When we examine the weapons of war from the first conflicts over hunting grounds to the modern era, we see a flow of civilian technology and tool that are repurposed for use in war. This is the "swords into plowshares" concept. It also works in reverse as well, where military technology flows into the civilian realm or "swords into plowshares". This can be seen in camping equipment, your GPS systems, and your tactical clothing. After all, a rock can be used to ground wheat, be shaped into a cutting tool for the butchering of meat, or be fashioned to a weapon to bash your enemy's skull open. The concept of transforming a civilian vehicle or transportation system into a platform for combat can be traced back to chariots, the Russian "Tachanka", and the wagon forts. Then that brings us to the truck-based rapid assault gun platform of modern warfare...commonly known as the "Technical". Open disclosure: I am a current Toyota owner and I likely will never drive anything else. A Word about the Photos Used in the Article
In this article, FWS will be using photos of various groups on both sides of conflicts, like the Libyan Civil War, the Somali Civil War, and the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. FWS does not endorse either side of these conflicts, especially those with murky "freedom fighter" labels. From an American POV, I will be including some images of the HiLux gun-trucks used by AQ and Tablian forces used in Afghanistan. This is due to their importance of the history of the Technical. However, I am firmly anti-AQ and anti-Taliban as they are the enemies of my people. Anyways, on to the article!
The Terminology of the Technical
When discussing the modern warfare Japanese-constructed mounted machine gun light cavalry chariot that has been one of the most iconic symbols of all types of asymmetric conflict in the Middle East and Africa along side the AK-47, there is an odd term that sums up these mobile gun platforms: Technical. According to the number of articles I read up on the subject, the term “Technical” was applied to these machine gun trucks around the time of the 1990’s Somali Civil War. According to Counterterrorism expert David Kilcullen, when nongovernment organizations and the UN went into the seven-shaped eastern African nation, these groups could not bring in any armed protection detail.
To solve this issue, the NGOs and UN used “technical assistance grants" to hire guards and drivers. This use of the TAG to fund these guards and drivers became the label “technical” and that became applied the type of armed vehicle they used, the almighty Toyota HiLux. This was term was used by the news media covering the Somali Civil War and the US involvement and entered into the common usage. While the most common term for the armed pickup truck, there are others, including: mobile gun platform, gun truck, Portee, non-standard fighting vehicle (NSFV), an improvised fighting vehicle, battlewagons, battle-trucks, battle-utes. For this purpose of this article, we will mostly use the term Technical.
The Difference between: Technicals, Gun-Trucks, and Portee
With the realm of armored and armed non-standard tactical vehicles that are used by irregular and regular forces, there are some terms associated with these vehicles that are similar, but not the same. Generally, most people use the term "gun-truck" and "technical" to
describe the same type of vehicle used in modern warfare, but, again, these terms are technically used to described difference vehicles of war. Technicals are civilian pickup trucks (utes) and SUVs retrofitted to serve as heavy weapons support for irregular forces in the Middle East and Africa. this term has been used as a catch-all for these types of vehicles used in these types of conflicts. Another term is Gun-Truck and this term originated with plans being made by the British government to defend the United Kingdom against the incoming Nazi invasion.
To overcome the lack of armored vehicles needed, the British outfitted their military lorries (trucks) with crew-served military-grade weaponry to act has mobile heavy weapon platforms. These were also used by both sides of the conflict during World War II as well, especially during the North African phase of the war. During the Vietnam War, US soldiers in the field armed and armored military trucks to serve as gun-trucks for defensive purposes with creative (and awesome) names. Speaking to the intensity of serving on one of the Vietnam War-era gun-trucks, Specialist 4 Larry Dahl was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in 1971 while serving on a gun-truck. This tradition has continued into the War in Afghanistan and Iraq with US and Iraq1 forces modifying military trucks with the Mad Max
treatment to provide security to conveys.
What is and What is NOT an Technical and the “Why” of the Technical
Lastly, we have the term "Portee" which is a French word for "scope" or "range". Originally used to describe horse calvary being transported (mechanized?) via train or truck. This term was recycled by British Commonwealth forces in North Africa for military lorries modified to mount artillery pieces. This term died out after World War II, but the concept of mounting artillery pieces to military vehicles and even Toyota HiLux trucks continues to be seen in Syria and Libya. For the purposes of this article, FWS will be covering all three NSTVs.
One of the more difficult elements of discussing military equipment is the proper names and what defines those names. With the common usage of the term Technical means a heavily armored civilian pickup truck that is often used in more regional and low-intensity conflicts, there can be some bleed over to other military vehicles. Basically, Technicals are 4x4 pickup trucks, utility vehicles, and cargo vehicles, modified to serve as ad-hoc personnel carriers, mobile gun platforms, fast-attack/raid vehicle, artillery support, ambulances, and scouts. While most associate the Technical being utilized by nonregular forces, rebels, terrorists, and freedom fighters; there are Technicals in service within the armed forces of nations, like the US Special Operations Command, the Mexico Federal Police, the former regimes of Baath Party Iraq and Syria.
The reason that these groups turn to Mad Max
armed utes is out of necessity for the most part. Given that the bulk of all Technicals are based on commercially available trucks and SUVs, it makes sense to use what is on-hand for their purposes. In addition, the groups that use Technicals do not have the funding to field tanks, military light utility vehicle (MLUV) , self-propelled artillery, or APC/IFVs. What they have are Toyota HiLuxs and lots of them. In the case of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the Technical were more economical and easier to repair/maintain than their limited supply of old Soviet tanks that had rare parts and drank fuel. Toyota utes were better with fuel, had more access to spare parts, and more people could work on them. Also, these 4x4 pickups could traverse the unforgiving landscape and the tight quarters of the villages. Even when nation-states have access to whatever they want, like in the case of the United States, Technical can be used to maintain a low-profile for special operations and eyes-on intel gathering.
So, then what is NOT an Technical? Oddly, the progenitor of the Technical, the World War II Jeep. During the 2nd World War, the LRDG and the SAS used the new American Willys MB or “Jeep” mount raids on Italian and German targets that undercut the axis ability to press the attack on British North Africa. David Sterling’s idea was for a desert force that could ride at night, strike, and melt back into the desert before the enemy had a chance to mobilize and destroy the small force. While British cargo trucks had worked, the new Jeep opened up the concert that much further.
With twin Vickers machine-guns on the hood and a heavy-mounted machine gun in the rear, the Jeeps of the LRDG and SAS were pink grim reapers. While the gun-loaded raider Jeeps of the elite British forces of the North African desert were the prototype of the Technicals and their mission today, the Willey Jeep was designed from the ground up to be a military light utility vehicle. Its civilian application would come later on and modern-day Jeep Wrangler is very rarely used as a foundation for a Technical. For the most part, MLUVs are designed for the ground up to be military vehicles and while they be very similar to Technicals, the MLUVs are Technicals. Vehicles like the US HUMVEE, the Soviet UAZ-469, Israeli AIL Storm, the JSDF Mega Cruiser, and others are MLUVs that can work in the same tactical environment as a Technical. However, they do appear military and are not low-profile, and were purpose designed for combat.
The Combat Role and Armament of the Technical
The combat role and the weapons of the Technical greatly depends on where the vehicle is, who is using it, and when. While Technicals are mostly associated with guerrillas, freedom fighters, terrorist groups; there are those Technicals that serve government military organizations and these differ from the Technicals used by irregular forces in both the vehicle itself, combat role, and the weapons. Technicals are used by irregular forces as a workhorse and a warhorse. In the battlespace, irregular forces use their armed trucks as personnel carriers, scouts, mobile heavy weapons platforms, mobile artillery platforms, raiders, direct assault vehicles, and mostly, for hit-and-run tactics. They can also serve within and along side tanks, horses, and de-mechanized infantry as seen in the North Alliance and Taliban conflict in Afghanistan. Technicals in the hands of regular government military organizations, like the US and the British, have often the same or very different combat roles.
During the North African phase of World War 2, Commonwealth forces like the LRDG and the SAS used Technicals and Gun-Trucks to mount hit-and-run attacks on Italian and Nazi airbases. In modern warfare, Special Operations forces and intelligence agencies often use Technicals has low-profile vehicles to mount missions or work with local forces without attracting attention as we have seen in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. When comes to arming these two types of Technical, they also vary. The ones owned and operated by governmental military organizations are armed with the standard weapons of that government, like the US Technicals using M249 machines guns, M2 .50, and the Mark 19 grenade launcher. However, Technicals fielded by irregular forces use all manner of weaponry, from Eastern Bloc machine guns like the DsHk to the AAA ZSU, light artillery pieces, to M40 Recoilless rifles, to even savaged missile pods off of attack helicopters! Some Technicals have been constructed to be used as rocket artillery platforms.
The History of the Technical: From Chariots, Model Ts, Silver Ghosts, the Jeep, to the HiLux
The dual use of a civilian tool for combat purpose is as old has our species and those species that led to us. After all, the use of stone tools pre-dates the Homo
branch by over one million years, and the use of stones as weapons is likely even older. Animals that were used for labor and transport, were also used for mobile weapons platforms with all manner of projectile weapons. At around 1700 BCE, the chariot was developed for use in warfare by Middle Eastern city-states, as seen in Ur. The genesis of the Chariot was the ox-cart, making this likely the first "Technical" in history. By the time of the Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, and the Chinese civilizations, the Chariot was the mobile weapons platform of choice, being the spearhead of mobile warfare for thousands of years.
Then came the "war-wagon" concept that lasted until damn-near the 20th century. During the Roman Empire, there was the Carroballista
, which was cart-mounted crew-served heavy launcher for arrows and other projectiles that could be akin to the Portee. in the Middle Age of Europe that had its roots in 1st Century Chinese war-wagons and some used by the Romans. War-Wagons allowed for cover-and-protection for soldiers using crossbows and early firearms to provide fire support to infantry and cavalry units. These War-Wagons could be used to from Wagon-Forts or "laagers", which is a form of mobile fort system using mobile weapons platforms...there have been examples of volley-lines of Technicals used by the SAS during the desert campaign. During the conquest and colonization of the American West and the Long Trek colonization by the Dutch pioneers in Southern Africa, these settlers used wagons as fortifications and mobile weapons platforms as seen in the Battle of Blood River in 1838. With improvements to firearms technology and the spread of firearms, there was some...creative uses of animals and firearms as another example of the Technical concept: the Zamburak!
During the 18th century, there was the transformation of camels from transport and cavalry to mobile gun platforms with the invention of the Zeamburak or "wasp" in Persian. Small cannons were mounted onto the camels and the gunners would put the camels on their knees and fire the small cannons. The accuracy was not as good as the fear factor associated with charging armed camels. Even crazier was the use of hand-crank Gatling Gun mounted on camels. Another forerunner to the Technical as we understand it came just as the automobile was being developed...the armored train. These early Technicals were animal-drive with either projectile weapons or early chemically-propelled kinetic energy weapon. Then came the train, and it revolutionized travel and warfare as seen in the Franco-Prussian War. It does not take much imagination to outfit them for combat. Used in the American Civil War, the Franco-Prussian War, the Boer Wars, and even both World Wars; the armored (and armed) train was the repurposing of a civilian mode of transport for military purposes, much like the Toyota HiLux.
The armored train served more as a defensive transport rather than an offensive tool due to their ability to travel only on rails. They could securely transport troops and supplies, even in unsecured zones. Of course, the railroad tracks themselves could be targeted to haul and defend the train. One example of an offensive use of the armored and armed train was the railroad-based ICBMs used by the Americans and Soviet Union as a mobile launching platform to avoid counterattack by the other side. By 2005, these nukes-on-a-train were abandoned.
World War One was the beginning of what we now call "modern warfare" with the bedrocks of modern military machinery present in the hell that was the first world war. Among these tools of the modern military was the automobile. While the trench warfare of the European front garners much of the attention, there was other battlefields of World War One like the Middle Eastern deserts that gave rise to heroes like T.E. Lawrence and . In service in those other battlefields of the First World War were armored and armored Rolls-Royce Sliver Ghosts and Model-Ts, they were employed to undertake the same tasks as the modern day queen of asymmetric conflict, the pickup truck.
The idea was first invented by Royal Navy Wing Commander Charles Rumney Samson to serve as an armed rescue vehicle for pilots against German planes that would take the opportunity to machine gun the landing sites. With this success, Rolls-Royce switched over to full-time war production in the fall of 1914. The central concept of Technicals in desert warfare was established by the Duke of Westminster, Hugh Grosvenor with his Light Armoured Car Brigade when he embarked on several daring missions in 1916 in the North Africa deserts.
During an unsupported raid at Turkish/Senussi encampment at Bir Asiso that was 23 miles from friendly forces to quell Senussi forces that were attacking British Imperial forces in the region, he learned that some Royal Navy sailors rumored to be held as POWs at Bir Asiso by Turkish and local insurrection Senussi forces where actually held at another location. He would locate intelligence in the form of a letter in an abandoned car that the British POWs were actually held at Bir Hakeim in Libya, about 75 miles to the south of Sollum in Egypt, and some 120 miles away from his current position. This involved a untested vehicle overland trek across the deep desert many miles from friendly forces and resupply. Again, the unit endeavored to use their 1 Fords and 9 armored Rolls-Royce in a daring rescue mission that was new to warfare and would be patterned after some 30 years later by SAS founder David Sterling and the LRDG. The rescue was a complete success and not one British soldier killed. Duke Grosvenor was awarded the DSO for his deeds and he became the "model of modern desert father." Duke Grosvenor is also well known due to his decade long affair with Coco Chanel, the fashion icon of the century and one of the pillars of modern fashion. The other father of desert vehicular combat is the iconic T.E. Lawrence
Lawrence was so impressed by his Rolls-Royce drop-top Sliver Ghosts he used in the desert, he declared that the Rolls-Royces were "“More valuable than rubies in the desert
.” With this fleet of 9 Rolls-Royce, he mount desert hit-and-run operations during the Arab Revolt of the Great War with the target being Ottoman Empire and German forces. There has been some work done to discover the identity of the Rolls-Royce used by TE Lawrence, and recently the vehicle has been discovered to be chassis number 60985 and was constructed in Manchester at around 1909.
The original owner of the Blue Mist
was Fletcher F. Lambert-Williams, would died in 1912 onboard the Titanic and then Rolls when to the 7th Earl of Clonmell and it was sold in 1916 to Aileen Bellew and after her marriage to a British diplomat, the vehicle was shipped to Cairo. It was there that the vehicle came into the serve of the Crown for Lawrence's mission. While it seems odd for a Rolls-Royce car would be used in the deserts of the Middle East in combat roles, they were some of the most relability vehicles on the planet at the time and they were modified for off-road/overlanding work. The fate of the Blue Mist was to be sold off for parts after the years of hard service. Lawrence would go on to say: "Great was Rolls, and great was Royce! They were worth hundreds of men to us in these deserts.”
Another interesting example of the forerunners to the Technical pickup trucks was invented during the Russian Civil War erupting around 1917 to the 1920's (The Reds vs. The Whites) by a real character named Nestor Makhno: the Tachanka. Basically, the Tachanka is a crew-served horse-drawn cart that was used as a mobile gun platform that normally used the PM M1910 machine gun firing the 7.62x54R and is based on the Maxim's design. Used by other nations around the same time, the Tachanka were a intermedium step between the chariots of old and the emerging automobiles of the first modern war.
After the Great War, it was clear that the future belonged to the machine gun and motorized transport, and the modern nations of the world moved to design purpose-built light military utility vehicles along side building upon civilian made vehicles as well. The British Army continued to construct and field armored Rolls-Royce cars and they served for years after in battlefields across the world. It should be said that while the practice of modifying civilian, like the almighty truck, into gun-carrying war-wagons continued, there was development of purpose-constructed vehicles for various military roles like the Dr. Porsche designed VW Kubelwagen, GAZ-64, the Imperial Japanese Kurogane Type 95, and the Willys MB "Jeep".
Volumes have been written about the war-changing Jeep and its critical role in aiding the allies in winning one of the most wars in human history. In July of 1941, Captain David Stirling was able to form a specialized unit of hardened desert Commandos called the Special Air Service, who would be falling from the sky to wreck havoc on the Italians and Germans. It was soon discovered that vehicles could serve the commandos of the SAS better than the risky parachute missions. Operating at the time was the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) that was founded by Major Ralph Bagnold and designed to carry out daring desert raids, recon, intel gathering missions, with expert navigators and modified vehicles, including the Willys MB Jeep.
Both the LRDG and the SAS used the purpose-designed military vehicle to attack and destroy German and Italian targets, especially airfields, to prevent the fall of Egypt with blazing machine guns and hardened breaded men with balls of steel. The Jeep was used later in Europe by the SAS and Pop's Private Army as well. Much as been written at the time and since of the success of the American vehicle and its desert adventures and the WWII Jeep was connected to the later Technicals by way of mission and purpose, but not by design. The military 2nd World War Jeep is a purpose-built military vehicle, Technicals are civilian utes retrofitted for modern wars.
After the 2nd World War, the light military utility vehicle was firmly established and the Jeep became the founding father of this classification of military vehicle and the prototype for the civilian SUV. The Soviet, Japanese, and British all developed their own Jeeps and the US military continued to field Jeeps in various forms until the Humvee was adopted in 1983. One of the interesting quarks of military vehicle history is that while the Jeep founded the LMUV classification and elements of the Technical, the more modern civilian Jeep is hardly used as a Technical, and the modern Jeep finds itself more doing battle at Malls, Starbucks, and in the hands of the off-road/overlanding community in the back country of America.
One of the key conflicts that shaped the modern Technical was the overall Chad-Libyan Conflict of the 1970s-1980s, with one period of this boiling conflict in 1986-1987 becoming known as the "The Great Toyota War". In the post-war era, Africa was divorced from its European colonial governments and ties, causing for a period of great change and great conflicts from the 1960's to the 1980's. When Libya came under the grip of Muammar Gaddafi after a coup, Libya seized the resources in the Aouzou Strip, which was the property of Chad at the time, and there was a deal made for the Aouzou Strip between the two government for millions of dollars. However, the Chadian government was replaced and Gaddafi's Libya funded and supported Chadian rebel groups that were supportive to Libya. Soon, the stage was set with Northern Chad became more or less under the control of the the Libyan backed rebels and Southern Chad was supported by France. From 1983-1986, there was switching political structures, battles, and continued stress on Libya and Chad. During this time, elements of the French military supported the Chadian forces with basic and rugged arms and supplies, including hundreds of Series 70 Toyota Land Cruiser utes and the French anti-tank missle, the MILAN. The Candian forces mounted the MILAN missiles, 105mm recoilless rifles, an various heavy machine guns onto the beds of the Series 70s.
It was then that the Great Toyota War began and altered the way that these Toyota pickup trucks are viewed by the world and military organizations. In January of 1987, the mobile Chadian forces at the helm of their Toyota mounted a series of daring assaults on Libyian bases with the help of French air support. While the Libyan forces had tanks, the Toyota were able to outflank, outmaneuver, and outrun the heavier Libyan units. Even minefields were outsmarted by the bravery of the Chadian drivers and Japanese engineering. When the Toyota trucks were driven at 100 KPH, they were moving too fast for the mine to activity and destroy the pickups. This allowed for the Chadian forces to gain the upper hand and destroy tanks and aircraft on the ground with the help of French jets. After a string of defeats at the hands of the Chadian forces and the Toyotas, the Aouzou Strip was returned to Chad and the war ended shortly after.
This brief war of the late 1980's demonstrated the fearsome abilities a pickup being used as a mobile weapons platform and soon, the Toyota-based Technical would be a feature of modern warfare. At the time of the Great Toyota War, the Soviets were in Afghanistan and the Mujahideen were pushing back against the invaders. During this conflict, the Toyota utes were again used as personnel carriers and mobile fire support platforms. The Soviets, much like the American and British some 20 years later, used the Land Cruisers and HiLux trucks to blend into the locals, however, the use of Technical was more widespread in the Soviet-Afghan War than with the Americans.
Simply put, the Technical was no match for modern airpower, but they were still used by all sides in the Post-9/11 Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tribal regions for all manner of roles in war and peace. Western Special Operations unit bought local or imported Toyota and Mitsubishi pickup trucks to serve in their covert mission profiles in the conflict. Interestingly enough, some of these Toyota pickups were not the overseas HiLux or Land Cruiser variety, but actually Toyota Tacomas (Tacos) bought in the US and shipped to the warzone. These are so popular with the Special Operations community that Toyota as a staff that work directly with US Special Operations to outfit specialized versions of the Toyota Tacos. Technicals have featured heavily in the internal conflicts in Syria and Libya with the groups like ISIS and the Taliban using them as more or less "official" parts of the arms organizations due to the abilities of the Toyotas and their cheaper running costs verse traditional armored vehicles. The widespread use of Toyotas by groups like ISIS and the Taliban has caused some bad PR attention and heartburn for Toyota. How are groups like ISIS getting their new Series 70s and HiLux utes? Most are bought in more stable nations in the Middle East, like Saudi Arabia, and exported to ISIS via the black market. The Middle East, in general, is the number one market for vehicles like the Land Cruiser and the HiLux.
The conflict that gifted these modern Japanese machine gun chariots was the still-continuing Somali Civil War that began in 1991. After the fall of Genera; Siad Barre's powerbase in the majority of Somalia outside of the capital Mogadishu, the major tribes and clans of Somali formed a number of groups and widescale war raged across the nation with a massive famine that forced the UN to become involved. One of the tools of these armed clan fighters was the pickup truck that were mostly Toyotas. It was here in Somalia that the armed pickup truck gained a name that has come to define all of these Mad Max
like gun-trucks of the Middle East and Africa. Given their grim effectives and place in those geographic regions, the Technical has gone on to become a official military vehicle of governments that can or cannot fund proper LMUVs. I end this historical section with this quote: "The Toyota Hilux is everywhere,” Andrew Exum, former Army Ranger and fellow of the Center for a New American Security, told Newsweek. “It’s the vehicular equivalent of the AK-47. It’s ubiquitous to insurgent warfare
The Future of the Technical: The SOCOM PB-NSCV Project
The benefit of Technicals in the recent wars has shown the West that there needs to be official next-generation Technicals in the inventory of Special Operation units. In February of 2018, USSOCOM embarked on the "Purpose Built Non-Standard Commercial Vehicle" (PB-NSCV) project that's aim is to develop a modular Special Operations vehicle that can appear, with some swappable body panels, like locally operated vehicles without compromising the needs of the Special Operators and their missions by relying on civilian-constructed vehicles that are not designed with the intend of warfare. Over $100 million is currently spent to operate the massive fleet of civilian SUVs and pickups used by SOCOM units and the PB-NSCV Project would save the taxpayers money by having the SOCOM operators use a common vehicle instead of various different vehicles that require different parts. This would also simplify logistical needs and training costs. In addition to the modular panels to obsure the vehicle, the vehicle that could come out of this project could better armored, armed, and fitted with integrated technical than a Series 70 Land Cruiser Ute. If this project makes to an actually prototype that passes the SOCOM testing, we could see more nation adapt this concept and thus, these could be the future of the Western Technical. It is likely that the Toyota gun-utes will be used on sandy battlefields until the sun exhausts its fuel...then maybe that could kill a Toyota HiLux...maybe.
The Makes & Models of the Utes of War
• Ford Ranger
• Ford Courier
• Mitsubishi Triton/L200/Raider
• Ford F-series of pickups (Rare)
• Some Dodge Ram pickups (Rare)
• Great Wall Wingle series
• Zhongxing Auto ZX series
• Toyota HiLux/Tacoma/Surf
• Toyota Land Cruiser J70 series Pickup/Ute
• Toyota Land Cruiser SUV Series 80, 100. & 200
• Nissan pickups (Rare)
• Some GM/Chevy Pickups (Rare)
Could Off-World Technicals Really Exist?
When humanity spreads out among the stars, there will be a need for extraterrestrial land vehicles that are rugged beyond what we understand in terrestrial terms. As we have seen in sci-fi with vehicles like the M-35 Mako, ND1 Nomad, and the
Daihotai Tractor from ALIENS; there will be vehicles of all types in all different shapes to navigate the exo-solar environments seen. Now, their use as Technicals to defend the off-world colonies defends a great deal on the local wildlife, the condition of humanity, and if there are hostile alien species out there waiting for us. There will be off-world wheeled vehicles, but will be armed?
Again, it goes back to if there is the need for an armed Mars rovers, but as we have seen with films like Ad Astra
and likely coming with the Soviet/US lunar war coming in For All Mankind
, there could be a need for armed lunar and Martian vehicles to deal with rogue human elements and hostile government forces. This problem could be much worse if we are dealing with resources critically needed by Earth and a lack of defenders at these sites. Pirates and government forces could mount an assault on these off-world facilities and/or colonies well before any reinforcements could make to the battlesite. This could mean that the settlers and local forces could have mount weapons on their tractors, rovers, and transport truckers, constructing off-world Technicals. After all, when you are lightyears away from friendly forces, you tend to get creative in your defensive solutions...an lunar rover with a DShK or a Gauss Gun anyone?
The Technical and Sci-Fi
While the concept of the Technical has been around since the First World War, the realm of sci-fi has been slow to incorporate these war machines into futuristic wars on off-world battlefields. However, that changed when two events happened: tabletop RPG systems and the post-apocalypses genre. When RPGs came about, entire worlds have to be constructed with all manner of situations and vehicles, and thus, Technicals were inserted into these systems like TSR's Star Frontiers and even into West End Games Star Wars RPG. However, the greatest agent of change was the post-apocalypse genre setting and the vehicles that populated the wastelands after the bombs fell. With works like Mad Max and the many knock-offs that came about, people were designing post-WWIII vehicles with all manner of offensive weaponry to act as automotive pirates on the roads of the wastelands. Along with works mimicking Mad Max, there was the human resistance Technical seen in the first Terminator film in 1984 and started a trend of Technicals in all of the rest of Terminator titles and Terminator knock-offs as well. However, the pure form of the Technical is still more rare in sci-fi than other similar vehicles like futuristic armed LE/Police vehicles like from BLADE RUNNER and the light military vehicles like the UNSC Warthog.
Examples from Sci-Fi
The Human Resistance Technical from The Terminator Universe
On August 29th, 1997, Judgement Day ended the lives of 2/3rds of the human population by a nuclear holocaust triggered by the NORAD Defense Mainframe known as SKYNET. After a few years of nuclear winters and the surviving human figuring out what happened, SKYNET was preparing to remake the shattered world in his metal image...and thus, the war began. During the "hot" years of the war against the machines, the global human resistance used whatever they could to destroy the war machines of SKYNET, and that included the twisted remains of the world before Judgment Day. When it came to vehicles, the Resistance groups around the globe faced issues with getting vehicles back on the road and most of it had to do with fuel. Gasoline has a limited shelf life and by the time of the hot portion of the war, the Pre-War gasoline and diesel was unusable.
While some places had the ability to pump oil out of the ground in oil-producing states and countries, most refineries were gone as well as most of the people with the training to operate these sites. Resistance groups turned towards other sources of fuel like ethanol and methane and in some cases, electric power. Given the damage done by the nuclear war, the nuclear winter, and the EMPs; there was much work that had to go into these vehicles. Some vehicles far away from the urban centers were in better condition, but scouting expeditions for these vehicles was risky due to the machines and humans.
Much of the Technicals used by the Resistance were old cars and trucks that were used for mobile heavy weapons platforms and transporting of troops, some were even suicide cars designed to destroy the ground-based Hunter-Killer units. Some of the Resistance Technicals were heavily armored, like the old pickup trucks used by Conner's group to engage the aerial H-K units with Stinger missiles and heavy machine gun in either KE or DE. Some of these Technicals were nearly nothing but barely running rusted hulks with a plasma cannon, basic controls, a fuel tank. These were dangerous to the human operating them due to the high-temperature of plasma bolts. Even a near miss by a heavy plasma bolt could create a fire hazard by touching off the ethanol/methane tank. To help with fire, most Resistance Technicals had rags, blankets, or sand bucket to put out fires. In addition to the incoming plasma fire from the Machines, there was the conditions of the terrain in the Post-Judgement Day world. Roads were not clear of debris, boobytraps, roadblocks, SKYNET sensors, or extreme damage. Driving at high speed was rare in the Post-Judgement Day battlefield due to the high risk of running into vehicle-damaging debris. This was true of both sides of the war, and both sides used the conditions of the blackened cities to their advantage.
At times, humans not allied to the war against the machines used their skills to capture Resistance vehicles and their crews. Often, they would keep the vehicles, and sell the Resistance members to SKYNET for food and medicine. If the Resistance crews were unlucky, these pirates would used the crews as entertainment and/or food as well. In the world of the Terminator
franchise, Resistance vehicles that are Technicals have been around like the first film in 1984 and this was expanded on by the other films, comics, and video games with all being vehicles left over from the Pre-War world and used in a role like most Technicals seen on the modern battlefield.
The Lunar Pirate Rovers from Ad Astra
In the half-baked 2019 Brad Pitt film Ad Astra
, we have the best seen in the film displaying lunar vehicle combat between US Space Forces and lunar space pirates...Sweet Baby Jesus, that was an amazing sentence and an amazing part of the film. Filming lovingly and with as much scientific accuracy as possible, we seen this vehicular battle take place with the Lunar pirates firing rockets and micro-rail guns at the US forces with the US astronaut-soldiers returning fire with their own "Stiletto" rail-gun pistols. This means that Hollywood actually made a major motion picture with moon buggy Technicals (sort of) in one of the best space combat scenes of all time.
The Vehicles from the Mad Max Universe
Throughout the Mad Max films that take place after the bombs fell, there are a number of modified civilian vehicles and commercial trucks to survival and pirate in the wastelands. Prior to Fury Road, the vehicles seen in The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome are armed with pneumatic dart guns and these could be loosely termed "Technicals". Then came Fury Road, where the dart was replaced with the gun as one of the armaments of Joe's WarBoys and their vast array of warcars. In the dozens of crazy vehicles in Fury Road, there are some former utes with guns that could not be feed in the pervious films.
The empire of Immortan Joe comprised of the Bullet Farm city-state that was allied to Joe and supplied his WarBoys with guns and ammunition that people like Max could only dream about only a few years ago. The Bullet Farm was a former Lead mine in the Outback and those raw resources allowed for the empire of Immortan Joe to be fully stocked with bullets that made them a true power in the Post-World War III world.
Rance Burgess's armed Hovercraft from Firefly "Heart of Gold"
In the next to last episode of Firefly, we see the Serenity gang defending a baby (and a whorehouse) from the greedy hands of local landowner and near-warlord Rance Burgess. In the episode, Rance Burgess attempts to use force to gain access to the baby he and his gang mount an attack on the whorehouse. Beside horses, Rance uses an armed hovercraft outfitted with an US M60D NATO 7.62x51mm light machine gun. The Resistance Scout Car from Half-Life 2
First off, let me say that I wasn't going to include this example, but I thought it may work as a Technical of sorts...Dune Buggies have been used by military organizations as armed fast scout vehicles and some have counted these armed civilian Dune Buggies as a form Technicals. Now, there are military designed and constructed Dune Buggies that are not Technicals. In the 2nd (and masterpiece) Half-Life
game, you are given the use of the bare-bones, skeleton Dune Buggy Scout Car armed the Tau Cannon for operations on the coast in the "Highway 17" and "Sandtraps".
The Various Combat Assault Vehicles from the Rebel Alliance from Star Wars
During the Galactic Civil War, the Rebellion military forces were always painfully behind the power of the Empire and it showed in difference between their fleets and their planetary forces. For the most part, the Rebel Alliance avoided ground combat situations when ever possible and when those times came, the hard logistically reality was that the Rebel Alliance could not match the Imperial ground forces. To put up a fight, the Rebel used hit-and-tactics with faster vehicles as one of their primary means of attack and rebellion.
These Rebel CAVs were nearly all repulsorcraft (speeders) and were culled from all corners of the galaxy. Some, like the mothballed Imperial ULAV and the KAAC Freerunner along with the modified Mekuun heavy truck that served as a gun-truck; were former military stock updated by Rebel techs and engineers to serve another tour of duty. Now, these are the more "standard" vehicles of the Rebel Alliance regular forces...then there are those "irregular" force of the rebellion against the empire that use whatever to strike at the Empire and other associated forces. These irregular groups can be allied or related to the Rebel Alliance goals. At times, these are Rebel Alliance cells and they can and do use whatever to bring the fight to the Imperial overlords. Much of these armed speeders are more like futuristic Mad Max
vehicles with all manner of weaponry. This includes stealing civilian vehicles, raiding Imperial storage facilities, and off-the-books dealings with manufactures.
The Technical Vehicles from TSR's Star Frontiers RPG
Cited as many to be the "space Dungeons and Dragons" by the company that published D&D
, TSR; Star Frontiers
was a feature in my childhood. Within the setting of Star Frontiers
was the many types of vehicles that could be armored and armed for battle. One of the iconic vehicles of the setting was the "Explorer". This off-world exploration rugged wheeled vehicle was made by various companies and was seen all over space in the hands of all types of human and alien groups. The Explorer vehicle could be outfitted after-sale with armor and mounted crew-served weapons of various types. When TSR developed Star Frontiers
, the designers left out the rules for adding armor and weapons to the vehicles that were used by the Star Law, treasure hunters, pirates, mega-corporations, and surveyors.
This was solved in the 99th issue of Dragon Magazine
with the article "Tanks a lot!". I found and read the article and it told of outfitting vehicles of all types with heavy lasers, heavy machine guns over 12mm, rocket launchers, 30mm cannons, and even artillery pieces! The article made mention of vehicular battles on alien worlds with some excellent art by B&W Jeff Easley in the article that was borrowed from the 4th Star Frontiers
supplement: "Mission to Alcazzar", which had the cover-art done by the master himself, Larry Elmore.
The Sixers Armed "Rhino" Transport vehicles from Terra Nova
In 2011, FOX aired a bold and very expensive show about a dystopia where the planet was used up and the only hope was time traveling back during the time of the dinosaurs and establishing a human colony, "Terra Nova". The series was bold, but not well written or plotted out and it failed to live beyond one uneven season. In the show, members of the 6th migration rebelled and left the settlement to live beyond the wire with the Sixers becoming the main threat to Terra Nova. Via raids, the Sixers had acquired Terra Nova vehicles, including the larger transporter vehicle, the "Rhino". The Sixers mounted crew-served weapons on these very preowned vehicles, making them look like futuristic Technicals.
The "Spade" Civilian Vehicle from HALO: Reach
In one of the greatest HALO games of all time, you play as NOBLE-6 and you and NOBLE team take to defending the critical military planet of Reach from the godless horde of the Covenant. During the first investigation and encounter with advanced alien forces on Reach at the Visegrad Relay, NOBLE-6 and Jorge liberate a civilian flatbed truck from a local village and Jorge places his M247H Heavy Machine Gun on the cab and then Spade becomes an Technical! The Spade itself is a civilian truck built by TurboGen and was designed to be used by off-world farmers, especially given its methane-powered engine. While the Spade would make appearances in some background maps on HALO 4, it has not been a playable object. Oddly, this was the second example on the article and somehow I forgot to include it! Thanks to FWS readers for pointing this out so I could reinsert the Spade into the article!
Next Time on FWS...
So, what happened when you cross 1979's ALIEN, with religious creation myths, along with classic space combat anime, topped with some of the best anime character and mechanical designers in the industry at that time? 1986's Gall Force: The Eternal Story
! Until Anime Abandon's review. I'd never heard of Gall Force: Eternal Story
, but it is within my wheelhouse of interests, especially since Gall Force
is connected to one of my favorite animes of all time: Bubblegum Crisis
. For the next installment of Future War Stories of the East
, we will be exploring and explaining this uneven 1980's military science fiction OVA!