Biafran Amoured tank (the red devils)

The Engineering Feat of Defunct Biafran Research and Production Group (RAP)

The Red devil and Genocide Armoured tanks, and the Ogbunigwe bombs are some of the greatest indigenous military engineering that has come out from Nigeria and the Biafran Research and Production group (RAP) is the greatest indigenous research, development and production organisation ever established in Nigeria.

They Red devil, Genocide, and Ogbunigwe are war weapons that were locally fabricated by RAP of the then Biafran Republic during the Nigerian civil war also known as the Biafran war (July 6, 1967 – January 15, 1970), a war the Nigerian government fought against Biafra to counter Biafra’s secession from the Republic of Nigeria.

Biafran Research and Production group (RAP)

According to the article, The Making of Arms in Civil War Biafra, 1967-1970, published in The Calabar Historical Journal, the Biafran army started the war with just reconditioned Mauser bolt-action rifle, supported by small quantities of machine-pistols, sub-machine guns, light and heavy machine guns, and pistols. Mortar barrels and bombs, artillery pieces and shells.

The duty of making weapons and other machines needed to win the war was assigned to RAP. The RAP group led by the renowned Professor Gordian Ezekwe was comprised of men and women with scientific and technological background, formal and informal, who invested their devotion and patriotism to conduct research and fabricate essential material for the prosecution of the war. They were saddled with the task of technological innovation, copy technological creativity and improvisation under extreme privation.

The members of the RAP were teachers from the Universities, Colleges of Technology and Secondary Schools; research scientists from research and technical establishments; scientists, technologists, and craftsmen from various public services, such as Railways, Ports Authority, Electricity Corporation, Petroleum Refinery and Geological Surveys; engineers and technicians from the private sector such as Shell BP, United Africa Company (UAC) etc; and ordinary artisans, craftsmen and mechanics.

In the beginning of the war members of the RAP group operated as two distinct independent groups – the Enugu Group and the Port Harcourt group. The Enugu group was dominated by university scientist from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) and the Port Harcourt Group was led by engineers and technicians from Shell-BP and other industrial establishments around Port Harcourt. The group came together when Enugu fell to the Nigerian army.

The Biafran Red Devil Amoured Vehicles

RAP fabricated armoured vehicles nicknamed the Biafran Red Devil and Genocide from agricultural tractors, bulldozers and harvesters. The Red Devil were fabricated to suit operational difficulties – types A1-A5, B, C, and D, but the armoured vehicles could not endure the heavy stresses and strains needed for a challenging military operation demanded in warfare. According to Professor Kalu Uka of the University of Uyo in an interview, they lacked speed and suffered frequently from overheating.

Biafra Red Devil – TYPE A was the first armoured vehicle built by RAP

Biafra Red Devil – TYPE B is an Amoured Personnel Carrier

Biafran Amoured tank (the red devils) Type C (saladin)

Biafra Red Devil – TYPE C: The idea behind type C was to make it function like the popular Saladin armoured vehicle. Saladin is a type of armoured vehicle that can shoot and rotate at the same time. This attempt to copy the Saladin was unsuccessful with the TYPE C.

Biafran Amoured tank (the red devils) Type D (saladin)

Biafra Red Devil – TYPE D: the attempt to imitate the Saladin was still unsuccessful with the TYPE D. RAP then came up with an idea to put holes by the side of the armoured vehicles, and had soldiers shoot from those holes to give the enemy the impression that the armoured vehicle was rotating.

Ogbunigwe (Mass Killer)

The most outstanding innovation of the RAP group was the Ogbunigwe (literally translated to mean mass killer). Ogbunigwe was based on the physics of the “Monroe effect“. It killed and maimed by wave effect percussion and dispersal of shrapnel.

The Ogbunigwe was fabricated in various shapes and sizes to act as rockets, hand grenades and mines. The shape of the Ogbunigwe was determined by the military objective to be achieved. As such, the Ogbunigwe could be deployed as a hand grenade, a land mine or a surface to air weapon.

Biafran Grenade Launcher

Biafran Grenade Launcher

The different types of Ogbunigwe included the Beer Ogbunigwe (hand grenade), the Foot-Cutter Ogbunigwe (land mine), the Coffin Box Ogbunigwe (land mine), the Bucket Ogbunigwe, and the Flying Ogbunigwe (surface to air weapon).

Flying Ogbunigwe (surface to air weapon)

Flying Ogbunigwe (surface to air weapon)

Some argue that war induce men to stretch their technological limits, force states to restructure social systems along lines most conducive to producing and developing weapons.

The RAP group however, researched, developed and produced powerful bombs, grenade launchers, petroleum refinery, mobile artillery machines and armoured vehicles in just 30 months, with little material and low-level of government attention (in terms of capital investment), in a hostile environment.

This feat of the Biafran RAP group is a good example of creativity, innovation, productivity and effective management that is lacking in Nigeria today.

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