ROOIKAT gallery

In the mid-1970s it became clear that the South African Army needed a new vehicle capable of dealing with the new threats on the battlefield. Until then their enemies had almost totally lacked armoured units, so Eland armoured cars armed with 90mm guns and 60mm breech-loading mortar had been sufficient, but situation changed in the early 1980s, when Angola, the main South African enemy, began to receive Cuban aid in the form of armoured vehicles, including battle tanks. At the end of the 70s, the situation was alleviated in part with the commissioning of the Ratel-90 armoured vehicle, armed with a 90mm gun, but with the arrival of enemy T-54/55 tanks, this vehicle was totally surpassed by the Angolan tanks.
rooikat-saracen prototype
Between 1976 and 1979 three prototypes were studied within the New Generation Armored Car program, but none of the vehicles reached the desired requirements. The vehicles were manufactured by Sandock-Austral based on vehicles in service such as the Ratel ICV, Alvis Saracen (on the image) and the Eland, although in 8×8 configuration. All were armed with a 77mm British High Velocity (HV) gun, which was actually a modern variant of the famous 76.2mm 17lb gun. Despite not being chosen for mass production, the prototype chassis developed with Eland components and designated “Mk.7” was taken as a reference in subsequent prototypes.
rooikat-bismarck prototype
In 1982 the program received a definitive boost with the introduction of three new prototypes developed with the assistance of the German firm Thyssen-Henschel, which were tested until 1984. The vehicles were designated as Cheetah Mk.1, Cheetah Mk.2 (or Model 2B) and Bismarck (on the image). The Cheetah Mk.2 was a 6×6 vehicle and the other two were 8×8 vehicles. The Bismarck was armed with a 105mm Denel GT-7 gun, a South African version of the British L7 and weighed 40 tons, while both Cheetah vehicles could be armed with a 76mm gun or a 60mm breech-loading mortar. The Cheetah Mk.2 was faster than the Mk.1 although it had less range and was the model chosen to continue the development of the new vehicle, designated as “Rooikat“.
Although at a certain point the South African Army studied the possibility of developing a vehicle with which to simultaneously replace its fleet of Ratel-90 and Eland-90 vehicles for reconnaissance and troop transport missions, the idea was rejected and it was decided to maintain the Ratel-90s in service and to develop a single reconnaissance vehicle based on the Cheetah Mk.2 prototype. Some components of the Eland-90 were used in the final design of the Rooikat, mainly suspension components and turret vision elements.
In 1988 two pre-production Rooikats were built for full Army testing and in 1989 Sandock-Austral began mass production. In the summer of 1989 the first armored squadron equipped with Rooikat vehicles could be formed, but it was not until 1994 that the Rooikat arrived in large numbers. The Rooikat can carry out infantry support, anti-guerrilla, combat reconnaissance and anti-armor missions. It is especially effective in “seek and destroy” operations thanks to its great maneuverability and speed, in addition to its 76mm high velocity gun, capable of penetrating thick armour at distances of up to 2 km.
Although the main mission of the Rooikat is reconnaissance, thanks to its powerful 76mm gun it can also be considered as a tank destroyer. The internal layout is conventional with the driving station in the front, the combat chamber in the center and the engine room in the rear. The crew is made up of 4 people, 3 of which are housed in the turret (commander, gunner and loader). The Rooikat is a large vehicle that weighs 28 tons, although thanks to its 8×8 configuration it has excellent off-road capabilities and excellent mobility.
The 8×8 chassis is equipped with large tires and the driver can select two driving configurations, 8×8 or 8×4. The transmission is automatic with six forward and one reverse gear and is equipped with a transfer box with selectable high or low ratio. The steering acts on the two front axles so the front 4 wheels are power steered. The suspension is formed by fully independent active trailing arms and the Rooikat is designed to be able to continue the march having lost two wheels.
The Rooikat is powered by a 10-cylinder water-cooled diesel with twin turbo chargers that develops 563 hp, which allows a top highway speed of 120 km/h and an acceleration of 0-30 km/h in just 8 seconds. Off-road speed drops to around 60 km/h, but it is still quite high for a vehicle of this weight, and the average range is around 1,000 km. It is capable of overcoming vertical obstacles 1 meter high, crossing trenches 2 meters wide and overcoming gradients of 70%, it can also cross waterways up to 1.50 meters deep without any preparation.
The steel armour fully protects the Rooikat from small arms fire and shell splinters and the front arc is protected against 23mm AP rounds. As in all South African vehicles, the protection against mines has been taken care of and is of TM46 or equivalent under wheel level, although it is true that due to the configuration of the vehicle, it is not as effective as in other models. It also has NBC protection through an overpressure inside the vehicle and it has an air conditioning system.
The main armament is the high-pressure 76/62mm Denel GT-4 rifled tank gun. This gun fires HE, HE-T, APFSDS-T, canister, smoke and practice ammunition and has a digitally controlled stabilized electric system and an automatic digital Fire Control system, which gives it a high first-round-hit probability. The commander has a panoramic sight and the gunner has a day / night sight with laser rangefinder. In addition, the Rooikat has meteorological and cant sensors which give it enormous precision when firing.
Although the caliber of the barrel may seem small, this weapon is a derivative of the powerful OTO Melara Compatto naval cannon and is fitted with a thermal sleeve and concentric glass fiber fume extractor. The APFSDS-T round has a muzzle velocity of 1600 m/s, allowing it to penetrate 275mm of RHA (rolled homogeneous armour) at 2,000 meters, enough to knock out any tank without compound or reactive armour. This gun can fire up to 6 rounds per minute and the Rooikat carries 48 rounds ready for use. The armament is completed by two 7.62mm MG-4 machine guns (one of them coaxial) and eight 81mm smoke grenade dischargers.
An estimated 242 Rooikats have been delivered to the South African National Defense Force (SANDF), 80 of which received an upgrade pack within the Arum Lily Program. This program was carried out in the period 2000-2006 and focused on the general improvement of reliability and performance, giving rise to the Mk.1D variant. There are currently 50 Rooikats Mk.1D in service and another 126 are kept in reserve.
Some variants have been developed on the Rooikat chasis, which unfortunately have not managed to enter service. The one currently available on the market is the Rooikat LMT-105 or Rooikat 105 (on the image), armed with a riffled 105/52mm Denel GT-7 gun fitted with a thermal sleeve. This variant turns the Rooikat into a fearsome tank destroyer since the gun is equipped with stabilization and an advanced hydro-pneumatic recoil system without a muzzle brake. In addition, this variant features stabilized panoramic commander sight and stabilized gunner sight incorporating thermal imager and passive image intensifiers, allowing it to perform missions both during the day and at night. The rest of performance are the same as the Rooikat armed with the 76mm gun.
The Rooikat 105 is manufactured by Reumech OMC and LIW especially with the export market in mind, but at the moment no Army has acquired it. This vehicle is 1 ton heavier than its “little brother”, but aesthetically they are practically indistinguishable, except in the size of the barrel and some small details. The LTM-105 turret can be installed on any vehicle with a minimum weight of 12 tons, and is equipped with similar equipment and technology as those of the main battle tanks. The ammunition available for this vehicle includes HE, HEAT, APFSDS, HESH, APERS (canister), WP, and illumination rounds, of which it can carry 32 for immediate use. It also has two 7.62mm machine guns and 8 smoke grenade dischargers.
Other 3 vehicles were developed on the Rooikat chassis, such as the “Rooikat ZA35 Self-Propelled Anti-aircraft Gun” (on the image) armed with two 35mm Lyttelton Engineering M-35 guns and fitted with an EDR-110 surveillance and tracking radar. These guns has a combined rated of fire of 1,100 rounds per minute. Another air defense vehicle, named “Rooikat SAM” and armed with ZA-HVM short-range missiles, was developed to act alongside the previous one, and a third vehicle, designated as “Rooikat 35/ZT-3“, was built for anti-tank fighting armed with a quadruple missile launcher for ZT-3 missiles. None of these vehicles have passed the prototype stage and have not been purchased by any customer.


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