Mean machines driven by rough riders is one way of describing the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) 2012 Mobility Demonstration, where vehicles in use by, or developed in, South Africa were put through their paces.
The track included steep inclines; tight turns; suspension-jarring tests and a water obstacle, which could be described as a mud-bath, all aimed at testing or showing off the capabilities of these tough vehicles.
First out was the joint South African-Saudi Arabian Nyoka Mark II, known in Saudi Arabia as the Masmak. Adel Al-Mejhem, a spokesman for the Streit Group, which is responsible for armouring the South African-built vehicle, said despite what locals consider high crime, South Africa is “a safe country”. Streit armours vehicles for Afghanistan, Iraq and, more recently, Yemen, among others.
BAE systems unleashed the RG 31 Nyala, RG32 Scout (or Galten in Swedish use) and RG 35 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs). The RG 31 had some trouble overcoming a step, but gamely tried a few times until it had bested the obstacle. The larger Scout and RG 35 had no problem with the step or water obstacle, merely muddying the waters further.
The Iklwa (Zulu for stabbing spear) which is an upgraded Ratel without its usual front-mounted turret, introduced the recently-revealed BAE Systems 30 mm Tactical Remote Turret (TRT) which carried a Russian 2A42 cannon. The TRT has the advantage of being remotely controlled from inside the vehicle.
The DCD Protected Mobility Mountain Lion lived up to its tough name and in addition had FWS (Four Wheel Steering) capability, which it showed off to effect.
The replacement for the ageing Ratel Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), the Badger, was put through its paces and showed no difficulty in tackling the course, as did the Rooikat reconnaissance armoured car, whose driver delighted in showering photographers with dirt, but was rewarded by himself being showered with mud!
An interesting addition was the Hybrid Electric Drive vehicle, a Rooikat with a non-standard power plant, but which seemed powerful enough. Defence forces elsewhere are also investigating alternative power, for instance the US Naval Aviation experimenting with biomass as an alternative to fossil fuel.
The pièce de résistance of the demonstration was without doubt the Olifant Mark 1b tank, which clanked and roared around the track as if seeking whom it might devour. The peaceful pachyderm after which it is named seemed far from the place.
No doubt, many a potential customer for armoured vehicles was as impressed as defenceWeb was.