From 1962 until 1994 the South African Army relied on the "Eland" armored car for its fast reconnaissance / assault and security needs. The vehicle was based on the French Panhard AML of 1961 of which 100 of the type were purchased by the South Africans in 1962. With this pedigree in place, the Eland emerged as a locally-produced vehicle largely following the same form and function of its French counterpart and some 1,600 elands were ultimately produced from 1964 to 1986. These went on to see combat in a myriad of regional conflicts including the Rhodesian Bush War (1964-1979), the South African Border War (1966-1990), the Angolan Civil War (1975-2002) and the Chadian Civil War (2005-2010). Some examples have continually popped up in fighting surrounding the Boko Haram Insurgency of Nigeria (2009-Present).
The Eland was designed by Sandock-Austral specifically to fulfill a South African Defence Force (SADF) requirement and was eventually manufactured under the Sandock-Austral and Reumech OMC brand labels. Design work occurred in 1962 and pilot vehicles were made ready for evaluation in 1963. After introduction into service, the Eland line superseded the aging stock of British Daimler Ferret cars then in use.
It was the South African experience with the limited stock of French AML cars that proved key. A local manufacturing license was secured by the country and this produced the AML in its localized Mk.2 form. Upgrades led to the Mk.3 being introduced and more changes greeted the Mk.4 standard. The Mk.5 introduced a new engine with better operational range but it was an anti-tank capability that set the Mk.6 mark apart from previous iterations. Some of the Mk.5 stock was upgraded to follow suit. The Mk.7 became the last of the Eland line and appeared in 1979 with major changes to the running gear, braking system, hull and turret.
The Eland existed in three primary forms between the stated marks: the Eland-60 was largely based on the French Panhard AML HE-60-7 model and similarly armed with a 60mm mortar and a pair of 7.62mm machine guns. The Eland-90 was the AML H-90 and so carried a 90mm main gun in a proper turret giving both an assault capability and a tank-killing capability. The model also supported SS.11 or ENTAC missiles to further broaden its tank-killing prowess. The Eland-20 became another offshoot with the Eland chassis mated to the Ratel IFV's turret. Along with the turret came its 20mm autocannon and 7.62mm coaxially-mounted machine gun.
The Eland became a 6.5 tons (short) armored vehicle utilizing a 4x4 wheelbase. Dimensions included a length of 16.9 feet, a width of 6.6 feet and a height of 8.1 feet. The crew numbered just three - driver, commander and gunner.
Primary armament varied between a mortar-equipped model and a turreted 90mm-armed variant. Both versions carried machine guns as secondary armament but the 90mm GT-2 gun is what set the Eland models apart - it provided the vehicle with a sound tank-killing capability that could also double as an effective anti-infantry measure. The 90mm gun could fire High-Explosive, Anti-Tank (HEAT), High-Explosive (HE), White Phosphorus, canister (anti-infantry) and blank projectiles. The mortar weapon, if equipped, was the 60mm K1 infantry mortar and this was backed by 2 x Browning machine guns.
Up to twenty-nine projectiles could be carried for the 90mm gun. Some 56 mortar rounds were stowed for the 60mm-equipped models and machine gun ammunition stocks could top nearly 4,000 rounds.
Drive power stemmed from an American General Motors 2.5L 4-cylinder in-line water-cooled gasoline-fueled engine mated to a six-speed manual (constant mesh) transmission system. Cross-country travel was enhanced by the 4x4 independent suspension system with active trailing arms. Road speeds could reach 100 kmh and operational ranges were out to 450 kilometers.
The driver sat in the hull at front-center with hinged doors to either side between the two wheel wells. Over the middle-rear of the car was the turret ring fitted a wholly-enclosed turret mounting the primary armament. At the rear of the car was the engine compartment. The roadwheels were purposely large for good ground clearance and weight displacement. Vision blocks allowed the crew some situational awareness when the vehicle was fully "buttoned up".
Elands were light armored vehicles at their core which made for excellent, fast-reacting support across a variety of battlefield roles. They could easily outpacing heavier mechanized battlefield pieces and fire from range while offering some protection to their crews. The relatively simplistic design made them highly robust and somewhat modular as many clients ended up applying all manner of kits and fixes to the base design. Under combat circumstances, Elands proved themselves to be exceptional vehicles and, at one point, formed the backbone of South Africa armored corps for a time as these vehicles played well into the service's fast-paced doctrine of overwhelming key enemy positions.
The cars global reach was restricted to African customers but spanned Benin and Burkina Faso to Uganda and Zimbabwe. South Africa loaned some 34 units to the Rhodesian Army and Chad took on a stock of 82 vehicles while Morocco fielded a fleet of 60. The Eland continues in service with about ten operators as of this writing (2017) though the South Africa Army gave up their use in 1994. For them, the Denel Rooikat (detailed elsewhere on this site), another 8x8 wheeled form, took over the same battlefield role.