SADF Ratel IFV taking out a Soviet T-54/55 Tank in close combat

The “cold war” at its height in Angola gets very “hot” – 14 February 1988. Extraordinary and very rare combat photograph of South Africans in combat during the South West African/Angolan Border War. Here a South African Ratel 90 takes out a FAPLA Soviet made T-54/55 tank during Operation Hooper. The Ratel had fired three heat rounds into the tank before it stopped.

To the crew of the much lighter armoured Ratel (it is after all an Infantry Fighting Vehicle IFV not a Tank) this would have been highly nerve racking, especially given the proximity of combat and the thick bush in Southern Angola – which as can be seen in this picture – was very thick, and very close. All kudos to the skill and training of this Ratel’s crew for the steady nerves.

This remarkable photograph was taken by the Ratel’s commander Lt Duncan, call sign 31C.

To compare the differences, this is the T-54/55 Tank, the armour is substantial, 80 mm on the sides, 30 mm on the roof and 20 mm on the bottom. The hull front hull 100 mm at 60° angle, turret front 205 mm (rounded).  The main gun is the D-10T 100 mm rifled tank gun. It has a four man crew.  The T54/55 was the main battle tank of the post World War 2 Soviet era for the USSR and its Allies.



This is a Ratel 90 Infantry Fighting Vehicle, much more lightly armoured – only 20mm, the primary weapon is a 90 mm (3.54 in) GT-2 semi-automatic gun.  It is used primarily in anti-armour, support, and reconnaissance elements within a battalion. The vehicle usually carries a crew of three men, with a seven-man infantry squad.


Ratel 90 IFV

Picture copyright, thanks and story content courtesy Sean Buckley.

16 thoughts on “SADF Ratel IFV taking out a Soviet T-54/55 Tank in close combat

  1. If this was taken at or near the Lomba river, there is a good chance that the crew are reservists. Many of the combatents in the mechanised infantry were Kovsies students who were called up and deployed to the Lomba river. They were lions indeed. Going up against a T55 in a Ratel takes really large brass ones!


  2. Thabo Mbeki said recently on hearing of the passing of Fidel Castor that South Africa owed him a debt of Gratitude because Cuba defeated the SADF in SWA/Angola, Mbeki never saw any action and true form continues to spew ANC propaganda! The SADF ruled!!!


  3. Hi guys,
    That’s my snapshot taken on the 14 feb 1989 I think . From what I recall we were on an offensive drive towards the lomba opposite cuito when we came across a whole heap of tanks in a bush line across a big “Shona”. Once we were committed and in the open we had little choice but to go for it and charged across and into The chaos.
    This tank had flattened an arc of fire for itself and backed into the bush and waited for us.
    Fortunately for us he missed us twice (both shots high past my head) before we saw him lurking in the shadows about 50m away.
    We then swung onto him and drilled him next to the main gun. I think he also got drilled from the sides by other ratels but it was tough to tell in that situation what the hell was happening.

    Was a bad day for us as I think 6 infantrymen were killed in a ratel near us when it was hit by a burst from a 4-barreled anti-aircraft gun deployed horizontally, I think 32mm.
    We also had our first olifant lost in combat when lt reynolds’ tank was disabled by friendly fire in the fading light after they had chased a T54 into the back of our formation……horrible situation in the dark in that forest with rounds flying all over the place from all angles.
    I actually kept a detailed diary of daily developments and a log of what photos I took as we went so if anyone wants more specific details let me know.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi guys. Cpl Buys (Hans) here. Guess you forgot about us. Nice to hear from you James, Sean & Lt Duncan. Btw.. it was a team effort regarding the T55. Don’t forget about the BRDM.
    diesel bunker and Fapla infantry soldiers.


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