Armoured Wheeled Vehicles
© 2008 FrontLine Defence (Vol 5, No 4)

Heated debate continues on the choice between wheeled or tracked armoured vehicles – which best fulfills today’s operational requirements of high mobility while retaining survivability. We focus here on wheeled options around the world.

As small arms fire and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) continue to pose highly dangerous threats to mobile infantry, and the need to balance transportability, manoeuvrability, speed, and weaponry capability with self-protection and survivability is critical for vehicle platforms used by ground troops in urban operations.

The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the USSR has created a new global strategic scenario, whereby crisis situations can arise all around the world with little or no warning. To manage these often unforeseen situations, the international community must maintain capabilies to deploy military forces rapidly for worldwide peace-keeping and peace-support missions, using starting bases which may be far away from the expected theatre, mostly without logistic support. In some cases, hostile forces are using equipment with outdated weaponry, but current lessons have shown that they can still be efficient.

Wheeled military vehicles provide a good solution to the above requirements, and are often politically more suitable for peace support operations because of their possible lower psychological impact than tracked vehicle systems. As a result, interest continues towards wheeled vehicles for a variety of combat roles, including troop transport and reconnaissance.

On the other hand, as a result of the changed political and security situation in the world, there is a great global demand to equip military forces with wheeled vehicles, especially Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFV), to operate in peace-keeping and peace-support missions. However, the main design criteria for modern wheeled AFVs resulted into a greater amount of vehicles, developed and offered by manufactures worldwide to armed forces, and divided up to the requirements. Armoured Fighting Vehicles are military vehicles protected by armour and armed with weapons; mostly equipped for driving in rugged terrain. AFVs 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 (APC) were generally replaced by Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV) in a very similar role, but the latter has some capabilities lacking in the former.

According to this general framework of of an increasing interest for wheeled AFVs, an important factor is the preference being often assigned to 8x8 vehicles with a trend for progressive growth of their size and weight, and serveral expeditionary forces worldwide layed their procurement programmes on two types of AFVs. Firstly Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV) which were intended to accompany Main Battle Tanks (MBT) across all terrain to participate in mounted combat and secondly Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) operating as battlefield transporters for dismounted combat troops and other rearline duties.

8 x 8 Infantry – Armoured Vehicles

LAV III, Canada

The well-known LAV III armoured vehicle, built by General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada, is based on the PIRANHA III built by Mowag of Switzerland, now part of General Dynamics European Land Systems.

Entering service in 1999, the Canadian Armed Forces has more than 650 in service. Equipped with an 25mm stabilized gun, it has a maximum speed of 100km/h and is transportable by C-130 aircraft. The LAV III has appropriate types for different roles. Anti-mine capabilities and an automatic fire and explosion suppression system, provides additional safety for the crew. It can be used day and night, in all weather conditions, in battlefield and on most types of terrain. The system offers options in both combat and non-combat situations – commanders can keep troops mounted while using the 25mm gun; an important option previously available. Driver and commander have display terminals for the Tactical Navigation System added by links to GPS with a digital magnetic compass and laser range finder, as well as thermal viewers.

The New Zealand Army has 105 systems in service, named NZLAV, another 31 will be delivered to the Romanian Land Forces by the end of this year.


General Dynamics Land Systems has developed the LAV H High-Capacity Technology Demonstrator. Based on an ICV hull, this 25t (55,000lb.) test platform retains commonality with existing LAV systems. As a result, these technology enhancements can be offered as upgrades to existing LAV fleets.


Transportable by C-130 aircraft and based on the LAV III, the STRYKER is a family of wheel-driven combat vehicles built for the U.S. Army by General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) – Canada (former GM Defence) and ­General Dynamics Land Systems Division of the USA.

The STRYKER Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) combines the capacity for rapid deployment with survivability and tactical mobility and allows manoeuvres in close and urban terrain, provides protection in open terrain and can transport infantry quickly to critical battlefield positions. It is a full-time four-wheel drive, selectively eight-wheel drive, vehicle weighing approx­imately 19t and can attain speeds of 62mph on metalled roads. It has a maximum range of 312 miles. STRYKER variants consist of an Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICV), including a Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Reconnaissance Vehicle, Anti-Tank Guided Missile, a Medical Evacuation Vehicle, Mortar Carrier, Engineer Squad Vehicle, Command Vehicle, Fire Support Vehicle (FSV), Reconnaissance Vehicle (RV), and Mobile Gun System (MGS). The MGS variant is the very first fire support derivative of an 8x8 AFV, equipped with a 105mm gun and entered service with a pre-production delivery in May 2007. A decision on full-rate production is expected by the end of 2008.

The basic ICV provides armoured protection for the two-man crew and a squad of nine infantry soldiers. The basic hard steel armour is augmented by applique panels of lightweight ceramic/composite armour produced by a team led by IDB Deisenroth Engineering of Germany.

The ICV has a protector remote weapon station from KONGSBERG of Norway, with a universal soft mount cradle, which can mount either a 0.50 ­caliber M2 machine gun, MK19 40mm grenade launcher, or MK240 7.62mm machine gun. It is also armed with four M6 smoke grenade launchers.

PIRANHA, Switzerland

The Mowag PIRANHA family is designed and manufactured by the Swiss company Mowag (part of ­General Dynamics European Land Combat Systems since 2003). Four generations of vehicles have been produced, with variants in service with many military forces.

PIRANHAs are used by the Swiss Army, derivatives have been exported to the Swedish, Danish, Irish and Spanish armed forces. More than 650 Candian LAV III have been produced under licence by General Motors Diesel Division. The Belgian Army has selected the PIRANHA IIIC 8x8 as replacement for the current MBT LEOPARD 1. The PIRANHA is modern and armoured, however, lacks the protection, firepower and mobility of a conventional tracked tank. The Australian Defence Force has a modified version known as the ASLAV (Australian Light Armoured Vehicle) in service. Some variants like the USMC’s LAV 25 are equipped with propellers for amphibious use, though their abilities are limited to sheltered waters.

The latest member of the PIRANHA family is the PIRANHA IV. This is a 25t-class vehicle, offering most notably enhanced survivability plus the ability to withstand the under-wheel detonation of 8kg HE mines. The development is now completed however, no orders are reported.


The PATRIA AMV (Armoured Modular Vehicle) is an 8x8 or 6x6 multi-role miltary vehicle produced by Finnish manufacturer PATRIA. The first prototype was produced in 2001 and serial production started in 2004.

The AMV’s modular design allows the incorporation of different weapon, sensor, or communications systems on the same carriage. Designs for different APC and IFV versions include a communications version, ambulance and fire support versions with large caliber mortar and gun systems. A technical highlight is that the AMV has top-class mine protection – up to 10 kg TNT. The AMV family uses the same hull platform, fitted with the turrets and mission systems for each variant (armoured personnel carrier, infantry fighting vehicle, AMOS heavy mortar system, command post, workshop and battlefield ambulance). Vehicle weight is between 14t and 24t according to armour and weapons ­systems, ammunition, and crew.

The Finnish Defence Forces have ordered the AMV 8x8 AMOS (Advanced Mortar System) and AMV 8x8 APC versions, fitted with Kongsberg heavy machine gun turrets.

The Polish Government selected the PATRIA AMV as its main armoured vehicle. Its state-owned military production company Wojskowe Zaklady Mech­aniczne is a prime contractor. The Polish vehicles are called Rosomak and include OTO Melara ­Hitfist 30P turrets, 30mm ATK MK 44 guns, and under armour operated 12.7mm heavy machine guns, a command and control version, an engineer reconnaissance version, armoured battlefield ambulances, recovery vehicles, and a 6x6 reconnaissance AMV.

In 2006, the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Slovenia ordered 135 PATRIA AMVs, some equipped with the NEMO 120mm smoothbore turreted advanced mortar system. ELBIT Systems of Israel was supplying 30mm unmanned turrets and 40mm Overhead Remote Controlled Weapon Systems for the vehicles.

In 2007, DENEL Land Systems, a South African prime contractor ordered 264 PATRIAs for the South African Army, however, the contract seems to be dormant.

Finally, PATRIA and IBD Deisenroth Engineering of Germany have produced an AMV demonstrator fitted with the IBD AMAP-ADS Active Defence System. The ADS provides 360° protection against a variety of threats including kinetic energy, shaped charge including the RPG-7 rocket powered grenade and IEDs.

BTR-80, Russia

The BTR-80 8x8 Armoured Personnel ­Carrier, manufactured by the ARZAMAS Machinery Construction Plant of Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, is intended to carry personnel on the battlefield and provides close fire support. It can also carry out reconnaissance, combat support and patrol missions. It entered service with the Russian Army in the late 1980s and has since been used in a number of military conflicts, including UN peacekeeping operations. The APC is also in service with the Ukraine and has been sold to Hungary, Turkey, Macedonia and Bangladesh.

The BTR-80 is fitted with NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) protection system, automatic firefighting system, camouflage devices, bilge pumps and a self-recovery winch. The BTR-80S has a BPU-1turret machine gun mount, which contains Russian typed 14.5mm KPTV and 7.62mm PKT coaxial machine guns.

A fully amphibious BTR-80 version is equipped to carry ten personnel: commander, driver/mechanic, gunner and seven troops. There are seven ball-swivel firing ports in the vehicle hull, four on the right and three on the left side of the vehicle, as well as ports in the upper hatches of the firing compartment. The hatches have armoured doors and are situated on both sides of the vehicle. The vehicle is powered by a 7,403 four-stroke, eight cylinder liquid-cooled diesel engine, which provides 260hp and is capable of a maximum speed of 80km/h on paved roads and 9km/h when afloat. Fuel endurance range is 600km on roads.

An enlarged version, the BTR-90 with improved armour protection, has been developed. The BTR-90 has a 30mm 2A42 automatic cannon and is capable of mounting a launcher for the Konkurs anti-tank missile system.

ZIMBRU 2000, Romania

The Romanian company of ROMARM has developed and tested a new 8x8 armoured personnel carrier named ZIMBRU 2000. According to ROMARM, the development is completed and production can commence as soon as orders are placed. ZIMBRU 2000 is a further development of the ROMARM B33 8x8 APC that has been in service with the Romanian Army and is essentially the Russian BTR-80 modified to meet Romanian requirements.

Boxer, German

This German-Dutch multi-role armoured vehicle (MRAV) is designed to accomplish a number of operations through the use of installable mission modules. Produced by the ARTEC GmbH, based in Munich, its parent companies are Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and Rheinmetall on the German side, and Stork PWV (now also a Rheinmetall subsidiary) of the Netherlands.

The Boxer is an 8x8 wheeled MRAV, easily dwarfing most contemporary vehicles with its size. At 33t combat weight, it is about 10t heavier than many other contemporary vehicles within the same role. It is designed to carry out a variety of utility missions with maximum flexibility; this is achieved via several different add-on ­“mission modules” that are specialized for various tasks. The basic vehicle is ­independent of the modules, and modules can be interchanged within an hour. Each module incorporates a primary safety cell with a triple floor.

The Boxer is built with a high degree of standardization, and designed to be maintained easily and efficiently. It is capable of being air transported in the A400M aircarrier.

The basic vehicle shell is composed of hard steel, and “modular armour” is sandwiched between it and the vehicle cell. The three elements are held together by fastening bolts. The modular armour, currently, is a specialized ceramic mix, but future versions of the armour can be easily fitted to the vehicle by slab replacement. The hull protects against top attack bomblets and AP mines, and “hanging” seats improve crew protection from explosions below the vehicle. The vehicle is outfitted with advanced thermal, radar, and acoustic stealth technology.

The Royal Netherlands Army requires around 400 BOXERs and has confirmed the procurement of 200 BOXERs, including armoured ambulance, command post, engineer vehicle and two types of cargo vehicles versions with delivery in 2009. The German Army ordered 272 BOXERs to replace shares of its M113 and FUCHS APC (TPz – Transportpanzer 1). When high numbers of FUCHS are due to be replaced in 2020, more BOXERs are likely to follow. So far a total of 650-700 BOXERs are planned for production, with 300 in the first batch.

In June 2007, the BOXER was being considered for the British Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) programme to deliver more than 3,000 armoured vehicles for the British Army.

Discussions have taken place between the Canadian Armed Forces and OCCAR (Organisation for Joint Armament Co­operation), a European government to government organization responsible for the ­management and sale of the BOXER MRAV.

6 x 6 Infantry – Armoured Vehicles

FUCHS 2, Germany

The FUCHS 2 Armoured Personnel Carrier is the upgraded version of the 6x6 FUCHS (Fox) Transportpanzer 1. The vehicles are built by Rheinmetall Landsysteme GmbH, which has delivered 1,236 FUCHS 1 vehicles in a variety of mission variants. The vehicles are in service with the German Army and the Armed Forces of Saudi Arabia, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, USA and Venezuela.

In February 2005, the United Arab Emirates placed an order for 32 FUCHS NBC (Nuclear, Biological and Chemical) reconnaissance vehicles which will be based on the FUCHS 2. This order includes eight ­biological warfare detection vehicles and and eight command post vehicles. The first FUCHS 2 NBC RC was delivered and viewed during the IDEX exhibition in Abu Dhabi in February 2007.

In October 2007, the US Army contracted the upgrade of an initial 18 of its 123 FUCHS (Fox) vehicles to the latest FUCHS 2 NBC configuration.

The FUCHS 2 has a maximum combat weight of 20,000kg and is fully amphibious. The main improved features are the integration of a more powerful, low emission engine, allowing a payload increase of 4t to a total of 9.4t, depending on the version. The height of the rear crew compartment has been increased by 145mm and roof-mounted air louvres have been installed. The cabin is sufficiently large with 10.5m³ stowage capacity to accommodate a range of mission systems. The family of FUCHS 2 vehicles includes the above mentioned NBC protection vehicle, reconnaissance, C4I, C3I, mortar carrier and an electronic warfare vehicle.

The FUCHS 2 can be fitted with a range of weapon systems including a Rheinmetall E8 turret or Rheinmetall low weight RLS 609 (12.7mm machine gun or 40mm grenade launcher) weapon station. The E8 turret can be armed with missiles, a 30mm cannon and a 7.62mm machine gun. The armour steel monocoque hull provides all-round 360° protection against 7.62mm Armour Piercing rounds at 0° obliquity.

With the optional amphibious suite, the vehicle is fully amphibious. The rear of the vehicle is fitted with two Schottel propellers which can turn 360° and give a water speed of 10km/h.

4 x 4 Light Armoured Vehicles

FENNEK, Germany

The Fennek Armed Reconnaissance Vehicle, produced by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) SP Aerospace and Vehicle Systems BV, The Netherlands (now Dutch Defence Vehicle Systems – DDVS), has been developed for the Dutch and German Armies.
According to the contract, 612 FENNEKs, in different versions, were ordered: 202 reconnaissance, 130 MRAT (medium range antitank), 78 general purpose versions for the Royal Netherlands Army; 178 reconnaissance, 24 combat engineer and four artillery observer versions for the German Army. The FENNEK will replace M113 vehicles in the Dutch Army and LUCHS ARVs in the German Army.

The FENNEK is a light armoured 4x4 wheeled reconnaissance vehicle, operated by a three-man crew and deployed in units of two vehicles. A scout party equipped with this vehicle is able to operate independently for a period of up to five days.

In October 2006, FENNEK vehicles of the Royal Netherlands Army were deployed to southern Afghanistan in support of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

In November 2007, the German Army ordered another 10 FENNEK vehicles, for the Joint Fire Support Teams (JFST) operating in Afghanistan. The vehicles are to be delivered by November 2009.

The Tactical Command and Control System (TCCS) enables the reconnaissance vehicles to be integrated into the reconnaissance data information, command and control system. The Dutch reconnaissance vehicles are armed with a 12.7mm machine gun, German vehicles with a 40mm automatic grenade launcher. The Dutch MRAT versions are fitted with the RAFAEL SPIKE MR (Gill) anti-tank missile. Furthermore, the Royal Netherlands Army placed an order with ASELAN of Turkey for 18 launchers for the RAYTHEON STINGER surface-to-air missile system, to be mounted on Fennek vehicles.

The reconnaissance vehicle’s observation system is the Rheinmetall Defence Electronics (formerly STN Atlas Elektronik) BAA which comprises a thermal imager, a CCD day vision camera and a laser rangefinder, and is installed in a sensor head mounted on an extendable mast.

The forward position of the driver’s seat gives the driver a field of view greater than 180° through the windscreen and side windows. The rearview camera mounted at the back of the vehicle, and a monitor integrated in the driver’s instrument panel, allow for rapid evasive manoeuvres. The driver can use the cable winch to recover his own or another vehicle.

The vehicle has add-on all-round ­protection against 7.62mm Armour Piercing rounds. Add-on armour protection can be selected to suit mission requirements. The crew compartment is protected against anti-personnel mines. NBC warfare protection is integrated in the crew compartment air-conditioning system.

The vehicle is able to negotiate 60% forward and 35% side slopes. The turning radius is 6.3m and the fording depth is 1m. A central tire inflation system enables the driver to adjust tire pressure on the move to suit terrain conditions.

Plasan SAND CAT/Plasan CARACAL, Israel

The SAND CAT, a composite armoured vehicle designed by PLASAN of Israel, is based on a commercial FORD F-Series chassis. Originaly designed as a potential replacement for the AIL Storm jeeps of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), it was developed in numerous versions from 4 to 6 tons to transport up to 8 soldiers. Prototypes have undergone trials by the IDF in Israel and the U.S. Army (at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland). A heavily armoured version of the SAND CAT, featuring ceramic body parts, was presented to the U.S. Army in August 2006. At the 2008 Eurosatory, the Sand Cat was branded as an OSHKOSH Corporation product.

The trapezoid shaped side windows are designed to reduce the weight of transparent armour without adversely affecting the field of vision. The fully armoured body utilises a combination of armored steel, ceramics, and composites to provide a field replaceable modular armour package at various threat levels. The SAND CAT has excellent handling and acceleration for an armoured vehicle. The interior is comfortable and spacious and can accommodate an open stretcher.

In July 2007, PLASAN released information about a new version – the SAND CAT PLUS. Featuring a station wagon style body and eight seats, it was designed as a low-profile vehicle for use by special forces. In contrast to the military SAND CAT, the PLUS is fitted with full side body mouldings and is painted in civilian colors. It still has a high level of armour as well as NBC and fire suppression systems. It has a remarkably small turning circle and has been described as surprisingly quick for a 7-tonne vehicle.

DINGO 2, Germany

Built by Germany’s Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, the DINGO 2 might be the most secure and best-protected wheeled vehicle of its class. Its protection level and state-of-the-art equipment allow it to be deployed for the most varied missions under any ­climatic conditions around the globe. Depending on its mission profile, it can operate on surfaced and unsurfaced roads, in urban surroundings as well as in extreme terrain. The multi-functional platform allows the DINGO to operate as an APC, command vehicle, reconnaissance and patrol vehicle, or as an armoured ambulance. The DINGO is air transportable in aircraft such as the C-160, the C130 or the future A400M.

The DINGO 2 embodies the consistent development of high protection in vehicle design. Thanks to a choice of module structures, it offers protection against handheld weapons as well as against artillery and grenade fragments. A double hull offers highly effective fragment protection. Together with additional components such as a belly pan inside the vehicle, it minimizes pressure waves and deformations caused by exploding anti-tank and antipersonnel mines. The DINGO 2 thus fully satisfies the STANAG 4569 requirements for all-round and mine protection. An NBC protection system also allows operation in contaminated surroundings. In addition, the crew is even protected against improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The DINGO 2 has excellent road-holding and off-road mobility by using a UNIMOG chassis from Daimler with all-wheel drive and differential lock. The tire inflation system assures optimal mobility, emergency tires offering residual mobility even in the toughest terrain. The DINGO 2 reaches a maximum speed of 100 km/h and a range of about 1,000 kilometres. According to the mission, various weapons systems like machine guns and grenade launchers can be installed for self-protection.
Jürgen K.G. Rosenthal is a FrontLine correspondent, based in Germany.
© Frontline Defence 2008