A scout car is a purpose-built wheeled light armored vehicle utilized for passive reconnaissance. Scout cars are either unarmed or lightly armed for self-defense and do not carry large caliber weapons systems. This differentiates them from armored cars carrying heavier armament or wheeled infantry fighting vehicles, both of which may also be used in the reconnaissance role.[note 1] Scout cars are usually restricted in terms of doctrine to carrying out observation tasks while remaining undetected. Armies which adopted the concept were likelier to place an emphasis on reconnaissance by stealth, unlike others which preferred more heavily armed reconnaissance vehicles designed to fight for information if necessary.
The term "scout car" first entered widespread use in the 1930s as an official United States Army designation for any wheeled armored vehicle developed specifically for the reconnaissance role. Following the US entry into World War II, US officials clarified that the term would not extend to heavier wheeled reconnaissance vehicles fitted with turreted weapons systems, such as the M8 Greyhound. In this context, "scout car" meant a four-wheeled, often open-topped armored car which was unarmed or only fitted with a single light or general-purpose machine gun for self-defense. Under US doctrine, scout cars were only to be used for short-range reconnaissance missions.
The US abandoned the concept of scout cars after the war on the basis that the vehicles' armored status tempted crews to emulate tank tactics. In violation of doctrinal principles, American scout car crews often engaged hostile positions rather than merely reconnoitering them, a recurring issue that resulted in heavy losses and interfered with a reconnaissance unit's ability to observe the battlefield. One solution proposed by US officials was to further reduce the armor levels on the already lightly protected scout cars, which would compel crews to resist the temptation of using them as combat vehicles. This was not considered practical in the long run, however, and the US eventually replaced all its scout cars with unarmored utility vehicles such as the jeep.
In 1940, the British Army defined a "scout car" as an armored car utilized for observation, intelligence-gathering, and other elements of passive reconnaissance. The scout car's original role in British doctrine was to probe forward and report on the enemy's disposition before conducting a hasty withdrawal. The first British vehicle to receive this designation was the Daimler Dingo. After the war, this role was filled by the Daimler Ferret. The use of scout cars in British service was gradually superseded by more heavily armed vehicles serving in the light reconnaissance role, such as the FV721 Fox armored car.
Some nations followed the US lead in abandoning the scout car concept in favor of unarmored vehicles; for example, the Danish Army concurred with that trend because it found the jeep and an open-topped model of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class more useful for allowing scouts to observe enemy movements without being detected. Armored vehicles were evaluated negatively because their hulls reduced situational awareness, and increased the temptation for the crew to remain mounted or engage in combat with the enemy, contrary to Danish reconnaissance doctrine. In other armies which espoused a reconnaissance doctrine emphasizing combat over observation, the scout car niche simply never emerged; for example, French reconnaissance units embraced light armored vehicles like the Panhard EBR and Panhard AML-90 which were heavily armed because they encouraged scouts to engage enemy units and force them to deploy. The Brazilian Army rejected the scout car due to a combination of these factors; it preferred heavier, six-wheeled armored cars like the M8 Greyhound (and subsequently, the EE-9 Cascavel) for traditional reconnaissance and found unarmored jeeps adequate for secondary reconnaissance tasks.
During the early 1940s, Red Army doctrine did not recognize a unique niche for the scout car, and the Soviets were likelier to favor heavier, six-wheeled vehicles. Light wheeled armored vehicles utilized for reconnaissance included the BA-20, but its weight and poor mobility limited its usefulness. This led to the replacement of the BA-20 by the Soviet Union's first dedicated scout car design, the BA-64. In the postwar era, Soviet scout cars such as the BRDM-1 and BRDM-2 were attached on the divisional level and deployed for screening and long-range probing actions. The scout cars were complemented in Soviet reconnaissance battalions by specialized variants of the BMP-1 or BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles, which were able to reconnoiter much more aggressively and engage hostile armor as needed.
By the late Cold War era, the scout car concept had gained popularity and recognition among armies all over world. Examples of scout cars common during this period include the Soviet BRDM series, the British Ferret, the Brazilian EE-3 Jararaca, the Hungarian D-442 FÚG, and the American Cadillac Gage Commando Scout.
Notes and references
- Green, Michael (2017). Allied Armoured Fighting Vehicles of the Second World War. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-1473872370.
- Dougherty, Martin J. Modern Weapons: Compared and Contrasted: Armored Fighting Vehicles (2012 ed.). Rosen Central. pp. 34–36. ISBN 978-1448892440.
- Van Oosbree, Gerard (July–August 1999). "Dutch and Germans Agree to Build "Fennek" Light Reconnaissance Vehicle". Armor magazine. Fort Knox, Kentucky: US Army Armor Center: 34.
- Mechanized Cavalry 1936
- To fight or not to fight? Organizational and Doctrinal Trends in Mounted Maneuver Reconnaissance from the Interwar Years to Operation IRAQI FREEDOM
- Bishop, Denis; Ellis, Chris (1980). Vehicles at War. Crows Nest, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin, Publishers. pp. 102–105. ISBN 978-0046230128.
- Foss, Christopher (1986). Battlefield: The Weapons of Modern Land Warfare. London: Orbis Book Publishing, Incorporated. pp. 89–91. ISBN 978-0681400450.
- Marzloff, Jean (July–August 1973). "Light Armored Units: The Quiet Revolution". Armor magazine. Fort Knox, Kentucky: US Army Armor Center: 7–9.
- Andersen, Christian (July–August 1991). "How Denmark's Army Uses Light Unarmored Vehicles for Reconnaissance". Armor magazine. Fort Knox, Kentucky: US Army Armor Center: 36–40.
- Bastos, Carlos Stephani (2012). "EE-3 Jararaca 4x4 Um Conceito Esquecido" (PDF). Juiz de Fora: Federal University of Juiz de Fora. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 August 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
- Hogg, Ian V.; Perrett, Bryan (1989). Encyclopedia of the Second World War. Harlow, UK: Longman. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-582-89328-3.
- The Fundamentals of Soviet 'Razvedka' (Intelligence/Reconnaissance)
- Chant, Christopher (1987). A Compendium of Armaments and Military Hardware. New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul. pp. 28–38. ISBN 0-7102-0720-4. OCLC 14965544.