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Bobcat APC

Bobcat APCThe Bobcat APC was Canada's post-WWII fully enclosed, purpose-built Armored Personnel Carrier [APC] field. Canada's first multi-role combat vehicle, the "Chassis Tracked, Light" (better known as the Bobcat) in its basic form featuring a cupola-mounted machine gun and a roll-back armored roof, from which the eleven infantrymen mounted in the back compartment could fight.

During the Second World War the Canadian Army had experimented with a variety of domestic design vehicles and weapons systems, as well as improvements or modifications to existing British and US designs. The Sexton self-propelled 25-pdr gun and Kangaroo APC are the best known, but there were many others which never progressed beyond single examples.

The Bobcat drew heavily on the experience the Canadian army had during the War using Kangaroo APCs. The Bobcat story really starts on the shores Normandy just after the D-Day landings in 1944. As part of the preparation to close the Falaise Gap, General Guy Simmonds devised a two-part attack plan. First, tanks would smash a hole in the German front lines. Then infantry, protected in armoured vehicles, would follow through searching out and destroying key rear area supply and communication areas. This sounds good in theory, but there were no APCs at that time - at least not in Normandy.

So the first ones were made in a special Royal Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering [RCEME] workshop that was set up a few miles behind the front lines. In four days, 250 RCEME Craftsmen modified 70 M10 Priest Self-propelled 105mm guns to become "Kangaroo" APCs. Their debut in battle on 07 August 1944 was successful and many more were made. By late 1944 the intent was to convert redundant Ram tank hulls (Kangaroos) to permanent units for the same purpose.

For whatever reason, the fully tracked APC was determined by the Canadian infantry community to have been a once-off wartime expedient; doctrinally, they lapsed into light infantry tasks embodied by the air-portable Mobile Striking Force in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The infantry units still employed war-built Bren Gun and Universal carriers, which were deteriorating with age. In 1952, thought was given to replacing these increasingly antiquated vehicles.

In 1954, Cabinet approved funds for the development of a replacement prototype for service with the 1st Canadian Infantry Division, the Canadian Army's NATO commitment. It took the Army until 1956 to finalize its objectives relating to the designated "Carrier, Tracked Light (CTL)" program. Shortages of development funds meant that the Bobcat had lagged behind the M113 and the British FV 432, closer in concept to the FV 432 than the M113. The requirement was to protect troops against small arms and shell fragments, based on the WW II experience with half tracks. Putting a roof on the vehicle was a big improvement in protection, and the full track was adopted because it was simpler than the wheels and track combination of the half-track, as well as providing the mobility to keep up with tanks.

When the project was started in the mid-1950s it was on the leading edge of design. However, the project suffered many delays because contracting regulations at the time made it difficult to extend research and development projects beyond two years. As a result, large heavy vehicle manufacturers such as GMC and Ford would not bid on the contracts to develop and build the prototypes. AEEE had recourse only to small manufacturers. However, it seemed that once a contract was in place the company would go bankrupt and the Army would have to start all over again. It was frustrating.

Three unarmored prototypes were authorized: two APCs and a self-propelled gun variant. The contractwas awarded to Leyland Motors of Longueuil, Quebec (later Canadian Car, and still later Hawker Siddeley of Canada, who brought their expertise with aluminium production to bear). After acceptance by the Army in 1958, the prototypes were put through a number of tests, which only served to fuel Army enthusiasm, and the number of vehicles required jumpe daccordingly to 1567. Six armored prototypes were then ordered; with the vehicle now being designated Bobcat.

Although only a trial vehicle, it was an interesting idea. There were to be a number of variants, all of which were designed to be air-portable using the RCAFs C-119 transport aircraft. The 105mm SPH which had restricted traverse and some challeges with elevation as the floor boards had to be removed to fire above 800 mils elevation. Othr variants included an anti-tank guided-missile vehicle, a 106 mm recoilless rifle version,and an 81 mm mortar carrier. These vehicles were to be mounted on acommon chassis so that interoperability and standardization could produce savings in maintenance and efficiencies in logistic support. Initial estimates indicated that 1050 vehicles were required.

The specifications for the Light Reconnaissance Tank (LRT) version of Bobcat were robust, as future versions of the LRT had to be capable of accepting the DAVY CROCKETT type of nuclear weapon. In its final form, the Bobcat LRT was supposed to be equipped with a British Saladin turret, mounting a 76 mm gun and two or four SS-11 Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) launchers with provision for a Davy Crockett launcher.

The infantry version was an early Infantry Fighting Vehicle [IFV] - not only did it have a turret (however limited), but each soldier also had a roof hatch which allowed him to fire out of the vehicle. In contrast, the M113 "battle taxi" contemplated an assault with the troops inside the APCs, who would dismount 200-300 meters from the objective and close in on foot. Neither the M-113 nor the FV-430 was a Mechanized InfantryCombat Vehicle (MICV); they were both APCs. The Soviets and Germans soon abandoned the APC construct in favor of the IFV with the introduction of the BMP and Marder. The Americans and British did not embrace MICVs until the 1980s.

By 1962, Canadair had the contract and had built several prototypes. By then, development work on the Bobcat Canadian designed APC, was in full swing in the Army Equipment Engineering Establishment [AEEE] Argyle Avenue headquarters in Ottawa, its engineering test sites in Orleans and Montreal Road, and and its engineering development office in 202 Base Workshop.

Bombcat had some odd features that made it inferior to both the M113 and FV 432. These included a turret for a .30 MG that could only fire in the forward arc and an odd drive shaft arrangement that ran through the crew compartment. One of the big problems claimed with the Bobcat in mechanical terms was the track system, apparently it wasn't as rugged or soldier proof as the systems on other vehicles and was prone to shed its tracks. It was delayed in part by the delay in developing the DU ammo for the 20mm cannon it was supposed to carry.

One problem related to the protective factor of the armor prompted a re-appraisal of the program. There were several Bobcat prototypes. One version utilized a new type of aluminium armor sandwich developed by the Canadian Army Research and Development Establishment (CARDE); another had a mild steel hull. Bobcat had to be able to handle small arms fire of 12.7 mm at 500 meters, but not all versions could meet American and/or British requirements. Marrying up all requirements with the money to produce twenty additional pilot vehicles added more delays.

Bobcat continued to encounter delays and political interference. The prototypes failed their 2000-mile tests, which meant that the suspension system had to be redesigned. The aluminium versions were also cracking (enough that a fist could be put through the floor) in critical places on the test vehicles. The steel version was the only suitable version, but it was more expensive and heavier and therefore would not meet the air transport requirement. Budgetary cuts by the Diefenbaker Government forced the Army to eliminate the load carrier version as well as the Light Recce Tank and give the infantry fighting version priority. The numbers were reduced to500 vehicles, which in turn increased unit cost.

By 1962 a decision had been made to upgrade the Army's combat capability by making its infantry mechanized. An APC was central to this plan. Therefore, the Canadian Army suddenly had an urgent demand for an APC. The US Army already was using APCs. It had the M113 built FMC. The Army, internally divided on whether the Bobcat was doctrinally a troop carrier or fighting vehicle, was tired of waiting.

In 1963 the government changed and Pearson replaced Diefenbaker. Bobcat failed another 2000-mile trial. Development of the Bobcat was dropped in favor of the purchase of the M113 from the US. The sheer volume of production for US and foreign markets made the unit cost of an M-113 far lower than any Bobcat could hope to be. The Bobcat APC could have entered service but its unit costs might have been very high. Smaller countries can lead the world in certain select areas if they choose. At the same time, a smaller military must beware of the pitfalls when attempting large complete systems. The larger the system, no matter how technologically innovative or advanced they may be initially, the larger the risk of failure. The AVRO ARROW and BOBCAT APC projects are prime examples.

There is a single example in the Canadian Forces Museum Borden. The armoured vehicle building mostly contains vehicles that are related to the development of armoured warfare in Canada. There are some very rare Canadian-made vehicles on display, including three Rams, a Sexton, a Grizzly (Canadian-built M4A1 Sherman) Firefly, a Valentine Mark VI, and the only surviving example of the Bobcat APC, the fully-tracked vehicle developed during the 1950s.

FV 432
Crew 2 2 2
Personnel 10 11 10
Weight (loaded) lb 20,000 22,313 33,616
Weight (empty) lb 17,500 18,250 30,228
Power to Weight ratio (hp/tonne) 21.519.3
Length15'10.5"15'9"17' 22"
Ground Clearance1'1"1'4"1'4"
Road Speed (mph)354032
ArmamentUS T197 7.62 Machine Gun
Turret mounted
Browning .50 calibre
Pintle mounted
7.62 Machine Gun
Cupola mounted

Bobcat APC

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 15:32:43 ZULU