Armed jeeps (Gunjeeps) are a popular idea, and the inspiration is usually Stirling's SAS in North Africa. But there is more to making an effective fighting vehicle than just arming it. The finer points of the wartime SAS jeeps is often not recognized.
The jeeps were initially used in the desert, where engagement ranges were long and there was ample room to maneuver. Other unarmoured platforms, such as the Dodge machine-gun cars, could also be used under such conditions. When the SAS deployed in NW Europe their jeeps were fitted with armour protection. The memoirs of SAS and LRDG men reveal that they were acutely aware of now vulnerable they were, particularly when German armoured cars were spotted.
The SAS avoided fighting strong forces wherever possible. Since they operated far behind the lines enemy troops often assumed them to be friendly vehicles. (Initial contact drill was and still is to Smile and Wave). In NW Europe jeeps tended to stick to back roads or race past the enemy at speed if they were encountered.
SAS jeeps had considerably better armament than just the couple of GPMGs fitted to modern Gunjeeps. Each jeep had a forward firing Browning HMG or Twinned Vickers Ks. The driver had a single Vickers K and there was another twin Vickers mounting on the rear of the jeep. Each Vickers K had a cyclic rate of 1,200 rpm and it is claimed they could cut a truck in two at 50yrds.
The vehicles did not operate alone, but as part of a formation of at least six vehicles.
In other words, SAS gun-jeeps compensated for their lack of protection by a combination of firepower and mobility. The balance of firepower, mobility and protection is a familiar concept to tank designers but it should be appreciated that it applies to all combat vehicles. If a vehicle's mobility is decreased, for example by having to operate only on roads, then its level of protection and firepower must be increased. The wartime SAS are credited with making a considerable contribution to the balance of air power in North Africa. To quote Maj-Gen. Julian Thompson in "War Behind Enemy Lines":- "the number of aircraft destroyed personally by some SAS officers and men, attacking in cheap vehicles, maintained by a handful of fitters, far outweighed the personal score achieved by any aircrew, whose training was both long and costly, and who attacked in expensive aircraft maintained by large numbers of ground crew."
Popski's Private Army was another jeep mounted raiding force that operated both behind the lines and as a frontline force as part of the 27th Lancers. In the latter role they operated like a armoured car squadron, but mounted on jeeps. Popski's jeeps operated in six vehicle/ 16 man patrols, each jeep having a .30 and a .50 calibre browning and a smoke generator. One jeep in each patrol had a Wasp flame-thrower apparatus and the patrols also had a bazooka, 3" mortar and a pair of Bren guns. (information from "War Behind Enemy Lines", Julian Thompson). Roy MacGregor Paterson has informed me that he believes only one jeep was ever fitted with a Wasp Apparatus. This source states that patrols were of only 12 men.
The Postwar SAS used Land Rovers armed initially with a pair of GPMGs. By the time of the Gulf war one of these GPMGs had been replaced with either a BHMG, a Mk-19 or a Milan ATGW. By WW2 standards this armament still appears a little light and accounts of operations such as the attack on "Victor 2" (described in "Sabre Squadron" by Cameron Spence) seem to confirm this.
Fit additional machine guns to Milan equipped vehicles. A single GPMG should be placed amidships on each side of the vehicle so that it can cover a 180° arc.
Psychologically the Armed Jeep (or HMMWV or other Jeep-type vehicle) is an attractive idea. It embodies the seductive capabilities of both speed and firepower. How effective the Armed Jeep actually is for modern military operations is open to question. The modern artillery may not be much more powerful that the weapons used in World War Two, but there have been major improvements in fire-control, allowing barrages to be placed more accurately and in less time. The wide availablity of RPG and LAW type weapons in the modern world may make combat from a jeep-type platform impractical.
The recent use of HMMWVs in Iraq for urban operations and road patrols has tragically illustrated how vulnerable lightly armed and armoured vehicles can be without room to maneuver, a lesson that should have been learnt from Mogadishu. In Major Theatre Wars (MTW) such vehicles are unlikely to survive unless operating well to the rear or well forward beyond the main conflict areas. For Counter-Insurgency operations such vehicles will have to operate in terrain that allows them to maintain a distance of several hundred yards between them and likely ambush positions for RPG armed foes. There will still be a need to reconoiter such areas which suggests that the jeep-mounted force will need to incorporate some heavier armoured vehicles such as M113s.
It is probably prudent to consider any armament on jeep-type vehicles to be defensive rather than offensive in nature, and select systems accordingly. Smoke grenade dischargers and Vehicle Engine Exhaust Smoke Systems (VEESS) are obviously useful. Machine guns should be selected for their suppressive capability so a high rate of fire is probably preferable to sustained fire capability. Automatic Grenade launchers will be another useful system and it may be useful if the ammo belt includes a few flare and WP grenades to further disrupt the enemy's aim. FFAR rocket pods and 106mm Recoilless Rifles may prove more useful weapons for breaking contact than ATGWs since they do not require the vehicle to remain stationary while the missile flys to the target. The 106mm can use the LAHAT round if guided fire capability is needed.
A popular idea with some armies is a jeep, HMMWV or other light wheeled vehicle mounting an ATGM system such as TOW. While these are a (relatively) low-cost system I do wonder just how effective they actually are in practice. The claim is often that such a system can outrun tanks and its weapons out-range the tank. Modern ATGMs require the launch vehicle to remain stationary for both the launch and the guidance phase, giving tanks ample opportunity to return fire with their main guns. Standard practice with tankers is to engage missile launch sites with main gun fire. Published effective range for tank guns assumes that another tank is the target, so actual effective range against a less armoured target of similar size will be greater. A range advantage can only be exploited where the terrain allows, which will not be the case in many parts of the world. Tanks will often also travel in the company of infantry with mortars or SP artillery which can bring a soft ATGM vehicle under fire from greater ranges, even if the vehicle is in defilade. While a infantry squad with ATGWs can dig in and construct overhead cover, a light wheeled vehicle's tyres will easily be shredded by fragments.
One area where the jeep as a combat vehicle is likey to persist is with the USMC, which uses helicopter inserted jeeps in an Air-Motorised role. These were originally M151 MUTTs since the HMMWV cannot be carried internally in CH-53 or CH-46s.
The vehicle in current use is the Wolf IFAV. While these appear to be adequate vehicles, the USMC is looking for a new "Internally Transportable Vehicle (ITV)" since it wants something that can fit in the more limited interior space of the V-22. V-22 cargo space is about 68 inches wide, 66 inches high and 250 inches long. The V-22 is proving to have a very problematic developement and it is possible that it will never be a practical military aircraft. Rod Millen's HTTV meets these size restrictions and appears to be a very capable vehicle for something of this class. He is commendably realistic about the vehicle's combat potential, describing it as suitable for "limited objective attacks", noncombatant evacuation operations and tactical recovery of aircraft personnel.
The BIG problem with jeeps and hummers is that when you armor the vehicle. YOU HAVE JUST MAXED OUT THE SUSPENSION. Better go back to using trucks which already have enough suspension capacity to carry the armor. You also cannot get get through the peacetime mind the concept of massive firepower, they always want to cut the gun power back to about a kid with a .22, so they there is more money for their pet projects. To quote Erwin Rommel. "In my experience, the commander who first plasters his opponent with fire, usually wins the engagement."