South African Military 
History Society


Newsletter No. 523
November 2019

Contact: Charles Whiteing
Telephone: 031 764 7270
Mobile: 082 555 4689


The meeting opened at 19h30 and the Chairman, Charles Whiteing introduced the DDH speaker Dr. John Buchan and his subject, “U.S. TANK DEVELOPMENT AND GENERAL PATTON”.

Unfortunately at the time of writing the content of the presentation had not been provided.

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After a 10 minute break the speaker for the MAIN talk, Steve Camp was introduced with his talk being “SURVIVING THE RIDE – HISTORY OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN DEVELOPED MINE PROTECTED VEHICLE”.

Have you wanted to know how South Africa became a world leader in the field of mine-protected vehicles? How about the many prototypes developed in secrecy by South Africa during the 1970s and 1980s, in defiance of the UN-led international arms embargo against the country. 

You probably didn’t know that in the past 40 years South Africa has developed and manufactured over 200 different mine-protected vehicles and their variants, many of which have been used by armed forces around the world. Many of the specialised mine-resistant and ambush protected vehicles used by the USA in Afghanistan and Iraq had a South African influence.

They were either developed or manufactured in South Africa or, drawing from South Africa’s many years of experience in this field, prototypes were designed in the country and then sent to the USA where they were re-engineered.

South African scientists and engineers were head-hunted to work in the USA to develop these MRAPs. The Pentagon spent $50 billion purchasing some 28,000 of these vehicles—which have saved an estimated 70,000 lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This fascinating story has been well researched by Steve Camp and is for the first time being told to an audience of SAMHS members. Mine-protected and mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles are today standard in the USA, most major western armies and many other armies as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

While this was not always the case, 40 years ago the South African Army was already routinely using mine-protected armoured personnel carriers and patrol vehicles, even if they looked primitive and ungainly. A few years later, the South African Army reached the stage where it could deploy entire combat groups into battle zones equipped with only mine-protected vehicles, including their ambulances and supply trucks.

By then the mine-protected vehicles had also become effective combat vehicles, rather than just protected transport, with the Casspir being the chief example. They saved countless soldiers and policemen from death or serious injury, and the basic concepts now live on in the various MRAP types in service today.

The valuable lessons learned by the South Africans with their early designs of these combat-proven vehicles has made the country one of the global leaders in the design of MRAPs, which are locally manufactured and exported around the world.

Steve was presented with many questions to answer and at the close the audience was left with a good knowledge of what the new class of IFV the MRAP consists of.

Charles Whiteing closed the meeting with the announcement of the December meeting which will consist of a humorous discussion about, “THE CHOPPER PILOT – A SUB SPECIE OF THE HOMO SAPIEN GROUP”.

The talk will be followed by a BYO cocktail party with the branch providing the snacks.

The Chairman then wished all a safe trip home.

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South African Military History Society /