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Modelling The South African 
Ratel Infantry Combat Vehicle
in 1/48 Scale

by William S. Marshall


The Ratel ICV (Photo: Salut Magazine)




The Honey Badger (Photo: the author)

Ratel is the Afrikaans name for the Honey Badger, a small aggressive African animal that does not seem to know the word fear, and which is capable of absorbing a great deal of injury and still continue fighting.

 The Ratel Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICV) was designed to meet the requirement of the SA Infantry Corps in the mechanised role. The vehicle was also adopted for use by the SA Armoured Corps in the anti-tank role. 

The Ratel replaced the British-supplied Saracen 6X6 armoured personnel carrier as the Mechanised Infantry's main means of transport. It is classified as a Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICV). Infantry can fight from inside the vehicle by using the firing ports or be dismounted on or near their objective. 

The vehicle was designed for use in Africa and is equipped with wheels rather than tracks for mobility and reliability over long distances. The Ratel is expected to cover 80000 km before major repairs are needed. 

Design work on the Ratel started in 1968 with the first prototypes being completed in 1974 and the first production series vehicles being delivered in 1976. The Mk II entered service in 1979 and the improved version, the Mk III, was already in production in 1988.


Ratel Variants


The Ratel was developed into the following variants: 

          a.       Ratel 20mm ICV.
          b.       Ratel 90mm FSV.
          c.       Ratel 81mm Mortar.
          d.       Ratel 60mm Mortar.
          e.       Ratel Command 12,7mm.
          f.       Ratel Logistics (Prototype only)

g.       Ratel ZT-3 127mm Anti-Tank.
h.       Ratel Repair Vehicle. 


The Ratel ZT-3 127mm anti-tank (Photo: Armscor)


Technical Description


The Ratel is based on an armoured hull provides protection against landmines, small arms fire (7,62mm) and artillery shrapnel. The front glacis plate provides protection against 12,7mm armoured piercing projectiles.

The driver is seated centrally in front of the turret and front wheels. 

The turret may differ depending on the type of vehicle. It is generally accepted that the gunner fills the right hand seat and the commander the left seat of the turret. 

The main fighting compartment houses a infantry section consisting of six to eight men. Access to the main compartment is through two pneumatically operated doors on the side of the vehicle. The vehicle also has a small rear hatch which is connected to the main compartment by means of a small tunnel. In the tunnel is a dome-type hatch in the hull roof fitted with a anti-aircraft machine-gun mounting. 

The 282hp diesel engine is located in the left rear of the hull with access through the top hull engine hatches. The Ratel has a fuel capacity of 430 litres of diesel giving a range of about 1000km at 90kph on normal roads. 

The vehicle also has 100 litres of fresh drinking water for the crew. Communications is via VHF radio (between vehicles) and HF radio (for longer distances) with EW secure and frequency hopping capabilities. Internally the communications is done via the intercom between the crew. The vehicle also has an audio-speaker in the crew compartment for the infantrymen to follow all communications.



Colours and Markings


All Ratels were delivered in SADF brown. Number plates were in two colours. The early R-number plates being in black with white numbers and the later M-type plates being in yellow with black numbers.



No specific guidelines were followed regarding markings, where they were to be applied, sizes and colours. Units seemed to use their own initiative. 

The only known Ratels to be camouflaged were those of the anti-tank platoon of 32 Battalion (Ratel 90) during the SWA/Namibia war. These were camouflaged to test paint and colours for the Rooikat armoured car, G5 and G6 artillery systems. It is of interest to notice that these Ratels also had red callsigns.



Call Signs and Vehicle Names


Callsigns in red with old SA flag 
(Photo: Salut magazine)

4 SA Infantry Battalion in Middelburg had their callsigns painted in red numbers and letters as they were to become 62 Mechanised Infantry Battalion. When this never happened due to the end of the war in SWA/Namibia this colour was retained as part of the tradition of the unit. 

They also had the 62 flash and the old RSA flag on the front of the vehicle. These stickers were pasted to the right and left armoured plates besides the drivers front window compartment. The 62 logo was to the right and the old SA flag to the left. These vehicles were subsequently handed over to 1 SA Infantry Battalion when 4 SAI reverted back to a Motorised Infantry Battalion in 1997. 

Vehicles with these red callsigns could be seen as part of 1 SAI during Operation Boleas, the SADEC intervention in Lesotho in September 1998. 

Vehicle names were not officially allowed but unit commanders did allow some to be applied. 1 SA Infantry Battalion in Bloemfontein named their vehicles after famous Generals. Names like “Patton” and “Rommel” are known to have been used.  “Dirty Harry IV”, "Crywolf” and "Excalibur" are examples of vehicle names that have been used by other units. Some names were applied in chalk and could be washed off, if and when required. 


Unit Flashes and Emblems


The Ratel 90mm with the name "Patton" after hitting a landmine during the SWA/Namibian conflict 
(Photo: Salut Magazine

The full time units mainly added their unit flashes or emblems on the front armoured plate to the right of the drivers window. Units that did this are 1 SAI and 4 SAI. 61 Mech added their emblem to the left of the window. 

Part time formations like 7 Division added their formation emblem to the right front glacis plate and their unit emblem to the left side  

Tactical emblems were also added to vehicles from time to time. 

During exercises at the Army Battle School it is known that abbreviated unit names were added to vehicles above the front wheel arch. Examples like RWP (Regiment Western Province) and RNT (Regiment Northern Transvaal) do exist. 

Company (sub-unit) emblems were added to 1 SAI Bn vehicles to the right  front armoured plate next to the drivers window. These were in the form of animal silhouettes : Buffalo, Rhino and a Garfield cat being used.

A Ratel logistics vehicles was developed up to the prototype stage with the result that no callsigns was added to this vehicles. Two versions were built. The first being a flatbed containerised cargo type of vehicle and the second a technical type for the transportation of containerised engine and transmission components. Both vehicles were equipped with a hoist to load and unload the equipment. The R-number of the cargo vehicle was R37374 in the black and white style. 


Modelling the Ratel


My model in 1/48 scale (Photo: the author)

This is were the fun and games start. As there is no commercially available kit of the Ratel, one must look to the cottage industry for some help. The only model that I know of is the 1/48 scale resin model made by Aerographics of Centurion, South Africa, this is not a kit but a complete presentation model for businessmen. The owner Steven Henn gave me one of his reject castings to use as a basis. Currently Aerographics are working on a 1/35 scale resin kit which should become available sometime during the latter part of this year. 

Having obtained a reject casting of the 1/48 kit I was in the fortunate position to have the best reference material available to any modeller. I had at my disposal 16 Ratel ICV's as instant reference, this being the result of my position as mechanised infantry company commander in the SANDF.  

Having compared the model with the real thing, one quickly notices that the model is a early Mk1 or 2 represented in the casting. I wanted to depict my own Mk3 vehicle "Red 30", this being a 12,7mm command vehicle. The differences being mainly in the type of turret used and some small cosmetic differences, which I will describe later.


Improving the Basic Components


Looking at the model I decided on the following basic components: the hull, the turret and the seven wheels. The hull would be usable if a sanded off all details and replaced them with scratchbuilt items. The turret would also need detailing and the replacement of all items. The wheels were of a poor quality and needed replacing together with the suspension. 

Once the basic outlay had been decided on I could start with the modelling.



All details were ground off, gaps filled and the millions of air bubbles (resin kit) filled and sanded smooth. Now details could be added. 

The basic components before painting 
(Photo: the author)

All hatches and doors were represented with plastic card glued with superglue to the hull after marking out their position. The main door hinges were made from plastic strip and attached to the hull doors with superglue. Small holes were drilled into the hinges to represent the attachment bolts in their counter sunk holes. 

A single gunport was made from plastic card and castings in dental acrylic were made and added to the hull.

Various foot and hand grips were added from thin copper electrical wire, these were inserted into holes drilled into the hull.  

The rear engine louvers were made from plastic card and added to the rear of the hull.   

The engine exhaust was made from aluminium plate and attached to the rear of the vehicle.  

The top engine access hatches were made from plastic strip and attached to the hull with superglue. 

I replaced the front glacis plate with plastic card as I needed to attach the front towing hooks and eyes to the glacis plate, this could then be done with MEK.  

The rear hull anti-aircraft hatch was scratchbuilt from some circles of plastic card and a piece of clear acrylic rod turned on the lathe to form the dome of the hatch. 

The front drivers window armoured hatches were scratchbuilt from thin aluminium plate cut to the correct profile and size. This was attached with superglue. 

The towbar was scratchbuilt using some aluminium tubing flattened on the both ends. The stowage housing was superglued to the right rear side of the model and the towbar inserted. 

Various small details were scratchbuilt and attached to the vehicle, these include: the rear external radio connector box, the two fire extinguishers,  the rear top bracket for the pioneer tools and shovel and the rear lights and convoy light housings. 

The camouflage net container behind the turret was built using some plastic strip and attached to the hull.



I spent one Saturday morning crawling under my own vehicle, this had a three fold objective; to see if my driver had done his first parade inspection and service, to check my own vehicles suspension for any damage and to gather first hand information for my modelling project. 

The suspension consists of the gearbox and transfer case which supplies the power to the wheels by means of eight universal joints and drive shafts. Anti-roll stabilisers are connected to the axials and are bolted to the hull, two for each axial. These would all have to be scratchbuilt. I made them using brass rod bent and cut to the correct length. 

The gearbox protrudes through the hull approximately inline with the two main doors, it is protected by an armoured box. The gearbox is attached to the wheels by a shaft and a series of universal joints. 

I scratchbuilt the gearbox and transfer case from plastic card and attached it to the model with superglue. One universal joint was made from sprue and dental acrylic castings were made for the other seven. These were attached to sprue to represent the shafts. Anti-roll stabilisers were made from brass rod and superglued to the hull.  

The main axials were made from aluminium tube with brass rod and attached to the hull, the anti-roll stabilisers were attached to the shafts and the hull as mentioned. This completed the suspension details. 


The suspension details (Photo: the author)



The Ratel command uses a 12,7mm Browning Machine Gun as its primary weapon and a 7,62mm Browning as its secondary weapon, this configuration makes place inside the turret for the commander with all his maps and radios and paraphernalia. 

The Aerographics turret is correct in shape and outline so I removed all details and replaced them with my own scratchbuilt details. 

I started off with the machine guns, these were made from surgical needles cut to the correct length and inserted into a piece of plastic sprue sanded to the correct profile and length. 

Once the guns were glues to the turret I sculpted the gun cover with some epoxy putty and textured the cover by adding creases and a rough texture to the material. 

Turret access hatches were made in the already mentioned way, using clear acrylic rod turned on a lathe and detailed with some plastic card.  

The smoke dischargers were made from aluminium tube cut to the correct length and attached to a plastic strip  mounting bracket. I added the protection plates that cover the smoke dischargers by cutting some thin aluminium sheet from a shaving cream tube. These were then bent to the correct profile and attached with superglue. 


The turret details after painting (Photo: the author)


The two turret search lights were made using sprue drilled out to the correct diameter and attached to mounting brackets. 

Antenna were made from steel fishing wire attached to plastic mountings, these were then superglued to the turret. 

The commanders rough aiming device was made from thin aluminium sheet cut to the correct size and attached with superglue.

The turret extraction fan was made from sprue and strip and added between the two turret hatches.



The Ratel has seven wheels which I needed to scratchbuild. This was the most difficult part of the model. After a couple of attempts I finally got one which was acceptable to me from which I could make copies. 

The process of making the wheel started with a number of pieces of plastic card being glued together to form a lamination. This was then cut to a rough cycle. The piece was then placed on the lathe and turned unto a disk. The rim detail was then turned. The wheel was cut to the correct shape. I made the tyre part about 1mm smaller than needed as I was still wanted to add thread to the tyre part. I then cut a piece of plastic card with a hole and inserted the wheel into this piece of plastic card., this formed the centre guide for the tyre thread and divided the wheel into a left and right section.. This piece of plastic was then glued and trimmed on the lathe to make up for the lost thread. I then cut small diamond shaped pieces of plastic card and attached this to the entire tire running surface on both sides to represent the thread.  I then put the wheel into the lathe and sanded al detail to achieve a even surface. This worked quite well and I was happy with the results. 

I then decided to make copy the wheel. I added some black tint to the resin thinking that this would represent the tyre the best. I did not like the results as the tyre was too shinny. I then cast he rest of the wheels in the normal buff colours resin.  

One wheel was then placed on the lathe and the rim hollowed out to form the back of the wheel this would then serve as the spare wheel on top of the hull. I added the locking device for the spare from plastic and thin copper wire. 

The rims were painted in the SADF brown and the tyres in dark grey.




The model with the red callsign (Photo: the author)

The "Red 30" callsign was first painted by spraying a patch of red paint. Once dry, I placed a Letraset 30 on the red patch and proceeded to paint the vehicle SADF brown. 

The model was painted in overall SANDF brown. Humbrol 29 is the closest to this colour. I then mixed a batch of paint using Humbrol 29 as the base colour and darkened the shade with black. This was used to shade the model. I then lightened the base colour of Humbrol 29 with some white and then accentuated the model where I thought that the sun would fade the paint. 

Once the painting was completed I removed the Letraset "30" with some masking tape and gave the model a coat of Future clear to seal all components. I then proceeded to give the model a wash of matt black oil paint.

Next followed the drybrushing with a dirty white oil paint and some silver was used to highlight the high wear areas. 

I added the camouflage net wrapped in its tarpaulin container and some pioneer tools.





ICV :      Infantry Combat Vehicle.          HF: High Frequency

FSV :      Fire Support Vehicle.             VHF: Very High Frequency

SAI :      South African Infantry.            EW: Electronic Warfare

BN :      Battalion.                              RNT: Regt Northern Transvaal

MECH : Mechanised                         RWP : Regt Western Province

OPS :     Operation                               SSB: Special Service Battalion




[1]     Römer Heitman, Helmoet : War in Angola, The Final Phase

[2]     War Machine, Issue 58: Orbis Publication. 

[3]     Römer Heitman, Helmoet. South African Arms and Armour.  

[4]     Military Modelling July 1990 : Argus Specialist Publications. 

[5]     Steenkamp Willem : South Africa's Border War 1966 - 1989. 

[6]     Stiff Peter : Nine Days of War.


Photo Credits


[1]     The Author. 

[2]     Salut Magazine (SANDF): with permission. 

©         W.S Marshall, IPMS Pretoria-Centurion, South Africa.



Additional Images


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Model, Text and Images Copyright © 2000 by William S. Marshall
Page Created 30 July, 2000
Last Updated 26 July, 2007

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