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New rims for the Olifant MBT

An order last week for repair to the roadwheels of the Olifant main battle tank (MBT)as well as repair and rework to the rims worth R9.383 million has taken spending on the venerable vehicle to at least R117 282 520.62 since 2007.

The R9 383 841,00 order for the unspecified spares was placed last Wednesday with BAE Systems. The SA Army currently owns up to 266 of the tanks in five variants: the Mk2, Mk1B and Mk1A MBT in addition to about 16 armoured recovery vehicles (ARV) and two armoured bridgelayers (ABL).

The Olifant is based on the British Centurion cruiser tank developed during World War Two. Several pre-production models saw action in northern Germany in 1945. Production of the vehicles stopped in 1962. South Africa acquired some 250 Mk 2 and Mk 3 Centurions directly from Britain from 1957 to arm an armoured division earmarked for Commonwealth service in the Middle East.

Several hundred Alvis Saracen armoured personnel carrier were acquired for the same purpose at the same time. After South Africa left the Commonwealth in the face of greater opposition to its racist Apartheid policies, roughly half the tanks were sold as surplus to new requirements. As arms embargoes increased and tanks appeared in the inventories of newly independent neighbours, South Africa had to buy Centurion Mk5s in various states of repair from India and Jordan in the 1970s.

Various upgrades were then undertaken, reportedly with Israeli assistance, at the Olifant's Manufacturing Company, a factory established for the purpose. The Olifant Mk1 entered service in 1978. Remanufacture to the Mk1A-standard commenced in 1983 and examples entered service in 1985. Upgrade to Mk1B-standard commenced in 1991. Twenty-six Mk2's were commissioned from 2007 as part of Project Atolasa. Brigadier General Chris Gildenhuys, the General Officer Commanding the SA Army Armour Formation has said the Olifant Mk2 is a training, not operational system, as it lacks dedicated support in the form of an ARV or ABL.

Officers speaking on the sidelines of the 2008 Armour Symposium noted a requirement for 132 tanks, including six ARV and four armoured bridgelayers (ABL) in terms of Project Aorta.

In the meantime, the South African Armoured Corps is keeping its old fleet, including the Mk1A and Mk1B MBT going. Earlier this month, the Army awarded BAE Systems R503 040 in work to “upgrade of 13 Olifant MK1B tanks”. The contract, with reference number AMS/S2010/0967, is an extension of contract EPTS/2004/601.

Other recent work on the Olifant range can be tabulated as follows:


New generation tank (Project Aorta?)

Engineering support for new generation tank
EAMS/2009/1 13 Aug 2009 R682 460,00 Propenta Business Solutions (Pty) Ltd
t/a Propenta Consulting Hennopsmeer


Olifant Mark 2 MBT

Development of live firing monitor system for Olifant Mk 2 - extension of EPTS/2004/345
AMS/S2009/0864 28 May 2009 R421 267,00 BAE Systems
AMS/S2007/0779 21 Feb 2008 R1 057 888,00 BAE Systems

Procurement of Olifant Mk 2 electronic repair container
EAMS/2007/274 16 Oct 2008 R12 229 830,00 BAE Systems

Upgrade of 13 Olifant Mk 2 tanks - extension of EPTS/2004/601
AMS/S2007/0770 25 Jan 2008 R7 442 986,00 BAE Systems

Upgrade of Olifant Mk 2 electronic repair container - extension of EPTS/2006/249
AMS/S2007/0771 25 Jan 2008 R544 578,00 BAE Systems
22 Feb 2007 R5 426 195,00 BAE Systems

Olifant Mk2 operational test and evaluation technical support
EAMS/2007/275 6 Dec 2007 R1 692 683,00 BAE Systems

Procurement of Olifant Mk2 capital spares - extension of EAMS/2007/282
AMS/S2009/0918 4 Feb 2010 R1 551 764,88 BAE Systems
EAMS/2008/316 11 Mar 2009 R19 986 297,00 BAE Systems
AMS/S2008/0794 29 May 2008 R381 355,00 BAE Systems
- 20 Dec 2007 R9 798 751,80 BAE Systems

Olifant Mk2 electronic capital spares - extension of EAMS/2007/282
AMS/S2008/0829 19 Dec 2008 R8 322 078,98 BAE Systems

Gunner Nightsight Integration into Olifant Mk 2 Fire Control System
EAMS/2008/49 6 Nov 2008 R9 121 601,00 BAE Systems


Olifant Mark1B

Olifant MK1B logistic development - extension of EPTS/2003/473
AMS/S2008/0844 29 Apr 2009 R2 600 227,80 BAE Systems

Upgrade of 13 Olifant MK1B tanks - extension of EPTS/2004/601
AMS/S2010/0967 6 Oct 2010 R503 040 BAE Systems


Olifant Mark 1A

Maintenance and repair of the Olifant MK1A product system.
EAMS/2008/491 28 May 2009 R4 473 684,00 BAE Sytems

Repair of Olifant MK1A powerpacks, canisters, generators and fans
EAMS/2009/37 25 Jun 2009 R3 419 420,00 BAE Systems

Spares for Olifant tank
EAMS/2009/445 9 Jun 2010 R9 707 055,96 BAE Systems

Procurement of olifant MK1A service kits
E\AMS/2008/313 4 Dec 2008 R508 785,50 BAE Systems


Olifant – General

Repair of Olifant roadwheels and repair/rework of rims
EAMS/2010/449 2 Jun 2011 R9 383 841,00 Allthane Technologies

Spares for Olifant tank - extension of EAMS/2009/445
AMS/S2010/0969 20 Oct 2010 R2 145 562,20 BAE Systems

Olifant powerpack repair - extension of EPTS/2006/161
AMS/S2007/0772 25 Jan 2008 R45 026,75 BAE Systems

Supply of Olifant tank operating support - extension of ECVS/2006/589
AMS/S2008/0814 7 Aug 2008 R658 050,00 BAE Systems

Procurement of Olifant service kits
EAMS/2007/229 20 Sep 2007 R877 191,00 BAE Systems

Supply of operating support for the Olifant tank
ECVS/2006/589 31 May 2007 R438 596,00 BAE Systems

Upgrade, maintenance and repair to the container for olifant tank
EAMS/2009/77 25 Feb 2010 R500 083,00 BAE Systems


Olifant – Cannibalisation

Stripping of olifant Mk1B tanks for recovery of spares
EAMS/2008/317 19 Feb 2009 R9 398 850,00 BAE Systems

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