Ratel IFV

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For other uses, see Ratel (disambiguation).
Ratel 20
Type Infantry fighting vehicle
Place of origin South Africa
Service history
In service 1977 – present
Production history
Designed 1968
Produced 1974
Specifications
Weight 18.5 tonnes
Length 7.212 m
Width 2.5.16 m
Height 2.915 m
Crew 3 + 7

Armor 20 mm
Main
armament
20 mm semi-automatic cannon
Secondary
armament
1 x 7.62 mm MG (coaxial), 7.62 mm MG (anti-aircraft), 1 x 7.62 mm MG (anti-aircraft), 2 x 2 smoke grenade dischargers
Engine D 3256 BTXF 6-cylinder in-line turbocharged diesel
282 hp (210 kW)
Power/weight 15.24 hp/tonne
Suspension Wheeled 6x6, 350mm clearance
Operational
range
1000 km
Speed 115 km/h (road); 65 km/h (off-road)
Ratel 90
Ratel 90 armyrecognition South-Africa 008.jpg
Ratel 90
Type Fire Support vehicle
Place of origin South Africa
Specifications
Weight 19 tonnes
Length 7.21 m
Width 2.7 m
Height 2.395 m
Crew 4 + 6

Armor 20 mm
Main
armament
90 mm GT2 semi-automatic gun
Secondary
armament
1 x 7.62 mm MG (coaxial), 7.62 mm MG (anti-aircraft), 1 x 7.62 mm MG (anti-aircraft), 2 x 2 smoke grenade dischargers
Engine ADE 407 TI turbocharged diesel
315 hp (231 kW)
Power/weight 15.24 hp/tonne
Suspension Wheeled 6x6, 350mm clearance
Operational
range
1000 km
Speed 105 km/h (road); 30 km/h (off-road)


The Ratel is the basic infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) of the South African National Defence Force's mechanized infantry battalions. Ratel is the Afrikaans name for the honey badger, which has a reputation as a ferocious fighter.

History[edit]

Circa 1970, the SA Army identified the need for an infantry combat vehicle (ICV) in accordance with requirements for its relatively new doctrine of mobile warfare. The resultant product was the Ratel IFV (more correctly, ICV in SA Army terminology) that,contrary to some views, was a totally new requirement and not a replacement for the Alvis Saracen. In fact, the Saracens were retained in their original roles for some years after Ratel entered service and even underwent an upgrade (Project Fellies) before they were eventually retired. There is a further misconception, namely that Ratel was developed for the so-called Border War. This too is incorrect as the original requirement was based on the SA Army's conventional forces and training requirements; while the units that eventually operated with Ratels in the Border War(Combat Group Juliet and 61 Mechanized Battalion Group) were not even included in the Army's order of battle (ORBAT) at the time.

The 6x6 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 1971, 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 WZ-523 from China and the SIBMAS from Belgium. 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 two or three men, with a seven-man infantry squad. In the Ratel-20 squad vehicle, the vehicle commander doubles as the section leader, while in the Ratel-90 fire support version, the commander doubles as the gun loader.

The vehicle will be replaced in the South African military by 264 Patria AMV vehicles in "Project Hoefyster".[1]

Land Systems OMC has developed the next generation iKlwa Multi-role Armoured Vehicle based on the Ratel's design.

Vehicle characteristics[edit]

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 multirole armoured vehicles from their original infantry fighting vehicle design. The Ratel also has on-board potable water storage tanks, a necessity for operations in arid areas, and a very wide operational radius of 1000 km (compared to 450km for the M2/M3 Bradley).

Mobility[edit]

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, but also adequate for the densely wooded bush and loose sands of southern Angola where it saw most operational service. The vehicle has a ride comfort that crews view as comparable to civilian cars when on roads. Off-road mobility is comparable to tracked vehicles such as the Olifant tank, as demonstrated during the 1987–1988 Operation Moduler, where Ratel-equipped units made a long-distance dash from Rundu in Namibia to the Lumba River in Angola over poor or nonexistent roads. During the Angolan conflict, SADF crews also 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 when maneuvering in very tall bush.

Landmine protection[edit]

The Ratel's design also gives far more consideration to protection against land mines than most armoured vehicles of its era, 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.

Armour[edit]

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 Angola), rocket-propelled grenades and guided missiles. The SADF's experience during the South African Border War in 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.

Armament[edit]

A tactical remote turret mounted on a Ratel

The basic Ratel's (designated Ratel-20) primary armament consists of a Denel Land Systems GI-2 20 mm autocannon 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 20mm cannon is belt fed and has a high rate of fire. Ammunition is selected for specific engagements and typically consists of a combination of HE (high explosive) and APTC (armour piercing tungsten carbide) rounds in sequence. The APTC is capable of destroying a tank as evidenced during Operation Protea in Xangongo.[2] 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 as well as seven infantrymen.

The Ratel-60 and Ratel-90 variants are otherwise identical, save that the former mounts a 60 mm breech-loading mortar in turrets modeled on the Eland 60 armoured cars, and the Ratel-90 mounts a 90 mm low-velocity gun in a two-man turret modeled on that of the Eland 90 armoured car. The Ratel 90 weighs approximately half a ton more than a Ratel 20. 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 in order to have room for the bulkier ammunition, but in the least it ensures that such a squad has fire support from the 90 mm gun. Some armored car squadrons deployed to the Angolan area of operations during the South African Border War were equipped with Ratel 90s instead of the usual Eland armored cars because the Ratel had a much greater radius of action.[3]

Anti-tank capabilities[edit]

The low-velocity 90 mm gun, a license-made copy of the 1950s-vintage French GIAT F1, is accurate out to 2 km range.

On the rare occasions during the Border War 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 manoeuvrebility 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 Olifant tanks were considerably more effective than Ratels or Elands against Soviet armour.

Anti-tank missile[edit]

Ratel ZT3-A2 with cut-away Ingwe anti-tank guided missile in front

The anti-tank guided missile variant, the Ratel ZT-3, is armed with the 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 Ratel ZT-3 entered service (albeit in prototype form) with the SADF in the late 1980s, in time for Operation Moduler, 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, Unimogs or other unarmoured vehicles.

Typical deployment[edit]

A typical SANDF 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 Moduler 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. Fire belt actions were a formidable tactic, typically with the 20mm cannon firing almost continuously during a specific advance onto target.[4] They were also used as command vehicles given their large storage capacity. These vehicles were kitted out with an array of radio and other equipment as needed. During the latter stages of the civil unrest in South Africa, Ratels were often used for counter insurgency purposes in townships.[5]

Variants[edit]

  • Ratel 20 - Original version, French designed turret (see side notes)
  • Ratel 60 - crew of 3 plus 7 infantry, turret is identical to that of the Eland 60 with a 60 mm breech-loading mortar
  • Ratel 81 - no turret, but an 81 mm mortar is installed in the crew compartment for use as a fire support platform
  • Ratel 90 - crew of 3 plus 6 infantry, turret is identical to that of the Eland 90. Primary role: fire support for the Mechanized Battalions
  • Ratel 120 - 120mm mortar carrier. Prototype only
  • Ratel Command - crew of 9 men, two-seater turret with a 12,7 mm machine gun
  • Ratel EAOS - Enhanced Artillery Observation System
  • Ratel Maintenance - setup as a mobile workshop
  • Ratel ZT3 - new anti-tank turret, with a rack containing 3 anti-tank missiles ready for launch and additional missiles stored within the hull
  • Ratel Logistic - 8x8 logistic vehicle. Only 2 prototypes were built

Derivatives[edit]

  • Iklwa - A prototype built by BAE Systems Land Systems South Africa that is based on the Ratel but with the hull and drive train upgraded and the engine moved from the rear to the front

Operators[edit]

Combat History[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Denel in Multi-billion Rand Deal". Fin24.co.za. May 17, 2007. 
  2. ^ Turton.A.R. 2010. Shaking Hands with Billy. Durban: Just Done Publications.
  3. ^ Lessons of the Border War
  4. ^ Nortje. P. 2003. 32 Battalion. Cape Town. Zebra Press.
  5. ^ Turton. A.R. 2010. Shaking Hands with Billy. Durban: Just Done Publications. http://www.shakinghandswithbilly.com
  6. ^ a b c SA Ratels in Libya spur DA to call for investigation
  7. ^ a b "Trade Registers". Armstrade.sipri.org. Retrieved 2013-06-20. 
  8. ^ Anthony H. Cordesman. A Tragedy of Arms: Military and Security Developments in the Maghreb (November 30, 2001 ed.). Praeger Publishers. p. 62. ISBN 0-275-96936-3. 
  9. ^ "Ratel APC Rwanda". DefenceTalk.com. 2013-09-01. Retrieved 2013-09-11. 
  10. ^ Warwick, Rodney. Operation Savannah: A Measure of SADF Decline, Resourcefulness, and Modernisation. Scientia Militaria, 2012, Volume 40 Issue 3 p. 364-377.
  11. ^ SA Ratels turn up in Yemen conflict

External links[edit]

  • Ratel at GlobalSecurity.org.

Media related to Ratel IFV at Wikimedia Commons