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An armoured fighting vehicle (or armored fighting vehicle - see spelling differences) AFV is a combat vehicle, protected by strong armour and armed with weapons, which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities. AFVs can be wheeled or tracked. It is not uncommon for AFVs to be simply referred to as "armour" (or "armor").
Armoured fighting vehicles are classified according to their intended role on the battlefield and characteristics. This classification is not absolute; at different times different countries will classify the same vehicle in different roles. For example, armoured personnel carriers were generally replaced by infantry fighting vehicles in a similar role, but the latter has some capabilities lacking in the former. There may also be hybrid vehicles, such as the Stryker family of AFVs; the M1128 Mobile Gun System, an armoured car which mounts a large 105mm gun normally used in tank destroyers, but can theoretically be reconfigured to the M1126 Infantry Carrier Vehicle.
Successful general-purpose armoured fighting vehicles often also serve as the base of a whole family of specialized vehicles, for example, the M113 and MT-LB tracked carriers, and the MOWAG Piranha wheeled AFV.
Prior to the invention of the internal combustion engine and the advent of armoured warfare in the 20th century, the AFV classification did not exist. However, war machines with rudimentary armour have been used in battle for millennia. These designs historically struggled between the paradox of exposed-mobility, effective-firepower and cumbersome-protection. Siege engines, such as battering rams, would often be armoured in order to protect the crews from the defenders. Leonardo da Vinci designed a 15th-century siege engine (described as "a tank"); his drawings show a man-powered, wheeled vehicle with cannons all around it. However, modern replicas demonstrated that the human crew would not have enough power to move it over larger distance, and usage of animals was problematic in a space so confined.
The chariot was used as a mobile archery platform and as "battle taxis". The original chariot was a fast, light, open, two-wheeled conveyance drawn by two or more horses that were hitched side by side. It was used for ancient warfare during the bronze and the iron ages. The hwacha was an multiple rocket launcher technological breakthrough, consisted of a two-wheeled launch pad capable of firing up to 200 Singijeon (a type of fire arrow rocket), used during the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1897). The tachanka was a machine gun platform, usually a cart or an open wagon with a heavy machine gun installed in the back, pulled by two to four horses and required a crew of two or three (one driver and a machine gun crew). The war wagon were medieval weapon-platforms development during the Hussite Wars around 1420 by Hussite forces rebelling in Bohemia. These heavy wagon were given protective sides with firing slits and heavy firepower from either a cannon or a force of hand-gunners and crossbowmen, supported by infantry using pikes and flails.
The first modern AFVs were armoured cars, dating back virtually to the invention of the motor car. The Motor Scout was designed and built by British inventor F.R. Simms in 1898. It was the first armed petrol engine powered vehicle ever built. The vehicle was a De Dion-Bouton quadricycle with a mounted Maxim machine gun on the front bar. An iron shield in front of the car protected the driver.
The first armoured car was the Simms' Motor War Car, designed by Simms and built by Vickers, Sons & Maxim in1899. The vehicle had Vickers armour 6 mm thick and was powered by a four-cylinder 3.3-litre 16 hp Cannstatt Daimler engine giving it a maximum speed of around 9 miles per hour (14.5 km/h). The armament, consisting of two Maxim guns, was carried in two turrets with 360° traverse.
Another early armoured car of the period was the French Charron, Girardot et Voigt 1902, presented at the Salon de l'Automobile et du cycle in Brussels, on 8 March 1902. The vehicle was equipped with a Hotchkiss machine gun, and with 7 mm armour for the gunner. Armoured cars were first used in large numbers on both sides during World War I as scouting vehicles which offered armoured protection to the crew.
The development of the AFV took a great leap forward during World War I, when the tracked tank was developed to break the stalemate on the Western Front. The tank was envisioned as an armoured machine that could cross ground under fire from machine guns and respond with fire from mounted guns. It was to move on caterpillar tracks to enable it to cross ground broken up by shellfire and trenches.
From late 1914, early tank development began to be carried out by the Royal Navy. The Landships Committee was formed by the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill on 20 February 1915. The Director of Naval Construction for the Royal Navy, Eustace Tennyson d'Eyncourt, was appointed to head the Committee in view of his experience with the engineering methods it was felt might be required. The first design, Little Willie, ran for the first time in September 1915 and served to develop the form of the track but an improved design, better able to cross trenches, swiftly followed and in January 1916 the prototype, nicknamed "Mother", was adopted as the design for future tanks. Production models of "Male" tanks (armed with naval cannon and machine guns) and "Females" (carrying only machine-guns) would go on to fight in history's first tank action at the Somme in September 1916. Great Britain produced about 2,600 tanks of various types during the war.
In 1916, the French pioneered the use of a full 360° rotation turret in a tank for the first time, with the creation of the Renault FT light tank, with the turret containing the tank's main armament. In addition to the traversible turret, another innovative feature of the FT was its engine located at the rear. This pattern, with the gun located in a mounted turret and the engine at the back, became the standard for most succeeding tanks across the world. The FT was the most numerous tank of the War; over 3,000 were made by late 1918.
The tank proved highly successful, and as technology improved the tank became a weapon that could cross large distances at much higher speeds than supporting infantry and artillery. The need to provide the units that would fight alongside the tank led to the development of a wide range of specialised AFVs, especially during the Second World War.
The Armoured personnel carrier, designed to transport infantry troops to the frontline, emerged towards the end of WWI. During the first actions with tanks it had become clear that often infantry could not keep up with the tanks; they could not be transported in the tank, due to the poor atmosphere quality. In 1917, Lieutenant G.R. Rackham was ordered to design an armoured vehicle specifically for troop transport. The Mark IX tank was built by Armstrong, Whitworth & Co., although just three vehicles were finished at the time of the Armistice and only 34 were built in total.
Different tank classifications emerged in the interwar period. The tankette was conceived as a mobile, two man model, mainly intended for reconnaissance. In 1925 Sir John Carden and Vivian Loyd produced the first such design - the Carden Loyd tankette. Tankettes saw use in the Italian Royal Army during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, the Spanish Civil War, and almost every place Italian soldiers fought during World War II. The Imperial Japanese Army also used them for jungle warfare.
The British Gun Carrier Mark I was the first Self-propelled artillery and was fielded in 1917. It was based on the first tank, the British Mark I and carried a heavy field gun. The next major advance was the Birch gun developed for the motorised warfare experimental brigade (the Experimental Mechanized Force). This mounted a field gun, capable of the usual artillery trajectories, on a tank style chassis.
During WW2, most nations developed self-propelled artillery vehicles. These had mounted guns on a tracked chassis (often that of an obsolete or superseded tank) and provide an armoured superstructure to protect the gun and its crew. The first British design, "Bishop", carried the 25 pdr gun-howitzer, but in a mounting that severely limited the gun's performance. It was replaced by the more effective Sexton. The Germans created many examples of lightly armored self-propelled anti-tank guns using captured French equipment (example Marder I), their own obsolete light tank chassis (Marder II), or ex-Czech chassis (Marder III). These led to better protected tank destroyers, built on medium tank chassis such as the Jagdpanzer IV and Jagdpanther.
The Self-propelled anti-aircraft weapon debuted in WWI. The German 77 mm anti-aircraft gun, was truck-mounted and used to great effect against British tanks, and the British QF 3 inch 20 cwt was mounted on trucks for use on the Western Front. Although the Birch gun was a general purpose artillery piece on an armoured tracked chassis, it was capable of being elevated for anti-aircraft use. Vickers Armstrong developed one of the first SPAAGs based on the chassis of the Mk.E 6-ton light tank/Dragon Medium Mark IV tractor, mounting a Vickers QF-1 "Pom-Pom" gun of 40 mm. The Germans fielded the SdKfz 10/4 and 6/2, cargo halftracks mounting single 20 mm or 37 mm AA guns (respectively) by the start of the War.
By the end of World War II, most modern armies had vehicles to carry infantry, artillery and anti-aircraft weaponry . Most modern AFVs are superficially similar in design to their World War II counterparts, but with significantly better armour, weapons, engines and suspension. The increase in the capacity of transport aircraft has allowed AFVs to be practically transported by air. Many armies are replacing some or all of their traditional heavy vehicles with lighter airmobile versions, often with wheels instead of tracks.
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The level of armour protection between AFVs varies greatly - a main battle tank will normally be designed to take hits from other tank guns and anti-tank missiles, whilst light reconnaissance vehicles are often only armoured "just in case". Whilst heavier armour provides better protection, it makes vehicles less mobile (for a given engine power), limits its air-transportability, increases cost, uses more fuel and may limit the places it can go - for example, many bridges may be unable to support the weight of a main battle tank. A trend toward composite armour is taking place in place of steel - composites are stronger for a given weight, allowing the tank to be lighter for the same protection as steel armour, or better protected for the same weight. Armour is being supplemented with active protection systems on a number of vehicles, allowing the AFV to protect itself from incoming projectiles.
The level of protection also usually varies considerably throughout the individual vehicle too, depending on the role of the vehicle and the likely direction of attack. For example, a main battle tank will usually have the heaviest armour on the hull front and the turret, lighter armour on the sides of the hull and the thinnest armour on the top and bottom of the tank. Other vehicles - such as the MRAP family - may be primarily armoured against the threat from IEDs and so will have heavy, sloped armour on the bottom of the hull.
Weaponry varies by a very wide degree between AFVs - lighter vehicles for infantry carrying, reconnaissance or specialist roles may have only a machine gun for self-defence (or no armament at all), whereas heavy self propelled artillery will carry large guns, mortars or rocket launchers. These weapons may be mounted on a pintle, affixed directly to the vehicle or placed in a turret or cupola.
The greater the recoil a weapon on an AFV is, the larger the turret ring needs to be. A larger turret ring necessitates a larger vehicle. To avoid listing to the side, turrets are usually located at the centre of the vehicle on vehicles that are capable of amphibious operations.
Turret stabilization is an important capability because it enables firing on the move and prevents crew fatigue.
Modern AFVs have primarily used either petrol (gasoline) or diesel piston engines. More recently gas turbines have been used. Most early AFVs used petrol engines, as they offer a good power-to-weight ratio. However, they fell out of favour during World War Two due to the flammability of the fuel.
Gas turbine (turboshaft) engines offer a very high power-to-weight ratio and were starting to find favour in the late 20th century - however they offer very poor fuel consumption and as such some armies are switching from gas turbines back to diesel engines (i.e. the Russian T-80 used a gas turbine engine, whereas the later T-90 does not). The US M1 Abrams is a notable example of a gas turbine powered tank.
Notable armoured fighting vehicles extending from post-World War I to today.
The tank is an all terrain AFV designed primarily to engage enemy forces by the use of direct fire in the frontal assault role. Though several configurations have been tried, particularly in the early experimental days of tank development, a standard, mature design configuration has since emerged to a generally accepted pattern. This features a main artillery gun, mounted in a fully rotating turret atop a tracked automotive hull, with various additional machine guns throughout.
Philosophically, the tank is, by its very nature, an offensive weapon. Being a protective encasement with at least one gun position, it is essentially a pillbox or small fortress (though these are static fortifications of a purely defensive nature) that can move toward the enemy - hence its offensive utility.
Historically, tanks are divided into three categories:
Cavalry tank, cruiser tank, infantry tank, and breakthrough tank have been used by various countries to classify tanks by operational role. Tankette is used to describe particularly small one or two-man vehicles, typically armed with a machine gun and/or anti-air weapons.
A modern main battle tank incorporates advances in automotive, artillery, and armour technology to combine the best characteristics of the historic medium and heavy tanks into a single, all around type. It is distinguished by its high level of firepower, mobility and armour protection relative to other vehicles of its era. It can cross comparatively rough terrain at high speeds, but its heavy-dependency on fuel, maintenance, and ammunition-hungry makes it logistically demanding. It has the heaviest armour of any IFV on the battlefield, and carries a powerful precision-guided munition weapon systems that may be able to engage a wide variety of both ground targets and air targets. It is among the most versatile and fearsome weapons on the battlefield, valued for its shock action against other troops and high survivability, although it can be still be vulnerable to anti-tank warfare.
A tankette is a tracked armed and armoured vehicle resembling a small "ultra-light tank" roughly the size of a car, mainly intended for light infantry support or scouting. They were one or two-man vehicles armed with a machine gun. Colloquially it may also simply mean a "small tank".
Tankettes were designed and built by several nations between the 1920s and 1940s. They were very popular with smaller countries. Some saw some combat (with limited success) in World War II. However, the vulnerability of their light armour eventually caused the concept to be abandoned.
The term "super-heavy tank" has been used to describe armoured fighting vehicles of extreme size, generally over 75 tonnes. Programs have been initiated on several occasions with the aim of creating an invincible siegeworks/breakthrough vehicle for penetrating enemy formations and fortifications without fear of being destroyed in combat. Examples were designed in World War I and World War II, along with a few in the Cold War. However, the immense size made most designs impracticable, few examples have ever been built, and there is no clear evidence any of these vehicles saw combat.
A flame tank is a tank equipped with a flamethrower, most commonly used to supplement combined arms attacks against fortifications, confined spaces, or other obstacles. The type only reached significant use in the Second World War, during which the United States, Soviet Union, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom (including members of the British Commonwealth) all produced flamethrower-equipped tanks.
A number of production methods were used. The flamethrowers used were either modified versions of existing infantry flame weapons (Flammpanzer I and II) or specially designed (Flammpanzer III). They were mounted externally (Flammpanzer II), replaced existing machine gun mounts, or replaced the tank's main armament (Flammpanzer III). Fuel for the flame weapon was either carried inside the tank, in armoured external storage, or in some cases in a special trailer behind the tank (Churchill Crocodile).
The military's armoured car is a wheeled armoured vehicle, generally lighter than other armoured fighting vehicles, primarily being armoured and/or armed for self-defence of the occupants. Other multi-axled wheeled military vehicles can be quite large, and actually be superior to some smaller tracked vehicles in terms of armour and armament. They usually do not have attached weaponry. Armoured cars are often used in military marches and processions, or for the escorting of important figures.
An aerosani (Russian: aэросани, literally "aerosled") is a type of propeller-driven snowmobile, running on skis, used for communications, mail deliveries, medical aid, emergency recovery and border patrolling in northern Russia, as well as for recreation. Aerosanis were used by the Soviet Red Army during the Winter War and World War II.
The first aerosanis may have been built by young Igor Sikorsky in 1909–10, before he built multi-engine airplanes and helicopters. They were very light plywood vehicles on skis, propelled by old airplane engines and propellers.
A scout car is a of military armored reconnaissance vehicle, capable of off-road mobility and often carrying mounted weapons such as machine guns for offensive capabilities and crew protection. They often only carry an operational crew aboard, which differentiates them from wheeled armored personnel carriers (APCs) and Infantry Mobility Vehicles (IMVs), but early scout cars, such as the open-topped US M3 Scout Car could carry a crew of seven. The term is often used synonymously with the more general term armored car, which also includes armored civilian vehicles. They are also differentiated by being designed and built for purpose, as opposed to improved technicals which might serve in the same role.
An internal security vehicle (ISV), also known as an armoured security vehicle (ASV), is a combat vehicle used for supporting contingency operations. Security vehicles are typically armed with a turreted heavy machine gun and auxiliary medium machine gun. The vehicle is designed to minimize firepower dead space and the vehicles weapons can be depressed to a maximum of 12°. Non-lethal water cannons and tear gas cannons can provide suppressive fire in lieu of unnecessary deadly fire.
The vehicle must be protected against weapons typical of riots. Protection from incendiary devices is achieved though coverage of the air intake and exhaust ports as well as a strong locking mechanism on the fuel opening. Turret and door locks prevent access to the interior of the vehicle by rioters. Vision blocks, ballistic glass and window shutters and outside surveillance cameras allow protected observation from within the vehicle. Wheeled 4x4 and 6x6 configurations are typical of security vehicles. Tracked security vehicles are often cumbersome and leave negative political connotations for being perceived as an imperial invading force.
An improvised fighting vehicle is a combat vehicle resulting from modifications to a civilian or military non-combat vehicle in order to give it a fighting capability. Such modifications usually consist of the grafting of armour plating and weapon systems. Various militaries have procured such vehicles, ever since the introduction of the first automobiles into military service.
During the early days, the absence of a doctrine for the military use of automobiles or of an industry dedicated to producing them, lead to much improvisation in the creation of early armoured cars, and other such vehicles. Later, despite the advent of arms industries in many countries, several armies still resorted to using ad hoc contraptions, often in response to unexpected military situations, or as a result of the development of new tactics for which no available vehicle was suitable. The construction of improvised fighting vehicles may also reflect a lack of means for the force that uses them. This is especially true in developing countries, where various armies and guerrilla forces have used them, as they are more affordable than military-grade combat vehicles.
Modern examples include military gun truck used by units of regular armies or other official government armed forces, based on a conventional cargo truck, that is able to carry a large weight of weapons and armour. They have mainly been used by regular armies to escort military convoys in regions subject to ambush by guerrilla forces. "Narco tanks", used by Mexican drug cartels in the Mexican Drug War, are built from such trucks, which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities.
Troop-carrying AFVs are divided into two main types - armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs). The main difference between the two is down to their intended role - the APC is designed purely to transport troops and is armed for self-defence only - whereas the IFV is designed to provide fire support to the infantry it carries.
An infantry fighting vehicle (IFV), also known as a mechanized infantry combat vehicle (MICV), is a type of armoured fighting vehicle used to carry infantry into battle and provide direct fire support. The first example of an IFV was the West German Schützenpanzer Lang HS.30 which served in the Bundeswehr from 1958 until the early 1980s..
IFVs are similar to armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and infantry carrier vehicles (ICVs), designed to transport a section or squad of infantry (generally between five and ten men) and their equipment. They are differentiated from APCs— which are purely "troop-transport" vehicles armed only for self-defense— because they are designed to give direct fire support to the dismounted infantry and so usually have significantly enhanced armament. IFVs also often have improved armour and some have firing ports (allowing the infantry to fire personal weapons while mounted).
They are typically armed with an autocannon of 20 to 40mm calibre, 7.62mm machine guns, anti-tank missiles (ATGMs) and/or surface-to-air missiles (SAGMs). IFVs are usually tracked, but some wheeled vehicles fall into this category. IFVs are generally less heavily armed and armoured than main battle tanks. They sometimes carry anti-tank missiles to protect and support infantry against armoured threats, such as the NATO TOW missile and Soviet Bastion, which offer a significant threat to tanks. Specially-equipped IFVs have taken on some of the roles of light tanks; they are used by reconnaissance organizations, and light IFVs are used by airborne units which must be able to fight without the heavy firepower of tanks.
Armoured personnel carriers are intended to carry infantry quickly and relatively safely to point where they are deployed. In 1918, the British Mk V tank was capable of carrying a small number of troops. In the US the term "Infantry Carrier Vehicle (ICV)" is used. In 1944, the Canadian general Guy Simonds ordered the conversion of redundant armoured vehicles to carry troops (generically named "Kangaroos"). This proved highly successful, even without training, and the concept was widely used in the 21st Army Group. Post-war, specialised designs were built, such as the Soviet BTR-60 and US M113.
An infantry mobility vehicle (IMV) or protected patrol vehicle (PPV) is a wheeled armored personnel carrier (APC) serving as a military patrol, reconnaissance or security vehicle. Examples include the ATF Dingo, AMZ Dzik, AMZ Tur, Mungo ESK, and Bushmaster IMV. This term also applies to the vehicles currently being fielded as part of the MRAP program.
IMVs were developed in response to the threats of modern counter insurgency warfare, with an emphasis on Ambush Protection and Mine-Resistance. Similar vehicles existed long before the term IMV was coined, such as the French VAB and South African Buffel. The term is coming more into use to differentiate light 4x4 wheeled APCs from the traditional 8x8 wheeled APCs. It is a neologism for what might have been classified in the past as an armoured scout car, such as the BRDM, but the IMV is distinguished by having a requirement to carry dismountable infantry. The up-armoured M1114 Humvee variant can be seen as an adaptation of the unarmoured Humvee to serve in the IMV role.
A CV-9035 demonstrator infantry fighting vehicle for the U.S. Army.
Many modern military vehicles, ranging from light wheeled command and reconnaissance, through armoured personnel carriers and tanks, are manufactured with amphibious capabilities. Contemporary wheeled armoured amphibians include the French Véhicule de l'Avant Blindé and Véhicule Blindé Léger. The latter is a small, lightly armoured 4x4 all-terrain vehicle that is fully amphibious and can swim at 5.4 km/h. The VAB (Véhicule de l'Avant Blindé - "Armoured Vanguard Vehicle") is a fully amphibious armoured personnel carrier powered in the water by two water jets, that entered service in 1976 and produced in numerous configurations, ranging from basic personnel carrier, anti-tank missile platform.
During the Cold War the Soviet bloc states developed a number of amphibious APCs, fighting vehicles and tanks, both wheeled and tracked. Most of the vehicles the Soviets designed were amphibious, or could ford deep water. Wheeled examples are the BRDM-1 and BRDM-2 4x4 armoured scout cars, as well as the BTR-60, BTR-70, BTR-80 and BTR-94 8x8 armoured personnel carriers and the BTR-90 infantry fighting vehicle.
The United States started developing a long line of Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVT) designs from ca. 1940. The US Marine Corps currently uses the AAV7-A1 Assault Amphibious Vehicle, which was to be succeeded by the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, which was capable of planing on water and can achieve water speeds of 37–46 km/h. The EFV project has been cancelled.
A significant amount of tracked armoured vehicles that are primarily intended for land-use, have some amphibious cability, tactically useful inland, reducing dependence on bridges. They use their tracks, sometimes with added propeller or water jets for propulsion. As long as the banks have a shallow enough slopes to enter or leave the water they can cross rivers and water obstacles.
Some heavy tanks can operate amphibiously with a fabric skirt to add buoyancy. The Sherman DD tank used in the Normandy landings had this setup. When in water the waterproof float screen was raised and propellers deployed. Some modern vehicles use a similar skirt.
Typically based on the platform of a main battle tank, these vehicles go by different names depending upon the country of use or manufacture. In the US the term "combat engineer vehicle (CEV)" is used, in the UK the term "Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVRE)" is used, while in Canada and other commonwealth nations the term "armoured engineer vehicle (AEV)" is used. There is no set template for what such a vehicle will look like, yet likely features include a large dozer blade or mine ploughs, a large calibre demolition cannon, augers, winches, excavator arms and cranes, or lifting booms.
These vehicles are designed to directly conduct obstacle breaching operations and to conduct other earth-moving and engineering work on the battlefield. Good examples of this type of vehicle include the UK Trojan AVRE, the Russian IMR, and the US M728 Combat Engineer Vehicle.
It should be noted that while the term "armoured engineer vehicle" is used specifically to describe these multi-purpose tank-based engineering vehicles, that term is also used more generically in British and Commonwealth militaries to describe all heavy tank-based engineering vehicles used in the support of mechanized forces. Thus, "armoured engineer vehicle" used generically would refer to AEV, AVLB, Assault Breachers, and so on.
An assault breacher vehicle (ABV), also known as a explosive ordnance disposal vehicle (EODV), or simply Breacher, is especially designed to clear pathways for troops and other vehicles through minefields and along roadside bombs and Improvised Explosive Devices. These vehicles are based on a tank-chassis with 1,500+ horsepower engines, but fitted with a 50-caliber machine gun and a front-mounted 5-meter-wide plow, supported by metallic skis that glide on the dirt and typically equipped with at least 7,000 pounds (3,175 kilograms) of Mine Clearing Line Charges: rockets carrying C-4 explosives up to 100–150 meters forward, detonating hidden bombs at a safe distance, so that troops and vehicles can pass through safely. They were called "the answer" to the deadliest threat facing NATO troops in modern asymmetrical conflict.
The armored bulldozer is a basic tool of combat engineering. These combat engineering vehicles combine the earth moving capabilities of the bulldozer with armor which protects the vehicle and its operator in or near combat. Most are civilian bulldozers modified by addition of vehicle armor/military equipment, but some are tanks stripped of armament and fitted with a dozer blade. Some tanks have bulldozer blades while retaining their armament, but this does not make them armored bulldozers as such, because combat remains the primary role — earth moving is a secondary task.
An armoured recovery vehicle (ARV) is a type of vehicle recovery armoured fighting vehicle used to repair battle- or mine-damaged as well as broken-down armoured vehicles during combat, or to tow them out of the danger zone for more extensive repairs. To this end the term "Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicle" (ARRV) is also used.
ARVs are normally built on the chassis of a main battle tank (MBT), but some are also constructed on the basis of other armoured fighting vehicles, mostly armoured personnel carriers (APCs). ARVs are usually built on the basis of a vehicle in the same class as they are supposed to recover; a tank-based ARV is used to recover tanks, while an APC-based one recovers APCs, but does not have the power to tow a much heavier tank.
An armoured vehicle-launched bridge (AVLB) is a combat support vehicle, sometimes regarded as a subtype of combat engineering vehicle, designed to assist militaries in rapidly deploying tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles across rivers. The AVLB is usually a tracked vehicle converted from a tank chassis to carry a folding metal bridge instead of weapons. The AVLB's job is to allow armoured or infantry units to cross water, when a river too deep for vehicles to wade through is reached, and no bridge is conveniently located (or sufficiently sturdy, a substantial concern when moving 60-ton tanks).
The bridge layer unfolds and launches its cargo, providing a ready-made bridge across the obstacle in only minutes. Once the span has been put in place, the AVLB vehicle detaches from the bridge, and moves aside to allow traffic to pass. Once all of the vehicles have crossed, it crosses the bridge itself and reattaches to the bridge on the other side. It then retracts the span ready to move off again. A similar procedure can be employed to allow crossings of small chasms or similar obstructions. AVLBs can carry bridges of 60 feet (19 metres) or greater in length. By using a tank chassis, the bridge layer is able to cover the same terrain as main battle tanks, and the provision of armour allows them to operate even in the face of enemy fire. However, this is not a universal attribute: some exceptionally sturdy 6x6 or 8x8 truck chassis have lent themselves to bridge-layer applications.
The combat engineer section carriers are used to transport sappers (combat engineers) and can be fitted with a bulldozer's blade and other mine-breaching devices. They are often used as APCs because of their carrying ability and heavy protection. They are usually armed with machine guns and grenade launchers and usually tracked to provide enough tractive force to push blades and rakes. Some examples are the U.S. M113 APC, IDF Puma, Nagmachon, Husky, and U.S. M1132 ESV (a Stryker variant).
A remotely controlled Panther armored mine clearing vehicle leads a column down a road in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 16 May 1996.
Marines with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion launch a M58 MICLIC from an Assault Breacher Vehicle.
BPz3 "Büffel", German Army.
An M60A1 Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge (AVLB), deploying its scissors-type bridge.
An anti-aircraft vehicle, also known as a self-propelled anti-aircraft weapon (SPAA) or self-propelled air defense system (SPAD), is a mobile vehicle with a dedicated anti-aircraft capability. The Russian equivalent of SPAAG is ZSU (from zenitnaya samokhodnaya ustanovka - "anti-aircraft self-propelled mount"). Specific weapon systems used include machine guns, autocannons, larger guns, or missiles, and some mount both guns and longer-ranged missiles. Platforms used include both trucks and heavier combat vehicles such as APCs and tanks, which add protection from aircraft, artillery, and small arms fire for front line deployment. Anti-aircraft guns are usually mounted in a quickly-traversing turret with a high rate of elevation, for tracking fast-moving aircraft. They are often in dual or quadruple mounts, allowing a high rate of fire. Today, missiles (generally mounted on similar turrets) have largely supplanted anti-aircraft guns.
Self-propelled artillery vehicles give mobility to artillery. Within the term are covered self-propelled guns (or howitzers) and rocket artillery. They are highly mobile, usually based on tracked chassis carrying either a large howitzer or other field gun or alternatively a mortar or some form of rocket or missile launcher. They are usually used for long-range indirect bombardment support on the battlefield.
In the past, self-propelled artillery has included direct fire vehicles such as assault guns and tank destroyers (also known as self-propelled anti-tank guns). These have been heavily armoured vehicles, the former providing close fire-support for infantry and the latter acting as specialized anti-tank vehicles.
Modern self-propelled artillery vehicles may superficially resemble tanks, but they are generally lightly armoured, too lightly to survive in direct-fire combat. However, they protect their crews against shrapnel and small arms and are therefore usually included as armoured fighting vehicles. Many are equipped with machine guns for defence against enemy infantry.
The key advantage of self-propelled over towed artillery is that it can be brought into action much faster. Before the towed artillery can be used, it has to stop, unlimber and set up the guns. To move position, the guns must be limbered up again and brought — usually towed — to the new location. By comparison self-propelled artillery in combination with modern communications can stop at a chosen location and begin firing almost immediately, then quickly move on to a new position. This ability is very useful in a mobile conflict and particularly on the advance.
Conversely, towed artillery was and remains cheaper to build and maintain. It is also lighter and can be taken to places that self-propelled guns cannot reach, so despite the advantages of the self-propelled artillery, towed guns remain in the arsenals of many modern armies.
An assault gun is a gun or howitzer mounted on a motor vehicle or armoured chassis, designed for use in the direct fire role in support of infantry when attacking other infantry or fortified positions.
Historically the custom-built fully armored assault guns usually mounted the gun or howitzer in a fully enclosed casemate on a tank chassis. The use of a casemate instead of a gun turret limited these weapons field of fire, but allowed a larger gun to be fitted relative to the chassis, more armour to be fitted for the same weight, and provided a cheaper construction. The increased space and reduced weight of the turretless design also allowed for the mounting of a larger weapon and heavier frontal armour on any given chassis. In most cases, these turretless vehicles also presented a lower profile as a target for the enemy.
A mortar carrier is a self-propelled artillery vehicle carrying a mortar as its primary weapon. Mortar carriers cannot be fired while on the move and some must be dismounted to fire. In U.S. Army doctrine, mortar carriers provide close and immediate indirect fire support for maneuver units while allowing for rapid displacement and quick reaction to the tactical situation. The ability to relocate not only allows fire support to be provided where it is needed faster but also allows these units to avoid counter-battery fire. Mortar carriers have traditionally avoided direct contact with the enemy. Many units report never using secondary weapons in combat.
Prior to the Iraq War, American 120mm mortar platoons reorganized from six M1064 mortar carriers and two M577 fire direction centers (FDC) to four M1064 and one FDC. The urban environment of Iraq made it difficult to utilize mortars. New technologies such as mortar ballistic computers and communication equipment and are being integrated. Modern era combat is becoming more reliant on direct fire support from mortar carrier machine guns.
A multiple rocket launcher is a type of unguided rocket artillery system. Like other rocket artillery, multiple rocket launchers are less accurate and have a much lower (sustained) rate of fire than batteries of traditional artillery guns. However, they have the capability of simultaneously dropping many hundreds of kilograms of explosive, with devastating effect.
The Korean Hwacha is an example of an early weapon system with a resemblance to the modern-day multiple rocket launcher. The first modern multiple rocket launcher was the German Nebelwerfer of the 1930s, a small towed artillery piece. Only later in World War II did the Allies deploy similar weapons in the form of the Land Mattress.
The first self-propelled multiple rocket launchers — and arguably the most famous — were the Soviet BM-13 Katyushas, first used during World War II and exported to Soviet allies afterwards. They were simple systems in which a rack of launch rails was mounted on the back of a truck. This set the template for modern multiple rocket launchers. The Americans mounted tubular launchers atop M4 Sherman tanks to create the T34 Calliope rocket launching tank, only used in small numbers, as their closest equivalent to the Katyusha.
Tank destroyers are armed with an anti-tank gun or missile launcher, and are designed specifically to engage enemy armoured vehicles. Many have been based on a tracked tank chassis, while others are wheeled. Since World War II, main battle tanks have largely replaced gun-armed tank destroyers although lightly armoured anti tank guided missile (ATGM) carriers are commonly used for supplementary long-range anti-tank work.
The resurgence of expeditionary warfare after the Cold War has seen the emergence of gun-armed wheeled vehicles, sometimes called "protected gun systems", which may bear a superficial resemblance to tank destroyers, but are employed as direct fire support units typically providing support in low intensity operations such as Iraq and Afghanistan. These have the advantage of easier deployment, as only the largest air transports can carry a main battle tank, and their smaller size makes them more effective in urban combat.
Many forces' IFVs carry anti-tank missiles in every infantry platoon, and attack helicopters have also added anti-tank capability to the modern battlefield. But there are still dedicated anti-tank vehicles with very heavy long-range missiles, or intended for airborne use. There have also been dedicated anti-tank vehicles built on ordinary armoured personnel carrier or armoured car chassis. Examples include the U.S. M901 ITV (Improved TOW Vehicle) and the Norwegian NM142, both on an M113 chassis, several Soviet ATGM launchers based on the BRDM reconnaissance car, the British FV438 Swingfire and FV102 Striker and the German Raketenjagdpanzer series built on the chassis of the HS 30 and Marder IFV.
An armoured train is a railway train protected with armour. They are usually equipped with railroad cars armed with artillery and machine guns. They were mostly used during the late 19th and early 20th century, when they offered an innovative way to quickly move large amounts of firepower. Their use was discontinued in most countries when road vehicles became much more powerful and offered more flexibility, and because armoured trains were too vulnerable to track sabotage as well as attacks from the air. However, the Russian Federation used improvised armoured trains in the Second Chechen War in the late 1990s and 2000s.
The railroad cars on an armoured train were designed for many tasks such as carrying guns and machine guns, infantry units, anti-aircraft guns. During World War II, the Germans would sometimes put a Fremdgerät (such as a captured French Somua S-35 or Czech PzKpfw 38(t) light tank, or Panzer II light tank) on a flatbed car which could be quickly offloaded by means of a ramp and used away from the range of the main railway line to chase down enemy partisans
Different types of armour were used to protect from attack by tanks. In addition to various metal plates, concrete and sandbags were used in some cases for improvised armoured trains.
Armoured trains were sometimes escorted by a kind of rail-tank called a draisine. One such example was the 'Littorina' armoured trolley which had a cab in the front and rear, each with a control set so it could be driven down the tracks in either direction. Littorina mounted two dual 7.92mm MG13 machine gun turrets from Panzer I light tanks.
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