Call It The “Ambush Vehicle.”

Soldiers would like to tell us that they are tough and manly, dripping with toxic masculinity juice that you can smell from miles away. Sometimes, that’s even true. But other times you’ve just got to stand back and admire the fashions (such as wearing a corset under all the tight napoleonic cavalry kit).


This one looks to be plain old dumb. It’s the I-don’t-know-howmanyth “Jeep replacement” for the army. Just in case you don’t remember the military history of the jeep, it was a light unarmored car useful for zooming around behind the forward edge of battle. In WWII this was useful. In the Korean war, it was less useful and jeeps became a good target. In the Vietnam war, driving a jeep was like flying a flag that said “I want to die.” After the Vietnam war, the US military decided it needed a jeep replacement, that was bigger, could go over more nastier terrain and maybe carry a rocket launcher or a machine gun: the Hummvee. Then, in Iraq it turned out that a thin-skinned light vehicle was still a death-trap. So the military produced “up armored Hummvees” that had a mini turret that could stop AK-47 rounds, and side armored panels that could slow own an improvised mine. That did not work (surprise: the entire bottom of the vehicle remained mostly open except for armor plates under the seats) and a new generation – the MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected” car.

You’ll notice a trend: as the light vehicle is increasingly in a combat zone, rather than a neatly-defined battle area, it is more likely to encounter small arms fire or IEDs/mines – so it needs to be armored. Otherwise, it becomes a rolling coffin.

By the way, in the Vietnam war they used a lot of M-113 armored personnel carriers. These were not comfortable zoom-abouts but they were actually designed to be armored and actually could survive a mortaring or a machine-gunning and had nice armor in the front and an armored exit door in the back, with lots of ground clearance. Around the time when Hummvees were being made in huge quantities, the US’ supply of M-113s was quietly sold to Turkey, Egypt, and a few other countries that need something really good for keeping civilians from rioting.

An armored personnel carrier offers two things: cover and concealment. In military terms, those are really different things. Cover is when you’re someplace where something can’t get at you. Concealment is when you’re someplace that someone can’t see you. So, if I have a rocket propelled grenade and you’re in the back of a Humvee you have concealment (I don’t know exactly where in the back of the Humvee you are) but not cover (because the RPG will go right through any side of the Hummvee as if it’s made of cheese). People who play a lot of 1st person shooters often get confused about cover versus concealment because the game engines don’t take it fully into account. Again, for example, if you hide behind a concrete Jersey Barrier you have cover and concealment unless I have something that can punch straight through that much concrete. In which case the shattered concrete becomes part of the damage you suffer when your cover fails. All of this is relevant because, if you’re assaulting someone’s position and you show up in an M-113, the troops disembark via the armored hatch in the back (taking advantage of the wall-like nature of the rest of the M-113) whereas if you show up in a Hummvee, the doors are in the side and you’re stepping out very obviously into a potential shitstorm. When things started going horribly wrong in Iraq and Afghanistan, a few of us started muttering about bringing back a new version of the M-113, while everyone else started talking about welding pieces of steel plate to Hummvees. As usual, the US military found itself trying to suppress an insurgency using weapons systems that were designed to be effective in a WWII-era stand-up battle.

It’s just not smart.

So, General Motors defense (who brought you the Hummvee) has a new offering. [wib]

Yup, it’s the skeletonized “Sniper’s Workout” battlefield mobility coffin. Not only can someone who’s taking a shot at that thing tell where you’re standing so they can aim, they can enjoy your horrified expression when you realize that you have nothing to hide behind and you have been suckered into riding in a death-trap.

But it’s a pretty fuckin’ tactical-looking death-trap. Look at all those things you can velcro stuff to! Note the absence of a lookout position and absence of a light machine gun – if you’re in that thing and you come under attack, you don’t need to roll the window down in order to wave, “bye bye!”

In addition, the lighter (unarmored) vehicles will provide a sense of mobility seemingly lost by grunts as the Global War on Terror demanded up-armored vehicles.

The only tactical use I forsee for these things, other than getting taxpayers’ money to GM, is that it’s a great bar-crawler. Can’t you just see a bunch of drunk and rowdies trying to climb onto that thing as the wheels spin?

Since GM is building these using commercial components (it’s basically a GM pick up truck with tactical stuff on it instead of a chassis) I’m sure it’s way less expensive, right? Hahahahahahaha, no they are $177,000. And it’s not even stealthy. Wait for the “up armored” version, which will be required everywhere where someone might shoot at one. The demand for “up armored” vehicles was not a result of the global war on terror; it was a result of counter-insurgency operations being undertaken by a military that is not geared for it. There are no counter-insurgency operations (except pub crawls) that call for unarmored target-haulers.


  1. says

    That looks ridiculously open. I mean, screw snipers; a random guy with a knife could reach in and cut your femoral artery, while you’re still struggling with the seat belt.

  2. komarov says

    Alternate theory: That photo shows the prototype, only the night before the demo/catalogue photoshoot, hoodlums* broke into the GM lot and stripped the vehicle. Some brilliant PR spokesperson, being confronted with the situation during the vehicle’s dramatic unveilling in front of a live audience, then declared it to be the light version of the vehicle and immediately announced the armoured version along with a new time and date for its reveal. What we see here is a Potemkin jeep.

    P.S.: The same spokesperson’s explanation for the 177k$ price tag? The assembly line only builds the armoured version. If you want the light one a regular vehice has to be dismantled. Manual labour is the most expensive part of any product.

    *Other supects include anarchists, layabouts and ne’erdowells.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    “Other supects include anarchists, layabouts and ne’erdowells”

    And bounders, cads and hooligans.

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    … drunks and rowdies…? … drunken rowdies…?

    Does our esteemed host actually rely on dictation software???

  5. kestrel says

    Thank you, Reginald Selkirk. I was really puzzled by that.

    I see this as the perfect vehicle to take up to the Arctic Circle to take people out to “see the polar bears”. The polar bears would love it. Since there are not that many ice floes the polar bears are not doing well, this would really help.

  6. DrVanNostrand says

    In Afghanistan, my brother was fond of a vehicle similar to the MRAP in your first photo, called the Buffalo. Tracked vehicles are a pain in the ass for a lot of reasons, primarily speed. He needed to cover a lot of ground because his job was route clearance. Rolling out with about 10 Buffaloes, each with a 50 cal machine gun, they were more than a match for almost any force they encountered, and were well-protected from IEDs and RPGs. He has a great story about a particular piece of equipment for clearing IEDs, that was derisively nicknamed “The Balls of Allah”. It’s a classic story of a high dollar, high tech solution that works great in theory, but sucks in reality, and which is promoted relentlessly by leadership, even though it’s far worse than the low-tech solutions.

  7. Ridana says

    I don’t know what everybody is so het up about. Isn’t “a sense of mobility” (not to be confused with actual mobility) the most important thing for our troops?
    Since the link was truncated, I figured the Party Bile was just someone being too lazy to pronounce the “mo” in between.

    He has a great story

    Well don’t leave us hanging. Were they flinging bowling balls down the roads or what?

  8. dashdsrdash says

    I like how, in the photo, we see the vehicle on the only available patch of landscaped boulders in a grassy field.

  9. says

    It’s another example of $600 hammers.

    Off the lot Technicals would be cheaper and do just as well. There is something seriously flawed in a military system that “thinks” you win by outspending the enemy. M-16s lost to AK-47s, $600 flight lessons and box cutters defeated security systems, and Al Qaeda defeated Echelon by not sending emails (sharing the same email account, writing drafts to each other).

  10. wereatheist says

    Off the lot Technicals would be cheaper and do just as well.

    Certainly not for US military who want to avoid losses at any cost for other groups involved.

  11. wereatheist says

    What I wanted to say: US military avoids losses by overwhelming firepower, carpet-bombing, and the like.
    Few people outside love the US, but nevertheless lots of people try to immigrate. Which tells us that we are in a dystopy.

  12. DrVanNostrand says

    @11 Ridana

    I feel like the story isn’t so amusing without my brother’s delivery, but I’ll summarize the much less entertaining version. “Allah’s Balls” are two giant metal spheres that create some kind of electromagnetic discharge that fries or blows up IEDs. It looks like a giant pair of metal balls. The problem is that it’s not as reliable as brute force methods like mine rollers. If you do a great job with 90% of the IEDs, but miss 10% or whatever, it’s a bad solution. The way they were mounted to the Buffaloes, they were also too close to the front of the vehicle, so the drivers would get concussions and other brain injuries because the IEDs would explode when they were too close. My brother (a Captain), tossed them into a scrap heap, even though he had been directed to use “The Balls of Allah” for route clearance. A Lt. Colonel came by late one night after my brother had a bad day, and demanded to know why they were in the scrap pile. Since he referred to them by their official name, my brother was initially confused, but eventually realized what he was talking about. “You’re talking about The Balls of Allah?!?!?!? It doesn’t fucking work! You idiots are trying to kill us!” Then there was a long expletive-laden argument about how they worked great in “field tests” (my brother’s reply: “THIS IS THE FIELD, MOTHERFUCKER!!!”). The Lt. Colonel reported my brother to his CO (a full Colonel), who apologized for the language used in the heated discussion, but stated in no uncertain terms that my brother had more experience than any of them in route clearance, and his judgement would be followed accordingly. “The Balls of Allah” never saw action during the remainder of my brother’s deployment.

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