SA Armed Forces Day: Your guide for spotting these vehicles on the road

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<i>Image: Maj Dalene Coetzee</i>
<i>Image: Maj Dalene Coetzee</i>
Maj Dalene Coetzee

The Mother City's sleepiness has been disrupted by the sound of military aviation and manoeuvres this week, as the SANDF celebrates its Armed Forces Day. 

If you don't quite like the pyrotechnics that goes with all this militarism, there's no question that some of the vehicles are of interest to petrolheads (despite all being diesel powered).

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We've compiled a spotter's guide below, to help you recognised those camouflaged armoured vehicles which might have been next to you in Cape Town traffic this week. 

Rooikat

Your 4x4 double-cab bakkie might be off-road capable, but imagine if you had an 8x8? That's exactly what the Rooikat armoured reconnaissance and assault vehicle is. 

Powered by a twin-turbocharged 10-cylinder engine, good for 417kW, it will run 0-60km/h in 21 seconds.

Rooikat

                                                                        Image: Maj Dalene Coetzee

That's not great acceleration, now is it? True. But at 28 tons, you don't expect the Rooikat to be a robot-to-robot racer.

More impressive is its 1.5m water fording wading ability (twice what a conventional double-cab bakkie can survive) and 70% gradient climbing ability. 

Ratel 

An armoured vehicle equivalant of the animal kingdom's toughest animal and utterly reliable as a 6x6 off-roader. 

Powered by a water-cooled six-cylinder diesel engine from Büssing, it benefits from turbocharging to produce 205kW, which is enough to power the 18-ton Ratel to a top speed of 105km/h.

Ratel

                                                                         Image: Maj Dalene Coetzee

With three differential locks, one for each axle, the Ratel is prodigious off-road, combing immense traction with 350mm of ground clearance and 1.2m of water fording ability. 

Ride quality is excellent too, especially at speed over rough terrain, as the Ratel's suspension system combines huge coil springs and high-volume shock absorbers. Sort of puts your leaf-sprung double-cab's rear-suspension to shame…

G6

At 10.4m in length, this six-wheel drive mobile artillery piece is a nightmare to park or manoeuvre in any city environment. That doesn't mean it isn't a great drive in the correct conditions. 

Designers of the G6 wanted to make the 46-ton rig stable over testing terrain. Conventional wisdom says that driving anything nearly 11m in length at speed, over an off-road environment, is going to be bumpy and jarring.

G6 Denel land systems

                                                                     Image: Denel Land Systems

To counter this, the G6 has a fully-independent system on all six axles with hydro-pneumatic bump-stops to prevent it thumping through its wheel travel.

Powering the big rig is a 386kW diesel engine, which is air-cooled. Despite its immense weight, the G6 can scale a 40% gradient. 

Cruising range isn't bad either, you can do 700km on a tank of diesel - the only issue is that it takes 700 litres to fill which calculates to R8 855 per refuel. Not cheap to purchase either: At R45m a piece. 

Oliphant tank

The heavy metal in the SANDF's armoury. As a tracked vehicle it can go virtually anywhere and over anything, but don't expect to get anywhere quickly. 

True to its name, Oliphant weighs a lot at 59 tons. Even with a massive 29-litre V12 air-cooled turbodiesel engine good for 660kW, it isn’t quick.

Oliphant

                                                                         Image: Maj Dalene Coetzee

Top speed is only 58km/h, but it will run up and over 1m vertically stepped obstacles and climb a 60% gradient. 

The first and last wheels running its tracks also feature hydraulic dampers, to improve ride quality when powering over broken terrain. 

Gecko 

Not all soldiers enjoy being cooped inside a metal armoured vehicle without windows that open. It gets hot. 

For those troops who prefer airflow through their helmets (and happen to be airborne qualified), there is the Gecko 8x8 all-terrain vehicle.

Gecko

                                                                        Image: Maj Dalene Coetzee

It might be powered by a tiny 950cc tri-cylinder turbodiesel engine sourced from Daihatsu, but what it lacks in power (25kW) it makes up for in ability.

The Gecko can transport three passengers and a driver up to 250km, and scale 60% gradients along the way. You can drop it by parachute too. 

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