Pookie Power!

When the US military began taking massive casaulties to IEDs in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, the ever-and-always technologically minded DoD looked to procure the latest hot-topic (and expensive) anti-mine toys. The Air Force insisted that their sleek fighter jets could be used in a mine-detection role, while the Army and Marines ordered thousands of new MRAPs for mine detection, convoy duty, and road clearing.
pookie2.jpgSometimes it helps to look backwards instead of forwards. Enter the Rhodesian Pookie, an ugly little contraption that helped clear roads and highways during the Rhodesian Bush War of the 1970s. The Pookie was invented as a response to the influx of Soviet mines, by way of ZANU and ZIPRA black liberation movements, into the Rhodesian theater. With it’s light weight evenly distributed over wide Formula-1 racing tires, the Pookie carried nothing more than a slanted, v-shaped armored cab for a driver and a large mine-detector centered beneath the vehicle’s undercarriage. Only five were ever constructed, but despite small numbers, Rhodesian Pookies cleared thousands of miles of deadly mines, saving untold civilian lives.
Of course the Pookie would have been decimated in modern Iraq or Afghanistan, where radio controlled IEDS -not mines- ruled the roads. But that’s not the point. The Pookie, though inadequate for today’s fight, was a fine example of an easy military solution to a complex military problem.
Such is the lesson inherent in its design and deployment, best illustrated by DaVinci’s an old maxim: simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
–John Noonan

  • stephen russell

    Time to reuse & recycle this for our forces in Iraq.
    More jobs.

  • Bill

    There are currently 2 EOD vehicles that surpasse this design that have been in use in Iraq since 2004. One is the Meerkat (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ground/ivmmd.htm) and the other is the Buffalo (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ground/gstamids-0.htm). The Meerkat looks alot like the pookie and is very capable, has only one occupant and can hall an array of detectors and bomb handling equipment that the occupant can control inside a V-hull shaped cabin. It can also tow some trailers with more equipment for mine/IED clearing. The Buffalo can seat six and has a 30 foot extendable arm with a scoop type claw and a zoom camera at the end for remote close up shots. Both of these vehicles are of South African design, born from the same problems with hidden mines. I’m not sure of the Meerkat, but the Buffalo is currently built in the US

  • Wembley

    Although it’s in popular circulation, that’s not a real Da Vinci quote –

  • tesla

    It’s pretty impressive what countries like Rhodesia and South Africa were able to develop with very limited budgets. There are a lot of lessons that can be learned from studying these countries.

  • Andre

    History – the source of knowledge… ;-)
    It never hearts to look back and see if someone already invented the WHEEL, doesn’t it?

  • Gary Smith

    I was one of the engineers who worked on the Pookie in the bush war. There were considerably more than 5 Pookies built – probably closer to 20.

  • Tim Lambon

    Trevor Davies Engineering, Salisbury (now Harare)manufactured the Pookie. Between ’76 and ’80 they built 76 vehicles and I don’t think any of them detonated a mine. However, twelve were destroyed in ambushes and the like, with two fatalities – one from an RPG strike and the other a remotely detonated TMH43.
    I operated with one of these in Op Thrasher, Zimunya around Easter of ’78 and then on numerous occasions thereafter. It’s greatest drawback was the drag created by the wide Formula 1 tyres. You couldn’t turn the steering wheel to abruptly of the steering tie rods would bend and you’d end up incapacitated with one wheel at right angles to the axis of travel! In the end the drivers started carrying multiple spares of the tie rods as the repair was a quick operation!
    Interestingly I’ve operated a lot in Iraq through the years before and since the 2003 invasion and was interested to watch the slow adaption of the US forces to their un-anticipated battlefield conditions. I first saw the Meerkat and knew immediately that it’s origins were back on the dusty tracks we drove in Rhodesia! That the Meerkat that the US is using now is made for them by the South African defence industry RSD Dorbyl, can leave us in no doubt that all these years later Rhodesia has had a role to play in modern warfare!

  • Terry Wilkins

    I was interested to find information regarding the Pookie as I have a photograph of myself with one at a BSAP bush camp, the location of which is lost in my failing memory! I had previously not come across any mention of this rare vehicle.

  • Mark Craig

    I agree with Gary Smith. I also operated a Pookie for some time and there were most definitely more than 5!

    Anyone interested in learning more about the Rhodesian Bush War is welcome to join my website:

    There are plenty of references to our vehicles and tactics there. Many photos too.

    I also have a blog which recalls my days as a Rhodesian and later South African Combat Engineer.

    Hope to see some of you there.