Military armored cars are a type of armored fighting vehicles and have wheels (from four to eight large off-road wheels) instead of tracks, and light armor. This gives them speed and range compared to most heavily armoured military vehicles, and as such their normal use in for reconnaissance, command/control, and communications (liaison between forward units). They may have a machine gun, an autocannon, a small gun, or may even be unarmed.
Leonardo's idea of sowing panic and destruction among the enemy troops was embodied in his design of a tortoise-shaped car, reinforced with metal plates, with an inner turret and armed with guns. The car was to be operated from inside by 8 men, who would turn the cranks to move the wheels. The notes on the drawing show that Leonardo had thought of replacing the men with horses, although he was soon turned off the idea by the thought that the animals might become restive in such a narrow and noisy environment. The firing direction would be decided by the men in the upper part of the car, from where they could see the battlefield through slits or portholes.
A military genius, a legend, an American folk hero, George S. Patton, Jr., captured the imagination of the world. In March 1916, when Pancho Villa and several hundred men raided Columbus, New Mexico, and killed seventeen Americans, Pershing was ordered to organize the Punitive Expedition and pursue Villa. Pershing took Patton along as an unofficial aide. In May 1916 he was one of fifteen men, and in command, traveling in three automobiles to buy corn from Mexican farmers. On a hunch, Patton led a raid on a ranch believed to belong to one of Pancho Villa's lieutenants. Three enemy soldiers were there, and when they tried to escape, Patton and his men engaged them in a lively skirmish and killed them. Patton's men strapped the bodies to the hoods of their cars, took them to headquarters for identification, and created a sensation. Villa had disappeared, there was little news about the Punitive Expedition for the folks back home, and Patton's feat made him a national hero for about a week. Perhaps more important, his action was probably the first time the US Army engaged in motorized warfare. Patton and his men had leaped directly from their machines into battle.
At the beginning of the 20th century a number of military armored vehicles were manufactured by adding armor and weapons to existing vehicles: armored tractors, armored cars, and armored trains are known. A prototype vehicle fully designed for a military purpose was the Tsar Tank, tested in Russia in August, 1915, however the design proved to be a fiasco. Subsequent armored cars were less ambitious. Most of the early designs were a large car chassis to which an body made of steel plates had been added. A Rolls Royce armored car saw action in street fighting on Dublin's O'Connell Street during the Irish Civil War.
During World War II the armored car was intended to provide a highly mobile armored personnel and cargo carrier, and field commander's car. The NKPA and Chinese People's Volunteer Army (CPVA, Chinese communist) during the Korean War employed the BA-64 armored car. Early in the war, South Korean and US forces used a few M8 (Greyhound) armored cars. The US Army also used the M29C Weasel cargo carrier, M39 armored personnel carriers (APCs), and M20 armored cars.
The US Army has tested and studied the merits and shortfalls of wheeled and tracked combat platforms for the past since the 1950s. Results indicate that no single criterion can be applied that will answer the wheeled-versus-track issue for all situations and missions.
From a mobility perspective, tracked vehicles offer the best solution for a versatile platform that is required to operate over diverse terrain, including extremely difficult ground, because tracks inherently provide a greater surface area than wheels. Operations in Bosnia in the 1990s demonstrated the inherent weaknesses of wheeled vehicles with regard to mobility and protection. When operations were conducted on roads, wheeled vehicles demonstrated excellent mobility and speed; but when off-road usage was required, and wet or snow conditions prevailed, mobility suffered. Wheeled vehicles inherently attain faster road speeds and, therefore, offer the best solution where unrestricted mobility is not the primary mission driver.
Tracked vehicles, by design, are inherently more compact than wheeled vehicles. The primary reasons for a tracked vehicle's compactness are reduced suspension clearance, wheel turning clearance, and the absence of multiple transfer cases and drive shafts that are integral to the design of multiwheeled vehicles.
Wheeled vehicles are intrinsically more reliable than tracked vehicles and, therefore, require less maintenance and supply support (spare parts). Wheeled platforms provide a reduced noise signature while moving, primarily due to less vibration and metal to metal contact on running gear.
Armored cars are used in peacekeeping or internal security duties, where their appearance is less confrontational or threatening than tanks, their size and mobility are more in fitting with the urban environment and road damage is minimal.
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