An improvised fighting vehicle is an ad hoc combat vehicle resulting from modified or upgraded civilian or military non-combat vehicle, often constructed and employed by civilians, rebels, guerrillas, resistance movements or other forms of non-state militias. Such modifications usually consist of grafting armour plating and weapon systems onto a vehicle.
Various militias and official militaries have improvised such vehicles ever since the introduction of the first automobiles into military service.
During the early days, the absence of a doctrine for the military use of automobiles or of an industry dedicated to producing them lead to a great deal of improvisation in the creation of early armoured cars and similar vehicles.
Later, despite the advent of arms industries in many countries, several armies still resorted to using ad hoc contraptions, often in response to unexpected military situations, or as a result of the development of new tactics for which no available vehicle was suitable.
The construction of improvised fighting vehicles may also reflect a lack of means for the force that uses them. This is especially true in developing countries, where various armies and guerrilla forces have used them, as they are more affordable than military-grade combat vehicles.
Guinness Improvised Armored Car, Dublin 1916.
An early improvised fighting vehicle was constructed for the British Army in Dublin during the Easter Rising in 1916. It was made from a three-ton Daimler truck commandeered from the Dublin Guinness brewery. An armoured body was mounted on the truck, built from the smokeboxes of several steam locomotives. The body had loopholes cut in it for riflemen to fire through and was painted with black spots that acted as dummy loopholes to confuse snipers. A steel box protected the truck driver and steel plating covered the truck radiator.
Construction took less than one day at the Great Southern Railways workshop. After the rising, the locomotive parts were returned to the railway and the truck returned to its owners.
World War II
'L' Detachment SAS
in their armed jeeps.
Created during the North African Campaign of World War II, the Special Air Service specialised in carrying out hit-and-run attacks, in particular against Axis airfields. As no vehicle was adapted to this kind of mission, the SAS were forced to build their own. Heavily modified Lend-Lease jeeps became the trademark weapon of the SAS. The windscreens, and sometimes the bumper were removed, in order to save weight and permit an extra payload to be carried. The radiator grille bars were often removed to allow more airflow to better cool the engine in the hot desert climate. Different weapons arrays were carried, including different combinations of various Browning and Vickers K machine guns according to available supply.
The SAS jeeps were used during the whole North African Campaign, and later in Europe, where they were used for sabotage missions behind enemy lines.