31 May 2015

The Motorpool: The APC and IFV

How soldiers are transported to the battlefield is as much a consideration by the military as their on the battlefield. Historically, the soldier used their feet or the water to get to the battlefield. After the industrial revolution, the train allowed for rapid movement of men and supplies. The game changer was the advent of the motorcar and the tank. The marriage of these vehicles created the Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) and the Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV). These infantry vehicles allow infantry to be mechanized and operate within a tank unit or be protected in intense combat zones. While the APC/IFV was a mainstay of Cold War military tactics, these armoured warhorses have fallen on hard times with the increased of asymmetric warfare, IEDs, and the advent of the MRAP. In this blog article we will examining the APC/IFV. After the comments when this blogpost was originally posted on June 1st, I took it down and rewrote some sections.

The Military Role of the APC and IFV
The primary job of these armoured infantry transport vehicles is to safely and securely transport infantry through the perils of the modern battlefield. Those have summed up their duties as an "battle taxi". In addition, these infantry vehicles are armed to defend the vehicle and the infantry during transport and during on/off loading. The other role of the APC/IFV is allow the infantry to move with the rest of the armoured vehicles, thus, making these infantry "mechanized". These mechanized infantry are tasked with defending the tanks and other armoured vehicles from enemy units wielding anti-tank weaponry, especially in heavily wooded or urban terrain.
These infantry units can also pull security for the tank crews during emergency repairs and when the tankers need to get some sleep. In addition to these roles, mechanized infantry can make an scout element that uses the infantry vehicles to move ahead of the armoured formation. Specialized variants of armoured vehicle use the base APC/IFV chassis for custom combat roles, like tank hunters, scouts, armoured medical transport, and AAA vehicles.  

Difference Between an APC and IFV
The Armoured Personnel Carrier and the Infantry Fighting Vehicle seem to be basically the same type of infantry vehicle and also seem to fulfill the role on the battlefield. But what separates them is two major elements: the ability for the infantry to use their small arms to defend the vehicle and the vehicle itself to use larger weapons to engage targets, either infantry or other armoured vehicles. In APCs, the crew is buttoned down inside and only if the passengers ran on top of the APC, as they did in Vietnam, can they use their assault rifles to defend themselves. The vehicle themselves are normally armed with a machine gun to defend the vehicle. But that is not true of the IFVs.
Some IFVs allow the infantry to use small arms to engage targets via firing ports, like the Soviet BMP, but not all IFVs have this feature. To allow the IFV to protect itself from a number of threats, the IFV is more well armed with auto-cannons and even AT missiles. The modern IFV tend to be more well armored, than the APC as well, but this comes at a cost, the IFV carry less troops into battle. For example, the American M113 APC carries 11 troops and 2 crew, while the M2 IFV has a crew of 3 and 6 soldiers. IFVs seem to be designed around operating in a armoured unit with supporting the MBTs and transporting the mechanized infantry. IFVs are becoming more of the standard, causing the older "battle taxis" to be phased out in favor of the more heavily armed and tactically flexible IFV.

The History of the APC and IFV
Besides their feet, soldiers have been using wagons and animals to get themselves to and from the battlefield. Some of these wagons were covered, and some allowed them to use their crossbows and bows to defend themselves. But, these are rare in history and often were used to transport VIPs and royals. Some might make the argument that the world's first APC may have been the mythical Trojan Horse. However, the first armoured and armed infantry vehicle was the fortified trains used by the British during the Anglo-Boer Wars. Given the tactics employed by the Boer guerrillas, trains were a prime target, and the British had to defend their trains that were transporting troops and supplies around South Africa. This would make these trains sort of an IFV and APC.
However, the first armoured personnel carrier that would proximity to modern vehicles came out of the horror of the Great War. The candidate for "the first" is muddied. The French Schneider CA-1 and the British Mark IX tank. The  Schneider CA-1 was the first French tank and had a number of mechanical and design issues, but it was originally envisioned by  to carry troops through the hell of No Man's Land, to the enemy trenches, and then allow the infantry to disembark and fight. This could be the first "real" APC used in combat.
The British used the foundation of their WWI tank to construct the Mark IX APC. Several hatches on the side of this landship allowed the infantry exit, but most likely under fire. Both of these early APCs had machine guns and cannons to protect the infantry and soften up any bunkers or nests. While this design was closer to the APCs that we know today, the Mark IX APC came too late in the war to be used. Only three were build just before the end of the Great War, and just 34 copies were constructed in total. Only one survives today and is in a museum.
The ideal of mechanized infantry and the German tactic of Blitzkrieg caused for the need of specialized armoured infantry vehicles that allowed the infantry to keep up the tanks and allowing for Combined Arms tactics. The tanks and the mechanized infantry have a mutual beneficial relationship, and even prior to World War II, military planners knew that. In response,  World War II became the first war to use APCs. Originally, military planners believed that military trucks would be okay, but the hard realities of real combat caused the creation of infantry vehicles like the 3rd Reich "Special Purpose Vehicle" 251 or the Sd. Kfz. 251 and the American M3 Half-Track. While these "half-track" vehicles were close to modern APCs, it was the Canadian "Kangaroo" and the British Universal Carrier that were closer to APCs like the M113. The Kangaroo was a retrofitted M7 "Priest" self-propelled artillery vehicle and was a fully-tracked APC.
One element that does separate World War II era APCs from the ones today is fully enclosed infantry section. In the post-war era, we finally got the first "real" IFV was the West German Schutzenpanzer Lang HS.30 that had top-hatches allowing the infantry go shooting la fresco. In the Cold War, the Americans and the Soviets designed two of the most iconic infantry vehicles: the M113 and the BMP-1 respectively. The American battle taxi M113 was an armoured turtle armed with an M2 .50 caliber heavy machine gun that was more typical of the APC design, while the Soviet BMP-1 became typical of the IFV design. Both would be exported around the world, and met in battle several times, especially during the 1991 Gulf War. While some military organizations focused on battle taxis with tracks, some European nations and the Soviets also focused on developing wheeled APCs. The Soviets developed the BTR-70 8x8 APC in 1960, Mercedes-Benz built the Fuchs 6x6 APC for the West German military, and the other European companies began building wheeled APCs.
While the BMP series became the battle taxi of the Warsaw Pact and the 3rd World export market, the West Germans built the most iconic NATO IFV of the 1970's, the Marder. This more heavily armed and armoured infantry vehicle lead to the M2 Bradley and the British Warrior IFV. The IFVs and the APCs of both the Western and Eastern militaries shared down the Iron Curtain. However, they would met in Arab-Israeli wars and the Gulf War. With the fall of the Cold War, and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the concept of massive armoured warfare in Europe disappeared, the future of the APC/IFV looked uncertain or just under developed.
With the terrorist attacks on America, the light military utility vehicle, Toyota Hilux pickups, and the helicopter were the vehicles of choice for the warfighters of these new unconventional wars. Even in the 2nd Gulf War that finally brought down the government, vehicles like the HMMWV were the more common vehicles transporting troopers to the battlefield. On the streets of Baghdad, it was the HMMWVs and the British Land Rover Wolf LMUVs. While battle taxis like the M2 Bradley IFV and the new US Army Stryker APC were used in Middle East urban warfare, IEDs took their toll on both the LMUVs and the armoured infantry vehicles. New ideas of protecting troopers on patrol in these new warzones was desperately needed.
This created the next vehicle in the family of infantry vehicles, the MRAP. While a hybrid armoured military transport vehicle, these mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles were similar to the wheeled APCs that were gaining popularity in APC projects. At this time in modern military organizations, the wheeled APC/IFV is gaining ground over the heavier tracked infantry vehicles, and it seems IFVs with the concept of infantry engaging from the armoured protection via firing ports was dying out, in favor of the IFVs without the firing ports, but still retaining the heavier armaments. Currently, the modern IFV/APC is being used as a multi-role armoured vehicle on the battlefield.

Ramps vs. Hatches

One interesting element that separates different infantry vehicles is whether the troops disembark via hatches or ramps. Oddly, the difference makes a difference. Hatches, like on the Russian BMP, allows the soldiers to have some cover, but the soldiers are not able to exit as quickly as the soldiers who run down ramps. The same is true backwards as well. Ramps allow soldiers to load up faster than the hatches. Most modern APCs and IFVs use ramps, especially American infantry vehicles. During research this subtopic for this blogpost, I learned that the Soviet actually hollowed out the BMP rear troop hatches for fuel tanks. They stored fuel in the doors right next to their soldiers. Wow.

Wheeled vs. Tracked vs. Hover(?!)
Unlike current main battle tanks, there is a debate in military organizations and armchair generals (like myself!) and which locomotion system is better for infantry vehicles: wheeled or tracked. This debate becomes even more complicated when you include future technology, like anti-gravity pods, hover pads, and hovercraft. In current military organizations, the wheeled armoured infantry battle taxi vehicle is winning out over the more traditional tracked variety. This is due to improved tyre technology, air suspension, and the increased urbanization, wheeled APCs and IFVs are being seen as more of the future of the multi-use APC, like the Stryker.
Tracked are the more traditional APC locomotion choice, and are more hearty in various on-road and off-road conditions, especially in snow or wet soil conditions. While wheeled APCs can and do tackle various off-road conditions, the wheeled configuration is better for urban and more on-road conditions, where noise is lessened, greater road speed, and greater fuel economy from tracked vehicles. In addition to the on-and-off road performance, the tracked vehicle can have greater weight to armoured protection, and tackle off-road conditions than the wheeled battle taxi with tracked vehicles returning greater turning radius, overcoming gaps and obstacles.
This gives tracked vehicles greater route flexibility than wheeled. However, the wheeled APC is more efficient for cost, fuel, less need of lubrication, higher road speeds and the overall logistical aspect of the operation. When it comes to survivability and armoured protection, wheeled vehicles cannot be up-armored as much as a tracked vehicle, and we compare similar armoured protect levels, the wheeled vehicles has to be larger than the tracked vehicle, causing the wheeled APC to be just that more visual to the enemy than the tracked. Small arms fire has a greater effect on wheeled armoured vehicles than tracked, due to infantry or snipers being able to shoot the tyres. The same is true of mines, artillery fragments. However, due this age of IEDs, vehicles that were specifically designed to counter that element of asymmetrical warfare are wheeled not tracked. This due to MRAPs needing to operation in most urban and on-road conditions, like Iraq.
Bottom line? One of the studies I read on the subject said that if an armoured infantry vehicles is going to be going off-road more than 60% of the time in rough weather, the tracked vehicle is the better option. If the vehicle requirements or combat conditions call for more on-road usage, than wheeled is the better option. Most larger military organizations field BOTH tracked and wheeled for different operational environments. While the M2 Bradley can serve in both urban and open environments, the Stryker is better for the operating in urban setting like Baghdad than the Bradley.
At the moment, there are hovercraft transport vehicles, but they are not anything like what was seen Hammer's Slammers, they are used to simply ferry soldiers, armoured vehicles, and supplies from ship-to-shore. Could the debate about wheeled or tracked be solved by hoverboard or repulsorlift technology? In some sci-fi works, there is no debate, every armoured vehicle is anti-gravity, like Renegade Legion, but in some, like Battletech, the answer is more subjective, and all are seen in the AO.
Armoured infantry skimmer vehicles that hover several meters off of the ground would allow for terrain considerations to be irrelevant, and allow these futuristic armoured vehicles to simply guide over mud, snow, debris, and rough roads (we don't need roads!). The issue with hover-based APCs, if the technology COULD exist, is stability. If you are skimming above the surface, could an impact from an mine/IED or enemy fire knock the armoured repulsorlift vehicle out-of-air, causing a greater crash and damage simply due to it being airborne instead of ground mobile? Could you make the repulsorlift APC too fast as well? Then there is the consideration of energy consumption and maintenance requirements. Could the crew or infantry using the hover APC repair it in-field? Until there is hoverboards and repulsorlift technology, we will have to stuck to the wheeled vs. tracked debate.      

The Weapons of the APC and IFV

Most APCs are armed with machine guns in 7mm-12mm range to defend the crew and soldiers from hostile infantry and even attack helicopters. For defense purposes, besides the armor, the APC uses smoke launchers. In contrast, IFVs are more heavily armed with auto-cannon in 20mm+ range, and even missile launchers as well, like the US Army M2 Bradley that has TOW anti-tank missiles. As seen in US Army Stryker APC, heavier machine guns can be mounted to a computer control system that allows the crew to stay inside the armoured vehicle while engaging targets. Modern vehicles like the Stryker have been seen armed with .50 caliber machine guns or even 40mm AGLs with M249 7.62mm machine guns.
In terms of defensive systems, some infantry vehicles are being fitted with versions of the Israeli TROPHY active defensive system and advances in armor plating like the IDF's TOGA. During the recent War in Iraq, Stryker APCs were seen mounted with an "anti-RPG cage" around the vehicle to act as a barrier between the explosive charge and the hull of the vehicle. Some APCs are seen as modular hull system, allowing different weapon systems to be swapped out depending on the tactical situation. Once again, the US Army Stryker could be fitted with all manner of different turrets with various weapons packages, including an 105mm cannon allowing the Stryker to go tank hunting. Once again, the due to the improved weapons package, the IFV carries less soldiers for more protection in both offensive and defensive means. While the APC, which mostly carries a heavy machine gun, carries more soldiers.

The Interior of the APC and IFV
Unlike a luxury SUV, the interior of any infantry vehicle is hot, cramped, and room for troopers is at a premiere over the armament and other hardware of the vehicle, and the crew of the vehicle. Soldiers often joke that being this close builds morale and comradeship. Yeah, I'll bet, especially if everyone has washed and used deodorant. APCs must have been fun in Iraq. The primary purpose of an infantry vehicle is to transport infantry in protection, but from what I've seen in most modern APC, you wouldn't know it. Infantry are stuffed into their tin can and if there is a fire, the crew and passengers are at high risk. Most soldiers are grateful to exit the vehicle. Of course, APCs and IFVs being "battle taxis" there were never designed for long term occupation, and is more of A-to-B vehicle.

The Curious Case of the M321 FPW
One of the most unique features of the American M2 Bradley IFV was the rather interesting and rarely used variant of the M16: the M321 Firing Port Weapon (FPW). Given the cramped conditions inside the M2 Bradley, the normal length M16 assault rifle was just too long to be used in the Bradley's firing ports. To allow the infantry to engage targets, an specialized variant of the M16 was purposefully constructed just to meet this need: the M321 FPW. The FPW lacks a buttshock, and has a greater rate of fire than the standard M16 of the time; 1225 vs. 900 RPM.  In the A2 and A3 improved variants of the M2 IFV, the firing ports were covered over by armoured plating, save for two rear-facing firing ports. Currently, the M321 FPW serves as PDWs for the crews of the IFV and to make cool videos on Youtube.

Variants of the Infantry Vehicle

The Armoured Recon/Scout Vehicle
There are some variants of the infantry vehicle that are specifically designed to conduct recon missions, like the M3 variant of the M2 Bradley IFV. While light military utility vehicles are also used, the armoured recon/scout vehicle allows for greater protection for those "just encase" situations. Recon/scouts vehicles use trained scouts and sensors to gather intel on enemy positions and relay that information back to their home armoured units.

The Armoured Medical Evac Track
With the flexibly of the chassis that most APCs/IFVs are built on makes these ideal platforms for other vehicles. One variant of the iconic and legendary M113 APC is the armoured medical evac track that allows the wounded to be treated and transported off of the battlefield in armoured protection. While a great of deal of battlefield casualties are air-evac via helicopters, there are times when ground transportation is the only way, and then the armor could come in handy. The M113 brand-aide track was replaced by one based on the M2 Bradley IFV, and in the near future, the replacement for the M2 Bradley would also have a brand-aide track variant.

The Amphibious Assault Vehicle
Another very specialized variant of the APC is the amphibious assault vehicle. Think of this as the water-going APC just by the Marines. These water-loving craft are designed to transport Marines from the naval assault ships to the beach in armored protection, and can even transport the Marines further in-land than the old landing craft from World War II. While they can be used as landgoing APCs, the AAV is very much slower than modern APCs/IFVs, and were not designed for such operations, but they can be used. Marine Corps AAV units were seen in operations in Iraq.

The Future of the APC and IFV
During the Cold War, the idea was that Western Europe would be the battleground of armoured units with MBTs, TOW vehicles, and a host of infantry vehicles that carried mechanized infantry would be rooting out threats to the tanks. That changed rapidly after the 1st Gulf War and the events following the attack on America. Today, APCs and IFVs are still be designed and built, along with tanks, but those ideas are changing. IFVs will overtake the APCs, and wheeled will overtake tracked. Wheeled infantry vehicles will be designed to be modular and air-transportable, with a great deal of technology connecting the battlezone.
These armoured infantry vehicles could serve as transport and armoured combat vehicle, much like the Stryker, and some future APCs will mount drone-launching capability and active defensive systems, like TROPHY. In addition, we could see the MRAP-like armoured vehicles serving instead of traditional APCs/IFVs and LMUVs. and in greater numbers. The armaments of these near-future APCs will be served from inside the vehicle or even by remote, and the turret assembly will be swappable.

Tactical Transport vs. Infantry Vehicles
After playing games like HALO, it begs the question if tactical transports and/or aerial transports, like tilt-rotor or helicopters will replace traditional infantry vehicles? If we are discussing a spacefaring military organization that has to project power across lightyears, than some classes of armoured vehicles will be combined for maximum effectiveness. Tactical transports and troop transport aerial vehicles make a great deal of sense of the bulk of troop transport on an exo-planet battlefield.
I do think that light military utility vehicles will be the other part of transport space marines on off-world battlefields, since they are so flexible. However, I do think that the M577 APC from ALIENS does make a case for the continued survival of the APC in the far future. On a planet like LV-426 and with a small unit, an APC makes sense, especially with formidable weapons package it mounted, but unless your military has the starlift capability of transport dozens or hundreds of APCs to the off-world battlefield, than tactical transports will have to serve in that role as the primary troop mover. Of course, some of the ability to field infantry vehicles is dependent on the local conditions. In some cases, an tactical transport or aerial transport vehicle could be better for the local planetary conditions like Titan vs. Mars.

The APC vs. The Light Military Utility Vehicle
The Jeep Master Chief Limited Edition Wrangler!
There is never enough APCs/IFVs to transport the bulk of a military organization's infantry operating in a region, or that the armoured infantry vehicles are wrong for the tactical environment. Since the 2nd World War, there had been another way for soldiers to get around the battlefield: the light military utility vehicle. With iconic vehicles like the Land Rover, the Jeep, and the Land Cruiser, soldiers could use these lightly armored (if any) vehicles to embark on various missions. Of course, if those types of vehicles aren't around, a Toyota HiLux will do just nicely! During the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we have seen increased use of light military utility vehicles over APCs and IFVs. In urban operations, LMUVs are just better at negotiating the complex terrain and often less of an offensive mindset to the local operation, and LMUVs are the vehicles-of-choice for patrols, especially long-range patrols, like those conducted by A-Teams in A-Stan. While LMUVs have stolen some of the thunder of the APCs, either one can replace the other in the native operational environment.  

The Flexible Platform of the APC in Off-World Warfare

If we examine the APC from ALIENS and the US Army's Stryker APC, than we see that the APC platform is one with a great deal of tactical flexibility. Consider that the Stryker, like the older M113, can mount various weapon systems that allow the Stryker to serve in various roles, all the way from urban APC to tank-killer. This was also true of the M577 APC in ALIENS, its weapons package allowed it to counter a great deal of threats, protected its Colonial Marine passengers, and served as a C3 center for the on-planet operations. APCs could be a great way to have your cake and eat it, too (when it comes to future armoured vehicles). With starlift capability being normally limited, an APC/IFV like the M577 could be an answer to several tactical issues with on-planet engagements, especially when the tactical transport is designed to work harmoniously with the APC/IFV and the Marines.

The APC in Hostile Off-World Environments
In the recent Last Days On Mars as well as Moon, we see more enclosed off-world exploration vehicles that are far more advanced than the old Lunar Rover during the Apollo Missions. These larger vehicles allow astronauts to take off their spacesuits and operate in the vehicle in a shirtsleeve environment. With the increased capability, these vehicles could be used for extended exploration mission, with the exploration vehicle serving as the shelter and home for the astronauts with mobile labs, food prep, sleeping areas.
It does not take much imagination to see that these exploration vehicles could be retrofitted for military use in the beginning of military organizations establishing themselves off-world. As with their civilian role, the military retrofitted APC/IFV could allow astro marines to operate in the hostile environmental conditions, serving as not only a marine mover, but also as a mobile shelter for our "astro marines". These vehicles would be the home for extended patrols or recon missions. Naturally, these retrofitted vehicles would not be up to combat operations, but any APC/IFV purposefully designed for that military role would offer the same capabilities of the exploration buggy: being a mobile home and a vehicle designed to tackle the rigors of the local conditions. One of the best examples is the M35 "Mako" from the Mass Effect universe.

Armoured Mecha Carriers?!
In some future war scenarios, the infantry is no longer guys and gals in BDUs with assault rifles. Instead, they will be wearing expensive powered armor of either Class-I or Class-II, and getting them to the battlefield in protection will require a larger infantry transport vehicle. We could see specialized APCs or IFVs that are designed around transported these new types of infantry units. Imagine a wheeled or tracked armored vehicle packed with soldiers encased in classic anime/manga mecha...how big that frakking vehicle going to have to be? Some fictional universes that feature mecha have specialized transport vehicles, like the ROBOTECH II: The Sentients REF GMU and the Landmate transports in the 2004 Appleseed GCI film. Most sci-fi military organizations get around this via dropships or other aerial transport systems, or just the mech walking from its base to the battle, exposed the entire way. I guess we could call these vehicles armoured mecha carriers (AMCs)?

The Progenitor: The M577 Armoured Personnel Carrier from ALIENS 
In yet another example of how awesome ALIENS really is, we see that this 1986 film gave us the most iconic armoured personnel carrier of science fiction. Prior to its appearance in the film, there was few examples of sci-fi infantry vehicles, and few, if any, in live-action film. Unlike rovers, the AT-ATs of TESB, the M577 APC functions like an APC, looks like an APC, and is seen on-screen performing all of these duties. After the M577 APC, creators became inspirited, and an army of APCs in the fashion of the M577 began to populate sci-fi in all media. Even today, all you have to do is type "science fiction APC" into Google and see the effect of this one iconic military sci-fi vehicle continues to have on the imagination of sci-fi creators.
The M577 APC was originally designed by noted artist and designer Ron Cobb (The Last Starfighter), and it was to be built from the ground up. Money forced the production to use an existing vehicle to base the futuristic APC on. That vehicle was Hunslet ATT77 designed for service in airports as a towing vehicle. The specific ATT77 used in the film was from Heathrow Airport. Stripping away tons of lead ballast that would have caused the vehicle to fall through the floor of the studio. The interesting design and look of the M577 APC was due to the use of the ATT77 as a foundation, but it wasn't without issue having a hulk-like vehicle. The vehicle nearly ran over some of the crew during the rescue in the Atmosphere Processor. The vehicle was used for promotional purposes during the film's release, but was left outside on the grounds of Pinewood Studios, where it nearly rusted out of existence until it was scrapped. This should have been in a museum somewhere.

Science Fiction and the Infantry Vehicle
The majority of military science fiction or even just futuristic military organizations seen in sci-fi are mildly military, and allows for certain elements to be jettisoned. That is sad story of APCs/IFVs in sci-fi, these real-world important armoured vehicles have been circumvented by mecha, powered armor, tactical transports, and teleporters. While there are great examples of tanks, airplanes, helicopters in sci-fi, there were few APCs seen until ALIENS stormed onto the scene in 1986. Why? I think that most creators focus on ship-to-shore vehicles like dropships, helicopter transports, and tactical transports; some creators seem to forgot about the APC. These is true of other armoured vehicles classifications as well.
Infantry vehicles would appear in works like Hammer's Slammers and futuristic military RPGs, it was the appearance of the M577 APC in ALIENS that altered the sci-fi community to think about creating their own futuristic APCs. During the the 1980's, there was a trend in military fiction and war gaming about depicting large-scale armoured warfare, like Team Yankee and Twilight 2000, which impacted some creators to include APCs in their own sci-fi creations (like me!). Other wargames set in the future also started to depict armoured vehicles besides just the MBT. Games like Renegade Legion, Battletech, and even Warhammer 40,000 all had an array of APCs to mix up the gameplay and sell more plastic-crack to their devoted slaves...I mean...fans. Much like tabletop wargames, computer and console wargames also featured APCs and IFVs, especially games like Command & Conquer and Starcraft. Sci-Fi is split on the means of locomotion for these futuristic APCs, some show wheels, or tracks, but to be really futuristic, you need anti-gravity! Much of the examples of sci-fi infantry vehicles seems to come from the world of video games and tabletop wargames. Given the continued importance of APCs/IFVs in the real world, these types of armoured vehicles will be still seen in science fiction, but rarely when compared to other types of military technology.


"Pearly" AT-APC from Space: Above and Beyond Episode "Pearly"
In one of the final episodes of SAAB, we seen the 58th in a tense ground battle with Chigs, and the human forces are losing. The 58th takes shelter from a Chig advance in an US Army 7th Cavalry APC. When the driver rejoins his APC, they retreat from the battlefield, and attempt to overland to the pickup LZ on contested planet of Minerva. The APC named "Pearly" is featured prominently through the episode, and this is the first armoured vehicle seen in the series and the last. The APC in the episode is an M113 that has been retrofitted with faux weapons and armor, masking its M113 foundation. This APC from 2064 uses a anti-tank missile system, similar to the tank hunting M113 ITV, along with twin .50 caliber machine guns for AA defense and anti-personnel work.
One interesting element of the APC in SAAB was that several ton armoured vehicle was powered via solar cells. So, I guess that Tesla Motors gets into the military vehicle market in 2063? In a lucky break, a SAAB collector recently got his hands on the APC manual used in the episode, and uploaded pictures of the technical manual. It seems that the infantry vehicle seen in the show was an "Armoured Transport Armoured Personnel Carrier" (the "personnel" part was misspelled on the front faux cover!). The APC form "Pearly" maybe one of the few examples of an infantry vehicle in a sci-fi television show.

The Trade Federation MTT from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
The Trade Federation are a bunch of cowards and chose to use droid armies. Interestingly enough, the Droid Armies of the Trade Federation are one of the few sci-fi examples of on-screen use of combined arms. The APC of this Droid Army is the massive MTT that is specially designed to transport battle droid soldiers in a compact manner allowing for maximum numbers of soldiers to be off-load and brought to bear on the battlefield. This computer-controlled repulsor armoured vehicles is armored with heavy-repeating laser cannons and carries over 100 hundred battle droid troopers. These were used in the Clone Wars as well, but with modifications allowing for droid troopers to be deployed quickly. Another variant of the MTT used during the Clone Wars carries the Super Battle Droids.

The Tau "Devilfish" class APC from WH40K Universe

The Devilfish class APC is the mainstay of the Tau forces, and serves in several roles on the battlefield. It can transport 12 Fire Warriors in armoured protecting, the Devilfish class can also use its armaments of rotary "burst" cannons to provide fire support for the Tau forces along with closer support via gun drones. The base chassis of this alien APC is used for several other Tau armoured skimmer anti-gravity vehicles. The Tau Devilfish class APC is one of the most iconic pieces of Tau military technology and has become a symbol of this race of the WH40K universe. This is also one of the few examples of an alien infantry vehicle.

The M577 APC from the ALIENS Universe
The M577 APC was developed with the UD-4L Cheyenne tactical transport in mind during a major overhaul of Colonial Marine operations, tactics, and vehicles during 2170. With the requirements for the M577 to be transported from ship-to-shore via the Cheyenne, the APC is not has armoured has some of the US Army APCs in service, but this allows the Colonial Marines to hit exo-planet dirt quickly and with a great deal of firepower. While the primary function of the M577 is to be battle taxi for 13 Colonial Marines, it also is close fire support via the main turret along with having a portable TOC and enough supplies for three days of combat.
This all makes the M577 one flexible machine. Armament comes in form of three different choices for the main turret, from plasma, to particle beam, to lasers. Anti-infantry and defensive fire is handled by a rotary caseless cannon on the forward arch of the vehicle. Automatic defensive system allow the M577 to have a good chance of not being killed by the first enemy encounter. While able to serve in armoured Colonial Marine units, the primary environment of the M577 APC is the colonial frontier in operation with rapid colonial response Colonial Marine units. Like many APCs in history, the M577 chassis has been adapted for use in several forms, including anti-aircraft variant with quad-20mm cannons called the M579. With the heavier weapons package, the M577 APC should have be classified an IFV.

The Imperial AT-AT Walker APC from the Star Wars Universe
Despite having the toy to this iconic piece of Star Wars machinery, I still have to remind myself that this armoured walker is actually an APC. Seen in The Empire Strikes Back during the Battle of Hoth, the All Terrain Armoured Transport is designed to transport 40 stormtroopers in armoured and armed protect through the most difficult terrain. While slow, the AT-ATs were well armed and armoured, with their mere presence being a psychological fear weapon. These walkers were developed during the Clone Wars and improved upon during the Galactic Civil War, being used in the most key battles of that war. The term "AT-AT" was never used in the films, and was instead used by Kenner for the toy. Another element we never saw on-screen was how the hell the stormtroopers dismounted from these beasts. Many of us from my generation remember fondly the ATARI video game were we defended Echo Base from the march of the Imperial Walkers.

The Systems Alliance M35 "Mako" class IFV from the Mass Effect Universe
The M35 Mako was designed by the Alliance to be the primary off-world armed vehicle for the military, and was carried on Alliance Navy warships over the Frigate classification. This 6x6 wheeled infantry vehicle was drop-capably, designed with a rugged terrain climbing system, and armed with an a machine gun and 155mm for direct infantry fire support. This amount of firepower allows the Mako to be classified an IFV and not an APC. Given its abilities and beloved status in the Alliance military, the M35 Mako became one of the most celebrated vehicles in the Alliance, and was used during the Reaper War, in many forms.
The Mako can transport 8-10 Alliance Marines or shore party members in a comfortable cabin section, with room for supplies. For many of us fans of the ME games, the Mako is also beloved and was sorely missed in the 3rd game. With the Mako being armed with an 155mm cannon caused the Mako from being classified as an IFV and not an APC. Some fans think that the inspiration for the M35 Mako was not a APC but an 1979 toy, called the Big Trak by Milton Bradley. My brother had this toy and it was awesome, and I can see the Mako in the Big Trak.   

The COG "Armadillo" APC from the Gears of War Universe
Much like everything in the Gears of War universe, the standard APC, the "Armadillo" is heavily armored, bulky, and overdone. This 6x6 APC was used throughout the Locust Horde Wars and holds one COG infantry squad in full armor with a JACK bot, and operated with of just crew of two. Given the unusually nature of the war against the Locust, the Armadillo was mostly seen evacuating civilians and providing COG soldiers with close fire support or a quick evacuation with overrun with Locust. The passengers can use the APC weaponry package, and can even open a hatch, and fire from the vehicle. This makes the Armadillo APC an occasional IFV. In the video game series, the Armadillo APC made appearances in Gears of War I and II and was made into a toy as well.

The Systems Alliance XM44 "Hammerhead" class IFV from the Mass Effect Universe
In yet another heavily armored futuristic infantry vehicle in the Mass Effect universe was the XM44 Hammerhead. This experimental Cerberus hoverjet armoured infantry vehicle designed on the successful M35 Mako wheeled off-world APC, but with more able to overcome more diverse exo-planet terrain. The Hammerhead removed the weakness of the Mako's wheels, and replaced them with hoverjets, opening up more alien terrain and tactical choices.
More aircraft than armoured vehicle, this experimental Cerebus hover APC was armed with an missile launcher and rapid-fire cannon, playing to the greater maneuverability of the hoverjets over wheels. However, due to the weight restrictions, the XM44 lacked the M35's shielding and heavier armor, making the XM44 unable to hang in firefights. After Shepherd returned back to the fold of the Alliance, the XM44 Hammerhead was delivered to Alliance R&D labs, which were destroyed during the Reaper Invasion of Earth. Unlike the Mako, the Hammerhead was only available in the Mass Effect 2 Firewalker Pack DLC  

The Combine Patrol APC from the Half-Life Universe
In the Combine controlled Earth, Civil Protection uses an oddball looking APC wheeled vehicle instead of an Dodge Charger. The APC/Patrol vehicle was also used by the Overwatch military unit. Along with its armour, this wheeled APC as a guide rocket launcher and an fully automatic pulse cannon. It is able to be airlifted by the Combine helicopter into hotspots. The Half-Life Combine APC is one of the more unique looking APCs on this list, but originally, Valve was going to have the Combine reuse Earth military equipment with several APC models and even an SWAT truck. However, the move was made to more original Combine equip for their newest member. Also cut was a drivable APC by the player, but there is a point in the game that the player can drive the APC....and its not that great. To me, the Combine APC is more of an armored car, and it lacks enough interior room for much transportation duty...still cool looking, though.

The Imperial Guard "Chimera" IFV from the WH40K Universe

Within the Imperial Guard of the Imperium of Man, there are a number of armoured vehicles, and the primary infantry transport of the Imperial Guard units is the Chimera. This IFV not only transport a dozen soldier to the battle, but also serves alongside the Leman Russ MBT in armoured engagements, much like the M2 Bradley. Armored with a turret-mounted Multi-Laser, storm-bolter machine guns, and infantry operated lasguns, the Chimera can bring the firepower. The Chimera, like many armoured vehicles is used as the foundation for other armoured vehicles. When examining the design of the Chimera, you see more of a World War One armoured vehicle design element within its DNA. With its increased armament, the Chimera is classified as an IFV over the lighter armored Rhino APC.

The Imperium of Man "Rhino" APC from the WH40K Universe
It is interesting to think that while the most iconic pieces of WH40K military hardware is the powered armor worn by the Space Marines, the Warhammer 40,000 universe is stuffed full of all manner of vehicles. Among these Imperium of Man vehicles is the Rhino class tracked APC that has served for hundreds of years in the service of the Emperor. Operated by a single crew members and equipped with two storm-bolt machine guns, it can transport 10 Space Marines to the frontlines in armoured protection. Given its excellent service record, the Rhino has been used foundation for other configurations of armoured vehicles. This vehicle is also seen being used by Chaos Marines and Oaks. From the design of the Rhino APC, I think that Games Workshop took the basic idea from the American M113 APC.

The REF "Titan" GMU from ROBOTECH II: The Sentients
One of larger pieces of REF equipment, besides the SDF-3 itself, was the Ground Mobile Unit (GMU), and this monster was a hybrid between a mobile command center, an infatntry mover, an mech mover, a self-propelled artillery piece, and MASH unit. Seriously, this thing must have cost the Earth Government big credits. Due to The Sentients being cancelled, we never got to see the Titan GMU on screen, but some images of it existence and it tells us a great deal about this massive infantry vehicle. The GMU was designed to be a mobile command center for combat operations on-planet with facilities to match, including a med-bay and chow hall. In addition to this role, the Titan was used by the REF to transport mecha or 96 Cyclone equipped soldiers, after the Cyclone was developed, of course. While the REF GMU is not completely an APC or IFV, it is an rare example of an hybrid sci-fi vehicle that does serve as an armored transport vehicle. There are rumors that the Titan GMU would have made into some soft of toy for the aborted Matchbox Sentients toyline based on the abandoned series. The Titan was featured in the Palladium Books RPG manual.

The "Crawler" from Soldier (1998)
In the side sequel to BLADE RUNNER, 1998's Soldier, we see Kurt Russell's Todd super-soldier character being attacked by next-gen super-soldiers using an massive "Crawler" type APC on planet Arcadia 234. The Crawler is actually a Caterpillar 777 series off-highway truck with a number of sci-fi touches to camouflage the original vehicle. this vehicle was center stage during the final battle, with twin heavy machine guns blazing. This is one of the more insane on-screen sci-fi APCs, and it is a pity that it is not in a better film, for Soldier is a hollow production in need of a better writer and director.

The EDF "Astro Commando" class Jet Propelled APC from the Space Cruiser Yamato Universe
Okay, I love Starblazers and it has made a deep impact on my life, but sometimes, this anime import has some of the wackiest shit in it. Take for example the Earth Defense Force "Astro Commando" class Jet Propelled APC that appeared in the Comet Empire second season of Space Cruiser Yamato television show. This aero/ground infantry vehicle was in service with the EDF Space Marines and during the Yamato's solo mission, the continage of Space Marines commanded by Sgt. Knox onboard the flagship of the EDF used the Astro Commando APC to wage several missions on-planet during the war against the Comet Empire. In the 1998 Starblazers Technical Manual for their tabletop wargame, the Astro Commando APC stats are given. This jet-propelled APC was designed to be both a APC, tactical transport, and combat vehicle for the EDF. Twin 60mm provide fire support and VTOL and limited space-drop and space-flight and ground operations allow for the Astro Commando to be the total package for the 40 passengers. In addition to its flight capability, the Astro Commando APC also features conventional tracks for on-planet locomotion. While this thing may look odd and sorta stupid, it is a marriage of design and capabilities.

Infantry Vehicles in the Battletech Universe
While much of the focus of the planetary battlefields of the Battletech universe are the mecha, there does exist a number of APCs in the games. Battletech shows far-future military organizations that use combined arms tactics with everything from mechs, to attack helicopters to APCs. These battle taxis use tracks, wheels, and hover to transport regular infantry and/or jump-infantry into battle. Most of the APCs in the Battletech universe transport two platoons into battle. There are many locomotion types available and level of armored protections, from light, medium, to heavy. Many inner-sphere military organizations use the base APC hull for a number of other vehicles.

The EDF APC from Red Faction Guerrilla
This 6x6 APC that operates on Mars by the EDF appears in the recent Red Faction Guerrilla game. This APC, stylistically, seems based on the modern day the Patria AMV 6x6. This APC is available in several variants with various armaments, including missiles, machine guns, and Gauss KE weaponry. Like many modern day APCs, this future version has a ramp for fast-exit. In the game, the APC can be seen arriving to reinforce EDF troops.

Infantry Vehicles in the Renegade Legion Universe
Renegade Legion is one of the those forgotten classics of 198's sci-fi wargaming, where anti-grav tanks battle on exo-planets between the rebel Renegade Legion faction and the powerful TOG. Being this was created in the 1980's, the armoured units are fully developed with all manner of armored vehicles, including anti-gravity APCs and IFVs. These APCs and IFVs of the TOG are designed to carry two full platoons (30-60 troopers) into combat while being armed and armoured enough to serve as a medium tank in armoured engagements. The more ragtag Renegade Legion faction has APCs as well, but most are other TOG tech or cobbled together. This double duty seems to be the norm for much of the vehicles in the RL universe. One of these days, FWS will write a full blog-article on this forgotten classic of 198's sci-fi wargaming...ah, the 80's!"

Next Time on FWS...
There is nothing more sad that the disillusionment of a childhood favorite. For me, there is no anime more tied to my 1980's childhood as ROBOTECH, and no greater sense of loss of my childhood than when the sequel to ROBOTECH, The Sentients was cancelled. In next installment of the Broken Promises series, we will discussing the sequels to the original ROBOTECH series in all of their forgotten glory.