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Added 18-12-02
Updated 17-9-14

        Light vehicles such as those described in this article can be a very useful component of a military force. Like any military system, however, they must be used correctly. Such vehicles have only a limited level of protection against threats such as RPGs and mines. Therefore they can only be used in environments where such threats are unlikely or in open country where there is little concealment for RPG armed forces and the vehicle can travel away from roads and predictable routes that are likely to be mined.

Light Recon Vehicles

                Some of the text on this page was formerly on this page

        A while ago I'd been reading about military motorcycles, halftrack motor cycles, HMMWV based platoons and FAV/LSV/SOV and ATVs
        This lead me to this page,

and a vehicle called the GAZ-46, which reminded me of the Type 166 Schwimmwagen.

Wartime Briefing on the Schwimmwagen

         As I've said before, not much point having a battalion of amphibious M113 or LAVs if you have to go find a bridge for the CO's jeep and other attached vehicles

         Why not an aluminium/ polymer or fibreglass bodied modern Schwimmwagen with a hybrid electric drives? Modern British Army Land Rovers (CAV 100s) in Ulster use a compressed moulded polymer armour like thick fibre-glass. This won't stand up to sustained punishment I suspect but will stop bullets or fragments long enough for the vehicle to withdraw or retaliate. While a new body is being created so the vehicle can swim blast deflection features can be added to give protection from mines.

        Despite the availability of Recon vehicles like the Scorpion and Scimitar there is still a need for Light Recon Vehicles, or LRVs

         A vehicle smaller than a HMMWV would not only be much smaller target but also easier to camouflage and easier to move through close terrain such as woods. A lighter vehicle can mount the same sort of armament as a HMMWV :- .50HMGs, Mk-19s, 30mm ASPs. MUTTs can mount TOW and 106mms, so no reason this vehicle couldn't.
         Several would fit in a Chinook. At least one could be lifted by a UH60. You could probably lift one by AH-6, which offers interesting possibilities.

The recon version of the RSTV        The “Shadow” RST-V being considered by the USMC might be a good basis if amphibious features were added. Like some other light recon vehicles it has a mast mounting useful sensors such as day and night optics and a Laser Designator and Ranger. It also has inertial navigation and global positioning system.

        I asked Mike Sparks: of the Airborne Equipment shop and 1st Tactical Studies Group for a Guestimate of how many Schimmwagen-type LRVs would fit in various aircraft. His answer was

“3 in a CH-47D, 6 in a C-130, M113A3 Gavin + 1 in a C-130”

        If the vehicles were designed to stack vertically the capacity may be doubled in a C130

         Such a vehicle could carry more men than most ATVs, and be faster than a Supacat. The German recon units tended to use Schimmwagen instead of motorbikes and sidecars- better cross country capability and not stopped if a bridge was held or destroyed
Some Images
        Just a nice image -but note combat smock

Some specs

        The new vehicle may be a shade larger than the old VW Type 166 since modern recon units carry alot of sensors and equipment that wasn't around in the 40s. However, the final vehicle will be narrow enough to easily fit in a CH-47, unlike the HMMWV. It would make sense for the final design to utilize as many of the parts of Land Rovers and/or HMMWVs as possible. In some respects this vehicle would be an amphibious, hybrid electric version of the SOV shown on this page. The same vehicle is used by the US Rangers. It would certainly share many of the features such as the ring mount and a folding roll cage.

        This vehicle needs a name and I'm going to suggest “Gallowglass”. The Gallowglass were mercenary fighters from Scotland who were in service with Irish chieftans. Being part Norse they were also great fighters amd travellers.

        The vehicle may look a little like a smaller verison of the Warhog LRV from the science fiction game “HALO”, as shown below.

Image taken from the http://www.bungie.net/ site

        The Warthog even has the right sort of armament, the “M41 LAAG”, essentially a GAU-19/A “GeCal”
        In the game the Warthog has All-wheel steering, and what appears to be Portal Axle suspension, both of which are useful features. I've yet to try it, but the tips on some websites seem to indicate you can drive the vehicle in the sea. You can drive the vehicle up the river in the second level- easier than the terrain there.
        What needs changing is that the windshield (a source of reflections) needs to go and this would allow the passenger/navigator to use a twin MG mount. The crew can be protected from the wind by googles or better still the transparent visors issued for riot duty.
        Two other useful features would be a ditching roller fitted to the bumper, above the winch and provision to carry a Hybrid Electic motorbike, as many Austrailian LRVs do now.

        One can easily envision a modern vehicle that resembles a schimmwagen with the addition of a roll cage and ring mount (left). The engine would be rear-mounted and hybrid-electric. The reconnaissance variant of such a vehicle would have only two seats, one for the driver and the second behind it on the left rear of the vehicle facing to the right. The right side of the interior carries man-portable ATGW, a Laser Designator/Rangefinder and the other equipment necessary for fast reconnaissance missions.

        A .50 Gecal is about the right level of armament for such a vehicle. It has the firepower, punch and range to give an edge over infantry and provide defensive capability against aircraft and light armour but is not so much armament that the user will try to act like a tank. The main place for such vehicles is open terrain where they can exploit speed, manoeuvrability and distance.

        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. The configuration of the Light RAM vehicle not only gives better protection for the crew but allows more weapons to be mounted. Possibly MGs and GMGs could be rail mounted in the manner of weapons on the WW2 White Scout Car. 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.

        There are three major applications for the LRV.
        The first is as the transport of an infantry battalion's scout platoon. It may be possible to move the whole platoon with just one C-130 lift. If the platoon or battalion is “patched” with light armour the platoon may use LRVs in conjunction with its Tankitas and M113 Scout Carriers.
        LRVs will also prove useful in heavier formations such Armoured Cavalry since they can go places tanks cannot or in places where armoured vehicles would be too conspicuous.

        The small size and light weight of the LRV would make them easier to transported by medium helicopters, making them a good choice for missions where helicopter deployed troops need fast ground mobility. This application may see a lighter-armed variant of the vehicle more suited to the transport of troops and stores. Some South African vehicles of this class have adopted a modular configuration with a rear section that can be fitted with seating, a mortar or MBRL system. The Light-RAM version of the Israeli RAM series is evidently designed with helicopter transportation in mind.

        The second application is to equip light wheeled force. It is worth injecting a note of caution here. While a Light recon force can be very useful for some missions it can be very vulnerable for others. Such units work best when most movement can be made cross-country and/or when the likelihood of strong resistance is low. Light Cavalry can be very useful for missions such as OOTW, Border Patrol, Non-Combatant Evacuation (NEO) and Peacekeeping but in general a brigade's needs are better served by a medium cavalry unit. Such a unit will probably have the same structure as the current HMMWV equipped unit:-        One of the most useful applications for such a force is as the Frog Companies of a Guard Battalion, an interesting concept proposed by Carlton Meyer
        The Guard Battalion is a Battalion of Airborne troops equipped with organic vehicles and other equipment. They are designed for rapid, early deployment during an expeditionary operation and therefore would form part of the “Contingency Corps” along with the 82nd Airborne. One of the main functions of a deployed Guard Battalion is to conduct mobile quasi-guerilla operations to delay an enemy and buy time for more potent forces to be brought into the theatre. The Guard Battalion is also suited to other missions such as high speed raids, delaying and rearguard actions, Peacekeeping and Non-Combatant Evacuation.
        The best vehicles for the Guard Battalion is open to debate. Obviously they must be air-transportable and preferably air-dropable. To favour a quick build up of strength several should be transportable on the same aircraft. Given the role of the Frog Company vehicles must often be capable of fast transit across terrain since the survival of this force will rely on its ability to refuse or withdraw from battle when necessary.

        I'd modify the organisation and equipment of the Frog Company somewhat from that of the Light Cavalry in the following manner.        Rather than a TOW-equipped AT Troop as shown here the Guard Battalion would have a unit equipped with FOG-M launchers for long range precision strike capability. The Light Cavalry Squadron as depicted includes its own battery of field artillery. During rear guard actions brigade and divisional artillery are likely to be some of the first units withdrawn so it would be useful if the Guard Battalion has an organic artillery element such as a light MBRL Battery.

        Suggested structure of the Guard Battalion is therefore:-

Frog Companies (1-3)
  • Two Scout/Rifle Platoons.
  • Two Anti-armour platoons with 106mm RCLR, Javelin and/or Spike ATGW and Starstreak.
  • JUS team.
  • Demolition Company.
    Commando Company.
    FOGM Company with 12 launchers.
    Light MBRL Battery 6 launchers.
    HQ Company with Six 120mm mortars, four Scout helicopters.

            When necessary the Guard Battalion will be supported by an engineer unit trained to create decoys, dummy positions and other forms of battlefield deception.

            One interesting thing I've come across researching this topic are wheel fittings for the Schwimmwagen that are called “Walzen” -Which I think translates as “roller”. These might be paddles to supplement the vehicle's propeller, or they might be a device for spreading the weight on soft ground, or a combination of both.

    Walzen in the snow

            The feature that the Walzen are slightly smaller diameter than the tires means they don't come into contact with the ground unless the ground is soft.

    Ed Sackett comments:-
            I can picture a Schwimmer coming quietly up a soft river bank using those things, say at a spot the defenders were sure was too difficult of access to bother guarding. (A lot of rivers widen out into swamps, creating "obstacles" that look very comforting on the map.) I'd rather not have to drive such a wide arrangement on narrow European streets, of course, but maybe the paddles could be unbolted quickly.
            Imagine a raid carried out entirely by Schwimmwagens that never leave the water: On a dark night, you motor quietly close inshore (but not too close), fire soft-launch missiles from low on the surface of the river/lake/swamp/estuary ("Where the hell did -that- come from?"), then motor quietly away again. No muzzle flashes, no landing party, no unecessary drama. Just a few mines tossed over the side w/ anchors, going off maybe a hour later, to remind the baddies that you'd been there. They'd be shooting at floating debris for the rest of the war.

            Jane's Logistic and Support Vehicles 1992-3 shows a device similar to the Walzen made by a British company and called "The Bog Cog".

    XR311 High Mobility Combat Vehicle

    Deep Reconnaissance Vehicles
            A vehicle for deep reconnaissance or extended range patrol has different requirements. Cargo capacity and range are major considerations. Some Australian vehicles can travel
    1500km on the fuel in their tanks. Part of the defence of these vehicles is to look inconspicuous. Common vehicle types such as Land Rovers and those of Russian origin are suitable, as too are generic looking vehicles such as trucks.
            Since the 1960s the SAS have used Land Rovers. However, these are often loaded to the limits of their capacity. Like the LRDG before them, there seem to be some indications that the SAS will be adopting a larger vehicle, with the Pinzgauger and Supacat HMT being tipped as possible choices.
            Because of the size of their country, the Australian SAS have made several innovations in the field of very long range reconnaissance vehicles, including racks for scout motorbikes and spare wheel stowage that folds down to serve as map tables.


            Often the sheer bulk of stores carried by the vehicle provide some protection against small arms. It would be prudent for such vehicles to have some armor in key areas such as the radiator grill, gunshields, windshield, seats and tailgate. Because they operate so deep in enemy territory artillery splinters are not a major concern in special forces operations.
            This site offers several interesting systems suitable for use on Deep Reconnaissance vehicles. These include swing arm mounts for MGs, sufficient light armour to break a contact and outward facing rear seats. Vehicle illustrated is a HMMWV with a useful rear cargo area as well as four seats, in contrast to the more common Armament Carrier variant. Many of these features could be applied to other types of Deep Recon vehicle. Probably the most logical choice for a DRV is the ubiquitous Mercedes-Benz Unimog which is used by many armies including those in the Middle East and Africa. Such a vehicle could carry four crew, a motorcycle, armament and a useful quantity of stores. When fitted by a tarpaulin such a vehicle would resemble and unarmed supply vehicle.
            RPG and mortar fragments may be a concern in a Counter-insurgency operation such as Iraq at present which is why more conventional light armoured vehicles like the M113 should be used in such situations.

    Limitations and correct use of Gun Jeeps
    Mike Sparks' article on Better Defended HMMWVs

    Enhanced Amphibious Capabilities.
             Recently I came across some websites on amphibious automobiles capable of traveling on the water at speeds as high as 45 knots (c 52 mph). Such a capability on a LRV would offer some interesting possibilities, such as being able to use rivers or canals as fast access routes.

    Military Humdinga
    Rinspeed Splash
    Back to the Scrapboard
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