Section transport and Load Carrying (History)

In the previous post, I looked at personal transport and load carrying for light role forces; hand carts, bicycles, motorcycles and quad bikes (ATV’s). I tend to think their utility is limited to fairly niche roles but essentially, well worth maintaining, experimenting with, and developing further.

In the context of a post-Afghanistan return to contingency operations, light role, air manoeuvre forces may find themselves just as much in demand as the heavy metal forces.

This post looks at the history of light role section transport and load carrying in the British Army

A Trip Down Memory Lane

When I started writing this I originally thought I would skip this section but having looked at the range of equipment we used to have access to, but no longer, I changed my mind. This isn’t a complete history by a long way, but a handful of selected items of equipment that supported the lightweight, high mobility and air portable vehicle requirement.

The UK has a great legacy of lightweight all-terrain vehicle design, Land Rovers, Stonefield, ATMP, Roush, Multidrive and the Esarco, to name but a few.

All Land Rovers are air portable, even the latest R-WMIK’s only weigh just over 4 tonnes, but when the Wessex was the main helicopter, and the Argosy, the main airlifter, the Lightweight Land Rover was the answer. A number of versions were introduced, include a para recce vehicle.

Light Land Rover

By the late seventies, the British Army had taken  delivery of the Land Rover 101 Forward Control, for towing the 105mm L118 Light Gun in light role units. GS, FFR and Ambulance versions were also introduced and the RAF used them for Rapier missile towing. Like the lightweight air portable, most of the panels on the 101 FC could be removed for helicopter sling loading, even the Wessex.

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Land Rover 101 Forward Control Image 2

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Land Rover 101 Forward Control Image 1

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They were eventually replaced by Defender 90/100 and Pinzgauer vehicles.

Stonefield Vehicles was a Scottish company that designed and built light off-road trucks in the late seventies and early eighties.  The 4×4 P3000 and 6×6 P5000 was aimed at a military market and in between the 1 Tonne Land Rover and 4 Tonne Bedford MK. The 4×4 version had a payload of 1.5 tonnes and the 6×4, 2.9 tonnes. Empty weight was approximately 2.2. tonnes and with a fold down cab, would easily fit inside a Chinook.

Fire tender versions were also manufactured, although it never actually entered service with the British Army, many were supplied to overseas customers, including a protected version modified by Glover Web.

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Stonefield P3000

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Stonefield P5000

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The sad demise of Stonefield is documented in a 1984 Adjournment Debate in the House of Commons, click here to read in full.

Another ‘nearly’ vehicle was the Esarco 6×6 and 8×8.

Developed in the early eighties, Esarco 8×8 used Land Rover 110 components, when driving on road, the second transfer case was uncoupled and the vehicle became an 8×4.  The basic vehicle could cross a 1m gap, tackle 60% slopes, wade to 800mm and travel at 60mph on roads. Payload was a tonne and it could tow a three-tonne trailer. With a fold down cab it was designed for Chinook carriage, two per helicopter. Eight could be carried inside a C130, it could be airdropped and a Chinook could sling load two.

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Esarco 8x8 Image 1

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Esarco 8x8 Image 3

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ESARCO Variants

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The US company, Stewart and Stevenson, eventually developed the vehicle under licence, called the SS300.

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SS300 Image 2

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SS300 Image 1

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In the UK, the MWG group also purchased the design rights and developed it further into the Heavy Use Global Operation (HUGO) All-Terrain Vehicle. The Hugo 8×8 could carry a payload weighing 2 Tonnes, had a crew cab and diesel engine. A 6×6 version was also developed for Portugal. Both were said to be highly mobile, yet very stable. The first, and only, production model, entered service with Oil Spill Response.

HUGO 8x8

Not connected with the Esarco, Multidrive was formed in 1983 as a division of the Brown Group of companies by David J.B Brown. The Group comprised four companies namely BDE, Artix, DJB and Multidrive Ltd, all of which specialised in the design, development, production and support of a range of on/off road heavy haulers using Caterpillar components.  With the exception of Multidrive, the group was purchased by Caterpillar.

AWD was also formed by David Brown. The AWD brand continued with Bedford trucks, the TL and TM range were purchased by the British Army but in 1992 the company went into receivership, picked up by Marshalls of Cambridge. Combining the experience of dealing with the MoD through AWD and high mobility on road conversions from Multidrive an urgent operational requirement for the Army was rapidly fulfilled for operations in the Balkans. The requirement was for a medium mobility fuel and water tanker using a variety of tractor units (Bedford TM and Foden) combined with the powered Multidrive trailer.

The Future Cargo Vehicle (FCV) and Future Wheeled Recovery Vehicle (FWRV) projects were also proposed as PFI programmes. FFV was advertised as a PFI in January 1998, with FCV following in August 1998 and FWRV in September 1999. FFV and FCV went through a pre-qualification phase in order to select a shortlist of potential bidders who would be invited to submit outline proposals. There were three endorsed staff requirements for the trucks: SR (SLA)4096 for a 9-tonne truck, SR (SLA) 4100 for a 4-tonne truck and SR(SLA) 4120 for a 14-tonne truck.

Multidrive produced a number of prototypes between 2000 and 2001 for FCV.

Around this period, the USA also had a similar set of requirements and in 2002 Multidrive were awarded a 6 vehicle demonstration contract with the National Automotive Centre for their FCV, feedback was reportedly excellent.

The Multidrive Multi-Purpose Mobility Platform (MPMP), submitted for the Future Cargo Vehicle (FCV) requirement, was ingenious, compact and extremely capable.

Its independent active suspension system was designed by Davis Technologies and Arvin Meritor. Coil over shock absorber units was replaced with Davis struts that reduced the weight by half. They had an automatic and manual mode, including dynamic ride height and tilt and kneel functionality for cargo loading/unloading and tire changing. All wheel steering provided excellent manoeuvrability and small turning circles, it also had a central tire pressure system.

To make maintenance easier, the 275 BHP Cummins diesel engine was mounted on a slide out tray.

One of the brilliant features was its ability to use the same basic platform for different mobility requirements. The base 4×4 vehicle could carry a payload of 6 tonnes and yet still be capable of being slung load by a Chinook, in this configuration, it was defined as High Mobility. Adding another 3 tonnes, onto the same vehicle, simply degraded the mobility to the slightly less Improved Medium Mobility category.

The icing on the cake was the trailer or Pulse Propulsion Load System.

Not only was it powered, but it had central tire inflation and was articulated in a manner that mean mobility did not suffer. This allowed payload to be increased to 15 tonnes whilst maintaining a turn radius of 10.7 metres.

With a 6 tonne payload, it could be slung load by a Chinook, with the self-loading trailer, two 20ft ISO containers.

Cunning as a fox.

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At about the same time as the US demonstration contract, Multidrive partnered with QinetiQ on their Hybrid Electric Drive (HED) demonstrator vehicle. Under the Applied Research Programme (ARP) contract, QinetiQ was to act as systems integrator for the design and build of a 6-wheel, 18-tonne technology demonstrator, with individual wheel control. The 6×6 HED demonstrator built on the smaller High Mobility Demonstrator (HMD) vehicle.

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These vehicles would have been air transportable in a C130 and sling-loadable with a Chinook at the lower payload.

Of course, all of this came to nothing.

Now, if the story of Multidrive isn’t depressing enough, the Supacat ATMP/Springer saga will have you reaching for the sharp knives!

As is common with anything to do with Supacat, the history is complex.

Supacat designed the vehicle but were not able to manufacture in quantity so entered into production sharing contracts and in the early eighties the fifteen ATMP’s were accepted into British Army and Royal Air Force service, all manufactured by Williams Fairey Engineering. Fairey and Supacat developed the vehicle further and the Mk II was entered into the British Army’s All-Terrain Mobility Platform (ATMP) requirement for the 5th Airborne Brigade. Thirty-six Mk II’s entered British Army service in 1988, following trials the year earlier.

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ATMP Prototype

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In 1995, an agreement was made between Alvis (now BAE Systems) and Supacat in which Supacat would retain design and production rights for civilian markets but Alvis would be responsible for military markets. In 2005, Supacat regained sole marketing rights.

From the Mk1, through the Mk II, Mark IIa and finally, to the MkIII, the ATMP was incrementally improved. Because of their simplicity, they were not overly expensive either, one of the production contracts for 86 ATMP’s and 84 SLLPT trailers was let for approximately £4 million.

ATMP is a 6×6 design that used low-pressure Terra-Wrangler tires, and with a ground pressure of 0.2 kg/cm, it was highly mobile. Originally powered by a 1.3L Citroen engine, the later versions had a 1.5L VW-Audi engine and automatic transmission. Specifications included a 750-1,000kg payload, increasable to 1,600kg with reduced performance, maximum loaded weight of 1.6 to 1.8 tonnes, limited amphibious capability, a top speed of 65kph and permanent 6 wheel drive. The fuel tank has a 50L capacity, increased in later versions.

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Suapact ATMP

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ATMP Cutaway

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Because the focus for ATMP was air manoeuvre and logistics, a great deal of thought was put into cargo handling ad weigh/dimensional compatibility with in-service aircraft.

Air portability was a key requirement; they can be parachute dropped on  Medium Stressed Platforms, 2 per platform, carried by helicopter as a sling or netted load and are internally transportable in a Chinook. A simpler platform could also be used to decrease time to rig and de-rig, this was called the ‘oversill’ scheme.

Given the length of time the ATMP had been in service, all necessary Joint Air Transport Establishment (JATE) clearances were obtained, including various combinations of slinging and air drop with different aircraft. The Chinook was cleared to carry 2 ATMP’s internally without lowering the roll cage or 4 as a single underslung load. Merlin internal carriage, Puma sling load and even the Blackhawk were certified.

Multiple stacking options also exist for carriage in larger aircraft such as the C130 and C17.

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ATMP Dimensions

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ATMP Chinook

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ATMP Merlin and Blackhawk

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ATMP Air Drop

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Compromises were made with the basic design, in order to keep weight down and achieve dimensional compatibility, the vehicle had no suspension, thus limiting speed, ground clearance and ride quality.

The second focus area was cargo handling.

Using an integral winch and pair of ramps that were stored in internal compartments parallel to the vehicles long axis, pallets could be simply winched onto the ATMP load bed, secured and driven away.

To increase carrying capacity a pair of specially developed trailers were also introduced, the FLPT (Fork Lift Pallet Trailer) and SLLPT (Self Loading Lightweight Pallet Trailer). Although there are a number of variations, the basic trailer had a hydraulic tipping mechanism and pallet forks. The driver would simply tilt the trailer into the down position, reverse onto the pallet, tilt the trailer back up, and drive away. Maximum payload for the ‘flipit’ trailer was 1,400kg and it could also be converted to carry three stretchers. Demountable corner posts could also be used to form sides for loose loads, with ratchet straps used to secure the load. Conversion took only a few minutes and the posts were carried on the trailer.

Speed, flexibility and simplicity in action.

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ATMP Trailer 1

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ATMP Trailer 2

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ATMP Trailer 3

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In addition to clearing landing sites, the ATMP was also used for towing the L118 105mm Light Gun complete with ammunition trailer, total carried and towed payload being in excess of 3,500kg.

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All Terrain Mobility Platform 1 (ATMP) towing a Light Gun 02

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ATMP Light Gun

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Because the basic design was so versatile, it was modified and used for a number of different applications. A number of hard or soft cabs, winches, hydraulic jibs, ambulance, recovery, firing posts, firefighting equipment and even a track kit to improve mobility were available. It was also used for unmanned autonomous trials.

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ATMP Tracks

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ATMP Milan

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ATMP Crane Jib

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ATMP Unmanned

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ATMP Fire Tender

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GKN make the Air Portable Fuel Containers, currently in service in the Mk5 guise. The ballon-like, Kevlar reinforced containers, can hold up to two tonnes of fuel. When full, the containers are 1.37m in diameter and can be towed, slung load under a variety of helicopters and parachuted from tactical transport aircraft.

Air Portable Fuel Containers Mark 5

The final ATMP version of relevance was the GKN FuelCat.

This was a system designed to support Forward Arming and Refuelling Point operation for helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. One vehicle contains generator, pumping equipment and fuel tank, and the other, a crane and trailer for another fuel container and pipelines. Between the two vehicles, they can carry 4,000 litres of fuel, pump it to multiple aircraft simultaneously and, provide aircraft towing and a gas turbine starting rig.

ATMP FuelCat

Over the years, they have seen service with airborne forces, the Royal Artillery, Royal Air Force and Royal Marines, and with the MoD on range duties. Deployment included Kosovo, Iraq (both outings) and the early stages of Afghanistan. They were in fact, a direct result of lesson learned during the Falklands Conflict, specifically a lack of all-terrain mobility for light forces, especially their artillery support.

ATMP Deployments

During the 1991 Gulf War, all ATMP’s were converted for the Rapier air defence system towing role. Following the conflict, twenty ATMP’s were quickly reverted to the standard configuration, a crane added and deployed with Royal Marines to Northern Iraq in support of the Kurdish minorities, OP HAVEN. The C130 stacking pallet and forklift handling proved to be very useful and the low ground pressure reportedly allowed it to be driven into a minefield to recover an injured soldier.

For the second time around in Iraq, ATMP’s that were disposed of to the civilian market were hastily re-purchased and deployed to theatre, no, honestly.

It is hard not to be enthusiastic about the ATMP, mature, flexible, adaptable, strategically and tactically deployable, and extremely capable. Unlike the Esarco, Multidrive FCV and Stonefield, it entered service and stayed there for some years, and saw action in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan.

But as we know, the British Army can be fickle when it comes to its vehicles and has demonstrated on several occasions, poor capability husbandry.

This is the story of Springer.

In Afghanistan, ATMP’s were used to support C-IED efforts, Apache Attack Helicopter refuelling points and in their traditional logistics role but due to years of neglect, a lack of investment in sufficient spares holdings and questions over continued support for a non-Euro compliant engine, they were withdrawn in 2010.

Reliability in the hot weather of Afghanistan was poor, availability of 50% of the deployed fleet on any given day was considered to be good. Cost of spares was proving to be high and taking up valuable space on the air-bridge. An environment mitigation package was considered before withdrawing the vehicles but it was assessed as being equivalent to a complete redesign and therefore, a new acquisition. Supacat informed the MoD that given their workload at the time, would be unable to deliver such a redesigned vehicle for two years.

The MoD then considered further options for the Land Forces Load carrying Platform capability and it was judged that a quad bike and trailer did not have the payload to fulfil the role. A number of manufacturers to ‘express an interest’ including Roush (Balter 2), Development Engineering and Enterprise Limited (WVL-C6-AS), Enhanced Protection Systems UK Limited (Tomcar), Supacat Limited (ATMP 2), John Deere, Yamaha Corporation, Honda Motor Company Limited and JC Bamford Excavators Limited

Of these Yamaha, Honda and JC Bamford Excavators declined the MoD’s offer.

In April 2009, Enhanced Protection System was awarded the contract for 78 vehicles at a total cost of £3 million although other sources have that figure at £7million.

A Tomcar magazine article stated;

The company’s Business Development Director, John Stoddart, who had just returned from a specialist training area in the Southwest where he had been involved in a driver instructor programme. As a former soldier with 35 years under his belt, first as an infantryman and then commissioned REME, who served out the closing years of his armed forces career in Defence Procurement, there can be few better qualified than Stoddart to carry out this urgent operational requirement through from drawing board to frontline deployment

In what was an interesting turn of phrase, Dr Andrew Tyler (Chief Operating Officer for the MoD’s Defence Equipment & Support) stated;

The Springer dune buggy will be an added capability for the troops

The article goes on to state

EPS, which is primarily known for its supply of ballistic protection to the UK MoD but is also a key supplier in the UAV scene had doubled its workforce to cope and subcontracted out some of the work. In its current configuration Springer is fitted with a 1400cc Lombardini diesel engine although larger options are available.

Taking a quote from the MoD’s website

Lack of armour is a benefit. Armour would be paid for with impaired versatility. In any case, Springer’s main purpose is to carry casualties and cargo between relatively safe helipads and base facilities.

Driver training was established at Leconfield and in Germany.

Springer ATV 1

The delivery of 29 Springer vehicles into Afghanistan started in July 2009 and ended with the last batch, consisting of 2 Springer vehicles, received in Afghanistan in July 2010.  Transportation of the Springer vehicles, to and from Afghanistan, was via land and sea. The balance of the fleet was used for training and development purposes.

In September 2009, the Sun reported problems with the Springer fleet that had emerged during initial driver training.

And to add to Mr Brown’s woes, fears have been raised over a £7million fleet of off-road Army vehicles set to be flown to Afghanistan next month. A military source said that despite being passed fit for use, there had been “real problems” with steering during testing of the Springer vehicle. The concern over the 40mph Springer buggies came during tests at the Defence School of Transport at Leconfield, Yorks. Seventy of the two-seater buggies have been bought to help transport casualties between helipads and bases.

One tester of the Springer said the vehicle needed bigger rear tyres and more power. And a senior military source told The Sun the teething problems were worrying.

He said: “We have a real problem with the Springer. This is meant to be a tough go-anywhere vehicle capable of high speed over rugged ground. To have steering columns damaged by a few bad bumps in Yorkshire is of some considerable concern.”

The MoD denied any problems, of course with an MoD spokesman telling the newspaper;

There have been no reports of problems with the vehicle. Springer has successfully passed its trials with the Army, has been declared fit for purpose and is going into service

Nothing to see here; move along, the deployment continued.

Jane’s also described a Springer 2 revision, retrofitted to existing vehicles as a result of operational experience but these would no solve the fundamental problems.

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The Springer was removed from service in March 2011, recovered from Afghanistan and declared out of service by September 2011. All 78 vehicles were sold to civilian users for about £7-10k each and for the rest of operations in Afghanistan, quads and trailers were used, despite the MoD judging they were unsuitable, the very reason the Springer acquisition was initiated.

The icing on this particular cake is the story of the Roush Land Air System (LAS) 100RE

In 2005 the MoD contracted with Roush Technologies Ltd to design and built an ultra-lightweight all terrain load carrying vehicle that could be slung load by a Lynx helicopter and internally carried in a Chinook, the programme was called Harewood with the resultant vehicle known as Balter. The contract was worth £3.3m but only a very small number of vehicles entered service, less than 15.

The vehicle itself was pretty impressive though.

First, it used a diesel engine so no messing about with petrol. With ECM protection, standard NATO compliant electrical system and an engine that can use diesel, JP8, JP5 and B20 biodiesel, the LAS100Re is a fully militarised vehicle, not an adaption of a civilian type.

Second, it could carry 1,000kg and yet weighed only 800kg because of its low weight aluminium honeycomb construction by Lola Composites. A lightweight trailer could be used to increase the payload by another 600kg.

Third, it has excellent mobility, 6 wheel drive, an approach angle of 81 degrees and could be internally carried on Chinook and Merlin whilst being slung load by a Lynx.

In 2007 Roush developed the concept into a 2 seater with a load bed shelter, the engine was uprated to a 1.4 litre turbocharged direct injection diesel engine developing 50 kW and 160Nm of torque. The fuel system could accept Diesel 1 and 2, JP8, JP5 and B20 bio-diesel, and top speed was increased significantly. They were fitted with C-ED ECM equipment (Balter) and it was even considered for the Springer requirement.

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Roush LAS100RE

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Roush also helped to develop the Light Tactical All Terrain Vehicle (LTATV) in conjunction with their US parent. Using the same diesel engine common to its diesel quad bike, payload performance is inevitably not as high as the LAS100, rack capacities are 136 kg on the front and 272 kg for the rear. The vehicle also offers a towing capability of 680 kg. The LTATV is designed to carry a forward facing crew of two, plus an optional rear facing crew member position if required. Rollover protection to SAE J2194 ROPS standard is fitted, including fold-down pins for air-portability.

Roush has been through a number of changes of ownership and now trades as Revolve Engineering They also make the MAN SV ROPS seating system and Arctic Cat diesel Quads.

The LAS 100RE is still listed on their website

So, three million quid, what did we do with them?

Flogged them off through Witham’s of course, what else!

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LAS100 sales

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Hopefully, this has shown that the UK has a strong track record of developing innovative and capable lightweight vehicles. It would be easy to be frustrated with the MoD’s inability to maintain this important capability, we know that over the last couple of decades (parallel with FRES), the British Army has been quite sure that the future was rapid reaction operations, then it was protracted stabilisations operations and now, it is perhaps, a bit of both. Equipment choices have followed these changing trends in military thinking.

By way of introducing the next section;

A recent joint 82nd Airborne Division and 16 Air Assault Brigade exercise, as reported by Breaking Defense, drew attention to the US lightweight vehicles being used for drop zone logistics.

“We were quite jealous,” said one Brit, Maj. Ivan Rowlatt of the 16th Air Assault Brigade, which has a long and close relationship with the American Airborne — but no comparable vehicles of its own.

No comparable vehicles!

The headline; US Airborne, UK Paras Give Thumbs-Up On Light Vehicles




Part 1 – Personal Transport and Load Carrying

Part 2 – Section transport and Load Carrying (History)

Part 3 – Section transport and Load Carrying (Moving Forward)

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