|Product type:||Armoured Vehicles|
In April 2004 the South African company Mechanology, which is part of the Virlean Group, showed the Raptor light reconnaissance vehicle for the first time. Raptor is based on the now BAE Systems Land Systems OMC Eland (4 × 4) armoured car, which is a further development of the French Panhard General Defense AML.
South Africa built about 1,300 AML vehicles, many of which were enhanced to operate in the harsh operational environment of southern Africa. Details of the Eland are given in a separate entry.
Production of the AML was completed some time ago and it is no longer marketed by the now BAE Systems Land Systems OMC. In South African National Defence Forces service all of the AMLs have been replaced by the heavier now BAE Systems Land Systems OMC Rooikat (8 × 8) 76 mm armoured car.
Significant quantities of Eland armoured cars are now surplus to requirements and up for sale. Mechanology could either upgrade some of these Eland to the new Raptor configuration, or existing AML vehicles could be upgraded to this configuration in the customer's own facilities using kits provided by Mechanology.
The Mechanology upgrade to the Raptor standard is seen as a cost-effective way of providing the vehicle with a significant increase in reconnaissance capability. Raptor could also provide a longer-range reconnaissance capability to units equipped with tanks and other armoured vehicles.
As of mid-2007 the Raptor reconnaissance vehicle remained at the baseline prototype stage.
The original Eland was fitted with a two-person turret armed with a 90 mm gun and 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun (Eland 90), two-person turret armed with a 60 mm mortar and coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun (Eland 60), or a two-person turret armed with a 20 mm cannon and a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun (Eland 20). These also had a roof-mounted 7.62 mm machine gun for local defence and a bank of electrically operated smoke grenade launchers either side of the turret firing forwards.
The layout of the Raptor is similar to the Eland, with driver's compartment at the front, crew compartment in the centre and diesel power pack at the rear.
For its new mission, the complete turret of the Eland has been removed and replaced by a new all-welded low-profile superstructure with eight bulletproof windows, which give observation through a full 360°.
If required these windows can be rapidly covered by armoured shutters. These are hinged at the top and, when lowered, observation is provided through six roof-mounted day periscopes.
To enable Raptor to carry out its enhanced reconnaissance mission, the vehicle is fitted with a mast-mounted surveillance package that is normally retracted into the vehicle under full armour protection for travelling. This is to the immediate rear of the crew.
Production sensor packages will include a day/thermal camera and an eye-safe laser range-finder. The sensor package is operated from within the vehicle by remote control, with the operator having a display and associated controls.
Production Raptor vehicles would be fitted with an advanced land navigation and communication system to allow information to be sent in real time. In addition to being used as a reconnaissance/surveillance platform, Raptor could also be used as an artillery observation vehicle.
For its battlefield survivability, Raptor relies on its small size and speed, although a pintle-mounted 7.62 mm or .50 (12.7 mm) machine gun would be mounted on the forward part of the superstructure for self-defence purposes. The extensive surveillance and communications suite will enable it to call for fire support from other platforms, ground or air based, if required. Raptor will have a crew of three: commander, sensor operator and driver.
The removal of the turret has reduced the overall weight of the vehicle by a considerable amount and this has lowered the ground pressure, allowing for additional armour to be fitted if required by the user.
The first example of Raptor is fitted with additional external stowage that is integrated into a new appliqué hull structure, which gives a much cleaner appearance than the original AML/Eland hull.