Armor: Broken Wheels In Afghanistan


July 17, 2008: Canadian troops are finding that driving their LAV III wheeled armored vehicles around Afghanistan is tough on the equipment. Really tough. This is especially true when the LAV IIIs go off the roads, but is pretty dangerous even on the shabby roads found there.

The 17 ton LAV III entered service in 1999, and 756 were ordered. The most common model (41 percent) is the infantry carrier. It has a turret armed with a 25mm automatic cannon and a coaxial 7.62mm machine-gun. On top of the turret is another machine-gun. The 25mm cannon has a range of 3,000 meters, and has proved very useful in Afghanistan.

With the turret, the infantry carrier has a high center of carrier, and on Afghanistan's bumpy roads, that often leads to LAVs falling over, or flipping completely (killing or injuring the three man crew, and up to seven infantry passengers). Accidents like this, as well as the wear and tear of operating in the hot, dusty environment, has used up spare parts at a higher than expected rate. Dozens of LAVs have been completely worn out. 

In order to supply more vehicles to replace those being worn down, 33 LAV III ATGM (Anti-Tank Guided Missile) vehicles had the ATGM launchers and missiles removed. These vehicles were then converted into infantry carriers. This is the most widely used model in Afghanistan, and peacekeeping missions in general. The ATGM versions were a Cold War relic, for use fighting hordes of Russian tanks. Canada also cancelled a project to develop an LAV III that carried a 105mm gun. Again, this was another Cold War relic. Smart munitions (bombs and artillery shells) can do the same job more cheaply and effectively.

It cost about $1.4 million to convert each of the ATGM vehicles, and this will include upgraded electronics and other components. These wheeled armored vehicles did prove to be quieter and faster than tracked vehicles like tanks and M113 armored personnel carriers. But Canadians found there were types of terrain in Afghanistan where the tracked vehicles were more maneuverable. So Leopard tanks were sent over to Afghanistan as well.

The LAV series are a licensed version of the Swiss MOWAG Piranha. This model is in use by many other countries, as well as the U.S. Marine Corps. The LAV III vehicle was the basis of the U.S. Stryker armored vehicle, which got a similar workout in Iraq, along with problems similar to those encountered by the Canadians.


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