The Casspir, an anagram of the acronyms SAP (SA Police) and CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) was designed in the late 1970s and introduced into police and later military service in the 1980s. It was at first extensively used by the infamous "Koevoet" police counterinsurgency unit in northern Namibia during the apartheid era and later also by the Southwest African Territory Force's 101 Battalion and the SA Army's 5 Reconnaissance Regiment. Today it is used as a troop carrier for the motorised infantry. Several are also deployed with peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Casspir, built by Denel / Mecham, has been in use in South Africa for over 20 years. It is a 4-wheeled armored vehicle, used for transport of troops. It can hold a crew of two, plus 12 additional soldiers and associated gear. The Casspir is unique in design, providing for passive mine defense. The main body of the vehicle is raised above the ground, so that if a mine is detonated, the explosion is less likely to to damage the crew compartment and kill the occupants. The vehicle is also armored for added mine safety, as well as protection from small arms fire.
The Casspir was ubiquitous during the days of Apartheid in South Africa. It was seen widely in the townships for crowd and riot control.
Refurbished Casspirs are now being sold to other countries, including 90 to India. In India they will be used for counter-insurgency operations, paricularly in the the Kasmir region to the North. Each refurbished vehicle was sold for approximately $120K (US). Some are in service in the United States doing countermine work in Iraq as the GSTAMIDS Block 0 - Buffalo [a nomenclature that invites confusion with the unrelated Buffel].
A requirement from the Police, who were patrolling borders infested with armed insurgents in 1983, led to the development of the Casspir, possibly the first successful monocoque mine-protected vehicle. With a very high level of protection, the Casspir proved to be ideal in the bush, as its height offered an excellent view and the low center of gravity made it very stable. The big advantage which the Casspir had over the numerous other mine protected vehicles in use at that time was that it could be repaired quickly and cheaply after a landmine detonation.
The Casspir is a mine-protected armoured personnel carrier that was originally developed for the counter-insurgency units of the police. It was later adopted by the SWA Territory Force and also by some elements of the SA Army. It weighs 10.88 tons and is powered by a 124 kW turbo-charged diesel engine that gives it a road speed of 98 km/h. It has a range of 770 km. The Casspir is normally armed with a single 7,62 mm machine-gun or two 7,62 mm weapons. Later Casspirs mounted 20 mm cannon. There is a firing port opposite each seat. The armour is proof against small-arms fire, and the V-shaped hull protects it from landmine blasts. Doors in the rear of the hull allow easy access. The Casspir is highly regarded for its outstanding cross-country mobility and for its reliability.
The Casspir mine-protected vehicle (MPV) was one of the first to use the V-shaped monocoque hull and is undoubtedly one of the world's leaders in its field with over 2000 in service in several countries and an enviable record as a life preserver in mine incidents. Several variants are currently in service, all of which include triple mine protection of the occupants.
Originally developed for the rigorous conditions of South Africa where a very high mine threat was prevalent, Casspir is certified to protect its occupants against the effects of a triple TM-57 mine blast (equivalent to 21kg of TNT) under any wheel, or a double mine (14kg of TNT) anywhere under the hull. Casspir offers higher degrees of field reparability after mine detonations than any other MPV in service. The Casspir hull consists of a welded all-steel monocoque capsule to which the highly-effective leaf-spring suspension is attached, and within which the main automotive and other components and protection to both occupants and main components are housed to facilitate rapid field repair.
In standard APC configuration Casspir has two pneumatically operated rear doors and a partially open roof with hatches above the driver and co-driver's positions. A full armoured roof with hatches is available as an option. A variety of weapons can be mounted and firing ports are fitted below or in the armoured windows for the employment of personal weapons. Casspir is equipped with a powerful Mercedes Benz OM 352 A engine and a manual 4-speed transmission delivering drive to all four wheels. The functional layout of the engine components facilitates ease of maintenance and repair. Casspir's mine protection and field reparability are legendary and it is currently the only general purpose MPV in service with a triple mine protection level that includes main components. These factors, inter alia, lead to Casspir being the MPV of choice for several forces and for organisations employed in humanitarian operations (including mine clearing) in mine-infested areas.
Standard ballistic protection is against 7.62 x 51 mm NATO ball ammunition, whilst protection against armour-piercing ammunition and the TMRP-5 self forming fragment mine is also available as an option. With a maximum speed of 90 km/h and excellent cross country ability, Casspir offers better-than-average mobility for a vehicle in this class and a versatility to enhance the capabilities of a variety of forces in different terrain types.
The SA Army has embarked on a R164 million programme to upgrade and refurbish its ageing fleet of Casspir Mark II mine-protected vehicles. Armscor, the defence force's arms agency, awarded the upgrade contract to Benoni-based Alvis OMC. The upgrade and refurbishment of the Casspir MKII to MK III status would include structural modifications for increased mobility with more robust axles and was aimed at extending the life of the vehicles. It would also increase the reliability of vehicles for the remainder of their service lif. Alvis OMC would refurbish the vehicles while Alvis Gear Ratio would supply licence-manufactured axles. The Casspir (has) demonstrated unparalleled performance and reliability. This structured upgrade is an opportunity for us to attend to each vehicle individually and to make the necessary modifications for extended life and reliability.
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