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Stuck in the Snow

We have all been recently discussing the mobility differences between modern 8 wheeled armoured vehicles with traction control and central type pressure systems versus tracked vehicles.

The consensus seemed to be that there was less of a difference than we might think, although tracked vehicles have the edge.

Courtesy of RP Defence and the Bundeswehr, this video of a Boxer 8×8 armoured vehicle seems to show it being completely disabled by  moderately challenging terrain that would not causes even a WWI tank to skip a beat.

Either that, or it is a vehicle recovery training exercise and the driver wasn’t really trying to get out of the ditch, it’s in German, I can’t tell!

The Boxer is my favourite of the current crop of 8×8’s but still, mobility in snow does not seem to be its forte.



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45 Responses

  1. It’s during an arctic exercise in Norway, but the Boxer (Coy Cdr vehicle) got stuck; sunk into a ditch and dug in deep, and that wasn’t a planned event :).

    On wheels and tracks, I’ve had YPR tracked AIFVs stuck in mud what seemed to be passable terrain (seen US M-1s stuck in mud during the Balkans way back when too). If the ground is soggy or soft enough, most vehicles will sink and get stuck, tracks or no, especially with the rising (combat) weights. Tracks do make it easier to cross it, ofcourse.

  2. There’s a reason why the Canadian’s went from “we’re going all wheeled, tracks are not necessary” to “we need 120 tanks PDQ” after some real world experience in, of all places, a desert :-)

  3. It’s hardly a unique situation, I’ve seen M-113s stuck that way too, one track in a ditch clamped on both sides and totally unable to get traction. At least the Boxer didn’t overturn.

    And the problem here was not terrain handling, it was that bloody ditch! :)

  4. Although not relevant to this case, winter compound tyres make a big difference. Mandatory in Germany for cars in winter, but wonder whether military wheeled vehicles have them. They eventually brought in a civilian recovery vehicle – pity no British Army type MAN SVR available!

  5. I think this highlights the real difference between tracks and wheels in the real world, that of crew experience. It takes a lot of time and money to train drivers/commanders to gain experience in reading the terrain and using all the gizmo’s on their wheeled vehicle properly, whereas the tracked vehicle is a lot more forgiving in the cases of rollovers etc.

    I like the Boxer and would like to see it in service as the FRES UV, but we cannot skimp on the training when it comes to wheeled vehicles if we want to get the most out of them.

  6. Wrong Dav, it’s the other way round. M-113s are notorious for rollovers so much so that there was a “rollover simulator” all of us had to participate in before being allowed into one. It’s more to do with the width/height ratio of the vehicle than anything else, wheeled or tracked. And this incident does not have ANYTHING to do with terrain handling, but more to do with concealed ditches. An M-113 would have gotten stuck in exactly the same way.

    The key problem is that the base of the motive mechanism (wheeled or tracked) is not touching the bottom of the ditch, so there is no traction to push the vehicle out.

  7. Company leader’s vehicle got stuck in a mishap, and they were seriously unable to get it out – in the end they had to hire civilians for the recovery.

    They claimed bad luck because it happened in a turn.

    It’s claimed that some yellow-ish colour filters help to discern contrasts better on snow (and polarisation reduces glare); maybe this would be a good idea for drivers in such a scenario (goggles stored with the snow chains set).

    @phil1235:disqus the Bundeswehr is subjected to civilian road safety regulations to the extent that they had to stop using a couple vehicles in Afghanistan because nobody re-certified their road safety (red tape). The Swedes got our MT-LBs and BMPs because refitting them for our road safety regulations would have been costly.

  8. Sounds like you should have gone British and purchased some 432’s.
    All I can say is that my experience of wheeled and tracked vehicles does not seem to mirror yours.

  9. While such a situation may have bogged-down a tank as well as an 8×8, I don’t think anyone is under an illusion that wheels are as good as tracked vehicles in all situations. However, one wheeled vehicle technology that’s starting to make a difference is the ability to reliably adjust the air pressure in large tyres to improve the contact surface area.

    More fundamentally what seems to be adjusting the military balance in favour of wheeled vehicles is not so much a ‘wheels versus tracks’ debate – tracks win every time, but the need for “strategic mobility”. This is the ability to deploy large formations of vehicles quickly and independently over long distances. The Stryker experience in Iraq made this point very well. It gave the US an ability to dominate a larger area of ground with fewer troops. When unexpected situations arose, Stryker regiments could react quickly. Both these advantages are considered to be important in preparing our forces for future conflicts, hence the move to 8×8 fleets across NATO.

    A Stryker, Boxer, AMV or VCBI battalion can easily deploy 500 miles in 24 hours. 8x8s do this by relying on the existing road network, hopefully where there are rivers or other obstacles they will be able to route around them – which is why some sort of half-decent cross-country ability is so important. In contrast, It is extremely hard for Challenger 2 or Abrams M1A2 tank regiments to travel similar long distances with the same speed of response or independently or the same degree of mechanical reliability.

    If you deploy an 8×8 brigade to capture a town, bridge or airfield, it has a very good chance of reaching the objective and digging in defensively before a tracked formation can intercept it. If a large tracked formation is sent to dislodge an 8×8 unit, and the latter senses that it is outnumbered, it should also be able to escape more quickly to fight another day. So, what you’re really getting is a vehicle capability that allows a very rapid and wide range of potential responses in fluid situations. With traditional tanks and IFVs It may be difficult to react fast enough to make a difference.

    In all situations an 8×8 is not an IFV but an APC: it merely delivers infantry to where they are needed. Even 8×8 tank destroyers are not designed to be used aggressively, but rather defensively. Waiting hidden, they would ambush tanks: shooting and then scooting.

    Once in the right location, infantry units dismount, move on foot, dig in and so on. Equipped with a large number of ATGWs (Javelin, NLAW) they should be able to inflict considerable damage on a tank formation, or to hold them at bay for long enough to allow air units to engage.

    This is the theory, anyway.

  10. And sold some 400 of them on
    – the mt-lb is the ultimate tractor, won’t get stuck, swims and if you don’t take a direct hit (would be your fault, anyway, not dismounting in time… Air excepted).

    Strange that the BMPs have not been sold on… There is first rate French sensor set available for it!

    I hear the Finnish revamp of BMP2s even involves countermeasures for getting spotted by such sensors?

  11. Israel had them on sale. Rumor has it that they were 1 USD per. Care to match their offer? :)

  12. Yeah monty, but the way some people carry on, you’d think 8x8s would get stuck in a 1cm deep puddle while tanks with tracks will magically float over a bog. The driver choices for both vehicles are so similar that it usually won’t make much of a difference, Only idiots would drive straight into a bog or deep mud, 8×8 or tracked.

  13. Yes, and
    This “If you deploy an 8×8 brigade to capture a town, bridge or airfield, it has a very good chance of reaching the objective and digging in defensively before a tracked formation can intercept it. If a large tracked formation is sent to dislodge an 8×8 unit, and the latter senses that it is outnumbered, it should also be able to escape”
    Is why we should be keeping the 16x undiluted, exactly ‘ deal with such situations.

    Ohh, forgot, we don’t have the Stryker-like bde to begin with
    – whatever you say of FRR vs BRecce force, they don’t have that infantry component.

  14. A couple of points:

    1) It doesn’t matter if this vehicle is wheeled or tracked. It has bottomed out. Their is no way you are going to pull that out, without a specialist vehicle. So why have they deployed without an ARV?

    2) They are trying to pull it out from the ditch, however it didn’t reverse into it. It drove into it! So the easiest way to recover that Boxer would have been, to have gone behind it and pull it out the way it went in. That’s how you would normally recover a vehicle that has gone off the road. Any Experienced Wrecker Driver will tell you that it comes out the way it went in! (Granted that the Civilian Wrecker would not have been able to get into that position, but an ARV would have.)

    3) The French had the same problems in Mali, though that was due to soft sand and earth. When watching the footage from Sky’s News Reporters embedded with a French Armoured column, they had the same problem. With no ARV, that meant that they had to struggle to get vehicles free.

    During the Falklands War, the Blues and Royals took a FV106 Samson ARV with them!

    So the real question that needs to be asked is… Why didn’t the French in Mali and in this case the Germans, have an ARV?

  15. Would an 8×8 not be better for recce/scouting duties?

    The idea of getting away faster over rough ground than anything on land can follow you seems like an ideal survival trait.

  16. I’m not surprised they were 1 USD if they keep rolling over! Sometimes paying that little bit extra is worthwhile ;-)

  17. Now now, you know how it is, the MoD asks for a budget increase and Parliament will act like they asked for the MP’s virgin daughter to be sold to a shop in Soho.

  18. Correct ACC about the infantry, although FR did have one Assault Troop per Squadron of 16 dismounts in 4 Spartans. I commanded a boot troop for a couple of years, and when used by an intelligent Squadron Leader (I had both intelligent and not so intelligent Squadron Leaders in those 2 years ;) ) they were relatively a force multiplier.

    We also did a UKMF exercise in which we had a company attached, and did a Squadron deployment with 3 Cdo Bde: both very interesting. Other nations including the US have permanent infantry with their FR / ACRs. We could learn a lot.

  19. You were talking about BMPs generally, not specifying 1.
    – I wonder who could have been so stupid as to buy them? Crap mobility, v scarce space in the back
    – in today’s world makes it good for an artillery observation vehicle only (in favourable terrain, e.g northern plains of Germany or the billiard table landscapes of Ukraine)

  20. If it’s armoured recce, get seen, get a 125mm shell before any of that’s going to matter.

    You might get cut off from your escape by a ditch that you could have crossed had you used a tracked vehicle, or be hampered by the turning circle of your 8×8, or blocked by a piffling little wall. All sorts of things.

    I reckon a blind rush would probably lead to more problems than benefits gained by a few mph at the top end anyway.

  21. Yep politicians are the same the world over, except here if you ask for a bit more money they look at you as if you’ve just shagged their grandma!

  22. BB,

    100 kph over 60 kph is not a “few mph”. But if what you’re saying is correct and they simply can’t do high speeds over rough ground then I suppose they’ll end up MBT fodder.

    Just seems that it’s only the British army that seem to think they’re not of much use.

    I like the Piranha – an entire platoon mobile at 100 kph from a single LCU drop.

  23. I mentioned this first in the thread for Monty’s armour article but it might be more relevant here.

    As noted by Observer as well, when I read the requirements for the ULCV I first thought “Technical”:

    However, the mobility requirements then made me think tracked vehicle, and this article suggests the same:

    It does mention the RM use of Snowcats, pic here:

    The other possibility I thought of was something like the supacat ATMP, but to my knowledge that can’t carry 9 men; even the Chinese 8x8ATV can only carry 6:

  24. I’ve seen an M60A1 upside down in a creek bed after sliding off an ice-covered culvert. It took 3 M88A1 HRVs go get it up high enough to extract the tank commander’s leg from over the rangefinder (some crush injury), and turn the tank rightside up. I’ve also seen M48s, M60A1s, M60A3s, M1s, and M1A1s buried in mud up to the fenders and sponson boxes, including one that I told the platoon sergeant not to try to cross the ditch. That tank wasn’t EVER going to make it out of the hole on it’s own. It took two other M60A3s to effect recovery.
    One 8X8 stuck in a ditch doesn’t surprise or bother me much. Should have had a wrecker/ARV, though.

  25. One thing I haven’t seen addressed is the sound levels in wheeled armored vehicles vs. tracked armored vehicles. This can be critical to the ability of the dismounts to function at top levels. I’ve seen infantrymen get out of M113s looking like they’d been shell-shocked after a high-speed road march (20 mph march speed/25 mph catch-up speed). Strykers are extremely quiet compared to M113s and M2s, so I imagine that their crews don’t tire from sound exposure nearly as much.

  26. You make a good argument Monty but I have some (counter?) points:

    It is only wargaming but this article highlights two points which I have read elsewhere:
    The lack of cannon in Stryker brigades leaves it in a disadvantage in a fire fight;

    Lots of 2km ATGM’s is good for that fire fight but they are outranged by a number of ATGM’s;

    (@ Simon – It does suggest standardising Cavalry/Scout units on a 8×8 vehicle to deny the enemy information on what type of unit they are screening and standardising training)

    Secondary – if seizing a point (Town, hill etc) and digging in is the mission then wouldn’t heliborne or even airborne be even more quicker/effective? Light infantry have tended to lack firepower and tactical mobility while having great strategic and theatre mobility; now with modern ATGM missiles like the Javelin the firepower part is, at least in part, corrected.

  27. What struck me about this, accepting that ditches can be a problem for any vehicle, is the inability of the other vehicles to tow it out, this raises a few questions

    Tactically, what would they have had to do, leave it behind, deny it or something else

    Does it have a winch/tackle to pull itself out, or, does another similar vehicle have the traction to do the same.

    If 8×8’s do not have the pulling force/traction like tracked vehicles to extricate themselves what are the implications for the proportion of recovery vehicles to others, do units equipped with similar need more recovery vehicles to maintain mobility?

  28. Hey Kent, great to have a US perspective here. Thanks for the interesting observations. A couple of questions for you: I get the impression that the M1128 Stryker MGS hasn’t been a great success. Is this a triumph of perception over reality? or are there problems? Assuming that the negative reports have substance behind them, is it likely that a new or improved MGS system will be fielded? Whatever happens to the current M1128, how likely is it that MGS vehicles will be grouped in Cavalry regiments like Italy does with the Centauro?

  29. I think also from the video they seem to need more training on self recovery etc initially trying to pull it out from the ditch at 45/90 degree angle? really you could have had 5 wagons linked to it and they would have struggled. I saw no effort in trying to reverse out with the wheels straight or like Simon 257 mentioned and sending a vehicle around and behind to try and pull it from the rear.

    They were pretty lazy really with no real effort to dig out around the wheels and I don’t know what recovery kit they have but no mats? Or maybe one winch equipped vehicle per platoon/troop, it does not necessarily need to be an expensive 30t straight pull but say 15t and a snatch block would do for most instances like the one in the video.

    I think that 8×8 vehicles have their place and come with some advantages over tracks but you also need to properly invest in training to get the most from them.

  30. ST, I don’t think a 12.7mm HMG or 40mm GMG gives an 8×8 sufficient defensive firepower. But i don’t think a 40mm CTA two-man turret is the answer either. I would prefer a 25mm lightweight cannon operated by a gunner in a one-man turret. There are lots of options, but cannon must be able to neutralise other 8x8s.

  31. Monty, depends upon what the threat is, surely?

    For instance, if in a recce wagon you come around the corner and there is inexplicably some immediate threat, you want max revs on some extraordinarily loud and indiscriminate weapon, such as a belt fed AGL (or even better a belt fed Wombat, but we won’t go there ;) ). It reminds me of the film “Good Morning Vietnam”, in which a gunner requests of the DJ “I don’t care what you play, just play it LOUD!”

    OTOH, if you are snurgling the wagon to snipe at OPFOR, you want something like a Javelin which does not reveal the firing point. Or an AI .338 Lapua rifle.

  32. Boohoo, tanks, 8x8s, FJs, carriers all get their loving here, but the poor infantry is so neglected. :)

    Once I can pry some free time away, maybe I’ll do a post for them. And I did promise Tom a precis on the strategic overview here.

  33. Puma got a decoupled suspension which reduced noise by IIRC 10 dB or so.
    (last picture here )

    There’s a huge synergy between intra-squad radios, hearing protection, frag protection for ears and active noise cancellation tech. Many functions with little comprehensively designed hardware weight.

    Finally, there’s still the option of using band tracks for light AFVs to get a huge noise and vibration reduction, but somehow they keep resisting the opportunity to become mainstream.

  34. The two supporting Boxers, which both have snow-chains fitted, were unable to gain traction due to being on a road covered in compacted snow and ice. Any vehicle would have had trouble dragging the Boxer out. The Wrecker could not have pulled the Boxer out, without the use of the anchor. If it hadn’t it would have pulled itself towards the Boxer. For a country that has its fair share of snow every year, they do seem a’bit lost don’t they!

    As I mentioned in an earlier post the Blues & Royals took one FV106 Samson to the Falklands, to support 8 CVRT’s. I can’t see why you wouldn’t do the same now.

    Time for a post on the REME Light Aid Detachments? Past, Present and Future or is that a’bit boring?

  35. The only people who love the M1128 Stryker MGS are the people whom it supports. I wasn’t there, but I have spoken with plenty of folks who were in Stryker units under fire in Iraq until the MGS made an appearance. The AQ guys shooting at the infantry didn’t want to duel with 105mm guns. Sure, there have been problems with the MGS, but they do what they’re designed to do most of the time. Most of the sour grapes have been from junior enlisted 19K10 Armor Crewmen who are unhappy that they aren’t on M1A1s/M1A2s. There are upgrades planned for the MGS (mostly cooling issues for the electronics and crewmen and tweaks to the autoloader), but I’m not expecting a completely new vehicle to replace them until the Strykers are phased out.
    Don’t look for the MGS to be grouped into Cavalry regiments. It was designed to be an infantry fire support vehicle. What may happen if the Stryker M1126s are upgunned with 25mm/30mm cannon on the RWS is that the Stryker companies may lose their integral MSG platoons (a mistake IMHO). (With our current administration, who knows what we’ll lose as they try to take our army down to pre-WW2 levels? Bastards.)
    I consider the Stryker BCTs to be the equivalent of our dragoons, fast moving troops that have considerable firepower but fight dismounted. In fact, the 2nd ACR (2nd Dragoons) is now the 2nd Cavalry Regiment (Stryker), and the 3rd ACR (Brave Rifles) is now the 3rd Cavalry Regiment (Stryker). Both these are organized very much like the Stryker Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs).

  36. After partnering with a German panzer battalion and maneuvering with and against German units over the years, my thought was “These are the descendants of Rommel and von Manstein?” I had a German umpire drive up to my M60A3TTS tank platoon position (We were covering our company front as the rest of the company/team withdrew.) and ask me how it felt to be up in Heaven. I asked him what killed us and he pointed across the valley at the next hill, saying, “On top of that hill, an entire company of Jagdpanzer Jaguar with HOT missiles!”
    Since the range of the HOT was 4 klicks, I suggested he count grid lines between them and our position. When he got to five, he just got back in his vehicle and left. We withdrew shortly under pressure as a US attack helicopter battalion (Cobras) came up behind us to cover our withdrawal.

  37. I’ve been telling people here that “light tanks” and the like are best suited as infantry support vehicles. Not as sexy as an armoured assault, but it’s still a necessary job and anyone that you support is going to love you for it, and all the complaints about Stryker armour is moot as you’re not going head to head with enemy armour on open plains. There is an unfortunate tendency to see all armour as assault units, this is not true as you have armoured support units as well which are as critical as any MBT to an army, and especially to the infantrymen it supports.

    You just missed our tribute to the Ontos a few months back. Now that was a support vehicle.

    Kent, what shortcomings can you see with changing a support gun like the 105mm used for the MSG to a 75mm instead? I know you probably won’t get as much damage or penetration, but I have a fondness for smaller, handier packages and maybe more ammo as you’re mostly shooting fortified or built up areas where a 75mm might have a close enough effect to be similar to the 105mm with less weight, space and more ammo.

    Or we can try the Ontos Mk II. :)

  38. What you lose going from a 105mm to a 75mm is terminal effect when you’re using HE(SH), HEAT, and APERS (or canister). If you put something like the ARES XM274 75mm Hypervelocity autocannon on it, you’d be in good shape. I worked on the HSTV-L project and the turret might just fit the Stryker MGS and held 66 rounds in the carousel. You’d still have additional storage in the rear of the MGS for more ammo, too.

    THAT was a sweet little tankette!

  39. We used “rubber bands” on the M114. I’m told it was exciting going down the road at 30 mph and seeing your track (or someone else’s) pass your vehicle. I know, that was old technology…, but I’m old.

  40. It’s a nasty possibility. A Scimitar in the Troop ahead of mine lost a track on the motorway coming back from the ranges, while doing about 50 mph. Slewed the wagon straight across three lanes of traffic and into the central barrier. Miracle that it didn’t flip, hit any other cars or lorries, the barrier stopped it crossing into oncoming traffic, and the track itself didn’t go through anyone’s windscreen having gone airborne.

    My only track problem was throwing one during a neutral turn right on top of an electric fence. Had to cut it to put it back on.

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