely disassembled, restructured, and trialled again. These new vehicles claimed a local content of forty per cent but remained heavily bolstered by components imported from France in 1961. Upon undergoing several upgrades to the steering (Mk2) and brakes (Mk3), each vehicle was also equipped with a custom fuel system; the electric clutches were concurrently replaced by more conventional hydraulics (Mk4). While South Africa's AMLs remained externally similar to their French counterparts, up to two-thirds of their design was of indigenous origin by 1967, the main part of that balance being a new water cooled inline-4 cylinder petrol engine installed in the Mk5. Subsequent models were thus officially designated Eland.
Layout of Eland variants are much the same. A driver is seated towards the front and the turret bolted near the centre, in addition to the transmission and turbocharged motor housed at the rear. Operated by a crew of three, it houses a small and remarkably lightweight 4X4 frame with a height of 2.5 metres, a length of 5.12 metres, and a weight of 6 metric tons. Powered by a GM engine, Eland Mk5s boasted a 450-kilometre range and consumed 25 litres of fuel per 112.5 km. Most were armed with the 60mm gun-mortar, and two 7.62mm Browning machine guns (Eland-60). The second most common version, Eland-90, was mounted with a 90mm gun. When first introduced, this weapon was more suited to a main battle tank, but in decades since wheeled fighting vehicles had become increasingly versatile. The SADF made extensive use of both, finding an Eland-60 particularly useful for reconnaissance and patrol during counter-insurgency operations.
Elands now formed the mainstay of South African armoured units, although as early as 1969 SADF officials were discussing their replacement or supplementation with something more suited to countering tank warfare. Having undergone extensive upgrade programmes in the early 1970s, there were now 369 Eland-60s and 131 Eland-90s under active service. Anticipating conventional military threats to South Africa from abroad, the SADF ordered another 356 vehicles and began fitting the existing fleet with ENTAC missiles for deployment in anti-tank roles. This was followed swiftly by the introduction of the Eland Mk6 - Mk5 conversions of older machines. Between 1974 and 1975, up to 1,016 Mk6s were refurbished by Sandock-Austral.
The vehicle was first tested in combat against Cuban and People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) forces during Operation Savannah. In late 1975, reports of shipments of Soviet T-34 and PT-76 tanks to the MPLA perturbed South African advisers then involved with the Angolan Civil War. Accordingly, the State Security Council approved the deployment of 22 Eland-90s to Silva Porto in mid-October. Elands were to acquire a fearsome combat reputation in Angola, where they earned the moniker "Red Ants" due to unorthodox but effective crew tactics and the lack of any equivalent MPLA hardware. Nevertheless, crews found fighting capability constrained when operating on terrain better suited for tracked vehicles, and criticised the lowness of the body, which made sighting difficult over thick bush. Additionally, five were immobilised in hostile territory thanks to mechanical failure, at least three of them on roads.
The Eland-90 continued to enjoy considerable success in SADF service, proving to be a robust and popular car with the Special Service Battalion and 61st Mechanised Infantry Group. During Operation Sceptic (1980), Operation Protea (1981) and Operation Askari (1983), several proved capable of eliminating Cuban T-34 and T-54/55 tanks at close range. The SADF began to dispense with its Elands in the mid-1980s, replacing them with the larger and notably more dependable Ratel-90.
Once employed only as a scout car, the Eland auspiciously doubled as a conventional reconnaissance asset, an assault gun, and an ersatz tank destroyer - but its obsolescence was highlighted by several factors, namely a flammable petrol engine which was especially vulnerable to rocket-propelled grenades, and its four wheels limited off-road mobility. The effectiveness of the low pressure 90mm gun against modern tanks was also questionable; at the Battle of Cuvelai in January 1984, Eland-90s' HEAT shells - barring a lucky shot - rarely penetrated the opposing T-55s without multiple hits.
The final variant to be released was Eland Mk7, introduced in 1979. It included new power brakes, a new transmission, a lengthened hull, and an extended turret for accommodating taller South African servicemen. A domed cupola with vision blocks was also added, allowing commanders to see through a full 360 degrees. Mk7's motor is fixed on rails to simplify maintenance; it can be changed in under forty minutes. Some were immediately exported to Zimbabwe Rhodesia to replace the older Mk4s then in service with the Rhodesian Security Forces, while others went on to serve throughout the remainder of the South African Border War. Eland's continued shortcomings, however, initiated a series of experiments at the Bloemfontein School of Armour to find a suitable replacement, resulting in the Rooikat: an eight-wheeled, diesel-engined, vehicle. The Mk7, with its rudimentary fire control and lack of turret stablisers, was no longer considered necessary. Over 1,033 Elands have now been retired from service or sold off to foreign governments and corporations; the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has adopted some 176 Rooikats in their place.
South African Border War
Affectionately known as "Noddy Cars" to their crews, SADF Elands were deployed extensively throughout the Angolan Civil War. Under pressure from General Viljoen and Jonas Savimbi, the first examples were flown in during Operation Savannah in late 1975 to reinforce South African advisers then instructing the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). UNITA still occupied Nova Lisboa, Angola's second largest city, but their MPLA rivals controlled eleven of the sixteen district capitals and were making gains with the assistance of Cuban armour. The new Eland-90s and their experienced crews, however, were more than a match for anything the MPLA could muster. FAPLA infantry encountered these vehicles first at Humbe and Rocadas; neither trained nor equipped to resist such firepower, most were compelled to withdraw northwards. This disadvantage allowed the light, fast-moving Elands to fight a mobile war, seizing the initiative and keeping FAPLA constantly off balance. Throughout Savannah SADF columns were able to cover an impressive 90 kilometres a day, even when the rainy season slowed momentum.
It was intended for the Elands to support motorised infantry on roads, but since no other armour was available the South Africans deployed them as column spearheads. This left the cars particularly open to Cuban or FAPLA ambush with RPG-7s, B-10 recoilless rifles, and rocket artillery. At the Rio Quicombo for example, two RPGs bombarded the lead Eland, blowing off a wheel, disabling the main gun, and peppering the crew with shrapnel. During the Battle of Ebo, a FAPLA recoilless rifle struck a command Eland, overturning it and mutilating radio equipment. Unable to identify the weapon's position, another three Elands were shot out before they could engage, although at least one crew made it to safety. When two more Eland-90s arrived, the Angolans retaliated with a BM-21 Grad, destroying a fifth vehicle. A reserve squadron was called up; this time they silenced the recoilless rifle. Damaged Elands which could not be extricated by the reserve were later claimed by FAPLA on site and towed away for propaganda purposes.
Neither Cuba nor the MPLA fielded any vehicle matching the Eland, and their BRDM-2s bore little comparison. Savannah's first armour-to-armour engagement was fought on a highway stretch about 10km from Catengue, when Eland-90s knocked out seven FAPLA armoured cars advancing on Nova Lisboa. On 18 December 1975, another troop of Battle Group Orange encountered T-34s of the Cuban Army. A single Eland swung forward and lobbed a 90mm round into the lead tank, destroying it and forcing the others to withdraw.
Elands were again mustered by the SADF for Operation Reindeer during the Cassinga Raid in May 1978. Reindeer's western objective - consisting of nine South West African People's Organisation (SWAPO) forward operating areas in southern Angola - was assigned to Colonel Andre Liebenberg and Battle Group Juliet, predecessor to 61 Mechanised Infantry Battalion Group. Besides Juliet, led by Savannah veteran Frank Bestbier, Liebenberg had at his disposal motorised combat teams in new Ratel infantry fighting vehicles. Since Ratels then lacked sufficient firepower to deal with heavier threats, 21 Eland-90s and 2 Eland-60s were allocated to support the mounted infantry.
One Eland-90 troop was slated to lead the attack on the "Dombondola Complex", codenamed "Objective Vietnam": Juliet's largest SWAPO target, protected by a well-defended system of trenches and earthworks. Three others were to be held in support, on the roads linking Cuamato to Chetequera. Liebenberg's Eland-60s, meanwhile, functioned as security vehicles for a battery of BL 5.5-inch Medium Guns. Although Reindeer was a success, several important lessons were learned regarding the Eland's performance during combined arms maneuvers. Despite multi-wheel drive for example, Elands stalled in mud as well as loose sand, leaving no alternative but to tow them out with heavier vehicles; a time consuming affair. Speed was frustratingly slow on broken terrain. The petrol engine was also an issue, since it necessitated a separate logistics apparatus from the Ratels'. These problems were countered in the short run by mating a Ratel chassis to an Eland's 90mm cannon - creating the Ratel-90, with its six wheels, longer operating range, and 72 stored rounds being more suited to mobile bush operations and cooperating well with existing fleets of the mechanised infantry.
On 10 June 1980, South Africa launched Operation Sceptic, its largest armoured operation since World War II, against an insurgent command centre at Chifufua, Angola, as well as smaller SWAPO encampments at Mulola and Chitumbo. An Eland squadron (designated Combat Team 3) backed by four Ratel sections and a sapper unit was drawn from 61 Mechanised to drive point during the SADF's advance on Objective "Smokeshell". As Eland-90s retained the poorest momentum and left much narrower tracks than Ratels, their crews led the convoy the 250 kilometres to Chifuafua. From there, Combat Team 3 was tasked with providing fire support for the assault on SWAPO's main headquarters complex and engaging any stragglers attempting to withdraw northwards. Again, the Eland's cross-country inferiority became evident as the column advanced only at a maximum speed of 20 km/h. When progressing through thick vegetation this slowed to an unacceptable 10 km/h, Sceptic experiencing further delays as cars repeatedly bogged down in the sand. At some point before 3:45 PM, the first enemy equipment fell into SADF hands when an Eland troop overran and captured two ZPU anti-aircraft guns. Contact was made with SWAPO shortly afterwards, both sides fighting at point-blank range; vehicles reportedly suppressed guerrillas with 90mm fire at under three hundred metres. In attempting to establish the intended fire support base, Combat Team 3 withered an ambush by at least fifty insurgents but suffered no casualties, even when inadvertently towing its stalled Elands through the killzone.
During the Rhodesian Bush War, Rhodesian Armoured Corps manned Eland-90s in several engagements with the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA), and Mozambican troops. Eland-60s were used for airfield security, although some did support mechanized operations in 1978. The armoured cars were directed to patrol particularly dangerous regions such as the Honde Valley, and often operated with little to no infantry support. Late in the war, Rhodesian engineers proved that even AP rounds fired from an AK-47 could sufficiently penetrate an Eland's frontal armour, but crewmen conceded that this disadvantage was offset by the vehicle's speed and weapon range. The Zimbabwean Defence Forces subsequently deployed Eland-90s against ZIPRA dissidents in Bulawayo during 1981's Entumbane Uprising, destroying three BTR-152s and a BRDM. At least 20 Elands also saw action when Zimbabwe participated in the Second Congo War.
Because the Eland is widely regarded as a cheap and superior alternative to improvised technicals in harsh African conflict zones, it remains popular with several sub-Saharan armies and insurgent groups for use in fire-support or anti-infantry roles.
A boxy, squat, four-wheeled vehicle, the Eland's hull slopes downwards at the front and rear. There are semi-circular wheel arches with stowage bins adjacent to each rear wheel. Sand channels are mounted across the front of the hull, with headlamps located on either side of the towing shackle, beneath the channels. There are three periscopes fixed to the driver's top hatch. The gun turret, which overhangs at the rear, is shallow and rounded, with sloping sides and a prominent sighting periscope to the right. There is a domed cupola over the commander's hatch.
The Eland may carry one 90mm (3.54 in.) cannon with 29 rounds, or a breech-loaded 60mm (2.36 in.) HB 60 mortar with 56 rounds, in addition to 2,400 and 3,800 rounds stored for the machine guns, respectively. Two smoke dischargers are located on either side of the manually-powered turret. Eland-90s may be assisted via a non-stabilised optical fire control system.
Variants and upgrades
- Eland-60: Armed with a 60mm mortar and twin medium machine guns or one heavy machine gun. Used for mobile indirect fire support.
- Eland-90: Modified version of the AML H 90 armoured car, retaining the Panhard chassis but having a new Hispano-Suiza designed turret with a 90 mm GIAT F1 rifled gun, a co-axial machine gun, and an anti-aircraft gun. Provision also made for mounting up to four ENTAC or SS.11 missiles.
- Eland-20: 20mm autocannon fixed on a two-man turret; export models sold to Morocco and Uganda.
- Eland Mk1 (Panhard AML)
- Eland Mk2 (improved steering)
- Eland Mk3 (improved brakes)
- Eland Mk4 (modified fuel system/clutch)
- Eland Mk5 (first complete South African engine)
- Eland Mk6 (upgraded stowage bins)
- Eland Mk7
- Benin - Beninese Army: 3 Eland-90s, supplied from unidentified source in 2010. Beninese crews schooled by 1er RHP, France.
- Morocco - Moroccan Army: 60 Elands delivered in 1981; provided with instructors for training the Moroccan crews.
- Zimbabwe - Zimbabwe National Army: 28 Eland-90s and undisclosed number of Eland-60s inherited from Rhodesian predecessor at independence in 1980.
- South-West Africa - South West African Territorial Force: At least 40 Elands provided by the SADF; deployed exclusively with 91 Brigade and the 34th Kavangoland Battalion.
- Rhodesia - Rhodesian Army: Up to 34 Eland-90s and Eland-60s acquired or on loan from South Africa, which initially limited their use in external raids. Disguised with South African Police licence plates prior to 1976.
In popular culture
In the Larry Bond novel Vortex, an Eland squadron annihilates a unit of attacking T-62 tanks during a hypothetical SADF invasion of Namibia. Eland-90s are prominently featured throughout the storyline.
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|Photo of the Eland-20|