The logistical supply line is a vital part of any military operation, and supply convoys are an obvious target for both regular and irregular enemy forces. Despite this many armies continue to rely on soft-skinned vehicles for this vital duty. The image below is from FM 90-5, but these procedures should be standard practice in any theatre. However, footage from Iraq still shows these basic measures not being taken. Criminal negligence on the part of commanders.
If possible there should be a steel plate down the centre of the truck-bed to protect the Soldier's backs from plunging fire. A sloped mesh roof will provide protection from grenades and molotovs.
Not all nations are so naïve. The Rhodesians and South Africans have had extensive experience in ambush warfare. As well as combat vehicles they have also developed mine-protected and armoured transportation vehicles. Since landmines do not distinguish between military and civilians some of these vehicles fill such varied roles as Post office van, school bus and horse transporter. The South Africans determined they could meet all of their road transport needs with a family of three sizes of vehicle:- a 2 toner, a 5 toner and a 10 toner.
Weight is obviously a consideration when protecting a transport vehicle, particularly one that is to be air-transported. It is practical to armour the most vital areas of the vehicle:- the crew compartment, fuel tank and engine. Use of modern materials should at least make these areas small arms and fragment proof. The crew compartment can be constructed of 5083 Aluminum like the M113.
A truck does not need to be that compact so a layered system of defenses can be used. Over the basic hull can be attached mesh screens that will tumble bullets and prematurely detonate anti-tank rockets. This applique armour can be removed for easy repair, but also allows the vehicle to carry less weight during "peacetime" operations.
Protected Trucks may be seen in two configurations. The first looks like a normal truck but has an aluminum armoured skin and bullet resistant windows. The second has a mesh armour shell, wheel shields, a machine gun turret and grills and shutters over its glass.
The chassis of such a vehicle should be constructed to be anti-tank mine resistant. Rhodesian experience indicated that this is more a matter of careful design and geometry than a gross increase in armour. The methods used are described more fully in Peter Stiff's excellent Taming the Landmine, but included such simple measures as
Future Military trucks must be designed along the lines of the Biesbok (above), the load carrier version of the famous Casspir vehicle. Although this is a vehicle with proven mine-resistance, you'll note this vehicle does not look that unconventional.
Such a protected truck will need some form of defensive armament, and this will probably be a 7.62mm or .50 calibre machine gun. Such a weapons mount should have an all-round shield as was used on ACAV vehicles. Ambushes often come from more than one direction, so a simple shield or none at all is not acceptable. The weapons and shield can be removed when the vehicle is not on active service. A protected truck will probably also mount sideways firing dischargers for smoke or anti-personnel bombs.
The safety of the crew can also be improved by more subtle means. A fuel tanker is an obvious target to an RPG crew, so configure the outside of the vehicle so that it looks like all the other cargo carriers. The South Africans even have the Valkyr MBRL system that is made to look like a conventional transport. The basic truck (cabin, engine and chassis) can be converted to different functions by exchanging modular rear units. Therefore the vehicle can be changed from ambulance to wrecker, tanker to horsebox or hauler to bus.
One possible module will be the Infantry Carrying Container, used to transport troops from A to B or carry guard units for convoys. The ICC is an armoured box provided with hatches and firing ports and may mount weapons turrets on its upper surface. ICCs can also be heli-lifted or trucked to a location to form the basis of static defensive positions. A truck carrying an ICC can also be disguised as an undefended vehicle.
Creating better protected transport vehicle is well within the capabilities of a modern army.
It is foolish to spend millions on individual combat vehicles while leaving supply elements vulnerable to anyone with a rifle.
The following are a paraphrasing of comments from my friend Berni Forde:- "You could make vehicles like an ARMtruck or Military Van from Aluminum, but Aluminum burns. (actually, it doesn't under field conditions) I think today there are alternate materials that would now be practical, such as ceramics or cast steel. Set up the production line right and you could turn them out by the thousand. They'd even be cheap enough to use in civilian trucks too. It amazes me that military vehicles don't have attachment points for basic engineering gear fitted as standard. Most vehicles have winches, so a couple of poles to form an A frame would often eliminate the need to wait for a recovery vehicle. Pretty useful if a vehicle in your convoy has hit a mine or just run off the road. Being able to fit a dozer or snow plough blade to any vehicle would make sense too. If you are going to attack a convoy trying to block the road is an obvious tactic, plus there's snow or drifting sand dunes".
Sven Ortman comments:- German trucks in use during peacekeeping missions have modular add-on armour against mines and Kalashnikov, but it was published that this makes only sense for 5t and bigger payload trucks, no doubt because of the relative weight penalty. A way to protect against ambushes and mines, other than armour is driving unexpected routes - cross-country. I believe that it's the time for a second Stalwart with a simple diesel-electric drive. Add run flat tires and armour which resists 7.62x39mm FMJ, and you have an ideal 5t truck.
Another important protection is to conceal the freight. The Valkyr shows it. Nobody recognizes this MRL as anything else than a light truck. Covering fuel transports like common material transport and keeping such an outer appearance of the common transports is essential, especially for kerosene transports.
PW: One of the rationales given for retiring the Stalwart was that its role of supplying combat units could now be met with helicopters. Given how vulnerable helicopters are to portable SAMs and other weapons there may be a case for recreating a go-anywhere amphibious supply vehicle.
Ralph Zumbro: I'm gonna probably be repeating this well into the next incarnation. ARMED TRANSPORT HAS GOT TO BE TAKEN DOWN TO THE VEHICLE CREW LEVEL! What this boils down to is that using a five tonner as a basic unit, part of the load capacity of 10 tons (road) and 5 tons (offroad) has to be devoted to self protection and commo. They used to make mini-mores that would mount on hard spots like bumpers. Next you need crew kevlar and armored doors. The .50 ring should have a ASP 30mm with a 5.56mm coax. There should be a radio mounted permanently on the vehicle and mine plates should be under the driver/VC compartment. The Vehicle Commander mans the .50/30mm ring. Next, you add 4 PERMAMENTLY ASSIGNED cargo handler/maintainence techs to the vehicle. You now have a heavily armed fire team that can handle cargo. Remember that the HEMMT has a built in cargo arm. Add an armed, cohesive crew, and we have something that can be used as the foundation of a heavy transport company...Might need to let a Major command it, as they will be going in the far places.
Nick Minecci: I was a 46q for my 11 years in, that is a journalist. I served most of my time in the XVIII Airborne Corps, and did about a dozen NTC/JRTC rotations, with light and heavy forces, as well as with MSBs and FSBs. In the 1st ID in Germany I was the beat reporter for the DISCOM, and spent almost all my time with the MSB units. Yes, I was PAO, but I was a field PAO, not a desk one -- I hope you all know the difference. One thing that struck me was the shock that units showed when I arrived in my Humvee and we had radios. That is a sad state that these units that convoy (the LOG units) don't ALL have a radio. That is not a money issue, that is a failure to see the small things issue. Anpther problem is the fact that many of these vehicles are riding just two people. When they get ambushed, there is no time to react. Add to that the fact the shotgun in the humvee or truck usually has their weapon in a position so that it takes a valuable two to three seconds to even get it ready for action.
LTC Larry Altersitz: ".......there is a need for a less logistics intensive force. If we converted M1s in groups/regiments/brigades to diesel, we reduce a major problem. We go with tracked support vehicles pulling tracked trailers. We use Navy LCACs and smaller ACVs to get trailer of supplies forward, away from the MSR, and return with the empties. We also need to do a map recon and plan to cross water barriers. This is where M113s are invaluable. The thought process for tracked supply vehicles/trailers should be "Quo Vadis, Bde CO?" and they should be amphibious like M113s. Are there simple ways to make vehicles less aquatically challenged in the future?
We need to have a dedicated corps level MP battalion unit to patrol, direct traffic and protect the MSR by using armed UAVs to ride herd on potential strays and be pro-active to activity that might be enemy forces of any type. Where the MSR turns, there's a traffic control point. Several platoons of infantry in Blackhawks with Cobras on "strip alert" can provide more muscle if needed.
CS/CSS units need to be better able to:
A. READ MAPS & USE GPS.
B. Protect themselves with weapons like mini-claymores on vehicles.
C. Reaction drills on breaking ambushes.
D. A 911 GPS radio system that is button activated by any one of several people in the vehicle to send a signal over several channels to the MP monitoring station. This tells the MPs to get a UAV there pronto; while the radio is on, it picks up the sounds in the area to give people an idea if it's time to send the airmobile "Cavalry" to the rescue.
Keep explaining this is a war zone and that "Defecation Occurs" as we staff wienies like to put it. Try to get people to understand that accidents will happen, also, and keep a little perspective on things. Too often, people don't see the forest for the trees."