Lessons learned in South Africa's involvement during the Angolan Civil War (1975-2002) were implemented into new armored vehicle designs like the Rooikat ("Caracal" / "Red Cat"). The 8x8 wheeled platform was developed as a multi-mission vehicle to support existing Army tactics by providing excellent cross-country capability, balanced (and somewhat modular) offensive firepower and suitable survivability for its occupants. The Rooikat entered design in 1976 and, once introduced into service, it succeeded the storied, outgoing line of Eland Armored Cars then in service. The Rooikat has since completed its production run - seeing no export and limited combat exposure. A total of 240 vehicles were delivered with several proposed variants falling to naught.
The 8x8 wheeled approach gave the Rooikat design considerable traction in both desert and bush settings common to South Africa and its neighbors. The hull profile was shallow and the large, independently-suspended road wheels spaced well apart. Power was through a 10 cylinder water-cooled diesel unit outputting 563 horsepower and allowing for road speeds to reach 75 miles per hour (about 30mph off-road) and operational ranges to peak at 620 miles on internal fuel. The standard operating crew was four and dimensions included a running length of 27 feet, a width of 9.5 feet and a height of 8.5 feet (with turret installed). Weight was 28 tons.
The standard Rooikat hull formed the basis of a family of related models led by the original "Rooikat 76" and this was followed by the up-gunned "Rooikat 105" of 1990. These vehicles were designated by their respective, turreted main gun calibers, the Rooikat 76 outfitted with an effective 76mm system and the Rooikat 105 with a more lethal, NATO-standard 105mm rifled system. 2 x 7.62mm MG4 series machine guns were fitted for local defense, one coaxially. Additionally 8 x smoke grenade dischargers were installed and gave the Rooikat an inherent screening capability.
Beyond these two primary forms were the proposed Rooikat Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) wheeled platform offering a mobile air defense capability to the family line. An Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) variant joined it as a prototype and the ARMSCOR ZA35 became a mobile Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun (SPAAG) platform offering defense against low-flying threats like helicopters. The latter offering incorporated 2 x M-35 series guns as well as tracking radar, gun stabilization and a digital Fire Control System (FCS).