Improvised fighting vehicle

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A US Army Willys M38A1 with a rear-mounted M40 recoilless rifle at the Overloon War Museum.

An improvised fighting vehicle is ad hoc combat vehicle resulting from modified, added or upgraded civilian or military non-combat vehicle by civilians or rebels or some unofficial army like guerrilla or resistant movement. Such modifications usually consist of the grafting of armour plating and weapon systems.

Various militias and official military's have improvised such vehicles, ever since the introduction of the first automobiles into military service.

During the early days, the absence of a doctrine for the military use of automobiles or of an industry dedicated to producing them, lead to much improvisation in the creation of early armoured cars, and other such vehicles.

Later, despite the advent of arms industries in many countries, several armies still resorted to using ad hoc contraptions, often in response to unexpected military situations, or as a result of the development of new tactics for which no available vehicle was suitable.

The construction of improvised fighting vehicles may also reflect a lack of means for the force that uses them. This is especially true in developing countries, where various armies and guerrilla forces have used them, as they are more affordable than military-grade combat vehicles.

Early use[edit]

Guinness Improvised Armored Car, Dublin 1916.

An early improvised fighting vehicle was constructed for the British Army in Dublin during the Easter Rising in 1916. It was made from a three-ton Daimler truck commandeered from the Dublin Guinness brewery. An armoured body was mounted on the truck, built from the smokeboxes of several steam locomotives. The body had loopholes cut in it for riflemen to fire through and was painted with black spots that acted as dummy loopholes to confuse snipers. A steel box protected the truck driver and steel plating covered the truck radiator.

Construction took less than one day at the Great Southern Railways workshop. After the rising, the locomotive parts were returned to the railway and the truck returned to its owners.

World War II[edit]

SAS jeeps[edit]

'L' Detachment SAS in their armed jeeps.

Created during the North African Campaign of World War II, the Special Air Service specialised in carrying out hit-and-run attacks, in particular against Axis airfields. As no vehicle was adapted to this kind of mission, the SAS were forced to build their own. Heavily modified Lend-Lease jeeps became the trademark weapon of the SAS. The windscreens, and sometimes the bumper were removed, in order to save weight and permit an extra payload to be carried. The radiator grille bars were often removed to allow more airflow to better cool the engine in the hot desert climate. Different weapons arrays were carried, including different combinations of various Browning and Vickers K machine guns according to available supply.

The SAS jeeps were used during the whole North African Campaign, and later in Europe, where they were used for sabotage missions behind enemy lines.

NI Tanks[edit]

Main article: NI Tank
See also: KhTZ-16

An improvised Soviet armoured fighting vehicle, based on an STZ-5 agricultural tractor, manufactured in Odessa during the early stages of World War II. The NI Tank's name is an abbreviation of "Na Ispug" (Russian: На Испуг), which literally translates to "for fear". It was also called the "Odessa tank" and "Terror Tank".

Kubuś[edit]

Main article: Kubuś

An improvised armoured car built on a Chevrolet truck chassis by the Polish resistance Home Army in 1944.

Modern times[edit]

Technicals[edit]

Main article: Technical (vehicle)

Typically a civilian or military non-combat vehicle, modified to provide an offensive capability. It is usually an open-backed civilian pickup truck or 4x4 on which is mounted a recoilless rifle, a machine gun, a light anti-aircraft gun, or another relatively small weapons system.

The term "technical" used to describe such a vehicle appears to have originated in Somalia. The name is thought to have derived from use by the Red Cross there who were often forced to bribe local militias or be the victim of robbery and attacks. The money used for the bribe was then written off as "technical expenses". They are also known as battlewagons[1] and gunwagons.[2]

Among irregular armies, often centered around the perceived strength and charisma of warlords, the prestige power of technicals is strong. According to one article, "The Technical is the most significant symbol of power in southern Somalia. It is a small truck with large tripod machine guns mounted on the back. A warlord's power is measured by how many of these vehicles he has."[3]

Gun trucks[edit]

Main article: Gun truck

An improvised military armoured vehicle used by units of regular armies or other official government armed forces, based on a conventional cargo truck, that is able to carry a large weight of weapons and armor. They have poor off-road performance, so have mainly been used by regular armies to escort military convoys in regions subject to ambush by guerrilla forces.

See also[edit]

References[edit]