During the 1960s and 70s, there were extended conflicts in Angola and Namibia. The South African military frequently contended with land mines along the border. The low cost and high damage yield of these devices made them a critical issue. Someone or something would have to deal with them sooner or later.
As a result, South Africa developed a four-wheeled, four-wheel-drive, mine-resistant transport vehicle that would become known as the Casspir. It was a vehicle with a unique design configured specifically to withstand blast damage originating from underneath the vehicle. The Casspir proved so effective at its intended task that it remains in production to this day, more than three decades after its debut.
When Allied troops invaded Iraq in 2004, they soon discovered that the IEDs widely used by opposing forces required a specialized vehicle that could protect occupants from ground-level explosive impacts. Force Protection (now a division of General Dynamics) would look to the Casspir’s design as a template for the Buffalo Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle.
This transport serves as Force Protection’s largest vehicle (ahead of the Cougar and Ocelot). The diesel-powered, single-door, 19-ton capacity 6×6 has been in service since 2003. It now protects armed forces around the world.
Design and Specifications
Weighing in at roughly 23 tons, the Buffalo is designed to accommodate a crew of up to six and measures 13 feet tall, 27 feet long, and 9 feet wide. Motivation for the A1 variant of the Buffalo came from a turbocharged and direct-injected 12.0-liter Mack ASET AI-400 inline six-cylinder diesel motor. It generated 450 horsepower and 1450 pound-feet of torque.
That motor was hooked to an Allison HD-4560P five-speed automatic transmission, and the combination yielded a top speed of 65 mph. Equipped with an 85-gallon fuel tank, the Buffalo A1 has an operational range of 300 miles.
The Buffalo A1 featured a Fabco SDA 2300 23,000-pound drive steer axle up front. A pair of Mack tandem axles were equipped in the center and rear (the axles, along with the powertrain and other components, were changed for the A2 variant. This variant went into production in 2009).
The 6×6 rides on 1600R20 XZL Michelin run-flat rubber. It has an unprepared fording depth of 40 inches, an approach angle of 40 degrees, and a departure angle of 45 degrees.
Inside, each seat is equipped with a four-point harness similar to those used in race cars, while two air conditioning units rated at 24,000 and 44,000 BTU/hr are on hand to keep temperatures in check. Access to the cabin is provided by a ladder and door installed in the rear of the vehicle.
In terms of protection, the Buffalo boasts a V-shaped hull that’s designed to deflect blast energy away from the passenger compartment. It is said to be able to withstand up to a 45-pound landmine to its wheels, and 30 pounds of explosives to the undercarriage. The armor package is designed to provide all-around coverage against 7.62mm small arms fire, while the glass is multi-strike resistant against 7.62mm rounds. Newer models are also equipped with BAE Systems’ LROD cage armor for additional protection against RPG-7 anti-tank rounds.
Because it’s preferable to disable or detonate IEDs and mines before they’re directly beneath the vehicle, the Buffalo is also equipped with several different pieces of technology to aid in that endeavor. These include on-board infrared detection technology, as well as a set of deployable disc rollers that can run over and detonate explosives before the vehicle is on top of them.
The Buffalo also employs the use of a hydraulically-powered articulated “claw.” It is operated from within the Buffalo’s cabin via a remote camera. This 30-foot robotic arm is mounted to the right side of the front bumper. It can extract and remove objects from the soil without directly exposing personnel to potential blasts.
Production and Updates
After numerous delays that would see Force Protection – formerly a speed boat company that changed operational direction after 9/11 – fined $1.5 million by the Department of Defense, production eventually ramped up and on June 6th, 2008, the company made the delivery of their 200th Buffalo to the United States military.
The following year, Force Protection would begin producing the A2 version of the Buffalo. It featured a number of notable changes versus the A1 variant.
The Mack ASET AI-400 motor and Allison HD-4560P automatic were both ditched in favor of a Caterpillar C13 12.5-liter engine paired to a Caterpillar CX31 six-speed transmission, while AxleTech axles replaced the Fabco and Mack hardware used on the A1. Additional upgrades included a new hood and bumpers, improvements to the HVAC system, and suspension tweaks.
As of June 2014, roughly 750 Buffalo vehicles have been built in total, with some examples exported to Allied countries including France, Canada, England, and Italy.