Right side view of Ratel 81 mortar carrier. Note the two large semi-circular hatches on the roof.
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The Ratel 81 is a self-propelled mortar of South African origin. It was developed to provide mobile fire support for mechanized infantry. The Ratel 81 is faster in and out of action than a mortar transported by truck. It is also better protected. A prototype with a 120mm mortar was developed and tested in 1994. This was called the Ratel 120, but it was not adopted.
The Ratel 81 is the mortar carrier variant of the Ratel series of infantry fighting vehicles. It was one of the last variants to be developed. Instead of a turret there is a circular opening in the roof that is covered by two large hatches. An 81mm mortar is installed on a turntable within the vehicle. When required the mortar can be used away from the vehicle by using a base plate and bipod. The rear compartment that normally carries an infantry section is modified to carry ammunition.
The 81mm M-3 mortar has a maximum range of 4.850 meters. It is normally used to fire HE and smoke rounds. The turntable allows for a 360 degree traverse. A total of 148 mortar bombs are stacked in the ammunition racks. The mortar has no direct fire capability. For self-defense a 7.62mm MG4 AA machine gun is fitted on a pintle mount. The MG4 AA is a World War 2 era Browning M1919A4 machine gun converted to fire the 7.62x51mm NATO round.
The steel hull protects the crew from small arms fire and shell splinters. When firing the roof hatches are open and the crew is partly exposed. The Ratel's mobility and fast time in and out of action provides a degree of protection from counter battery fire.
The Ratel 6x6 chassis provides good mobility on roads and in the field. The design is geared towards off road use in the bush, and mobility in harsh terrain is somewhat limited. The turbocharged diesel engine provides up to 275 hp. Maximum speed on roads is 105 km/h and operational range is 1.000 km.
The Ratel 81 was acquired by South Africa. From the mid 1980's onwards it was actively used during the Bush War. In recent years the Ratel series of vehicles has been exported to several nations, but these do not seem to include the Ratel 81. Today the Ratel 81 remains in active service in South Africa, but is likely to be replaced in the future with a variant of the Badger.
The Ratel 81 is one of the many variants of the Ratel series of infantry fighting vehicles.
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