Sunday, Jan 23, 2022

Vehicles with low silhouette

.The most iconic German post-WW2 wheeled military vehicle is the Unimog, a 2-ton (2.200 kg) extremely offroad-capable 4x4 vehicle. You can see the..



The most iconic German post-WW2 wheeled military vehicle is the "Unimog", a 2-ton (2.200 kg) extremely offroad-capable 4x4 vehicle. You can see the basic version here and see other versions listed under "LKW 2t tmil gl" here.

As far as I can tell the vehicle is extremely popular, but I never liked it, and the dislike was almost instant: The vehicle just seemed to be way too big (especially way too high) for its very modest payload. The wheels alone are huge, and the high performance suspension with huge ground clearance all-but guaranteed that the vehicle stands very tall.

The rough French equivalent ACMAT VLRA has also big wheels, but some versions feature a collapsible  cabin/folding windscreen for a much lower profile (which earlier Unimog generations also had).

ACMAT VLRA, 4x4 version for approx. 1.5 tons

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I found long ago (and recently rediscovered) a book; "U.S. military wheeled vehicles" by Fred W. Crismon, 1983. It features an entire chapter on a program for low profile wheeled motor vehicles.

It turned out that the U.S. Army discovered around 1940 that the then-modern motor vehicles were difficult to conceal on a battlefield, and tried to get less tall vehicles. Folding windscreens were a must-have, but the seating of the driver was also often exotic. Some prototype vehicles were modifications of existing vehicles, and the whole program basically went nowhere because the Department of War/U.S.Army had already settled on wheeled motor vehicle standard types in 1941/1942, and this low profile vehicle program only began in 1942.

The logistics vehicles in this program were able to be configured for a very low silhouette, but most payload onboard would have prevented this.

The French tried and succeeded at developing some 8-wheeled (not 8x8) armoured vehicles with remarkably low silhouette going back to a late 1930's development and the Dutch improvised a remarkably compact 8x6 (not a typo) APC in the 1950's.

It appears that keeping the silhouette low was considered desirable, but hardly ever won out when design compromises needed to be made.

I'm not really in a position to complain; my favoured wheeled army vehicle is a 8x8 15 ton to 20 ton vehicle because this is the most efficient choice regarding driver personnel and convoy size / passthrough duration*.

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We should nevertheless pay attention to the topic of concealability of motor vehicles. It makes sense to me to think about two very different types of units (or convoys):

There are on the one hand the vehicles that can normally be associated with an army combat brigade. This is where the convoy efficiency argument strikes in favour of fewer bigger payload vehicles.

And then there are scouting / observation / reconnaissance style vehicles. Not all of the latter need to be armoured. Four or five men teams for observation (Fernspäher/LRRP/LRS) could infiltrate and exfiltrate together with armoured recce (small) units, and 'peel off' when close to their mission area. Then they'd need to hide their vehicle and move by foot for some distance. Later on, they'd have to recover their vehicle (maybe first check some unattended sensors to see if somebody had discovered them), and join an exfiltrating armoured recce convoy. This could very well be done with a compact 4x4 car that fits into the garage of an abandoned civilian home, even with a civilian-looking 4x4 car (for hiding in plain sight). Alternatively, a very compact and very low silhouette design could be hidden among or even be disguised as something else without anyone suspecting a car.





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*: This is definitely not the correct term, but I don't know the correct one. Motor vehicles move so quickly that in addition to the convoy length in metres it's also interesting to think about the time it takes the convoy to pass a point.



By: [email protected]
Title: Low silhouette vehicles
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Published Date: Fri, 07 Jan 2022 23:30:00 +0000

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