Sunday, 13 July 2008

Olifant Mk 1B Main Battle Tank, South Africa

The Olifant Mk 1B main battle tank was developed and produced by the Olifant Manufacturing Company, OMC Engineering PTY Ltd, based in South Africa. Development of the Olifant started in 1976 and first entered service with the South African Armoured Corps in the late 1970s. OMC Engineering later became Reumech OMC, then Vickers OMC and, in September 2002 was renamed Alvis OMC, following the acquisition of Vickers Defence by Alvis plc. In September 2004, Alvis OMC became part of BAE Systems Land Systems.

The layout of the Olifant Mark 1 was very similar to that of the South African Semel tank which was based on an upgraded conversion of the British Centurion tanks. The Olifant has been continually upgraded. The Mark 1A entered full-scale production in 1983 and the first were in service by 1985. In the same year that the Mark 1A entered the production phase, development work was started on the Mark 1B, and these tanks were in production during the 1990s and are operational in the South African Armed Forces.

The South African Army has 172 Olifant Mk 1A/B main battle tanks in operation. The Olifant 1B entered service in 1991. The upgrades included the installation of a more powerful 105 mm L7 cannon, a hand held laser rangefinder and a first generation image intensifier. The range of the tank was increased by the installation of a diesel engine and additional fuel tanks.

In September 2003, BAE Systems Land Systems OMC was awarded a contract by Armscor (the South African Department of Defense procurement agency) to upgrade 13 Olifant Mk 1B tanks. The upgrade programme includes a new powerpack from Delkon which increases power by 15%, upgrade of gun and turret drives by Reutech Defence Logistics, new fire control system and target detection and engagement system with thermal imaging capability, both supplied by IST Dynamics. A follow-on contract for a further 13 tanks upgraded to Olifant Mk2 standard was awarded in September 2005. Deliveries are scheduled for 2006-07.


The Mark 1B Olifant is armed with the 105mm L7 rifled cannon main gun. The 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 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 installation of a double armour floor gives the crew additional protection against mines. 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 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 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.


LIW, a division of Denel, has developed the Olifant 2 main battle tank turret, which can be fitted on an upgraded Olifant Mk1B chassis, providing the tank with hunter killer modes of operation, fire on the move and day and night time engagement. The turret can be armed with either LIW’s GT8 105 mm or an LIW 120 mm smoothbore gun and features periscopic stabilised day/thermal gunner’s sight with laser rangefinder, panoramic commander’s sight, full solution fire control system and modular armour package.

Spesifications Mk Olifant 1B main Batle Tank
Crew4, commander, driver, gunner, loader
length hull861 cm
length with gun forward1020 cm
height to top of turret355 cm
width of hull342 cm
ground clearance34.5 cm
combat weight58,000 kg
ground pressure1.07 kg per sq cm
air cooled turbo diesel engineV-12
Power900 hp
power to weight ratio15.5 hp/ton
range of travel of road wheels320 mm
road speed58 km/hour
Range350 km
vertical step1.0 m
fording depth1.5 m
Gradient60 per cent
side slope30 per cent