Thursday, 7 June 2012


 In some ways Canada invented the armoured personal carrier (APC). In the Second World War Canadian built Ram tanks with turrets removed and “defrocked” Priest self-propelled artillery vehicles were pressed into service as APC’s. Known as Kangaroos, they were operated by the 1st Canadian Armoured Personnel Carrier Squadron.

 In the post war environment an attempt to design a Canadian APC, named Bobcat, joined the Avro Arrow and HMCS Brasd'Or (FHE 400) as ‘might have beens’ that never were. One of the things that killed the Bobcat was the ubiquitous M-113 (Gavin) APC.

  Cold war strategy in the ‘60s assumed WWIII might start with tactical nuclear strikes on military targets. Dispersal was the answer to the problem and the M-113 was the answer to dispersion. An armoured, tracked, amphibious vehicle capable of holding 11 men it was perfectly suited to the task. Not too heavy at 12 tons, mechanically reliable, simple and affordable it was purchased in quantity by all the western forces. If WWIII or something like it had broken out it would have been as common on the battlefield as the jeep was in WWII.

  Designed to safely take troops around the battlefield, it was not expected to enter directly into combat but rather to transport troops to the battle; it was referred to as a battlefield taxi. It could keep up with tanks but was not designed to fight with them. As time progressed the whole concept of the APC was superseded by the Mechanized Infantry FightingVehicle (MICV). Much more heavily armoured and armed then the M-113 class of APC’s, MICV’S were designed to accompany tanks into battle while carrying troops and supporting them.

 In the late 1970’s the Armoured Vehicle, General Purpose (AVGP) entered the Canadian Forces inventory. A six wheeled Swiss designed family of armoured vehicles they were procured for use by the reserves. They were used mainly as APC and tank surrogates for training purposes. Inevitably they ended up in the hands of the regulars on operations who valued them for their low maintenance and ease of use on roads.

 With the end of the cold war and the necessary re-orientation of the army as a more general purpose force a new APC was needed. Experience with the AVGP and the need for an MICV class vehicle led to the introduction of the LAV III. “LAV” in this case stood for Light Armoured Vehicle which was something of a misnomer. Twice as heavy and with eight wheels it was much more heavily armoured and armed (with a 25m automatic canon) then its predecessors. Oddly enough its wheels made people think of trucks while the tracks on an M-113 reminded people of tanks which led to a situation in which some felt the LAV III was a step back in terms of capability. Combat in Afghanistan would end this misunderstanding.

 The LAV III has been a success in service. The platform has been updated and will continue in use for many years, at the same time some of the limitations inherent in a wheeled design have been noted. Wheeled vehicles ride higher then tracked vehicles which can give them a greater ability to withstand ground based explosives. However the higher center of gravity can limit the amount of armour they can carry. They have a generally lower maintenance footprint and can self deploy for long distances on roads but lack the all terrain mobility of tracked armour.

 Tracked vehicles come with their own set of compromises. Drawbacks include slower road speeds, greater maintenance demands, and a lower center of gravity which, although good for stability, leaves them more vulnerable to mines and IED’s

 The obvious solution is a mixed fleet of vehicles. Rebuilt and re-purposed M-113’s are in use for engineers and support duties but it was felt that an infantry carrier was needed to keep up with newly acquired Leopard II tanks. So was born the Close Combat Vehicle Project. The project has not gone well. DND so far seems incapable of defining its requirements in a manner that satisfies both itself and industry. With budgets shrinking there is some doubt that a new Armoured Personal Carrier of any description will enter the inventory of the Canadian Armed Forces any time in the near future.