Blast Resistant Vehicles – CF Armoured Fighting Vehicles
– October 2006
Blast-Resistant Vehicles For Beginners — "Scatterlings ..."
Tracing the Origins of 'Mine-' and 'Blast-Resistant' Vehicles
Stephen Priestley, Researcher, Canadian American Strategic Review
The downsides of flat-bottomed armoured vehicles
are obvious where landmines or roadside improvised explosive devices are encountered. If IEDs or mines might be
thwarted by shaping the bottom of the vehicles to deflect the blast wave, why has this approach taken so long
to gain acceptance? Political appearances are one reason. The origin of mine-resistant vehicles is firmly connected
with apartheid in South Africa and few western armies were eager to be associated with that time.
"... We are Scatterlings of Africa ..." – The Hard Cases from a Troubled
The CF's RG-31 Nyala Armoured Patrol Vehicles are made in South Africa. The APVs are part of a complex lineage of
blast-resistant vehicles developed on that troubled continent. That line began in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)
with a series of highly bizarre, mine-resist- ant types set on commercial chassis (eg: VW-based Leopard,
above, and Pookie).
Those early vehicles were mostly built as mine-detector vehicles but they
showed the way with high ground-clearance and monocoque crew compartments with a V- shaped bottom. The next step was
incorporating that structure into other vehicles.
The Crocodile troop carrier was based on a 5t truck. Other vehicles were set on Landrover 4x4 chassis –
such as the Kudu (right) and Rhino patrol vehicles. These vehicles were simply a V-bottomed crew cab
perched on top of the Landrover chassis. Crude as they were, these knocked-together vehicles were the first
truly mine-resistant and therefore blast-resistant armoured personnel carriers.
As conversions of existing types, Rhodesian mine- / blast-resistant vehicles were quick to construct and made
use of readily-available components. This did not go unnoticed in neighbouring South Africa facing its own
anti-apartheid 'bush war'. The threats were the same: landmine blasts from below and AK-47
rifle bullets. 
'Body-on-Frame' Construction – the South Africans Follow a Rhodesian
The first South African blast-resistant vehicles were a series of Kwêvoël  trucks (Samil-built
Deutz 4x4s and 6x6s with armoured cabs) followed by a fully armoured personnel carrier derivative – Hippo.
Buffel, a more sophisticated armoured carrier type followed. All consisted of V-bottom armour
compartments over truck frames.
Buffel took the concept further, stripping away all unnecessary components. The driver station was
reduced to a skinny cab, the engine left largely exposed. Even the top of the personnel
compartment wasn't covered at first. This was a concession to weight-saving but also a recog- nition of
Buffel top-heaviness. Such compromises showed the problem with body-on-chassis.
The Buffel was a huge improvement over a straightforward truck adaptation – like
the Hippo – both design and construction were simple, and maintenance access to the exposed
drivegear could not be easier. However, a body-on-frame mine-resistant vehicle design pays a penalty for the
convenience of its construction – that frame is a weak link. The angles and gussets of the frame
create 'blast traps' that can topple the vehicle. A mild-steel frame, itself, is also excessively vulnerable
to blast damage. A frame also means that the body must be higher – exacerbating top-heaviness.
"Shell Game" – South African Monocoque Construction for Mine
The answer, as with automobiles, was to combine the frame with the body –
the armoured monocoque shell is strong to support drivetrain components and to resist blast. All suspension
parts, axles, and drive- shafts are external. Engine, transfer case, and transmission are protect- ed
within the armour hull. In other words, drivetrain components will be sacrificed to the blast
of a mine but, more often than not, the hull remains intact. Afterwards, tough
suspension parts can simply be bolted back on.
South Africa's first monocoque blast- resistant vehicle was the Casspir APC. Originally designed for police work , the Casspir used Unimog
running gear for commonality with SADF trucks and the earlier Buffel APCs. So, a question arises:
if mine-resistant hulls make for perfect blast-resistant vehicles, why bother with other forms of armoured
 As police vehicles, the Casspirs, in particular, were associated with apartheid.
 The hull sides are designed to stop grenade fragments and 7.62 x 39mm rounds (not to be confused
with Russian 7.62 x 53mm, equivalent to NATO 7.62 × 51mm).
 There were several early South African vehicles very similar to the Rhodesian conversions –
Hyena, Wolf, and Ribbok (an antelope). Kwêvoël is Afrikaans for a turaco
(Corythaixoides). Buffel is Afrikaans for the Cape buffalo (Syncerus Caffer)
 The narrow cab has a side access door and an emergency roof hatch (for use if the Buffel rolls onto its
side). As shown, early-model Buffels were left-hand drives. The later Samil 20-chassised Bulldogs had
right-hand drive and a covered engine.
 The extra floor height might even make the rear compartment safer (however, to compensate for weight, the
Buffel's rear compartment had to be left uncovered). In any case, blast bent the frame's mild-steel
construction resulting in 'mobility kills'.
 The concept originated with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Casspir is an anagram of
CSIR and SAP (South African Police, the first client). The Casspir was built by TFM at Olifantfontein but
corporate name changes become a trial: the Olifant Manufacturing Company becomes in turn Reumech OMC, Vickers OMC,
Alvis OMC, and finally BAE's Land Systems OMC (makers of the Nyala).
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In Detail Review – CF RG-31 Nyala APVs: Buy More, Build Better