At the late 1970s when the Rhodesian Bush War was entering its final phase, the Rhodesian Security Forces (SF) were faced with an escalation towards conventional warfare when they heard that an armoured built-up was being undertaken by the ZIPRA guerrilla organization based in neighbouring Zambia with material help from the Soviet Union. Eventually, by mid-1979 ZIPRA had brought to strength a fairly sizeable armoured corps trained by Cuban advisors, which aligned five BRDM-2 4x4 reconnaissance armoured cars, six to 10 T-34/85 tanks and 15 BTR-152 6x6 wheeled APCs. To deal with the potential threat of a possible conventional ground invasion from across the border, the Rhodesian Armoured Car Regiment (RhACR) was reorganized in 1978, being expanded to corps strength to include additional tank and mechanized infantry squadrons. It soon became clear however, that the latter had to be provided with fast, more mobile troop-carrying vehicles (TCV) designed for conventional armoured warfare. The heavier home-grown TCVs – conceived primarily for the counterinsurgency role – already in service with the Rhodesian SF were found to be not entirely suitable for the task so a lighter (and cheaper) alternative was sought.
The Bullet was originally developed by the Rhodesian private firm Zambesi Coachworks Ltd of Salisbury (now Harare) to meet a requirement put by the Rhodesian Army for a low-cost mine-protected IFV mounted on a Unimog chassis capable of carrying 10 men. The first prototype was completed in late 1978 (open-topped in the original design).
The second prototype presented in 1978 was a low vehicle which consisted of an all-welded body with a fully enclosed troop compartment built on a modified Mercedes-Benz U1100 Unimog 416 2.5 ton light truck chassis. The hull or ‘capsule’ was faceted at the sides and rear, and a sloping glacis at the front, designed to deflect small-arms’ rounds, along with a v-shaped bottom meant to deflect landmine blasts. The Diamond-shaped glacis had a pair of built-in round headlights at the sides of the radiator grid, a large dual-split front windscreen and two smaller side windows of bullet-proof laminated glass. Access to the vehicle’s interior was made by means of two medium-sized doors at the hull rear whilst two roof hatches placed at the top of the troop compartment allowed for rapid debussing plus eight firing ports, six in the hull sides and two at the rear doors.
After being rejected, it ended the war as a training vehicle for the RhACR and it was shown to the editor of Soldier of Fortune Magazine, Robert K. Brown in early 1979.
- Peter Gerard Locke & Peter David Farquharson Cooke, Fighting Vehicles and Weapons of Rhodesia 1965-80, P&P Publishing, Wellington 1995 ISSN 0-473-02413-6
- Robert K. Brown, The Black Devils, Soldier of Fortune Magazine, January 1979
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