Casspir - Well-protected infantry

Autor: Ing. Radek ˝ICE˝ Panchartek / ICE 🕔︎︎ 👁︎ 13.631

Asymmetric conflicts impose different requirements on the construction of armored vehicles than the large ones envisaged during the Cold War. One of the countries that had considerable experience with them was South Africa, which has a powerful arms industry. An unfortunate experience was the losses caused by mines and booby-trapped explosive systems.

South Africa has waged a long-running conflict with neighboring South-West Africa, today's Namibia. Mines and booby-trapped explosive systems were widely used in the local border war, causing significant losses to the South African armed forces. There are a number of ways to fight mines, from demining tanks, trails and plows to demining with explosions of towed ammunition to the construction of heavy vehicles capable of stopping mine explosions. The South African route was somewhat different.


Lives are primary

Tanks and armored personnel carriers are to withstand a mine explosion due to the thickness of the armor. Above all, the driver's seat tends to have a reinforced bottom, special seat suspension and other modifications to increase durability. However, conditions in the south of the black continent were different. It was a guerrilla war with long raids against the insurgents, who only had armed trucks ( gun trucks) or outdated armored vehicles.

On the other hand, the navigable roads were infested with thousands of mines, mostly of Soviet origin. These were anti-personnel and much more dangerous plate anti-tank mines, mostly type TM-57 with more than 6 kg of explosives. It was no exception that the mines were placed in pairs or even three on top of each other, which guaranteed reliable destruction of even heavy equipment. Clash mine vs. the armor clearly wins the mine, because the armor cannot be increased indefinitely if the vehicle is to move at all.

Based on many years of experience, South Africans preferred the opposite approach to the designers of tanks and armored personnel carriers. Instead of increasing the strength of the armor, they focused on the decomposition of the pressure wave and reducing the effect on the "capsule" in which the crew is located. The mine has two main effects: The primary is a pressure wave, capable of tearing the belt, tearing off the axle or breaking through the bottom of the vehicle and killing the crew. Many damage occurs secondarily, by tearing off parts into which the pressure wave can sufficiently "lean", such as fenders or vehicle axles.

For anti-personnel mines, the shard effect of the mine shell or pre-fragmented liner is used. Due to the low weight of the shards, it is not a more serious problem for vehicles with at least basic ballistic protection.

The South Africans used the experience gained in the operation of Buffel, Bulldog, Rinkhals, Ystervark and Zumlac vehicles, which were armored superstructures on the chassis of Mercedes Unimog L400, SAMIL 20 4x4, SAMIL 50 4x4 and SAMIL 100 6x6 trucks. All these vehicles had the bottom of the body in the shape of the letter "V".

Depending on the apex angle, the forces decompose on such a body, and at 90 ° apex angle, the resultant is 2.23 smaller than in the case of a flat bottom. Secondary damage is prevented by the fenders made of rubber bands and the "undersizing" of all external hinges, so that in the event of an explosion, the "capsule" with the crew ruptures before the casing ruptures. Although the vehicle appears to be "combed" after the explosion, repairs are paradoxically faster than in the case of warped and torn, more durable structures.

Of course, nothing is free. Due to the "V" -shaped bottom, the usable width of the floor is relatively high above the ground, which increases the vehicle's center of gravity and thus the likelihood of it overturning. This was, for example, one of the reasons for the abolition of the MPC ( Marine Personnel Carrier ) program, with a similarly designed hull, for the US Marine Corps.

Quick manufacturer changes


The predecessor of the Casspir was an armored body on a Bedford 4x4 chassis.This was followed by series production of the Casspir Mk.I model, characterized by large trapezoidal windows made of bulletproof glass on the sides of the cabin. Between 1979 and 1980, 200 vehicles left the gates of the CSIR ( Counsel for Scientific and Industrial Research) plant. The successor of the original manufacturer was the company Mechem, which, in addition to vehicles, is engaged in chemical production for the arms industry. He is currently one of the leaders in the field of combating explosive systems, including mines.

The production of the new version, the Mk.II, which differed externally mainly by the longer rear overhang of the body and the more powerful engine, providing the driver with 90 kW, was taken over by the TFM company. During 1981, it rebuilt most older vehicles for the Mk.II. In addition, by 1986, it had produced about 700 new ones. The manufacturer's ownership relationship was quite diverse: First, TMF was absorbed by Reumech, so that it also became part of Vickers Defense Systems. Subsequently, Vickers joined Alvis, which ended up in the BAE Systems group in 2004. The only thing that didn't change was the name of the whole family of vehicles: Casspir.

Older version of the Casspir Mk.II with a reserve on the side , armed with a machine gun DŠKM

With the increasing amount of equipment, the weight of the vehicle gradually increased, as did the demands on mobility. The modernized version of the Mk.III received a supercharged six-cylinder diesel engine ADE-352T with a displacement of 5.7 l and an output of 127 kW. Externally, it was identifiable by the flat discs on both axles, fitted with run flat tires, allowing reach even on completely empty tires. By the end of 1992, around 2,500 Casspir vehicles had been produced. In the years 1993–1994, production was interrupted because an extensive modernization program of older versions took place.

However, the requirements of the clients led to the fact that production was resumed after a short break. The latest version is marked "Casspir 2000" if it uses Mercedes-Benz components, which is an advantage for clients from countries where this brand provides service. Casspir 2000B, on the other hand, aims to reach clients from areas where Mercedes does not operate at all or only to a very limited extent. The machine part uses the Powerstar drive unit and parts.


The basis of the Casspir vehicle is a welded shell of the hull made of armor plates providing ballistic protection against 7.62 mm projectiles and shrapnel shells. The lower part is V-shaped and is dimensioned to withstand the explosion of a triple TM-57 mine or equivalent explosive, ie 21 kg of TNT. The axles can withstand the explosion of a double mine of the same type under one wheel (14 kg TNT).

The view is ensured by rectangular windows glazed with 52 mm thick bulletproof glass, which has the same ballistic resistance as the hull. The hull was originally open from above. Police and gradually military versions also received a ceiling plate, as protection against grenades and incendiary bottles dropped from higher positions.

The crew consists of a driver and a commander. The basic version allows the transport of 10 soldiers with equipment or 12 police officers. This corresponds to the number of shots located under the side windows. The entrance to the vehicle is provided by the rear door. The side door of the basic version does not, so as not to weaken the strength of the body shell.

For self-defense, the vehicle can be armed with two machine guns Browning M1919 or Vector SS-77 caliber 7.62 mm on the roof of the cabin. The weapons are controlled by the commander of the vehicle. In addition, it is possible to mount another 7.62 mm machine gun in the left front window. Police versions are armed with smoke and tear grenade launchers, or.automatic thrower of rubber projectiles Slingshot with a cadence of 160 shots / min.


Police casspir with open covers on the ceiling of the hull

The vehicle has a fuel supply of 220 l, allowing a range of 600-800 km, depending on the terrain in which the vehicle is moving. The basic versions have a 200 l drinking water tank inside and after modernization they carry two spare wheels. The standard equipment includes two fire extinguishers, a winch and a tow bar. The total weight of the basic version of Casspir is 14 t; combat is around 12.5 tons, depending on the tasks that the vehicle performs.

Despite its exotic appearance, Casspir is relatively mobile. With a six-cylinder ADE-352T and a five-speed manual transmission, it reaches a speed of 90 km / h. According to the manual, the climb is 65% and, despite the high center of gravity, the permissible transverse inclination of 20 ° is a very decent number.

Based on operational experience, gradual adjustments were made. Most were due to harsh operating conditions in inhospitable terrain full of rocks and solid vegetation. Gradually, spare wheel winches, rear-view mirrors and gearboxes received sturdy covers. The spare wheels moved from the sides to the top of the body, because they were damaged during the explosions, so they could not be used, even if the axle would work after replacing the entire disc with the tire.

Casspiras have become a very good export item. Apart from South Africa, their largest user is India, which has ordered 90 units, closely behind the United States, which has purchased 68 vehicles. In addition, the Americans used the experience of operating casspires in the construction of MRAP ( Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected ) vehicles, originally intended for marines. In the end, over 12,000 of them were produced in various variants for other armed forces and allied armies. Other users include: Angola, Benin, Burundi, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Peru, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Uganda. Each of these countries ordered around 10-20 pieces, usually in the basic version for passenger transport.

Peruvian Police Casspir Mk.II

Another version

Casspir is produced in several variants. The least different in appearance is a medical vehicle. The whole body and chassis part are identical to the basic version, only inside there is space for two stretchers and three rear seats for the slightly injured and a paramedic. The remaining space is filled with medical equipment, drip holders and increased water supplies. Armored glazing can be darkened from the inside.

The police version has enlarged windows to provide a better view in built-up areas. There are pneumatically operated protective grilles on the front windows. A wire cutter can be mounted on the ceiling and the front bumper can be lowered to push away obstacles and barricades. Bumpers can be mounted in the corners of the body to direct the crowd and issue instructions.

Police Casspir Mk.II with speakers

The Blesbok Freighter is a cargo version with a cabin for two men, equipped, unlike the basic version, with side doors on the driver's and commander's side. In the rear of the vehicle there is an open body allowing the transport of up to five tons of cargo. A total of 160 pieces were built. Instead of the body, it is possible to mount a thousand-liter tank.

The Duiker Tanker tank variant is derived from this version, in which the body is replaced by a tank with a capacity of 5,000 l. The tank can be filled and emptied using an electric pump or by emergency gravity.The assembly of a pair of arms and 15 tons of winches on a similar chassis created a rescue vehicle Gemsbok.

In addition to the short ones, a variant with an extended crew cabin, terminated behind the second pair of side windows, is also produced. It allows the transport of five men, which is advantageous, for example, for various weapon systems. With this design of the cabin, a rescue vehicle fitted with a similar 15t set as its predecessor is produced. The advantage is the possibility of transporting the crew of the damaged vehicle.

The most famous of the mounted guns are the 120mm mortar, placed in a square open hull, and the 106mm recoilless cannon M40 of American production, mounted on the hull. The sides of the body can be folded down to ensure that there is a large enough platform for the operator. The ammunition magazines are located outside the vehicle, at an angle to the rear wall of the cab.

High-quality protection against the effects of mines has logically given rise to vehicles to combat mine danger. The MEDDS version carries Schiebel VAMIDS sensors ( Vehicular Array Mine Detection System ), working on the principle of detecting even small metal parts of min. The system is equipped with a display unit and nozzles for marking the position of mines with color and allows searching for mines at a speed of 10 km / h.

Two special versions were created for the elimination of mines: The first has a modified rocket launcher Plofadder 160AT located in the rear, destroying mines by explosion. The rocket launcher is mounted on rails inside the vehicle and fires through the open ceiling of the vehicle. On the right side there is a drum with a cable for remote control of the launch. Mechem's demining vehicle, equipped with steel wheels that destroy anti-personnel mines by running over, looks much more exotic. The space between the wheels is covered by a trailed disc track. In addition, versions were created for the control of artillery fire and command differing only in instrumentation and communication equipment and a larger number of antennas.

Demining Casspir Moss with steel wheels and tral

Photo:, RAC archive, DoD South Africa archive

Published with the kind permission of the author.
Published in Military revue 12/2014 by Naše Vojsko.

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