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Book Review

"American Wheeled Armoured Fighting Vehicles"

 

By Jon Bernstein - Elgin, Oklahoma USA

 

Basic Item Information

Title

American Wheeled Armoured Fighting Vehicles 

Author

Michael Green

Publisher

Pen & Sword

ISBN Number

9781473854369

Media

Soft Cover Book 

Number of Pages

208 

Number/Type of Photos

250 Color & Black/White Images

Text Language

English 

Retail Price

$24.95 

Reviewer

Jon Bernstein 

Review Date

October 13, 2019 

Photos

                   

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Detailed Review

Book Content

Michael Green’s “Images of War” series has been a welcome quick and detailed reference to the technology of warfare.  His latest book, “American Wheeled Armoured Fighting Vehicles” continues in that vein, looking at the evolution of American wheeled AFVs from the first attempts to arm and armor motor vehicles in the early 20th century to the technological marvels of the current conflicts. 

The softbound book is 208 pages with each chapter broken down into text and photo/caption sections.  The five chapters are arranged chronologically from pre-World War 2 through Post-Cold War.  Each includes original archival photos that detail important evolutionary steps in wheeled AFV development, oddball dead ends like the Baker “jumping vehicle”, and operational variants that saw service in all US conflicts since World War I.  In addition, color photos of modern restorations are included to give the reader a “true to life” view for the older vehicles.  This particular feature enables the reader to truly appreciate these historic vehicles as more than just a black and white reference photo. 

Green focuses on the importance of the M3 and M8/M20 armored cars in the World War 2 period and how their combat performance in World War 2 and Korea dictated future development through the Cold War.  The M8/M20 was an adequate reconnaissance vehicle, but never had the power, range, armor protection, or cross country performance necessary to truly make it an outstanding vehicle.  Attempts at developing additional variants (like antiaircraft) were doomed to failure in favor of more capable platforms. 

The Army stayed away from wheeled AFV designs after World War 2 and postwar Ordnance development was nearly zero.  Green examines how by the early Vietnam period, the Army looked at vehicles developed by private ventures for foreign use to fulfill requirements.  The US military eventually came back to the idea of wheeled armored fighting vehicles during the 1960s and 70s and developed a number of oddball prototypes.  Green also addresses the makeshift up-armoring of US Army Transportation and Air Defense Artillery gun trucks in Vietnam, whose combat experience brought about that paradigm shift within the Army. I would have liked to see more here, as this improvisation was critical to the Army’s convoy operations during the Vietnam War. 

More than half of the 45 page chapter on Cold War armored vehicles is dedicated to the development and variants of the USMC LAV-25.  Arguably one of the most important wheeled armored vehicles of the late Cold War period, the Marine LAV gave the Marines a far more maneuverable, capable, and hard hitting force with its adoption.  Photos include great references for the standard LAV-25, mortar carrier, recovery vehicle, TOW carrier, and LAV-AD Air Defense variant. 

Green devotes 40 pages to the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, which became the ubiquitous armored vehicle in the early stages of the ongoing 21st Century conflicts.  Intended as a combat vehicle more capable than the Jeep and M151, the author clearly shows how and why the Humvee evolved from a multipurpose wheeled vehicle to a true armored fighting vehicle.  I was somewhat let down by this chapter, as there was only a single photo of an AN/TWQ-1 Avenger and that was attributed to the Marines.  Army Avengers have been in service since 1990 and have functioned in the convoy escort role throughout the current conflict.  Up-gunned versions were used to great effect in that role with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Iraq.  Also, with the IED threat in Iraq and the slow response of getting up-armored Humvees to theater, I would have expected more photos of improvised “hillbilly” armor instead of the few photos of Marine issued field expedient armor kits.   The inclusion of a few photos of the numerous variations of improvised armor would have been a solid testament to the men and women who turned the Humvee into the effective AFV it has become. 

The final chapter focuses on the latest Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles adopted by the US Military and the Army’s Stryker series of wheeled AFVs, with a few other types thrown in for good measure.  Since the early 2000s, the Army has adopted wheeled AFVs to fulfill most combat roles as a lighter, faster response than heavy tracked armored vehicles. 

The chapter’s organization is somewhat counterintuitive, starting with the M1117 Armored Security Vehicle and M142 HIMARS, and then moving through the Stryker and MRAP vehicle series before ending with the up-armored gun trucks of the early Operation Iraqi Freedom period. One would have expected to see the early OIF vehicles before the heavy hitters like Stryker and MRAP. 

The highlight of the chapter is definitely the twenty pages focused on the Stryker family of vehicles.  Most importantly, Green addresses the operational realities that led to the redesign of the Stryker family from a flat-bottomed vehicle to a double-V hull that was far more survivable against IEDs than earlier versions.  The chapter finishes with an effective argument for the need and uncharacteristically fast adoption of MRAPs in US military service.  Photos of several MRAP variants in service are a good mix of stateside and in-theater shots.   

The book is a solid quick reference on the evolution of American wheeled AFVs, and provides excellent visual information for the enthusiast, researcher or casual observer.  Affordable at $24.95, it is a great addition to any vehicle enthusiast’s library.

Thanks to Casemate Publishers for the Review Sample.
 
 
Copyright: Jon Bernstein - October 2019