Skip to comments.The pickup truck era of warfare
Posted on 02/18/2014 8:01:37 PM PST by LibWhacker
Readers, lets 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 budgetdrones, 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: theyre 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 cant get their hands on purpose-built military vehicles, cant 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 couldnt 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 alliances 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 Libyas rebel mechanics, born of desperation during the countrys 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 rebellions trucks used Libyan technicals to advertise that their trucks were stronger then war. The Libyans werent 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 wars 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 rebellions final push from Zawiya into Tripoli in Irish-Libyan rebel Hussam Najjairs 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 werent 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, Libyas 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. Its easy to forget the strategic lessons that the pickup truck can teach us because theyre 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.
I've always wondered that. Thanks for the edjumuhkashun.
Scouts Out! Cavalry Ho!
THE DESERT RATS
We had plenty of them when I was in. They were called the M880.
A lot of good pickups out there for “upgrades.”
I knew they were called technicals, but I always wondered about the etymology!
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.
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?
Scouts Out! Cavalry Ho!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Don’t forget ... Stay off the roads lest you run into a roadblock of armed men of either persuasion.
HMMWV Ground Mobility Vehicle. Yeah, we got 'em.
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