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Mark 1B Olifant

The Olifant Mk 1B is a new production vehicle instead of being a rebuild of existing Centurions and is barely recognisable as a Centurion. In the same year that the Mark 1A entered the production phase, development work was started on the Mark 1B. These tanks commenced production in 1991, were in production during the 1990s, and are operational in the South African Armed Forces.

The 105mm L7 rifled cannon main gun on the Mark 1B is fitted with a thermal sleeve for sustained accuracy in firing. The Mark 1B carries 68 rounds of 105 mm ammunition. The tank is also fitted with a 7.62 mm general purpose co-axial machine gun and a 7.62 mm anti-aircraft machine gun. The driver's station is equipped with a day and night sight and the gunner's station is fitted with day and night sights and an integrated laser rangefinder.

The belly armor was doubled, a concession to the large amount of mines in Angola, Namibia, and other countries bordering South Africa. The installation of a double armour floor gives the crew additional protection against mines. The armor has been thickened on the nose, glacis, turret roof, turret front, and turret sides. Side skirts have also been added. The glacis plate and nose of the hull have been upgraded with the addition of passive armour and the turret has been fitted with stand-off armour. The running gear is protected against HEAT missiles by new sideskirts. A smoke screen can be laid by a fuel injection system in the engine's exhaust. A fire detection and suppression system improves the level of survivability.

The power pack has been completely replaced with an engine that is much more powerful. The V-12 air-cooled turbo diesel engine provides 900 horsepower. The tank has been equipped with torsion bar running gear and hydraulic dampers have been fitted to the first and last pair of wheels. The suspension was upgraded by replacement of the bogie-type suspension by torsion bars.

The driver's compartment has been made roomier, with a hatch that is easier to open and a steering yoke instead of tillers. A turret bustle has been added for crew equipment. A ballistic computer has been added to the gunner's sight. A searchlight is added over the main armament.

The tank achieves a maximum road speed of 58 km/hour and the maximum range on internal fuel is 350 km. The tank can ford water to a depth of 1.5 metres, negotiate gradients and slopes of 60 and 30 per cent and vertical obstacles up to 1 metre in height.

In October 2003 Armscor, the acquisition agency of the South African Department of Defence, awarded Alvis OMC a contract for the upgrade of a number of Olifant Mk 1B Main Battle Tanks (MBT) for the South African (SA) Army. The contract value is approximately ZAR124m (South African Rand), equivalent to US$ 17m or 10m.

The program will span two years and entails:

  • Upgrading the Powerpack including a power increase of over 15%.
  • Upgrading the gun control equipment.
  • Integration of a new target detection and engagement system with an all weather night fighting capability.
  • Other operational modifications required by the SA Army.
  • Logistic enhancements with the emphasis on support and test equipment and training systems.

The contract follows a thorough project study which included stringent user and technical trials of the proposed upgrades and modifications. Delivery of the first upgraded MBTs is scheduled for the end of May 2004, with the remainder to be delivered between October 2004 and October 2005. The SA Army will use two of the first batch of upgraded MBTs for technical training.

This is a significant order, reflecting both the SA Army's commitment to the continued upgrade of its armored vehicle fleet and confirmation of the MBT upgrade and maintenance capability at Alvis OMC. It is also the single largest order Alvis OMC has received from Armscor since the acquisition of the company by its UK shareholder, Alvis plc.

As suppliers to Alvis OMC, several other SA companies will benefit from this contract, including IST Dynamics, Reutech Defence Logistics and Delkon. The Olifant MBT upgrade program at Alvis OMC follows upgrade programs in recent years for other SA Army armoured vehicles including Ratel infantry combat vehicles, Rooikat armoured fighting vehicles and Mamba mine protected vehicles. Alvis OMC will continue to support the SA Army's MBT fleet well into the future.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 13:10:09 ZULU