Azanian Boomslang Hover Fighting Vehicle
“Go, go, go!” Thandi yelled into her command mike, the five Boomslangs clearing the ridgeline and unmasking the targets her Blouvalk drone had been watching for the past five minutes. Umkhonto missiles whipped away towards predesignated targets as the Kafer warband stood paralysed for a few precious moments.
“Target, CAC-1!” She called to her gunner, though she still had difficulty thinking of that menacing silhouette as anything but a Deathsled.
“Engaging,” her gunner acknowledged, his targeting designator sliding over hers a moment before the 50mm MDC went into a full-auto rattle.
A second volley of missiles whipped away as she searched for the next target, but most of the vehicles were already burning. The Kafer infantry were passing out of their paralysis, their fearsomely effective counter-ambush skills kicking in.
“Target infantry, fire at will!” she ordered, “Hatch open, troops up!”
Behind her the roof hatch flipped up, her infantry fireteam popping up to engage the fleeting targets with small arms and plasma fire.
A single Kafer vaulted out of a hole in the ground, swinging some kind of shoulder-launched missile towards her vehicle, there was no time to designate the target for the infantry or her gunner, but that didn’t mean they were defenceless and Thandi’s hand slapped against one of the self-defence mine triggers. The Boomslang bucked sideways as the Askari fired and the Kafer simply disappeared under the impact of thousands of lethal pellets.
A moment later they were through the ambush zone and skimming over the ridge at the other side of the valley, dead Kafers and burning vehicles strewn in their wake.
“All vehicles, rally on me!” Thandi ordered, glad to see the Boomslang had come through its baptism of fire without casualties. She glanced back, at columns of smoke rising under the Kimanjanan sky and smiled grimly.
‘Ramrod, Azanian Style’
Journal of the Azanian Defense Studies College,
The Azanian Army’s Boomslang Hover Combat Vehicle (named for a venomous snake of the Azanian Veldt) is unusual in being one of the few military vehicles in service that draws on actual combat experience with the Kafers in its design. In spite of this advantage the Boomslang has been derided by many analysts as neither fish nor fowl. It has some features of a light hovertank, some of a HIFV, but uses the hull of a full sized hovertank to combine both roles. For the moment the militaries of advanced nations seem prepared to wait for the hybrid concept to prove itself rather than beat a path to Azania’s door.
Given its considerable area and extensive open terrain, both protected veldt areas and developed farmland/grazing, Azania has always relied on reservist manned light combat formations for territorial defence. Actually predating the founding of the Azanian state, these units have never managed to shed the Commando label inherited from the Boers, indeed taking a perverse pleasure in preserving it even when units are now largely manned by people who identify their heritage as Azanian rather than Zulu, Xhosa, Boer or any of the other artificial labels which once divided Azania.
The Territorial Defence Commandos are battalion sized formations, each typically maintaining between 3 and 5 combat companies and a headquarters and support company, the precise number of teeth companies depending on local requirements. Standard practice is for one company to be tasked as a rapid-response unit with the best combat vehicles available, while the other companies within the Commando are equipped as motorised infantry with a primary light infantry role. At the outbreak of the Kafer War the Azanian Army and Armscor were already engaged in the design of a new combat vehicle to suit the needs of the rapid-response companies, with the intent of replacing the older Kudu Hover APCs with which they were then equipped. As the scope of the conflict became clear, the Azanian Army took the radical step of freezing the development of the Boomslang until the initial lessons became clear.
Rather than wait passively for the results, a member of the Project Team – Reserve Captain Thandi de Kuy, travelled down the French Arm to Aurore, where she enlisted in the Tanstaafl Free Legion for a six-month term. Within two months she was running a Ramrod team in near daily contacts with Kafer warbands, and collecting an unparalleled set of practical experience in just what worked and what didn’t. Captain de Kuy returned from her tour with the TFL with a firm notion of what the Boomslang should look like, and a certainty that Azania had to be ready to fight a counter-Kafer campaign in its own backyard, be that Terran or Colonial.
The Invasion came before any Boomslangs were ready for combat, but they were already in trials by that point and a single platoon, operating in a recon role, was attached to the Azanian force that landed on Kimanjano alongside the French and other forces of the Liberation. The Boomslang proved so useful in the role that the Azanian Army is now considering procuring it for its reconnaissance formations as well as the Territorial Defence Commandos.
To any student of military vehicles the Boomslang’s heritage is immediately apparent – its chassis is that of the Luki-VIII, which had previously equipped Azanian Reserve Force armoured units. However the hull has been completely reworked with the original turret discarded and the powerplant relocated to the front, the new turret well forward in the hull, the fighting crew compartment behind that and a small troop bay for a single fireteam at the very rear of the vehicle. Armament is focussed on the Armscor 50mm MDC, capable of firing both anti-armour and anti-personnel projectiles, chosen primarily because it met Captain de Kuy’s requirements for the main gun, but also because it was readily available, being the secondary weapon on the Rhino heavy tracklayer. Beside the MDC the turret also mounts the Azanian 9mm R90 Gauss HMG and a license-built Verlet Defender PDS which was already standard on a range of Azanian vehicles. The standard armament suite is completed by vertical launch silos for six Umkhonto dual role anti-vehicle missiles, capable of engaging both ground and air targets. The position of the VL silos on either side of the rear troop bay means that no weapon ports are provided to the sides of the vehicle, although there is a single port in the rear ramp. A large roof-hatch is fitted above the troop bay, with skate mounts for the fireteam’s integral SAW and plasma-gun provided. Use of the roof-hatch automatically locks-out the firing circuits to the Umkhonto VLS cells to protect the infantry from launch efflux, this is judged acceptable as the missiles are a medium/extended range weapon system while the infantry weapons would only be used at close-range. Careful examination will show that the commonly seen attachment points for extra armour are also wired with a control circuit. This is at the insistence of Captain de Kuy, who had witnessed the effectiveness of extemporaneous AP measures, such as securing directional mines to the side armour, for vehicles swarmed by Kafer infantry. With dedicated command circuitry, each mounting point can easily become a single-shot anti-personnel system, although care must be taken to ensure only enemy personnel are within the blast zones. A low-cost conversion kit has been produced allowing Azanian Askari directional mines to be mounted on these positions and the command-circuitry to use them is being added to other ADF vehicles.
Platoon Commanders vehicles are fitted with a launch pad and the command interface for a Blouvalk drone on the rear decking. This prevents use of the roof hatch while the drone is onboard, but the long endurance of the Blouvalk means that it spends the vast majority of operations airborne.
Like the original Luki-VII the Boomslang has only limited jump-jet capability, but the Azanian Army considers jump-jet manouvering to have strictly limited applicability on the modern battlefield, especially when pursuing foot-mobile raiding parties. In recognition of the possibility of pursuits extending over considerable distances, the hull is plumbed for drop tanks and each Boomslang company is scheduled to receive a support platoon equipped with logistics carriers derived from the old Kudu APC. While not up to refuelling and re-arming on the move, the Kudu logistics vehicles incorporate a large manipulator capable of changing out the main gun’s ammo cassette in less than 30 seconds. Each logistics vehicle will carry two complete ammo loads, plus enough fuel to completely resupply a five vehicle Boomslang platoon.
Boomslang companies are intended to contain four, five vehicle, platoons. This gives each platoon a strength of 20 dismounts, not really enough to mount a deliberate assault on a defended position, but more than enough to deploy a blocking force in front of an enemy who will then be caught in a hovermobile ambush.
50mm GT70 Mass Driver Cannon
The GT70 MDC is an indigenous Azanian weapon system, but in a successful example of cooperative development uses the same ammunition as the British L88A1 51mm MDC which was developed over a similar timescale. The sole difference in the two ammunition series is that the Azanian produced rounds use a slightly narrower driver ring. In practice this means that British vehicles can use Azanian ammunition with about a 10% reduction in effective range, but that Azanian vehicles cannot use British ammunition. So far this has proved no more than a minor irritant. As a contingency measure both nations have qualified each other’s ammunition plants to produce both variants of ammunition and in fact Azanian units on Joi are being supplied from a British plant in New Cornwall. In comparison to the L88A1 the GT70 is slightly lighter and has a slightly less capable fire control computer, but has negligible difference in ballistic performance. On the Boomslang Hover Fighting Vehicle the GT70 is used in a dual-feed configuration, with one forty round cassette usually loaded with APSE and the other with thermobaric rounds, with other rounds loaded manually, on the Rhino heavy tank the GT70 is fed from a single 150 round tank, but incorporates an intelligent feed mechanism capable of selecting any round in the system.
Type: 50mm Mass Driver Cannon
Weight (empty): 950kg with +2 fire control
Length: 175cm (tube)
Ammunition: 50mm shell
Muzzle Velocity: 1900mps
Magazine Weight: 1.8kg shell
Aimed Fire Range: 2000m
Area Fire Burst: 1.0 (= 10 Rounds)
Area Fire Range: 1000m
9mm R90 Gauss HMG
South Africa’s standard HMG, the Reutech R90 has proven very reliable in service and there are absolutely no concerns about the performance of its 9mm HEAP flechette. A field tripod is available, but rarely used because of the weight of the weapon, the vast majority of R90s being vehicle mounted. On the Boomslang the R90 feeds from a turret mounted 1000 round cassette and is powered from the vehicle’s power system
Type: 9mm Gauss HMG
Weight: 15.5 kg (unloaded, gun only), 12Kg (tripod)
Action: Single Shots or Bursts
Ammunition: 9x55mm HEAP flechette
Muzzle Velocity: 1500mps
Magazine: 150 rnd cassette with integral power cell
Magazine Weight: 0.3 kg
Aimed Fire Range: 950m
Area Fire Burst: 20 ( AFV = 2)
Area Fire Range: 750m
DP Value: 1.2
Price: Lv 2550 (Lv20 per cassette)
Azania’s standard heavy AVM, the Umkhonto is unusual in being a dual-role AVM/SAM, the combination of requirements meaning that it is unusually fast for an AVM, with a particularly potent homing capability, but also that the warhead is lighter, and therefore less powerful than on similar weapons. Azania seems happy with the tradeoffs, but other nations remain to be convinced. A tripod mounting is available for the weapons platoons of Light Infantry units, although the weight of the individual missiles means that a transport vehicle is essential. The tripod is fitted for remote control from up to 100m using the standard Azanian combat helmet command interface, or at twice that distance using the firing post (which has the optronic sensors needed to use the full range of the missile). When relying solely on the helmet command interface the engagement range of the Umkhonto is limited to 3Km versus vehicles or 5Km versus air targets.
Type: Heavy Anti-Vehicle Missile
Launcher weight: 20kg (twin tube field tripod) + 10 Kg (Firing post)
Missile weight: 50kg
Guidance: Automatic, automatic following gunner lock on, or guided by gunner
Homing value: 24
Attack angle: selectable
Damage: As tamped explosion (EP = 30)
Price: Not available
Missile speed: 3000 mps
Missile endurance: 5 seconds
Named for the Askari wa Kifaru (‘the Rhino’s Guard’) the Swahili term for the tick-eating Oxpecker bird found living cooperatively with many of Azania’s large ungulates, the Askari serves both as a conventional directional mine and as a vehicle mounted close-defence weapon. It may be command-detonated, or fused by optronic, pressure or trip-wire detonators. Compared to similar weapons, such as the British Lochaber, the Askari throws more, but lighter fragments, as heavy personnel armour is unusual on the African Veldt.
Type: Anti-personnel Mine
Endurance: 7 days operations
DP Value: Burst Radius = 10m, DPV per fragment = 0.5/ 0.3
Rules. 100%/50% chance of 4D6 hits in direction of detonation (60 degree arc) in burst/twice burst radius. 30%/10% in other directions.
The Blouvalk is the standard tactical UAV used by Azanian second line forces. A freewing design driven by a shrouded propfan, it is capable of autonomous vertical take-off and landing from the back of any combat vehicle with sufficient deck space, or from the ground if required. Optronic sensors are austere, but adequate for second-line roles, the vehicle’s datalink can feed into any available node of the standard Azanian combat information systems network. The vehicle has a simple command interface, being able to fly either grid patterns, patrol lines or maintain continuous surveillance of a designated target (even a moving one) without operator intervention. Unusually for a tactical level drone the Blouvalk is armed, a cassette in the belly behind the optronic sensor holding 10 munitions derived from the standard Azanian 30mm rifle grenade. The munitions can engage any target within 100 metres of the vehicle’s track, but this requires active operator control.
Copyright 2004, David Gillon