South African-made armoured personnel carriers shipped to Iraq for US military

Dec 06, 2007
Author: P&S

tug and barge combination THUNDER (tug) and LIGHTNING on charter to the US Sealift Command. Picture US Navy

The visit to Durban this week of the US Military Sealift Command tug and barge combination ITB THUNDER / LIGHTNING culminated with the barge being loaded with large number of South African-built RG-31 armoured personnel carriers (APC) and other equipment for US military forces in Iraq.

Thunder / Lightning is one of those uniquely American style tug and barge combinations where the tug (Thunder) acts as a pusher, notching in behind the barge (Lightning). The pair arrived in Durban and began loading 55 RG-31 Cougar vehicles which had been manufactured by BAE Land Systems at Benoni outside Johannesburg. The RG-31 Cougar is a multi purpose mine protected vehicle which is a development of the South African RG-31 Nyala vehicle which in turn evolved from the Mamba APC.

RG-31s are heavily armoured, have V-shaped bases and high suspension and are designed to provide a high degree of protection from enemy attack including landside bombs and mines. They have proved reliable and popular among the military in Iraq and Afghanistan on account of an ability to absorb and deflect blasts from landmines and car bomb attacks although in one case six Canadian soldiers and an Afghan interpreter died in southern Afghanistan when their vehicle detonated a roadside improvised explosive device. However in other incidents occupants of the vehicles have survived serious blasts with minor injuries or none at all even when taking direct blasts.

The shipment of vehicles will be discharged in Kuwait and then flown into Iraq to hasten delivery. “This is one of the first large-scale sealift deliveries of mine-resistant vehicles and the first time MRAP-like (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles have been loaded” using assets from the European theater, said Chief Petty Officer Pawel Oscik, cargo operations specialist with Sealift Logistics Command Europe.

By early in 2007 the US had taken delivery of 424 RG-31 vehicles which have been placed in service with several units including the US Army Task Force Pathfinder attached to the 82nd Airborne Division. RG-31s have been involved in combat situations in numerous parts of the world including Bosnia and Herzegovina and are currently in service with a number of armed forces around the world. The RG-31 has become the multi purpose vehicle of choice with the United Nations and other peacekeeping forces and the US Army began equipping its forces with the vehicle in Iraq shortly after five soldiers escaped certain death in one that detonated a landside mine in 2004. They later wrote to Land Systems in Benoni in appreciation for the vehicle having saved their lives.

South African designed and built RG-31 armoured personnel carrier



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