The Ratel was designed in response to a South African Army specification for a light armoured vehicle suited to the demands of rapid offensives.

As one of the countries with a very strong defense industry in Africa, South Africa has recently produced many weapon designs and achieved large export orders. First introduced in March 1972, and mass production beginning in 1976, the Ratel IFV impressed with its aggressive looks, superb off-road performance and respectable firepower.

The Ratel was designed in response to a South African Army specification for a light armoured vehicle suited to the demands of rapid offensives, providing maximum firepower and strategic mobility to mechanised infantry units intended to operate across the vast distances of Southern Africa. Ratel is heavily influenced by the inclined armor design of the Soviet BTR series, but possesses extremely good mine resistance with a V-shaped hull. This can be said to be an extremely successful design of the South African army.

The Ratel is available in many variants, from traditional armored personnel carriers, to fire support vehicles, or air defense vehicles. A versatile line of combat vehicles with customizable modular designs suitable for different purposes. Specialised variants of the Ratel carried mortars, anti-tank guided missiles, or a turret-mounted 90mm rifled gun.

The Ratel was based on a commercial MAN truck chassis, from which many mechanical parts were utilised. The vehicle is not amphibious and is not fitted with an NBC overpressure system. In the 1990s, Denel Land Systems developed night sights which could be fitted on new Ratel-20 turrets or retrofitted on older turrets.

The Ratel possesses rear-mounted engine and fighting compartments, while its turret ring and driving compartment are located towards the front of the vehicle. It has a long, box-shaped hull with slightly sloped vertical sides and rear. The hull is of all-welded construction, with a maximum armour thickness of 20mm on the hull front. Each Ratel hull is protected against 7.62×39mm armour-piercing ammunition at any angle; it is also capable of stopping 12.7×108mm armour-piercing ammunition on the frontal arc. The bottom of the hull structure is blastproof and vee-shaped to deflect mine explosions away from the passengers and crew.

The Ratel’s crew consists of a section commander, driver, turret gunner, and rear gunner. In addition to the crew, an attached infantry section of nine is carried in the fighting compartment of the vehicle. There are three firing ports with vision blocks on either side of the fighting compartment. Passenger capacity may be reduced to six or seven if additional ammunition racks or radio equipment is carried. Three vision periscopes are provided for the driver. The Ratel’s steering system is mechanical, with hydraulic assistance.

The main variant is the Ratel 20, armed with a French GIAT 20 mm cannon in a two-man turret, plus three 7.62 mm machine guns, one coaxial one over the turret and one on a pintle mounting over a hatch in the rear hull roof. The 20 mm cannon has an effective range of 1,500 m and can engage light armored vehicles.

The Ratel is powered by a turbocharged diesel engine, developing 282 hp, located at the rear. The vehicle demonstrates good cross-country performance on all types of terrain from savanna, desert, to muddy terrain on the hot continent. This infantry fighting vehicle is not amphibious. A total of more than 1,300 were produced between 1976 and 1987. It is still used by the militaries of 13 countries in Africa and the Middle East.

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