SANDF acquires MAX 3 armoured vehicles, surveillance equipment for border patrols

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The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has acquired half a dozen SVI MAX 3 armoured vehicles as well as surveillance equipment to help combat border crimes during Operation Corona deployments.

The six vehicles were seen earlier this month being delivered to the Joint Operations division of the SANDF. Two are 4×4 and four are six-wheeled MAX 3s, fitted with rear cargo cabins on the loadbed.

The six-wheeled version of SVI’s popular 4×4 MAX 3 was displayed for the first time at the September 2022 Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition in Pretoria. It is based on Toyota’s proven Land Cruiser 79 chassis, as with the 4×4 MAX 3. Both are powered by a 4.5-litre V8 turbodiesel powertrain, giving a top speed of 120 km/h and burst speed of 140 km/h.

The addition of a third axle means the MAX 3’s Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) can be safely increased to 6 000 kg, opening the door to numerous military and security applications, including the fitment of various weapon systems, cargo carrying options and even field ambulance configurations.

To keep cost and complexity of the system in check, the additional axle on the six-wheeler is non-driven. Even so, mobility is enhanced as the extra axle provides increased flotation over soft surfaces. SVI is also producing a 6×6 version, with all six wheels fully powered.

The vehicle provides a minimum protection level of EN1063 BR6 (assault rifles) with additional protection against anti-personnel grenades. The vehicle is furthermore upgradeable to BR7.

While the SANDF confirmed the vehicle and surveillance equipment deliveries, it provided no further specifics.

Joint Operations has been allocated additional funding to assist the 15 companies doing border patrol duties on South Africa’s borders. Some time ago it was revealed Joint Operations planned to spend R85 million on border security technology for the 2022/23 financial year with a focus on high and low technology. High technology equipment was to include tactical radios and surveillance equipment for land and sea applications and reliable communications systems.

In late 2021, Joint Operations revealed R225 million was allocated to procure or acquire prime mission equipment for border protection use for the three-year 2020/21 medium term expenditure framework (MTEF). Of this, R65 million was allocated in 2020/21 and R75 million in 2021/22. R32 million was allocated for the procurement of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Additional border security technology will be acquired by the SANDF. In March 2023, it was revealed National Treasury was giving the SANDF a R700 million injection over the next three years for procurement of vehicles and surveillance technology for border security. The ‘troop pack’ vehicles (at present Toyota Land Cruisers) will be replaced with off-the-shelf vehicles and R500 million will be spent in 2024/25 for this.

R200 million worth of sensor technology will be acquired for Operation Corona in 2025/26, including a geographic information system (GIS) capability (R22.5 million); intelligence collection and processing capabilities (R47 million under Project Baobab); upgraded Chaka command and control system (R7.2 million); Reutech RSR 903 radars (R57 million); 60 observation posts (R16 million under Project Dominate); 16 quadcopter unmanned aerial vehicles (R16 million) and two long range UAVs (R24 million). On 12 February this year, Armscor issued a tender for the procurement of unmanned aerial vehicles, with a closing date of 5 March.

The SANDF ultimately wants to replace the troop packs with armoured personnel carriers (APCs), which would serve with all 15 companies on Operation Corona duty. In January 2023, Armscor issued a request for information for APCs to get an indication of what new vehicles would cost, with responses ranging from R6 million to R18 million each. Armscor planned to request three vehicles for the upcoming borderline test and by the end of the year decide which is best and how many the SANDF can afford, but demonstrations have been delayed.

January 2023’s request for information called for a 2+8 seat APC for counter-insurgency operations with variable ballistic and mine protection, including the ability to defeat an 8 kg mine. The vehicles would replace or supplement Mamba and Casspir vehicles.