A new addition to Denel Land Systems division Mechem’s vehicle lineup is the ‘Blesbok’ cargo truck version of the Casspir mine-resistant vehicle, which is in production for Angola.
Three of these logistics variants have been ordered by Angola, which is soon due to take delivery after testing at the Gerotek grounds outside Pretoria. In 2013 Angola ordered 45 Casspir New Generation 2000B vehicles comprising 30 armoured personnel carriers, four fire support vehicles (able to carry two 23 mm cannons or a recoilless rifle), two command vehicles, two recovery vehicles, two ambulances, three logistics vehicles, a water tanker and a diesel tanker.
Mechem General Manager Ashley Williams told defenceWeb that the Casspir has been doing very well, with sales of the new generation Casspir 2000 to Angola and Burundi. Mechem is now waiting on a possible sale to Chad, which could buy a mixed fleet of ambulances and armoured personnel carriers.
Last year Mechem delivered three Casspir ambulances to the United Nations in Mali. Williams said this was an emergency procurement. The wide body ambulance has the same dimensions as the Rinkhals armoured ambulance and can accommodate four lying and two sitting patients plus two medics. The vehicle is fully equipped to treat any operational casualty. Older generation Casspir ambulances were much more confined and could only accommodate two stretchers, one sitting patient and a medic.
The new generation NG2000 Casspirs feature more powerful engines and better manufacturing techniques than their predecessors and can withstand a 21 kg TNG blast under a wheel and a 14 kg blast under the hull.
As part of Mechem’s core business is mine detection it is working on a prototype of a new ground penetrating radar that will be fitted to the Casspir. Williams said the main purpose would be for de-mining, rather than route clearance, and as such the new system would not be competing with DCD Protected Mobility’s Husky system.
Mechem also offers armoured truck cabs. Although Benin was supposed to be the launch customer for the armoured trucks, no sale was forthcoming.
Although not as actively marketed as the Casspir, Mechem is able to supply the ballistically protected Uniscout vehicle with either a Unimog or Tata drivetrain. This vehicle was developed as a joint project with N4 Trucks using the old South African Police Service (SAPS) Scout vehicle body and fitted with a Unimog engine. Mechem presently uses one in Mogadishu.
Another N4/Mechem project resulted in the KF 46 armoured personnel carrier, which is still marketed by N4. Mechem dropped the vehicle in favour of the New Generation Casspir, as the latest model has better blast protection.
One of the more unusual vehicles Mechem uses on its demining projects is the Tapir MPV, a mine and ballistically protected vehicle which was built on a MAN drivetrain. It was developed in the early 1990s for a Special Forces project and intended to be a weapons platform and built such that one can basically bolt on and off any weapon fitted on a container type platform. The project was canned after 1994 and only 14 vehicles were built, with ten sold to the UN for demining purposes while the remaining four being used by Mechem, mainly in Mozambique.
The company also has four armoured/mine-protected graders its uses on its own demining projects. They are fitted with armoured cabs and rippers in front to expose sub-surface objects up to a depth of 400 mm.