Land Mobility Technologies (LMT) yesterday handed over the first production Ratel infantry fighting vehicle to the National Museum of Military History in Johannesburg, ten years after it was removed by the Military Police.
Ratel 0001 was handed back to the museum after a R200 000 refurbishment sponsored by LMT and carried out by Jorisen Engineering on contract to LMT. The vehicle, along with an Eland 60, Eland 90 and Ferret armoured car, were removed from the museum by military police in January 2005, and the museum director and two curators were briefly arrested for the possession of suspected stolen military equipment.
The military’s confiscation of the vehicles was due to concerns over their alleged “irregular acquisition”. Although records were shown to the military police and the matter was resolved, it took ten years and strenuous efforts driven by Francois du Rand at Denel Land Systems in cooperation with the South African National Defence Force to get the vehicles released and returned.
LMT then offered to sponsor the refurbishment of all four vehicles, with the Elands and Ferret due to arrive back at the museum in the coming months. LMT said that even after standing for a decade, the Ratel was able to drive to the repair facility where it was given a service and had some minor repairs done over a two week period. For instance, the cold start system, oil leaks and other components were looked at. The Ratel’s 20 mm cannon was also confirmed as having been made safe.
Museum Education Co-ordinator Hamish Paterson said he was glad to have the Ratel back as it is an important piece of Cold War technology that demonstrates the advantages of wheeled armoured vehicles such as speed, easier maintenance and greater range.
The Ratel was the first wheeled infantry fighting vehicle to enter military service, and is generally regarded as an influential design that has inspired many others. Ratel 0001 originally arrived at the museum in 1992.
The Ratel’s return was marked by a handover ceremony attended by Dr Stefan Nel, CEO of LMT Products, JT Nel, the father of the Ratel, and members of the museum and Ratel project team. The museum handed over a Certificate of Appreciation to Dr Nel for “interest and effort in preparing Ratel 0001 and returning it to the Museum.”
Paterson said the confiscation of the vehicles was probably the first time exhibits had been taken away from the museum. He told defenceWeb that in terms of new acquisitions, the museum is awaiting the delivery of an Alouette III helicopter after the South African Air Force approved delivery. Paterson said the museum had received small donations from individuals such as SADF and MK uniforms, but may receive a Buffel vehicle.
Also taking place at the Museum of Military History on Wednesday afternoon was a ceremony marking the refurbishment of the Anglo Boer War memorial housed on the same grounds.
Although it was designed some 40 years ago, around 670 Ratels remain in service with the South African Army, and a similar number are also in storage.