Monday, September 9, 2013



Special Forces started using such vehicles as long ago as WW II. The British were the primary pioneers through the Long Range Desert Group, the SAS, and such strange units as Popski’s Private Army. Typically, they used converted Chevy trucks or Jeeps.

Such units were highly successful in North Africa, because they could maneuver behind enemy lines and there was plenty of real estate for them to hide in. Few thought they could do as well in more congested environments such as Italy—but some jeep-born units such as Popski’s Private Army did surprisingly well—despite lacking armor and running the constant risk of running into the German defenders.

Their secret was careful reconnaissance, picking their fights, the .50 machine gun, and highly experienced troops who developed a truly uncanny feel for anticipating where the enemy might be. As a consequence, even in Italy, their casualties were kept surprisingly low—much lower than conventional infantry.

I featured a tracked version of such a vehicle in my book, THE DEVIL’S FOOTPRINT. I made mine tracked because my primary requirement was off-road mobility—and tracks generally have the edge in that regard. Though not many people know this, today’s ‘band-tracks’, which are rubber and metal composites—and significantly lighter than traditional tracks--can also go surprisingly fast (60 mph plus). Traditional tracks, by the way, are normally made of steel with rubber pads.

The installation of a rubber band track offers the user a number of significant operational advantages, including a 50 per cent reduction in weight, noise and vibration. According to Soucy International, the vibration level in the M113 has been reduced by almost 70 per cent. The very latest band tracks are made in sections so are easy to repair in case of wear or damage. That mitigates one of the greatest objections to tracks in general.

The above was built by General Dynamics and “plans are to buy about 1,300 GMVs (Ground Mobility Vehicles) to replace SOCOM’s current fleet, which are Humvees specialized for use by commandos. Those vehicles were built by AM General. The acquisition is expected to be completed by September 2020, according to a statement from the Office of the Secretary of Defense announcing the award.”

I monitor this kind of stuff because I’m always looking for interesting gadgetry to feature in a book.

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