A reconnaissance vehicle, also known as a scout vehicle, is a military vehicle used for forward reconnaissance. Both tracked and wheeled reconnaissance vehicles are in service. In some nations, light tanks such as the M551 Sheridan and AMX-13 are also used by scout platoons. Reconnaissance vehicles are usually designed with a low profile or small size and are lightly armoured, relying on speed and cover to escape detection. Their armament ranges from a medium machine gun to a large cannon. Modern examples are often fitted with ATGMs and a wide range of sensors.
Smaller caliber weapons help reduce the vehicle's profile and noise signatures. In contrast, French doctrine was to fit reconnaissance vehicles, such as the EBR and the AMX 10 RC, with the heaviest weaponry possible on their light chassis, so as to allow them a further role for defence of the flanks.
During World War II, the British generally used armoured cars for reconnaissance, from the machinegun armed Humber Light Reconnaissance Car and Daimler Dingo to the 6-pdr (57 mm) gun equipped AEC Armoured Car. Post war the British Army used the Ferret and later, Fox scout cars.
The U.S. and UK experimented with the Future Scout and Cavalry System (FSCS) and Tactical Reconnaissance Armoured Combat Equipment Requirement (TRACER) programs in the 2000s aimed at creating a stealth reconnaissance vehicle capable of C-130 airlift.
Prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Iraqi Army placed an emphasis on the use of light wheeled vehicles for reconnaissance, particularly Soviet-manufactured BRDM-2 and French-designed Panhard AML armoured cars. Each corps had an attached BRDM or AML battalion. These were allocated by division; every brigade headquarters and regular infantry battalion received a platoon of six. The Iraqis did not make competent use of these assets during the Gulf War, opting to depend on signals intelligence against the comparatively sophisticated Coalition.
South African expeditionary forces in Angola also employed wheeled reconnaissance vehicles for their strategic and tactical mobility, sometimes engaging Angolan units up to brigade strength. Scout cars such as the Eland Mk7 were used to lure hostile T-34s or T-54/55s into prepared ambushes, where they were destroyed by heavier vehicles, ATGMs, and artillery.
Reconnaissance of enemy positions can involve firing upon the enemy in hopes of receiving return fire that gives away the enemy's position. This can make the reconnaissance vehicle vulnerable to return fire that may destroy the vehicle before the enemy's position can be relayed.
List of contemporary reconnaissance vehicles
- Alvis Saladin
- AMX-10 RC
- D-442 FÚG
- EE-3 Jararaca
- EE-9 Cascavel
- ERC 90 Sagaie
- / Fennek
- FV101 Scorpion
- FV102 Striker
- FV107 Scimitar
- Mowag Spy
- Otokar Cobra
- Panhard AML
- RBY MK 1
- RG-35 4x4 RPU
- Schützenpanzer SPz 11-2 Kurz
- Spähpanzer Luchs
- Namco Tiger
- Véhicule Blindé Léger
- "return fire"
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