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.
Malawai; Sri Lanka; South Africa; Uganda; United Nations; Zambia; Zimbabwe
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
Design, of typically lightweight nature, providing onroad/offroad capabilities for the scouting or general security roles.
Designed to withstand attacks from mines and ambushes through specialized design and survivability features.
Can conduct reconnaissance / scout missions to assess threat levels, enemy strength, et al - typically through lightweight design.
16.7 ft 5.1 m
6.7 ft 2.05 m
9.7 ft 2.95 m
13,536 lb 6,140 kg
6.8 tons LIGHT
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base Buffel production variant. Length typically includes main gun in forward position if applicable to the design)
1 x Mercedes-Benz OM352 6-cylinder OR Atlantis Diesel Engines 352 6-cylinder diesel-fueled engine of 165 horsepower.
59.0 mph (95.0 kph)
621.4 mi (1,000.0 km)
(Showcased performance specifications pertain to the base Buffel production variant. Compare this entry against any other in our database)
Variable: Can include various 7.62mm light and medium machine guns.
(Not all weapon types may be represented in the showcase above)
Dependent upon armament fit.
Buffel - Original Production Model; base series name.
Buffel Mk.1 - Revised engine fit; bumper protection
Buffel Mk.1B - Disc brakes
Log Buffel - Cargo-hauler
Unicorn - Buffel model for Sri Lanka
Unibuffel - Buffel Mk.1 model for Sri Lanka.
Buffel Mk.IIA (Moffel) - Rebuild Mk.1 models; Tata series engines; enclosed passenger compartment; rear entry-exit doors.
Buffel Mk.IIB - Cargo-hauler
Bulldog - SAMIL 20 truck bodies
Rhino - Based on the Bulldog; enclosed / integrated driver / passenger compartment.
Ribbon graphics not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns / operations.
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