By buying the intellectual property (IP) for the RG34 light armoured vehicle (LAV) design, Benoni-based BAE Systems Land Systems South Africa has widened the range of products it can offer international markets.
“We see market opportunities, globally, for this vehicle,” explains Land Systems South Africa communications and corporate responsibility manager Natasha Pheiffer. “It is aimed at a different market segment to our other vehicles. It allows us to cover a fuller spectrum of the armoured fighting vehicle and mine-resistent ambush protected (Mrap) vehicle market.”
The South African company, which is 75%-owned by UK defence giant BAE Systems (falling under the Global Tactical Systems division) bought the IP for the then Iguana, as well as the three prototype vehicles, from Belgian company Sabiex.
Perhaps ironically, the vehicle was designed and developed in South Africa, by specialist engineering enterprise Industrial & Automotive South Africa, under a contract from Sabiex. As a result, the prototype vehicles were built in Belgium and the IP belonged to Sabiex. “We can customise the design if we wish or as required,” she highlights. “Should we win any orders for the RG34, the vehicles will mostly be built in South Africa.”
Originally named Iguana by Sabiex, the vehicle has been redesignated as the RG34 by Land Systems South Africa, to fit it in with the now globally known sequence of light armoured and protected vehicle families developed in Benoni – the RG31, the RG32, and the RG33. The RG31 and RG33 families are Mrap vehicles, while the RG32M is a protected patrol vehicle.
As an LAV, the RG34 can operate both in more conventional warfare scenarios and in counterinsurgency or peacekeeping missions. It can be produced in different variants to fulfil various roles, including patrol, security, specialist support (for exam- ple, ambulance), command and control, armoured personnel carrier (APC), weapons carrier, and reconnaissance. For example, it can be equipped with a turret mounting a 90-mm gun.
There is also – unusual for a South African designed vehicle – an amphibious version.
This capability adds a special dimension to the mobility of the vehicle.
The RG34 is, of course, mine pro- tected, and has a specially designed multilink hydropneumatic suspension, mounted on a very rigid structure. As a result, it has good clearance over obstacles, a small turning circle, and first-class road performance. A combination of this suspension and large-diameter wheels also results in excellent off-road performance. It has a monocoque hull, made from high-quality ballistic steel. In the APC role, it can carry eight troops, two of whom form the vehicle crew. A permanent 4 × 4, the RG34 is 5,05 m long, 2,35 m wide, and 2,15 m high. It can carry a payload of 2 t and has a combat weight of 9,5 t. Its powerplant is a 160-kW turbocharged intercooled diesel.
For comparison, the RG31 and RG32 families are both 4 × 4 vehicles, while the RG33 family comes in 4 × 4 and 6 × 6 versions.
The RG31 family has a V-shaped monocoque welded steel hull, and the vehicles come in APC and utility vehicle variants. In APC form, they can accommodate a driver and up to nine other troops. The utility versions can carry cargo or mount weapons, such as an 81-mm mortar, or a 106-mm recoilless rifle, or a 20-mm cannon. RG31s are armoured against 5,56-mm and 7,62-mm fire.
The latest version of the military RG32 family is the RG32M LTV, LTV standing for ‘light tactical vehicle’. It has improved mine protection in comparison with previous models, providing greater blast survivability and crew protection. The RG32M LTV is classified as a light armoured vehicle, in the light mine-protec- ted patrol vehicle category, and has a gross vehicle mass of only 9 t. Its armour can protect its crew from armour-piercing rifle fire as well as antitank land mine blasts.
The RG33 family is employed only by the US – in fact, it was developed specifically to meet a US requirement. All RG33s (except the prototypes) are manufactured in North America. The 6 × 6 RG-33L has a steel monocoque hull and, in its basic troop carrier form, can accom- modate a driver and 11 other troops. It has a gross vehicle mass of 22 t and a payload of 7 t. It is armoured against 5,56-mm and 7,62-mm ball and armour-piercing incendiary ammunition, and it can be fitted with extra add-on armour if required.