The South African Armoured Corps has placed an order for R96.8 million with Rheinmetall Denel Munitions for the provision of 105mm high explosive tracer ammunition for the Olifant main battle tank and 76mm armour-piercing fin-stabilised discarding sabot tracer ammunition for the Rooikat armoured car.
It seems to be the first order for the latter in some years. The last order for the Olifant, worth R19.2 million, was in November 2009.
The SA Army currently owns up to 266 of the tanks in five variants: the Mk2, Mk1B and Mk1A MBT in addition to about 16 armoured recovery vehicles (ARV) and two armoured bridgelayers (ABL). The Olifant is based on the British Centurion cruiser tank developed during World War Two. Several pre-production models saw action in northern Germany in 1945. Production of the vehicles stopped in 1962. South Africa acquired some 250 Mk 2 and Mk 3 Centurions directly from Britain from 1957 to arm an armoured division earmarked for Commonwealth service in the Middle East.
Several hundred Alvis Saracen armoured personnel carrier were acquired for the same purpose at the same time. After South Africa left the Commonwealth in the face of greater opposition to its racist Apartheid policies, roughly half the tanks were sold as surplus to new requirements. As arms embargoes increased and tanks appeared in the inventories of newly independent neighbours, South Africa had to buy Centurion Mk5s in various states of repair from India and Jordan in the 1970s.
Various upgrades were then undertaken, reportedly with Israeli assistance, at the Olifant’s Manufacturing Company, a factory established for the purpose. The Olifant Mk1 entered service in 1978. Remanufacture to the Mk1A-standard commenced in 1983 and examples entered service in 1985. Upgrade to Mk1B-standard commenced in 1991. Twenty-six Mk2’s were commissioned from 2007 as part of Project Atolasa. Brigadier General Chris Gildenhuys, the General Officer Commanding the SA Army Armour Formation has said the Olifant Mk2 is a training, not operational system, as it lacks dedicated support in the form of an ARV or ABL. Officers speaking on the sidelines of the 2008 Armour Symposium noted a requirement for 132 tanks, including six ARV and four armoured bridgelayers (ABL) in terms of Project Aorta.
The Olifant is currently armed with the Denel Land Systems GT7 105mm 52-calibre high pressure gun (based on British L7). This fires a full range of 105mm ammunition, including armour piercing fin-stabilised discarding sabot –tracer (APFSDS-T), high explosive (HE), HE squash head and smoke. 72 rounds carried. Projectiles weigh between 16 and 27kg. The Denel-developed M9718 105mm APFSDS round is 0.950m long, weighs 18.5kg and is fired at a chamber pressure of between 350 to 400 MPa to a combat range of 3km. The safety range is 30km. Dispersion at 3km is within 0.3x 0.3m and penetration is 450mm RHA. The tracer is visible to 3km. The Denel, now RDM, M9210 HE round is 1.006m long, weighs 24.5kg, has a TNT/HNS filling and a lethal radius of 17m. The round is fired with a muzzle velocity of 700m/s to a maximum range of 10-12km. Dispersion at 3km is within 0.3 x 0.3m.
The tank is in service with the School of Armour, 1 SA Tank Regiment, both of Bloemfontein; as well as the Natal Mounted Rifles, Durban; Regiment President Steyn, Bloemfontein and Pretoria Regiment. The latter three are Reserve Force units.
The Rooikat was developed to replace the “obsolete” Eland 60 and 90 series of armoured cars. Intended missions include combat reconnaissance, aggressive search-and-destroy, anti-armour operations, combat patrols, raids and hot pursuit operations as well as peacekeeping presence patrols. Some 242 were manufactured from the mid-1980s, with DLS (then Lyttelton Ingenieurswerke) building the turrets and BAE Systems South Africa (then OMC) building the hulls. Eighty were upgraded under Project Arum Lily in the early part of the last decade. The authoritative International Institute for Strategic Studies in its Military Balance publication for 2011 lists 82 “in service” and 94 “in store.” The system is allocated to the SA Army School of Armour and 1 Special Service Battalion, both of Bloemfontein, and the Umvoti Mounted Rifles, Durban; Regiment Oranjerivier, Cape Town; and, Regiment Mooirivier in Potchefstroom. The latter three are Reserve Force units.
The Rooikat carries a Denel GT4 high pressure 76mm 62-calibre rifled gun, firing an APFSDS round at a muzzle velocity in excess of 1600m/s. It is credited with being capable of penetrating the front hull (275mm RHA) and turret (230mm RHA) of a T62 MBT at 2000m. The GT4 fires a range of HE, APFSDS-T, smoke, canister and practice ammunition. The gun barrel is fitted with a thermal anti-distortion sleeve and a reinforced fibreglass fume extractor.
From the Armscor Bulletin System:
Procurement of 105 mm High explosive tracer tank ammunition for Olifant main battle tank and 76 mm Armour piercing fin stabilised discarded SABOT tracer ammunition for Rooikat AFV
EAMS/2010/115 11 Aug 2011 R96 842 071,80 Rheinmetall Denel Munitions (Pty) Ltd
Procurement of 105 mm high explosive tracer ammunition
EAMS/2008/613 12 Nov 2009 R19 293 875,73 Rheinmetall Denel Munitions (Pty) Ltd
Procurement of 105 mm high explosive ammunition
EPTS/2006/299 16 Feb 2007 R19 649 116,80 Denel (Pty) Ltd t/a Rheinmetall Denel Munitions