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Photos of Rhodesian military vehicles
June 27, 2012 8:17 AM   Subscribe

Photos of Rhodesian military vehicles taken between 1979 and early 1980 with a Kodak Instamatic.
posted by nthdegx (23 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
These vehicles look really unusual. I'd like to read an article about their design. Were there special requirements that made them different from typical military vehicles?
posted by scose at 8:25 AM on June 27, 2012


Awesome photoset! Thanks for posting.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 8:27 AM on June 27, 2012


I just had a flashback to the vintage Rhodesian Army ads that used to appear in Soldier of Fortune magazine (my dad picked a whole box of vintage issues at a fundraising rummage sale in the '80s, fascinating stuff).
posted by MikeMc at 8:28 AM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Since they weren't getting much in the way of outside assistance, much of Rhodesia's military was improvised and innovated indigenously. Here's a short essay about their homemade air force during the Bush War. Here's another piece about their trucks that were fortified against mines and explosives.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:29 AM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Were there special requirements that made them different from typical military vehicles?

The captions seem to indicate these are mostly build to be mine-proof. The zig-zag patterns on the armor help to destabilize bullets so they are less likely to penetrate.
posted by hellphish at 8:35 AM on June 27, 2012


Wow, that is interesting. I can remember an article in the 1980s about home-built military vehicles with plywood chassis (obviously built for speed, not mine resistance) in either then-Rhodesia or South Africa, I don't recall.
posted by Forktine at 8:41 AM on June 27, 2012


"Bullet tumblers" the photographer called those zig-zags of steel.

Here he explains how he engineered an "anti-ambush device" (a couple of AK-47s bolted to the floor of a pickup, muzzles pointing left and right):
I fitted a few of these anti- ambush devices,firstly I bolted the mounting to the floor of the vehicle and then connected the solenoids to the electrical system.I would then go to a place where it was safe to fire weapons and place the Land Rover side on to the target area.I would place a magazine on to the AK 47 and then push the button to fire it.This made the hole in the vehicle bodywork and also tested the weapon,I then did the same for the other side.The conveyor belts were made of layers of rubber laminated with canvas.
posted by notyou at 8:43 AM on June 27, 2012


Interesting, but my favorite African military vehicle is the South African Ratel, or Honey Badger. 'Cause the honey badger don't give a fuck.
posted by Rangeboy at 8:47 AM on June 27, 2012


These vehicles look really unusual. I'd like to read an article about their design. Were there special requirements that made them different from typical military vehicles?
The v-shaped hull is definitely for mine resistances. A lot of the armored vehicles used in Iraq and Afghanistan were pretty explicitly based on this concept.
posted by kickingtheground at 8:47 AM on June 27, 2012


Damnit, this was meant to be the link.
posted by kickingtheground at 8:48 AM on June 27, 2012


These vehicles look really unusual. I'd like to read an article about their design. Were there special requirements that made them different from typical military vehicles?

Mine protection: the v-shaped, quite high up body work helps deflect the force of the mine blast away from the floor of the vehicle, so as to protect the men inside. You can see the sam philosophy at work, but more professionally, in the South African Defence Force vehicles of the time (like the Ratel mentioned before). These were all vehicles that could and did often go into the bush, so much of the SADF's force was wheel based rather than track based, as that was better suited to the terrain in Namibia, South Africa or Zimbabwe.

Fast forward two decades and you see the same designs back in the various trucks and vehicles used in Iraq and Afghanistan by the US, UK and other NATO forces, often direct descendants from those 1970ties South African models.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:52 AM on June 27, 2012


A friend of mine in university actually collected Rhodesian military fatigues ("Simple possession of which would get you imprisoned in Zimbabwe, Mr. Thompson," he would say to me), as well as various South African military paraphernalia, such as South African Railway Police uniforms.

He also collected guns, including a Chinese-made AK-47 which he pointed at me once as a joke. We "lost touch" after that.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:56 AM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


The v-shaped hull is definitely for mine resistances. A lot of the armored vehicles used in Iraq and Afghanistan were pretty explicitly based on this concept.

The guy who designed the mine resistant vehicles for the SADF was brought in to help design the MRAP for the U.S. military.
posted by MikeMc at 8:59 AM on June 27, 2012


My stepsiblings were living in rural Rhodesia during this time, and used to get ferried to and from school in things like this. I was always awed and impressed by the hulking, no-nonsense ugliness of the South African army vehicles, even the Casspir - although I always wondered if, and why, they were named after the character from the American comic books.

KokuRyu - back in 70s-80s SA no civilian could buy any kind of camouflage - they were too afraid it wold be used by the 'terrs'.
posted by Flashman at 9:04 AM on June 27, 2012


Something else I noticed about the design: it allows for troops inside to return fire in an ambush/contact. This is something the UK used to do (Aden/NI/Oman) but has since lost out in favour of putting the passengers into a steel box.
posted by fingerbang at 9:05 AM on June 27, 2012


Ugh. There is something about the angularity of those vehicles, and the elongation or enlargement of their various parts, that I find really unsettling, in an uncanny valley sort of way. They are to everyday vehicles what a gas mask is to the human face.

The vehicles' framework hints at their antecedents, conveyances like tractors, that were designed to help produce sustenance, or covered wagons, that were designed to transport people and goods safely from one point to another. But something about the polygonal simplicity of the retrofits or the mutations of the overall forms scares the living crap out of me. They're visual cues that these are vehicles haven't just been designed to protect passengers, but also to kill. They are what happens when the world goes wrong.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 9:17 AM on June 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Fascinating. Wikipedia has an expansive article on the Rhodesian Bush War.
posted by exogenous at 9:19 AM on June 27, 2012


"I would then go to a place where it was safe to fire weapons and place the Land Rover side on to the target area. I would place a magazine on to the AK 47 and then push the button to fire it. This made the hole in the vehicle bodywork and also tested the weapon, I then did the same for the other side...."

I guess he didn't have a drill. I also liked the part about filling the tires with water. These guys were short on equipment, long on ingenuity.
posted by mule98J at 9:21 AM on June 27, 2012


I think the majority of the population in the former Rhodesia would have known it as the "Zimbabwe War of Liberation".
posted by KokuRyu at 9:22 AM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fast forward two decades and you see the same designs back in the various trucks and vehicles used in Iraq and Afghanistan by the US, UK and other NATO forces, often direct descendants from those 1970ties South African models.

True. And I recall too that one of Blackwater's (Yes the same Blackwater that operates in Iraq and now calls itself Academi) preferred escort and patrol vehicles was the South African built Mamba APC.
posted by FJT at 9:44 AM on June 27, 2012


Circa-1980 Rhodesian military vehicles or Brooklyn indie synthpop album cover shoot?
posted by Luminiferous Ether at 9:45 AM on June 27, 2012


I suppose that the lesson is that any war where these vehicles are deployed will eventually be won by the insurgent forces.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:17 AM on June 27, 2012


Holy Lotus Europa Bat Man!
posted by punkfloyd at 12:45 PM on June 27, 2012


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