Review by Peter Brown
Richard Hunnicutt’s books on American AFVs should need no introduction to armour enthusiasts. This is his tenth study, which starting over three decades ago with the Pershing has covered American armoured vehicles step by step. His Sherman is a classic and the standard work on the subject, and he has described the various serious of Light Tanks, Main Battle Tanks and Personnel Carriers from their origins to the present day in either one or two volumes as the subject demands. His coverage is very detailed but his text is to the point with little wasted. Photos of the original vehicles, both record shots taken during trials and tests as well as views of them in action, are supplemented by extracts from the vehicle Technical Manuals, line drawings and multi-view plans in 1/48th scale. Each book ends with a short colour photo section and detailed data sheets with vehicle dimensions and weapon data.
His latest - and it seems from the introduction, his last, as he has now covered everything - is typical of the series and well up to its usual high standards. It covers American wheeled fighting vehicles, mostly as the title states armoured cars but also a wide range of non-armoured or partially-armoured types as appropriate. It follows the usual chronological style, and shows how American forces have made use of wheeled AFVs which in many cases has been surprisingly little for a country with such a widespread and capable automotive industry. While the number of vehicles used in US service may be small compared to those adopted by other nations, there have been many designs which were not adopted which are still of great technical interest and it is his coverage of these one-offs and short side routes leading to no definite end which is a hallmark of the series and the amount of research which goes into the books.
The book falls more or less neatly into four eras, each showing the vehicles developed, adopted and used during them though some lasted longer than others and in many cases designs remained in service, especially after being exported, for many years.
Part I is titled Early Development and covers the many designs produced before WW2. And there are many designs to be covered, while the USA never fielded armoured cars in the Great War small numbers of cars were procured and many more developed. The story starts not even in the 20th Century but in the closing years of the 19th, with an array of designs based mostly on existing car and light lorry chassis. More designs were produced in the 1920s and 1930s, some were standardised and even built in small numbers. Alongside true armoured cars were many lightly protected cars which spawned a series of Scout Cars which were lightly armoured lightweight trucks used for scouting though there were also several early mortar and antiaircraft vehicles.
Part II will interest many readers as it covers the World War II Development Program. It describes the many series of cars developed during those few busy years, not only the M3A1 Scout Car series, the M8 Light Armored Car and its related M20 Armored Utility Car but also the T17E1-series Staghounds which the US themselves never used in action though they were supplied to her Allies, and the lighter and heavier vehicles with four, six and eight wheels which reached prototype or limited production stage. These alone are many and varied, from armoured Jeeps to special 8x8 vehicles mounting 3" anti-tank guns. The series of wheeled Tank Destroyers based in various standard chassis is also covered, with the Dodge-based M6 being the only one to see active service. Also included are several short-lived designs for wheel self-propelled artillery vehicles with guns and rockets, and even a short section on the Seep and DUKW wheeled amphibians.
The production cars get the most coverage, and there are detailed outside and interior shots of them plus plans showing early and late production versions of the M3A1, M8, M20, T17E1 and one set for the T17E2 antiaircraft car as well as plans of the T18E2 Boarhound which was built but never used in anger and the six-wheel T27 and T28 series. The sections of the M8 and M20 also show experimental versions as well as following development and production changes, and there are photos of these two and the Staghound in action.
Part III takes the story through the Cold War, Korea and Vietnam, including the use of WW2 vehicles including the M8-series upgrades developed in the USA. Several development trends are followed, but the main vehicle here is the Cadillac Gage Commando series from its origins through the V-100, XM706, M706, V-200 and V-150 varieties as well as several Vietnam-era improvised protected vehicles such as the gun trucks. Plans are included for the early V-100, XM706, M706, USAF XM706E2, M706 Product Improved and V-150 export versions with 20mm and two types of 90mm gun. Short sections describe the Commando Scout and Commando Ranger Peacekeeper.
Part IV deals with New Wheeled Combat Vehicles. This begins with the eight-wheeled Lockheed Twister concepts and the smaller six-wheeled Scout, but its main emphasis is on the Light Armoured Vehicle program. This includes the various MOWAG/General Motors Canada LAV vehicles adopted by the US Marine Corps, with a lot of detail including manual extracts for several versions and plans of the basic LAV-25, C2 Command and Control, Mortar, Logistics, TOW missile carrying Anti-Tank and Recovery variants. Other versions such as the Mobile Electronic Warfare System and Antiaircraft models are described and there are photos of various versions in use in training, in Panama and the Gulf War and details of the short-lived Mobile Gun versions with 105mm cannon. Non-US versions such as the Canadian Coyote recce, Bison APC and the improved Kodiak APC as well as adaptations of the Delco 25mm turret to carry TOW launchers are included.
Other wheeled armoured vehicles in this section are the Verne/Arrowpoint Dragoon, Cadillac V-600, the M93 series NBC Recce vehicles based on the German Fuchs. The prolific HMMWV series is included as it is wheeled combat type, including the various lightly armoured and antiaircraft systems and the many weapons carrier varieties. The XM311 dune buggy which preceded this as well as various light strike vehicles trialled or adopted in small numbers are also here, and the section ends with the M1117 Guardian Armored Security Vehicle which recently entered service, including a plan of this latest vehicle.
The book’s text ends, appropriately, looking to The Future. In order to better project its forces around the globe quickly in time of crisis, the US Army is evolving lighter vehicles and units. The trials for these are described with the story literally up to date as it went to press with the adoption of the Piranha LAV IIII series named Stryker in March 2002 though this is clearly a story which is only just begun.
Rounding this off are the reference sections. The colour photos cover mostly modern vehicles apart from one view of several M8’s in green and black camouflage, while the data tables list the main types in great detail.
As usual, Mr Hunnicutt has tracked down (no pun intended here!) a mass of information and photos and packed them into a single volume. His books are definitive and of high quality, and this does bring a large price tag. This should not put off the serious modeller or AFV student however, although some parts of the story may have been covered elsewhere there is more than enough for most readers here between one set of covers and to have all this in several books would cost more anyway. So, if wheeled fighting vehicles or American armor is your area of interest, add this to your shelves and take it as it is - money very well spent on a book which will be used time and time again.
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Page created 1 September 2002