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The pickup truck era of warfare
War on the Rocks ^ | 2/11/14 | Jack Mulcaire

Posted on 02/18/2014 8:01:37 PM PST by LibWhacker

Readers, let’s take a moment to salute a true workhorse. In the world of war machines, the expensive and high-tech items get all the attention and budget—drones, anti-ship ballistic missiles, cyber warfare, and the like. But, on the battlefields of the twenty-first century, a humble and under-rated weapon has quietly showed up these expensive attention-hogs: the pickup truck.

Today, primarily irregular, infantry-centric forces fight almost every conflict in the world. Pickup trucks are their mainstays. In Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Mexico, Syria, Libya, Mali and the Central African Republic, irregulars reach the battlefield more often than not in the cabs and beds of Toyota Hi-Luxes and Land Cruisers, Ford Rangers, and Mitsubishi L200s. When they arrive, the same pickups are often carrying the crew-served weapons that offer that allow a light force to pack a punch on the cheap. Pickup trucks are ideal for the wars of the twenty-first century: they’re readily available, cheap, fuel efficient, easy to operate and repair. And, they are more modular than the Littoral Combat Ship. They can operate off-road in the bush or in the downtown of a major metropolis. All of these characteristics make the pickup truck a war-winner for non-state or weak-state forces that can’t get their hands on purpose-built military vehicles, can’t afford extensive logistic chains, and need to quickly move through and between rough terrain and urban environments.

The “technical” (light truck mounted with weapons) was born in the Sahara and won its greatest glory there. The history of the technical goes back to the exploits of the Long Range Desert Group in the Second World War. But, the pickup-truck era of warfare really began on March 22, 1987, when 2,000 Chadian soldiers riding in technicals armed with heavy machine guns, AA guns, MILAN anti-tank missiles and recoilless rifles emerged from desert wadis in the depths of the Sahara and overran the massive Libyan air base at Wadi Doum, Chad in a surprise attack that killed thousands of Libyans, destroyed dozens of tanks and aircraft, and shattered Libyan air power. The Chadians would go on to repeat their success several months later with an attack against the Libyan airbase at Maaten al-Sara, in Libya itself. Again, thousands of fighters in armed pickups crossed the desert to hit with speed and surprise. Libya agreed to a cease-fire six days after Maaten al-Sara fell, bringing the “Toyota War” (so named because Chadian forces were mainly composed of Toyota trucks) to an end. The Chadians had defeated a larger and far better armed Libyan force, holding a well-fortified position, and they couldn’t have done it without their trucks.

The speedy all-terrain mobility of the Chadian technicals allowed them to cross the Sahara into Libya undetected, masking their approach by following wadis and dunes. The trucks could carry the heavy weapons necessary to destroy Libyan armor and suppress Libyan positions at long range, unlike infantry or camels. Chadian drivers even discovered that their trucks could drive over anti-tank mines without detonating them, as long as they drove faster than 100 km/h. The Chadians are still masters of technical warfare; convoys of Toyota Land Cruisers carrying Chadian mercenaries led the Seleka alliance’s charge into Bangui, pushed back a South African infantry company and overthrew President Francois Boizize last March in the Central African Republic.

No history of the pickup-truck era of warfare would be complete without mentioning the Somalis. The term “technical” originated in Somalia: international NGOs would use “technical assistance grants” to hire and equip local guards, and “technical” quickly became the shorthand term for their armed trucks. Somali politics are clan-dominated, and the strength of a Somali clan is measured in how much livestock they own and how many technicals they can field. Muhammad Farah Adid, perhaps the most powerful single warlord to rise and fall since the collapse of Somalia, and victor of the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu against American Rangers, was carried to his grave in the back of one of his Toyota Land Cruiser pickups.

The wars of the Arab Spring have brought us into the golden age of the battle truck. Colonel Moammar Qaddafi probably thought that his truck problems had ended after his forces withdrew from Chad, but he would live to be tormented by Toyotas one final time. The Mad Max ingenuity of Libya’s rebel mechanics, born of desperation during the country’s 2011 civil war, surpassed anything that other pickup-warriors in Chad, Somalia, Lebanon and other hotspots had ever come up with. They quickly became the stuff of legend: the Chinese auto company that produced most of the rebellion’s trucks used Libyan technicals to advertise that their trucks were “stronger then war.” The Libyans weren’t the best soldiers, or the best tacticians, but they were the most innovative engineers. They attached armor plate-mated office chairs with ZPU AA guns, sawed off the roof to increase the arc of fire for the recoilless rifle in the bed. They produced hundreds of trucks armed with huge S-5 Soviet rocket pods, intended for aircraft. They even cut the turret off of a BMP-1 Soviet Armored Personnel Carrier and mounted it on the back of a Toyota.

Throughout the conflict, the revolutionary militias captured hundreds of tanks and APCs, but even in the war’s last battles, technical trucks provided the majority of rebel firepower and transport. The superior speed, mobility and fuel economy of the trucks more than compensated for their lack of armor and firepower compared to captured T-72 tanks and BMPs. The description of the rebellion’s final push from Zawiya into Tripoli in Irish-Libyan rebel Hussam Najjair’s memoir of the campaign highlights the unique assets of the pickups. The speed and fuel efficiency of the pickups let the rebel Tripoli Brigade cover ground so fast that disparate pro-Qaddafi units weren’t able to link up and support each other, and when the superior firepower of the government troops became too heavy, the pickups could quickly scatter off-road, duck down alleys, or make a speedy u-turn. At the moment, Libya’s militias are engaged in mopping up the last remnants of a simultaneous uprising and incursion over the border from Chad by former pro-Qaddafi fighters. Militiamen assembled in central Tripoli to make a show of strength before going south to put down the threat. What sort of vehicles were they parading in? You guessed it, Toyota Land Cruiser pickups.

The battle pickup continues to evolve. In Syria, rebel mechanics built this homemade tank with a remote-controlled machine gun operated by a PlayStation controller onto the frame of a truck. As long as great-power rivalries stay suppressed and large-scale conventional warfare is rare, the pickup-truck era of warfare will continue. The pickup-truck era is an era of small wars, often fought in marginal places by weak states or forces with no state to back them. Winning strategies and forces in the pickup-truck era of warfare should share the characteristics that have made the light truck a successful weapon. A winning strategy should involve a light resource footprint and it should be easy to implement with irregular, semi-professional light troops. It should be applicable to urban and rural areas because the forces of the pickup truck era freely cross the border between both. It’s easy to forget the strategic lessons that the pickup truck can teach us because they’re not very glamorous. But, for me, a convoy of swaggering militiamen speeding down the road in the bed of their modded Toyota Hi-Luxes is the modern version of a line of medieval knights charging at full gallop.


TOPICS: Military/Veterans
KEYWORDS: insurgencies; pickup; technicals; truck

1 posted on 02/18/2014 8:01:37 PM PST by LibWhacker
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To: LibWhacker
"The term “technical” originated in Somalia: international NGOs would use “technical assistance grants” to hire and equip local guards, and “technical” quickly became the shorthand term for their armed trucks."

I've always wondered that. Thanks for the edjumuhkashun.

Scouts Out! Cavalry Ho!

2 posted on 02/18/2014 8:06:34 PM PST by wku man (We are the 53%! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUXN0GDuLN4)
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To: LibWhacker

THE DESERT RATS


3 posted on 02/18/2014 8:10:52 PM PST by bunkerhill7 ("The Second Amendment has no limits on firepower"-NY State Senator Kathleen A. Marchione.")
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To: LibWhacker

We had plenty of them when I was in. They were called the M880.

4 posted on 02/18/2014 8:11:39 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet (I will raise $2M for Sarah Palin's next run, what will you do?)
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To: LibWhacker

A lot of good pickups out there for “upgrades.”


5 posted on 02/18/2014 8:12:06 PM PST by Army Air Corps (Four Fried Chickens and a Coke)
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To: wku man

I knew they were called technicals, but I always wondered about the etymology!


6 posted on 02/18/2014 8:12:17 PM PST by andyk (I have sworn...eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.)
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To: LibWhacker

A missile the size of my young nephew’s forearm can destroy any tank in the world at a range of hundreds of yards.

A dozen fired from cigarette boats can cripple an aircraft carrier. (An exaggeration—trying to make a point here.)

The days of big armor. Big Navy, and big air fleets is over.

The future is SF strikes, drones, and cyber/economic warfare.

Eleven crazies using TWO commercial planes f##cked this country up right good. That was no army that struck enough fear in the peasantry that they were willing to surrender their rights as sovereign citizens—it was crazies striking at society’s nerve centers.

That’s how one wins the war of the future.


7 posted on 02/18/2014 8:12:43 PM PST by warchild9
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To: LibWhacker

The countries where Pickup trucks rule don’t have appreciable air support.

Not much left of them after the Blackhawks, Apaches and Warthogs. Not to mention the Spectre AC130 gunship.

You know what? If naming things after Indians is so bad, what are we doing naming our Helicopters after them?


8 posted on 02/18/2014 8:14:10 PM PST by Usagi_yo (Standardization is an Evolutionary dead end.)
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To: andyk
I had always wondered why something as decidedly untechnical as an old pickup would be called a technical. Always thought they should be called "tacticals", though they don't look very tactical, either.

Scouts Out! Cavalry Ho!

9 posted on 02/18/2014 8:24:43 PM PST by wku man (We are the 53%! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUXN0GDuLN4)
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To: LibWhacker

10 posted on 02/18/2014 8:26:16 PM PST by smokingfrog ( sleep with one eye open (<o> ---)
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To: Usagi_yo

11 posted on 02/18/2014 8:28:38 PM PST by Rodamala
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To: warchild9
Eleven crazies using TWO commercial planes f##cked this country up right good. That was no army that struck enough fear in the peasantry that they were willing to surrender their rights as sovereign citizens—it was crazies striking at society’s nerve centers. That’s how one wins the war of the future.

True.

12 posted on 02/18/2014 8:35:12 PM PST by James C. Bennett (An Australian.)
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To: warchild9

The next WW will probably be Biological and the world will probably not even know what hit them.

How about a nice airborne/waterborne pathogen designed around DNA of those of Prominent middle eastern descent that simply renders them sterile.

The next ‘nuclear’ weapons will be Genetically modified DNA (is that redundant?) designer diseases.

Romans used to salt the earth and catapult diseased sheep (anthrax) into and around people they didn’t like. We aren’t so different. Just the methods have changed.


13 posted on 02/18/2014 8:37:16 PM PST by Usagi_yo (Standardization is an Evolutionary dead end.)
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To: LibWhacker
I'm pretty sure the US Army's Calvary units would just LOVE to stumble across a few hundred...even thousands of "technicals".

Why let the Air Force A-10's have all the fun?

Ask Saddam's "Army" about technicals.

The idea that a pick-up is a real war machine is ludicrous. It is nothing more than a target in war.

And for all you pining to wage a revolution in your 4WD pick-ups in the woods and rural areas of America, same thing. Nothing but targets.

Stay on foot and travel ONLY in daylight hours, stealthily. Disperse and cover at night.

14 posted on 02/18/2014 8:37:33 PM PST by Mariner (War Criminal #18)
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To: LibWhacker
We're essentially speaking about cavalry here; these are cavalry tactics returned to another era. Their own best practitioners recognize their inadequacies, as the line of technicals fleeing town in Somalia in the face of the U.S. Marines landing illustrates full well. But they're still there, and we're not.

I would love to have met the fellow who discovered that driving over antitank mines was fine at speeds in excess of 60 mph. The one who discovered that it isn't at speeds less than that is no longer with us. That is a hell-for-leather approach to warfare Custer would have found familiar; he also is no longer with us.

Speed and cover, a sudden concentration of force at a weak point, surveillance, harassment, sabotage, hit and run, all of this is cavalry warfare. Try to imagine what it would be like in the United States.

15 posted on 02/18/2014 8:39:51 PM PST by Billthedrill
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To: warchild9
"That’s how one wins the war of the future."

Sir, I must respectfully disagree.

When one can dominate the skys, ensuring only your birds fly, you have won any "war". The same applies to the seas.

It is only because the USA dominates those two areas that there is even serious discussion of other forms of warfare.

Sure, if one wishes to subjugate or police a populace you need SF, Drones etc.

But why would any sane person want to do that? Have we not learned our lesson?

No sir, the future of war is TOTAL WAR...back for a second, more dangerous round.

16 posted on 02/18/2014 8:47:18 PM PST by Mariner (War Criminal #18)
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To: Rodamala

17 posted on 02/18/2014 8:52:44 PM PST by Usagi_yo (Standardization is an Evolutionary dead end.)
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To: LibWhacker
The success of the "technical" brings up a question:

Would not a unit of properly equipped and American-manned F150s be superior to anything that the ragheads could conceive or fabricate?

Compared to a conventionally-equipped column, such a unit could move faster, with greater stealth and navigate cross-country, away from the IEDs. And do it at far less cost.

Wouldn't a modern equivalent of the Long Range Desert Force have a place in today's desert and back-country theaters? There would be no threat from the air as, presumably, we would have complete control of that front.

Just askin'...

18 posted on 02/18/2014 8:55:34 PM PST by okie01 (The Mainstream Media -- IGNORANCE ON PARADE)
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To: Mariner

Don’t forget ... Stay off the roads lest you run into a roadblock of armed men of either persuasion.


19 posted on 02/18/2014 8:58:15 PM PST by Usagi_yo (Standardization is an Evolutionary dead end.)
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To: okie01

HMMWV Ground Mobility Vehicle. Yeah, we got 'em.

20 posted on 02/18/2014 8:58:26 PM PST by Billthedrill
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To: warchild9

“Eleven crazies using TWO commercial planes f##cked this country up right good. That was no army that struck enough fear in the peasantry that they were willing to surrender their rights as sovereign citizens—it was crazies striking at society’s nerve centers.”

This is not a new idea - the idea of “decapitating” a country has been around for a while. Among the many visionary things from the mind of Arthur C. Clarke was in his book, “Childhood’s End”, where he asks to the effect, what is the more powerful weapon - An atomic bomb, or a miniaturized robot bug that flies in the ear of the enemy leader, and keeps him up day and night driving him crazy. That wild idea is darned near achievable now.


21 posted on 02/18/2014 8:59:44 PM PST by The Antiyuppie ("When small men cast long shadows, then it is very late in the day.")
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To: Usagi_yo

“If naming things after Indians is so bad, what are we doing naming our Helicopters after them?”

Because Indians are part of “we” and “our” too.


22 posted on 02/18/2014 8:59:50 PM PST by Redcitizen (When a zombie apocalypse starts, Chuck Norris doesn't try to survive. The zombies do.)
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To: Redcitizen

Well the Washington Redskins are “we” and “our” and of course the often forgotten “us”.

Mean like did some Indian Chief sign off and say okay, you can call that helicopter the Apache?


23 posted on 02/18/2014 9:05:55 PM PST by Usagi_yo (Standardization is an Evolutionary dead end.)
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To: Billthedrill
HMMWV Ground Mobility Vehicle. Yeah, we got 'em.

Why haven't we used them?

Or did we only now get around to building them? Why not sooner?

24 posted on 02/18/2014 9:20:53 PM PST by okie01 (The Mainstream Media -- IGNORANCE ON PARADE)
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To: Rodamala

Quite the stack of rear leaves there. I wonder if she does the hula in recoil.


25 posted on 02/18/2014 9:23:30 PM PST by Trod Upon (Every penny given to film and TV media companies goes right into enemy coffers. Starve them out!)
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To: Usagi_yo
Now You've gone and done it...


26 posted on 02/18/2014 9:27:13 PM PST by mabarker1 (Please, Somebody Impeach the kenyan!!!!)
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To: okie01

Looks like the crew could be whacked by a goatherd with a PKM.


27 posted on 02/18/2014 9:27:56 PM PST by Trod Upon (Every penny given to film and TV media companies goes right into enemy coffers. Starve them out!)
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To: LibWhacker

4th Generation Warfare.


28 posted on 02/18/2014 9:29:51 PM PST by Pelham (If you don’t deport it’s amnesty by default.)
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To: okie01

This is one in Afghanistan. We use them mostly for reconnaissance and special operations. Massed, in cavalry tactics, I don't think we've tried yet possibly due to terrain.

29 posted on 02/18/2014 9:29:54 PM PST by Billthedrill
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To: warchild9

And if we don’t decentralize our nerve centers they will be able to deliver more blows like that one.

The power grid. The California aqueduct. Freeway overpasses. So many easy targets.


30 posted on 02/18/2014 9:34:33 PM PST by Pelham (If you don’t deport it’s amnesty by default.)
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To: mabarker1

Classic!


31 posted on 02/18/2014 9:34:44 PM PST by Usagi_yo (Standardization is an Evolutionary dead end.)
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To: Usagi_yo
Nothing but the best!


32 posted on 02/18/2014 9:38:04 PM PST by mabarker1 (Please, Somebody Impeach the kenyan!!!!)
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To: mabarker1

33 posted on 02/18/2014 9:44:02 PM PST by Usagi_yo (Standardization is an Evolutionary dead end.)
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To: Billthedrill

I wonder how the price and the mileage compare to a Land Cruiser’s...


34 posted on 02/18/2014 9:46:27 PM PST by okie01 (The Mainstream Media -- IGNORANCE ON PARADE)
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To: mabarker1

Fetcha le moo!


35 posted on 02/18/2014 9:50:40 PM PST by andyk (I have sworn...eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.)
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To: andyk

LOL - “Fetchez La Vache”


36 posted on 02/18/2014 9:52:33 PM PST by andyk (I have sworn...eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.)
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To: LibWhacker

Soviet troops vs Taliban pickup trucks in late 1970s:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnHgC4WSRyU

Any questions?


37 posted on 02/18/2014 9:53:57 PM PST by cunning_fish
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To: okie01
I wonder how the price and the mileage compare to a Land Cruiser’s...

Gotta be brutal on the mileage. I'd love to have one myself just to...uh...just for trips to church on Sunday. Yeah, that's the ticket. No, I don't know what that fixed weapons mount could be for. Officer.

38 posted on 02/18/2014 9:57:59 PM PST by Billthedrill
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To: Usagi_yo

As I understand it the Apache don’t call themselves Apache, usually.that’s the name their neighbors gave them.


39 posted on 02/18/2014 10:13:32 PM PST by buwaya
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To: Usagi_yo

Only extreme crazies screw around with bioweapons.

Unfortunately, there are extreme crazies out there.


40 posted on 02/19/2014 4:51:35 AM PST by warchild9
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To: Mariner

“Total War” traditionally involves nukes.

Nukes are only used these days as threats, and as bargaining chips.

I see the future as international megacorporations battling for control of puppet governments and natural resources...you know...like Iraq (and, almost, Syria).

/Afghanistan was different. If the U.S. effort was genuine, OBL would have been in chains in a week, and every Taliban between here and hell dead. Instead, the Taliban is winning and the opium crop is better than ever.


41 posted on 02/19/2014 4:58:58 AM PST by warchild9
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To: The Antiyuppie

Yeah, that was a great book.

I’m obviously more of a Gibson guy, myself.

The man is a prophet.


42 posted on 02/19/2014 5:00:04 AM PST by warchild9
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To: Pelham

Can’t protect everything.

That’s known as a “cordon defense,” and has never worked.


43 posted on 02/19/2014 5:01:27 AM PST by warchild9
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To: LibWhacker


44 posted on 02/19/2014 5:10:49 AM PST by piroque ("In times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act")
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