Skirt armour on wheeled AFVs

Civil wars tend to produce much DIY weaponry and even armoured vehicles, and Syria is no different. The Oryx blog recently showed some of the one-off 'designs' of the Kurds in Syria.

Quite striking next to all those slat armours and improvised rusty soft steel turrets were the skirts used to protect the tires of BTR-60 wheeled 8x8 APCs. The contraptions likely impeded steering in their specific implementation, but otherwise they may point at something important.

I suppose the emphasis on protecting the tires stems from the inability to replace busted tires. Even patching them is probably a major logistical headache.

Still, these skirts - if effective at all and I suppose they do at least defeat AK/RPK bullets - would also greatly improve the sustainment of mobility of wheeled AFVs. An AFV can keep going for a bout 80 km after having its wheels punctured due to the actually simple run flat technology but then there's a huge problem of supplying enough spare tires. Hardly any spare tires are carried in the units themselves.

Western land forces didn't seem to care much about this in the recent wars of occupation. To maintain mobility wasn't valued as highly as reducing casualties more directly, and armour was thus mostly designed to protect the men inside the vehicle, not to maintain its mobility. The threat of fragmentation and bullets was also overshadowed by blast mines and RPGs.

I suppose it would make sense to look at such skirt plates (or meshes) for the defeat of bullets and fragments for wheeled AFV types meant to be used in mobile warfare, including reconnaissance. 

I understand there's often a benefit of the doubt in favour of the armed bureaucracy's competence, thus I raise you the glory of wisdom known as the Cold War's Fuchs Transportpanzer design:

Fuchs Transportpanzer, (c) Anderle

A mere 7.62 mm machinegun (that cannot defeat any protected vehicle) as armament, without any kind of shield, much less a turret. As if it was a soft lorry. Whatever benefit of the doubt the bureaucracy might want to claim, it was squandered by historical precedents IMO.

So maybe let's use other peoples' lessons learned and have a close look at this detail. It may be pivotal for the utility of wheeled AFVs.



  1. First of all I must say that I dislike IFV concepts (a vehicle which mixes infantry transport and combat capabilities). I prefer a combination of APCs + tank-like combat vehicles (for wheeled vehicles it could be something like the French program "Scorpion": Griffon + Jaguar).

    I also want to point that, for me, to bring spare tires on wheeled vehicles is a must, specially for military ones.

    Now, about tire protection: Wheeled vehicles could use tire shields (for instance: http://www.armyrecognition.com/iav_2013_news_coverage_report_pictures_video/hutchinson_showcases_its_tire_protection_system_at_iav_2013_international_armoured_vehicles.html). Perhaps some kind of slat armour could also be useful, specially if it's sloped to give more room below for effective steering (I think the picture of the Polish KTO Rosomak in http://www.armadainternational.com/Article/land-forces.html could be a good base). But this solution has drawbacks: I think that something like a Mowag DURO will not easily pass as a civil truck for observers (not even for far ones) if it mounts slat armour.

    Finally, about the Fuchs transportpanzer: I think it is not garbage. It is an APC, an amphibious one! (like the Brazilian Guarani APC, although the former has sloped side armour, like old BTRs have). So it should not fight with weapons mounted in a turret, it should be the dismounted infantry which would fight. The vehicle also offers the posibility to open a hatch in the roof of the vehicle to fire an infantry weapon from the Fuchs. So: not bad.

    Of course we can dream with a different design. For me the four first wheels should be moved to the front of the vehicle in order to "guarantee" mobility if one mine blows one of the first tires. Probably a turret, even an open one -like that of a M-8 AA in the Colombian Army: http://pillanfah.blogspot.com.es/2009/04/vehiculo-m-8-antiaereo-del-ejercito.html- would dramatically increase the effectivity (+protection of the gunner) of the infantry weapon fired from the vehicle.

    PS) I think that I have put enough 6x6 military vehicles for now ;-)

    1. Fuchs WAS amphibious. It got too heavy for safe swimming during some upgrade long ago.

    2. About wheel-mounted armor protection: This is possible only to some extent, and it adds undesirable mass to a rotating object, affecting braking, suspension etc in undesirable ways.

      One problem is the CTIS - central tire inflation system - it can deflate the tire for soft soil performance such that it flattens a lot for a much larger contact area. This can be quite extreme. The growth in the deflated tire's width means that any armour either needs to be flexible (which doesn't protect well) or spaced (plenty problems with this) or it cannot come close to protect the full tire (looking like some oversized rim).

      Meanwhile, skirts protecting the upper half are fairly simple for wheels that are not involved in steering.

  2. One simple answer: Tracks.

    1. That's a simple, yet wrong, answer.
      Wheels are much better for many purposes. Tracks are superior on soft soils and for heavy (> 30 t) offroad vehicles only.

  3. Tracks cannot be destroyed by simple machine gun fire and allow you to use a much bigger part of the area exact of this point: they are superior on soft soils and in snow and so on. In modern warfare a high mobility is of the biggest importance and that means you must be able to use as much of the terain as possible. Wheels cannot afford this. They are more a result of budget restricting and ideas about superior information warfare (RMA) and especially of COIN centric doctrine.

  4. No, armoured wheeled vehicles are older than tracked AFVs and have been in use ever since. That's not about RMA or COIN.

    You're focusing on tactical short-term mobility.
    A brigade with great many armoured vehicles couldn't deploy nearly as quickly as a brigade which *only* needs to transport about 100-200 tracked AFVs on semi-trailers. Tracked vehicles wear out too quickly, move slowly and damage roads (and rubber bandtrack vehicles are in between, but the bandtracks are susceptible to damage). Self-deployments of tracked AFVs over hundreds of km are to be avoided or else the brigade arrives for a long maintenance break rather than for combat.

    Fuel consumption per ton is also higher with tracked AFVs than for wheeled ones, and ranges of 1,000 to 1,500 km (as now not uncommon with wheeled AFVs anymore) are almost impossible with tracked AFVs.

    Tracked AFVs leave behind tell-tale tracks that are almost perfectly unacceptable for long-range armoured recce. Combat-oriented short range scouting can be done even with MBTs, but longer-range recce with tracked vehicles is hardly advisable. It's also easily possible to identify tracked vehicles on radar, whereas a wheeled AFV looks to radars the same as an unimportant logistics lorry.

    Furthermore, most wheeled AFVs are rarely exposed to fires and simply don't need to drive on soft soils very much.