Fact file: The Ratel infantry combat vehicle


 The Ratel is the standard infantry fighting vehicle of the SA Army’s mechanised infantry.   


Wheeled combat vehicle


About 1300 built, about 570 remain in service.


Associated project names:


BAE Systems Land Systems OMC


  • Length:

  • Width:

  • Height:

  • Wheel base:

  • Track width:

  • Track:

  • Wheelbase:

  • Ground clearance:

  • 7.212m

  • 2.696m

  • 2.940m

  • 2.8m and 1.4m

  • 2.520m

  • 2.08m

  • 2.809 + 1.4m

  • 0.34m

Mass (for Ratel 20)

  • Tare:

  • Payload:

  • GVM:

  • 16.5mt

  • 1.7mt

  • 18mt


varies per model


480 litres

Water for crew:

100 litres

Protection levels

  • Ballistic:

  • Mine:

  • All-round protection against 7.62x51mm armour piercing bullets, hand grenades, claymore mines, airburst artillery shrapnel. Protected against 12.7mm fire from the front.

  • “High degree” of protection against land mine blasts and rapidly repairable afterwards.1


  • Top speed:

  • Range on single refuelling:

  • Acceleration:

  • Turning circle:

  • Ground pressure:

  • Power/mass ratio:

  • Capabilities:

  • 105km/h

  • 860km (road), 430km (off road)

  • 17m

  • 12.43kW/t (Ratel 20)

  • Can climb a 0.6m vertical step.

  • Can cross a 1.1m wide trench.

  • Can ford water 1.2m deep.

  • Can climb a gradient of 60 degrees.

  • Can traverse a gradient of 30 degrees (dynamic, loaded @ 10km/h).

Drive train

  • Engine:

  • Transmission:

  • Transfer Box:

  • Fuel consumption:

  • D 3256 BTXF 6-cylinder in-line turbocharged diesel developing 210kW at 2200 rpm at sea level.

  • HSU106, 6-speed hydrodynamic

  • 50 litres/100km (road), 100 litres/100km off-road.

Armament and detail per variant:

  • Ratel 20 Infantry Combat Vehicle

    • Main:

    • Secondary:



    • Crew:

    • Notes:

  • Ratel 60 Infantry Combat Vehicle

    • Main:


    • Secondary:

    • Crew:

    • Notes:


  • Ratel 90 Fire Support Vehicle

    • Main:

    • Secondary:

    • Crew:


    • Notes:


  • Ratel ZT3 Tank Destroyer

    • Main:

    • Secondary:

    • Crew:

    • Notes:


  • Ratel Armoured Mobile Command Post

    • Main:

    • Secondary:

    • Crew:

    • Notes:

  • Ratel 81mm Mortar Carrier

    • Main:


    • Secondary:

    • Crew:

    • Notes:

  • F2 Quick firing, twin-feed, non-stabilised automatic cannon mounted in a two-person turret. 700-750rpm. 1200 rounds carried. Armour piercing effective to 1000m, high explosive effective to 2000m. Expected barrel life 16,000 rounds. Some components replaced every 4000 and 8000 rounds.

  • 3 x 7.62mm MG4: 1 x coaxial, one on turret roof, one in anti-aircraft mount on rear of hull. 6000 rounds. Also: 4 x 81mm smoke grenade projectors, 4 x gun ports on each side.

  • 12 (3+9): Vehicle commander, driver, gunner, AA gunner, section commander, 7 infantry.

  • Main variant.

  • K1 60mm breech loading mortar in a two-person turret. Up to 45 bombs.

  • As for Ratel 20.

  • 11 (2+9): Vehicle commander, driver, gunner, AA gunner, section commander, 6 infantry.

  • Essentially a Ratel hull mated to an Eland 60 armoured car turret. The mortar weighs 75kg and is 1.8m long. Traverse is 360 degrees, elevation ranges from -11 to +75 degrees. Its rate of fire is 10rpm, muzzle velocity 250m/s and a maximum range of 4000m.

  • Denel GT2 (DEFA Mk1) 90mm quick-firing, low-pressure, semi-automatic cannon in a two-person turret. Up to 72 rounds. High explosive anti-tank effective to 1200m, high explosive to 2200m. The GT2 weighs 380kg and measures 4.110m in length. Muzzle velocity is 450 to 750m/s depending on ammunition used.

  • As for Ratel 20.

  • 10 (2+8): Vehicle commander, driver, gunner, AA gunner, section commander, 5 infantry.

  • Issued to the anti-tank platoon of the mechanised infantry battalion. Essentially a Ratel hull mated to an Eland 90 armoured car turret.

  • ZT3 127mm anti-tank guided missile system in triple launcher on a two-person turret.

  • As for Ratel 20.

  • 4: Vehicle commander, driver, gunner, loader.

  • Issued to the SA Armoured Corps.

  • 12.7mm HMG in a two-person turret.

  • As for Ratel 20.

  • 9: Vehicle commander, driver, gunner, 6 command post personnel.

  • Air conditioned and fitted with extra radios and a map board. Used by the mechanised infantry, armour and artillery.

  • M3 81mm mortar fitted on a rotating base inside the hull fighting compartment. 148 bombs.

  • 1 x MG4 on commander’s hatch.1200 rounds.

  • Vehicle commander, driver, gunner, loader, 2 crew members.

  • Issued to the mortar platoon of the mechanised infantry battalion.


An indigenous design developed in the 1970s, albeit with French weapons to replace the Saracen armoured personnel carrier. The prototype was delivered in 1974 and the first production vehicle in 1976. The Mk2 entered production in 1979 and the Mk3 in 1988. The Mk3 fleet was upgraded in 2001 when about 70 modifications were made. The type has been exported to Morocco (60), Jordan (320), Ghana (40) and Djibouti (15).

Writing in the Engineering News, Keith Campbell describes the development of the Ratel as follows: “This programme started in the early 1970s, when the South African Army evaluated four AFVs – the Unimog UR-416 from Germany, the French Panhard M3, the Brazilian Engesa Urutu, and a vehicle from local company Springfield Bussing, confusingly named Buffel” (confusingly, as this name was already being used for a mine-protected troop carrier.

“The three foreign designs were all APCs – basically, armoured ‘battle taxis’, armed only with a machine gun, which carried troops into battle, at which point they had to disembark to fight. But the SA Army decided to go with a new concept, pioneered by the West German Army2 – the armoured infantry fighting vehicle (AIFV, but usually referred to in South Africa as IFV).

“An AIFV carries a powerful gun (20 mm or 30 mm) as well as a squad of troops, who have their own vision ports and firing ports, so that they can fight from within the vehicle. So, around 1975/1976, the South African Army decided to adopt an AIFV based on the Springfield Bussing vehicle.

“This became the Ratel (honey badger, in English), which was mass-produced by Sandock Austral. A monocoque design, the Ratel hulls were made in Sandock Austral’s Durban dockyard and taken by rail to Boksburg for fitting out. The turrets were based on those on the Eland armoured cars – the 20-mm gun turret of the standard Ratel IFV, for example, was a redesigned Eland 90 turret.

“A whole family of Ratels was developed – command vehicles, fire support vehicles (with 90-mm gun turrets taken from Elands), mortar vehicles (with 60-mm breech-loading mortar turrets taken from Eland 60s), and, later, tank destroyers armed with Z3 antitank missiles, and mortar carriers with 81-mm muzzle-loading mortars carried in what had been the troop compartment. An 8 × 8 Ratel logistics vehicle did not go into production.


 Pic: A Ratel 20 crosses a water obstacle near Nigel in 2006 courtesy of a 35 Engineer upport Regiment floating bridge and workboats. 

1 Brochure, Ratel Combat Vehicles, Vickers OMC, date unknown.

2 This is not entirely accurate. The West German Marder AIFV followed the Soviet BMP. The AIFV is a creation of the Russian operational art and science.