About Me

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I saw active service in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Force. I was the founder of the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes in 1989 and its chairman until I left in 1997. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime. EO also operated in South America and the Far East. I believe that only Africans (Black and White) can truly solve Africa’s problems. I was appointed Chairman of STTEP International in 2009 and also lecture at military colleges and universities in Africa on defence, intelligence and security issues. Prior to the STTEP International appointment, I served as an independent politico-military advisor to several African governments. Until recently, I was a contributing editor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


When I recently got the opportunity to revisit the Puma and go on a test drive, I gladly accepted it. Apart from being very impressed with what I experienced, I also got a lot of new information on this very versatile vehicle.

The Puma offers a very viable and cost-effective alternative to the ageing Casspir and Mamba APC’s. Not only does the Puma offer mine/blast protection equal to that of the Mamba, it offers superior ballistic protection over both the Casspir and the Mamba.

The Puma M26 MPV is an evolutionary development of the Puma 4x2 MPV that is in service in Iraq where it proved its crew survivability during Improvised Explosive Device (IED) incidents.

As an MPV/MRAP, Puma is designed to carry a section of 8 plus a driver and vehicle commander (total of 10 occupants). The modular interior layout can, at additional costs, be changed to re-configure the vehicle for any one of the following roles:

1. Command and control vehicle
2. Tactical ambulance with one stretcher or four sitting patients plus first line/tactical medical equipment
3. A 6-seater tactical patrol vehicle
4. A tactical fire-support vehicle with 60mm mortar and 40mm AGL/heavy machinegun.

Some basic technical specifications on the Puma are as follows:

1. Crew: 10 (2+8)
2. Maximum Gross Vehicle Mass: 8 000 kg
3. Drive: Selectable 4x4
4. Steering wheel orientation: Right hand drive. Left Hand drive is available at no additional cost
5. Ballistic protection: 7,62 x 51mm NATO Ball and 5,56 x 45mm NATO Ball (B6+/ STANAG Level 1)
6. Mine protection: 8kg TNT anywhere under the vehicle and 10kg TNT under any wheel
7. Entrance doors: One rear plus two side doors in driver’s compartment
8. Roof hatches: 2 on the rear part of the roof. The hatch doors open to the outside of the roof and can be locked in the closed, vertical or horizontal positions
9. Gunner’s hatch: A round gunner’s hatch with optional 3600 cupola ring with (optional) NATO type fitting for a pintle mounted light (or medium) machine gun is fitted on the roof
10. Firing ports. A total of 11 firing ports are fitted in the hull
11. Radio fitments. Universal racks and fitments for two radios are fitted
12. Rifle brackets. Two OTT designed universal rifle brackets are fitted in the driver’s compartment
13. Wheels: Total of 5 (4 plus 1 spare)
14. Air conditioner. High capacity air conditioner is fitted as standard.

Armies who face the threat of IEDs and landmines on a daily basis or who find their vehicle movement under constant ambush will do well to consider the Puma.

Personally, I believe that this vehicle will make a massive impact on the battlefield and aid in troop-survivability.


tyhz1995 said...

Good evening Mr.Barlow.How peppy is the engine?Is it fast enough to disengage for example?Also what exactly are it's limitations?Could it withstand RPG fire?After all you and I both know these days the bad guys are likely using Soviet bloc matiriel and though heavy duty anti tank rockets are out there they are not so common.Frankly I was appalled at the decision to send the Humvee into Iraq and doubtless many young men were killed.I knew that you gents had extensive experience w/mine resistant vehicles and thought they should buy some.I have to ask sir.What is life like for a white South African these days?I have met a great many expats from SA.I don't mean to offend and ask because I am curious and think the US is changing in a somewhat similar fashion.-Tyler

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

The engine is a Cummins diesel 6BTAA 5,9-20, 6 cylinder in-line turbo, Tyler. With a displacement of 5 883 cc (maximum power – 108kW at 2 500 rpm and a maximum torque of 500Nm at 1 500rpm) I think it is powerful enough.

There are not many vehicles that will withstand RPG fire but bear in mind that this is not an Infantry Fighting Vehicle but an MPV/MRAP. I believe that the use of vehicles in COIN operations needs to be re-thought as many infantrymen want to ride everywhere. This in itself makes them predictable and routine- and road-bound, something insurgents can use to their advantage. In turn, this creates a perception of an enlarged insurgent footprint. For that reason, vehicle tactics should be constantly reassessed to reduce ambush possibilities. Again, and as far as I am concerned, the importance of re-adjusting strategies and all tactics in a COIN campaign are vitally important.

I must confess that I was appalled to see the deployment of soft-skinned vehicles such as Humvees and others in the conflicts the US has embarked on. What that tells me is that there was a level of unpreparedness on the side of the US – and others – as regards COIN conflicts.

Life is what we make of it. As a white South African, I note things that I am not happy with and things I am happy with. But, at the end of the day, I am a South African and Africa is where I live. We can either sit on our bums and bemoan our fate and go out and try to make the best we can of life. I, like many others of different colours, chose to try to do something. Sometimes, the grass looks greener on the other side but that is because we chose to view the other side through coloured lenses.



John said...

Hi Eeben

No offence to anyone, but maybe you should at some point explain the use off and the difference between an Infantry Fighting Vehicle and a MPV.
I think most people are a bit confused here as to the different roles of the two categories of vehicles, and the role to which they should be assigned to in COIN ops.
The US and UK, by using the Humvee and Landrover created the wrong type of idea of how and what type of vehicle should be used for effective COIN operations.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A good point, John. I shall certainly do so in another posting. I do think you are correct in that there is confusion about the use of vehicles in COIN ops.

I also believe that by deploying these types of vehicles for COIN ops, leaders have created a mind-set which is very wrong. The COIN operation is essentially an infantryman’s operation – vehicles play a minor role. One thing one does not do during a COIN op is “patrol” in vehicles in a hostile area.



John said...

I agree with you on that very much. This is one of the reasons so many US service members have been killed or maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan, by making wrong use of their vehicles, and also by using the wrong vehicles.
I agree that patrolling with a vehicle in COIN operations can be very dangerous, but I have seen the “luxurious” ways in which most soldiers of today want to make war in, and I think changing tactics to patrolling by foot, will be a hard nut to crack!!
When vehicles are concerned the first questions usually are what’s the air conditioning like? I have heard this with my own ears in Iraq.
It will be back to the drawing board and basic training to change tactics to ones that actually work

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I know John and sadly, as you point out, this is but one reason the casualty figures are so high. Whereas vehicles have a role, there is a way in which to deploy them and tactics to follow.

I accept that the terrain is hot in more ways than one but air-conditioning should take second place to survivability. I believe that vehicles have a role to play but then they need to be correctly utilised. If I look at the PUMA fire-support vehicle, I can already hear people asking how one can air-condition the mortar firing position.

But, vehicles hold advantages and disadvantages. One should exploit the advantages and negate (where possible) the disadvantages.

I shall do that posting on IFVs versus MPV/MRAPs in the near future.



neilswart said...


I've only joint the blog yesterday after laying my hands on your book over the weekend. I'm halfway through and after years of not bothering to read any book, is finding this an enlightening experience. Congratulations!

I've been fortunate to work with a number of the names mentioned in your book and during the late 80's have been involved in the training of a several of those members. The untimely death of people such as Wayne Ross-Smith, Scheuries, Dolf van Tonder and "Klein Bez" is regrettable, but at least they died doing what they believed they where called for.

I look forward to your views on the IFV/MPV/APC concepts and seeing that I joint this late, would really like to contribute from an experience perspective.

On a lighter note - scanning through the comments of "Eet Kreef", I really smiled at the mere though of one of our friends abroad trying to translate/interpret that tongue twister!


Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the compliment re the book, Neil – it is much appreciated.

Losing men in the company was my greatest daily fear and not a day passes without me thinking of them. Those who made it back and those who did not were what really made the company what it was. I still believe that it was the greatest PMC ever and it is the only one that won two major wars – one semi-conventional and the other guerrilla/COIN - saved hundreds of thousands of lives, rescued hostages from terrorist movements and more.

Please do pass on your experience with MPVs/MRAPS – I shall in turn pass them on to the manufacturer who would no doubt like to contact you.