The South African Army learned very early on the importance of Mine-resistant, Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles, particularly during its various neighboring wars including the long-running South African Border War (1966-1990). In time, the Buffel appeared as a product of local ingenuity and industry. The type was given a high ground clearance and V-shaped hull to better deflect blasts from mines and other hidden explosives. Armor protection shielded the crew and passengers from some battlefield dangers - namely small arms fire and shell splinters - but the Army got itself a go-anywhere vehicle suitable for the inhospitable terrains common to the region. Upon entering service in 1978, the Buffel became the first successful mine-resistant vehicle, spawning a whole new line of military and security vehicles that remains in demand today.
The original production model was known simply as the Buffel and these were built atop the existing framework of the West German Mercedes-Benz U416-162 UNIMOG truck (detailed elsewhere on this site). An armored hull was fitted that enclosed the driver and passengers (up to ten) in separate compartments. The driver took up a position at front-left which forced the engine's placement to his right.
Then followed the Buffel Mk.1 which featured an improved engine and bumper configuration. The Buffel Mk.1B saw its drum braking system replaced by disc brake units. The Buffel Mk.1 also formed the basis for the "Log Buffel" cargo-hauler. The Buffel Mk.IIA were Mk.1 models with a wholly-enclosed passenger compartment and further protected by bullet-resistant windows. An exit door was added to the rear facing of the passenger compartment for quicker entry-exit. This version came to be known as the "Moffel". The Buffel Mk.IIB became its dedicated cargo-hauler variant. The "Bulldog" was used as a local base patroller (SAMIL 20 truck body) and the "Ystervark" served as a Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun (SPAAG) platform. The "Rhino" was based on the aforementioned Bulldog development with a fully-enclosed driver and passenger compartment.
The South African Army managed a stock of about 2,400 to 2,500 Buffels for the vehicle's time in frontline service. In 1995, the veteran Buffel line was given up in favor of the Mamba (detailed elsewhere on this site). It was also seen in the inventories of Malawi, Sri Lanka (as the "Unicorn" and "Unibuffel"), Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The series was also operated by Rhodesia and the United Nations.
Manufacturing State Factories - South Africa
Production 2,505 Units
Malawai; Sri Lanka; South Africa; Uganda; United Nations; Zambia; Zimbabwe
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