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SOUTH AFRICAN ARMOURED VEHICLES: A History of Innovation and Excellence

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 ground-breaking and innovative weapon systems.

The results were designs for some of the most robust armoured 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 of battlefields around the world, especially those riddled by land mines and so-called improvised explosive devices.

South African Armoured Vehicles: A History of Innovation and Excellence, takes an in-depth look at 13 iconic South African armoured 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 twenty custom-drawn colour profiles, this volume provides an exclusive and indispensable source of reference.

Paperback, 112 pages. 145 b/w & 8 colour photos, 23 colour profiles, 1 b/w map, 6 tables

Authors: Dr Dewald Venter

Customer Reviews

Based on 5 reviews
Marlene Du Plessis
Brilliant and definitive work

What a wonderful book really a masterpiece. Beautiful pictures and a must have for any bookshelf. I bought this book for my brother a former


Plenty of info not only on vehicles but general operational info as well, great pics, good all round.

D. Gardner, Director OMC (1990-1994)
Easy to read yet technically detailed

In life, you are presented opportunities which when you look back, you wonder how did that happen. In the late sixties and early seventies, the South African defence industry blossomed out of a national need for defence equipment.

It was the playground of young but bright engineers, most newly graduated. Research and development was the name of the game. The engineers were eager to learn and create what had never been created before. It was my privilege to be on this journey.

Dewald has in this book written a reference which provides an easy to read yet technically detailed reflection of the world, my colleagues and I lived in. The book brings to life the vehicles developed to protect and provide the platforms for our brave fighting men and women.

Salute to Dewald, the engineers and the brave men and women of the South African armed forces past and present who made this book possible.

Lt. Col. (ret) J. French, SANDF Weapons Systems Officer Tanks
A comprehensive and definitive work.

This is a comprehensive and definitive work, and it consolidates and captures the essence of the period in time, which could certainly be termed as the post-1960 technological boom in the armaments industry In South Africa. It is clinically and concisely written, free of the politics, personalities, personality clashes and in-fighting that was a feature of many of the projects in those times, not only limited to South Africa.

It certainly is the ‘go-to’ publication for reference to AFV development in SA, as well as certain other equally important specialist armoured vehicles. The book is written in an easy to read and follow style and should be on the bookshelf of anyone with interest in matters military, be it South African or international.

Lt. Col. (ret) J. French SANDF Weapons Systems Officer Tanks

Major General (ret) Roland de Vries
Brilliant and well researched!

As a former commander of military forces in the South African Border War I am both pleased and proud about Dewald Venter’s accomplishment on having written this book on South Africa’s armoured vehicles. I know that it is a subject which (after his wife and daughter) is the love of his life. In this sense it was a pleasure to have worked closely with him and a small team of dedicated individuals on the writing of the book on Ratel.

One of the challenges the designers of our military hardware in southern Africa had to contend with was to determine on how to:
• Provide combat and mission ready forces for the African fighting milieu, where a variety of conventional and unconventional warfaring methods may be required in some integrated form?
• Determine the priorities of armour protection versus firepower and mobility?
There is no question, confirmed in this book, that the South Africans favoured firepower and mobility!
The author answers the aforementioned design imperatives in no uncertain terms. It is therefore interesting to observe how these unique characteristics feature in the FEATURES of South Africa’s armoured array! The height of the six-wheeled Ratel for example was not favoured by the Israelis for warfare in the open desert. However, it became an asset for bush warfare in southern Angola. Another example is the four-wheeled Buffel designed for counterinsurgency as a mine protected vehicle. Nevertheless, during Operation Protea in August-September 1981, and in several operations thereafter, the Buffel, was used extensively as an infantry fighting vehicle in a role similar to Ratel.
In fighting appearance an armed force should be sufficiently advanced to perform with utmost conviction and cool demeanour any of the following roles, missions, and tasks in times of peace, armed conflict, or war:

• All forms of combat operations wherein adversaries conduct regular operations, unconventional operations, or both, for offensive, defensive, and delaying combat.
• Participation in guerrilla and unconventional (irregular) warfare or in the countering thereof.
• Involvement in counterinsurgency operations, which could form part of an overall operational scheme.
• The execution of all forms of peace support operations in peacetime or during armed conflict, which are referred to as operations other than war (OOTW).

It is a good test to measure whether the author’s descriptions of South Africa’s armoured arsenal could perform the aforementioned roles well! This feature is an important attribute of this book and an aspect from which other defence forces can learn and benefit.

One can scarcely imagine how it would have been if South Africa did not have these armoured vehicles available during its combat apogee in South West Africa (now Namibia) and Angola during the seventies and eighties? I shudder at the thought! In this way the book also creates a higher level of understanding of the operating environment and structuring of armed forces within the context of the African battle space. It is quite clear that well thought out and detailed military strategies, policies and plans were required for the development and sustainment of units and formations equipped in this way in the field.

This book is professionally written and encapsulates what it takes to establish the essence of a defence force when it comes to its fighting hardware.
Dewald Venter highlights the soul of this book when he says that South Africans can be proud of what was accomplished by our industries during a time when resources were scarce, but the talent was not. In reading this book there remains no question about the fact that "necessity was the mother of invention". This is especially true when one realises that South Africa developed one of the best militaries in the world during the seventies and eighties. This is an achievement recorded in South Africa’s military annals and of which all South Africans can be proud.
In reading this book on South Africa’s armoured vehicles the author awakened my feeling about what a worthy military is all about: A defence force should be like a brand-new machine, still gleaming and dewing with oil, flexible, supple, perfectly coordinated and developed for serious combat – all thunder and lightning ready to march and to fight at moment’s notice!

Thank you so much Dewald Venter for having written this important account of one of South Africa’s major achievements during the Cold War era!


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