Australia/United Kingdom (1993)
Internal Security Vehicle/Infantry Mobility Vehicle – 32 built + 4 prototypes and 1 hull
The Shorland S600, based on a Unimog chassis, was the last armored vehicle designed by the Northern-Irish company Short Brothers. Only two prototypes would be produced under their name, as the complete Shorland range of vehicles was sold to British Aerospace Australia (BAe) in 1996. They built a new prototype, known as the Foxhound, which was constructed as a contender in the Australian Bushranger program. After dropping out of this program, international interest led to the sale of 22 vehicles to the Kuwaiti National Guard in 1997. While the Belgian Gendarmerie was testing the vehicle, the S600 design was sold to yet another company, this time Australian-based Tenix Defence. Under their name, a modest number of vehicles were sold to Belgium (6), South-Korea (2), and Singapore (2). In January 2008, Tenix Defence was bought by BAE Systems, essentially returning the S600 to its previous producer. Without any further sales, the S600 product range was eventually suspended during the 2010s.
Starting from the 1960s, the Northern-Irish company Short Brothers, also known as ‘Shorts’, started building armored cars on commercially available Land Rover chassis’. Commercially, it was a successful venture, with vehicles sold to dozens of countries. In 1992, Shorts started the search for a new, readily available chassis, on which a new vehicle could be developed. Shortly thereafter, the German Unimog 437 series was selected, both the U 1550 L and heavier U 2150 L chassis variants, which had been introduced in 1988. These chassis had already demonstrated good cross-country performance and spare parts were easily available all over the world.
In 1993, detailed design work started on the armored body, and to secure a good fit, some parts of the Unimog chassis had to be repositioned. The work was finished in 1994 and construction commenced of the first two prototypes, which were completed in early 1995. Compared to a regular Unimog, the S600 shared some 80% components. In September, the new prototype was officially introduced at the Royal Navy & British Army Equipment Exhibition.
Shorts had two main versions in mind. The first was the ISV, an Internal Security Vehicle, which would utilize the U 1550 L chassis with a Mercedes-Benz 366 in-line water-cooled turbocharged diesel engine, producing 156 hp. This vehicle, weighing between 8 to 9,5 tonnes action-ready and spacious enough to carry twelve men, was designed for police, paramilitary, and military use.
The other version was the IMV, the Infantry Mobility Vehicle. This version utilized the heavier U 2150 L chassis with a 366LA in-line turbocharged and inter-cooled engine, producing 214 hp. The combat weight of this version was around 12.5 tonnes and could carry a section of eight men and three days’ supplies. This version could also be adapted to a command, ambulance, heavily armed support, or air defense weapons carrier.
Two prototypes were built by Shorts. These were equipped as several variants for testing and promotion purposes in 1995 and 1996. For example, in 1995, it was outfitted as an ambulance version while in September, it was a regular IMV variant with a 12.7 mm M2 machine gun on top. In 1996, it was also seen as a police variant and painted blue, while the ISV prototype was seen featuring a white UN livery. These first prototypes are easily distinguishable from the vehicles that were later built, as they had a differently designed front. The louvers were square, stuck out a bit, and consisted of eight narrow slats. The corners of the front were rounded off. Later vehicles featured much larger slats and square corners.
The design of the Unimog chassis translated itself quite clearly in the S600, just as can be seen on other Unimog-based armored vehicles, like the German TM-170. With a short bonnet and a high superstructure, the S600 had a roomy interior. This room made the design very versatile, further enhanced by the relatively basic construction, which allowed the vehicle to be tailored to meet specific and individual operational requirements from various customers.
Therefore, most features of the S600 were up for change, with Shorts suggesting various weapon stations, different vision ports, air conditioning units, additional radiographic equipment, applique armor kits, and the like.
Multilayered Australian interest
In 1993, the Australian Army initiated the Bushranger project, which aimed to select a new Infantry Mobility Vehicle. Phase 1 resulted in the supply of Interim Infantry Mobility Vehicles, for which the Land Rover Perentie was chosen. In 1994, the initiation of Phase 2A started the process to select a definitive IMV. The requirements called for a vehicle that could carry nine soldiers and equipment, fuel, and supplies for three days, which should include at least 270 l of water. With a cruising speed of 90 km/h on-road, it should have a range of 600-1,000 km and have off-road capabilities equal to a Unimog truck. In terms of armament and protection, it should have provision for a machine gun mount, and armor protection against regular 7.62 mm rounds was required. Protection against AP bullets and mines was desired but not one of the core requirements.
A total of thirteen companies showed interest in the project and five of these were shortlisted.
1. Australian Specialised Vehicle Systems (ASVS), a joint venture between ANI and Reumech Austral. They offered the Taipan, a modified version of the South African Mamba.
2. Transfield Defence System, which teamed up with German Thyssen Henschel, and offered the TM-170.
3. Perry Engineering teamed up with Timoney and offered a version of their MP44.
4. Westrac teamed up with TFM and offered the RG-12 Nyala.
5. Lastly, British Aerospace Australia (BAe) offered an improved Shorts S600, which BAe called Foxhound.
Late in 1995, Phase 2B was initiated, which was the request for tender. Shortly after, Transfield and Westrac withdrew, leaving ASVS, Perry Engineering, and BAe.
In 1996, BAe started construction of a new improved prototype of the S600, known as the Foxhound. Near the end of that year, Shorts decided to sell the entire Shorland range of vehicles to BAe, due to internal restructuring of the company. This not only included the S600 design, but also the older designs that were based on the Land Rovers, namely the S52 and S55. BAe would never take these into production, however, and solely focussed on their Foxhound. Of the two Shorts prototypes, one was relocated to Australia, while future production could either take place in Northern Ireland or Australia, depending on the customer.
In October 1996, the Australian Army issued a new contract negotiating directive, which initiated the official negotiations for contracts with the three companies to provide a trial vehicle. However, before the formal contract negotiations could commence with BAe, they announced their intention to drop out and withdrew their offer for the Foxhound in January 1997.
First customer: Kuwait
Although BAe let the possibility of an Australian success go, another commercial success was near. During the second half of the 1990s, the National Guard of Kuwait (الحرس الوطني الكويتي, KNG for short) was searching for a new armored internal security vehicle to be used by the Internal Security Battalion (الحرس الوطني الكويتي, ISB for short). Apart from supporting the Kuwait Army in case of a foreign invasion and protecting vital targets or installations against any threat, an important duty of the KNG is to support the police in maintaining security and stability.
BAe’s offer of the Foxhound was challenged by unspecified vehicles from South Africa, the USA, and the UK. After evaluation, the S600 was chosen in January 1997, coinciding with the Australian offer being canceled, KNG signed a contract with BAe for delivery of 22 vehicles in 4 (6) versions. The first pre-series vehicle was ready by early September 1997 and presented in October at the BAe factory in Wingfield, Adelaide, South Australia. It was successful and the production of 22 vehicles commenced, which were built and delivered in 1998 and 1999. With production finished by 1999, the Shorland program was sold again, this time to Tenix Defence Systems, also from Australia, Barton. They continued the program and secured a three-year-long life support contract and follow-on weapon system integration updates until 2003 with Kuwait. Some Tenix personnel was also relocated to Kuwait for that purpose. Besides this, operator and maintainer training was offered to the National Guard.
The acquired versions included the ambulance, the armored personnel carrier with two types of weapon stations, the high-pressure water cannon carrier, and both the light and heavy barricade remover. All vehicles are painted in an identical regular KNG paint scheme with a sand yellow base, broken up by green patches and smaller white dots. Apart from the ambulance, which has blue, all vehicles are fitted with orange flashing lights. All vehicles are registered with a number, starting with 100, followed by the vehicle number ranging from 01 to 22.
Design of the base vehicle
The vehicle developed for Kuwait would form the basis for other vehicles that were sold later. According to the manufacturer, the S600 was relatively cheap in its class, while retaining as good performance as its commercial counterparts. Being based on the tried and tested Unimog chassis, operational costs were relatively low, due to 80% parts commonality with regular vehicles and thus easily available spares. Furthermore, the range was supported by world-wide Mercedes-Benz repair points within their dealer-network.
Unlike the original options envisioned by Shorts, under Australian management, all versions were to be based on the more powerful U 2150 L chassis. The diesel engine, which is coupled to a manual transmission with eight forward and four reverse gears, is located in the front of the vehicle and can be accessed through hatches. In case full access is needed, the whole armored body can be lifted from the chassis.
The wheels are fitted to portal axles which have hub drive and torque tubes. They also have pneumatically operated differential locks that can be operated while the vehicle is moving. Each wheel station has an independent suspension that consists of coil springs and hydraulic shock absorbers. Furthermore, steering is power-assisted.
For the many roles that were envisioned for the S600, it was often considered essential that troops could quickly embark or disembark the vehicle. Therefore, the original Shorts prototype had three doors, one on each side and one in the back, but most vehicles featured only two doors, with one in the back and one on the side. The side door essentially is a two-part hatch, with the lower part folding down to form a step, while the upper part, which also has an integral vision block, is opened upwards. The rear door is very similar in design but wider, and the upper hatch could also contain a firing port. A novel feature is that the upper part can be locked in an open position while driving, which could prove beneficial in certain circumstances.
First introduced on the Foxhound prototype were two large notches in the rear sides of the superstructure, where spare wheels could be carried. This option was carried over on several variants.
The armor plating was newly developed by BAe and Bisalloy Steels from Unanderra NSW. The armored hull was of completely welded construction and provided enough protection against 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm small arms fire. Although an option was offered for appliqué armor, improving the protection against 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm AP bullets, this option seems to never have been bought by any S600 customer. The windows are bulletproof and provide the same protection as the armor. The belly protection is sufficient against grenades and small mine blasts.
The S600 could accommodate various weapon stations. For example, the prototype had a single-piece circular hatch in the roof where a variety of armament systems could be fitted, with the largest being a 12.7 mm M2 machine gun or a 40 mm Mk 19 Mod 3 grenade launcher. These weapon stations can also be fitted with a protective armored shield. Apart from this layout, other roof arrangements were offered by the manufacturer, for example, circular roof hatches above the commander’s and driver’s positions at the front. Apart from weapons on the roof, another option was the fitting of firing ports below the vision blocks in the rear compartment. This option was used both by Singapore and South-Korea.
Depending on the customer’s needs, the driver sits either on the right or the left, with the commander beside him. However, only the two Singapore vehicles feature a right-hand drive, while all other vehicles have a left-hand drive. Windows in the front and sides provide a 180º field of view. For crew comfort, the S600 was equipped as standard with an air conditioning unit.
In the hull section behind the driver and commander positions, bench seats run down either side of the hull, on which troops can be seated facing each other. For safety and comfort purposes, each seat has a seatbelt. Under the seats is space to store equipment and supplies.
Since the S600 left room for many customizations, many more things could be fitted, but the manufacturer proposed the following: appliqué armor, automatic transmission, various communication systems, a different Euro 2 diesel engine, a fire detection and suppression system, a heater, Hutchinson run-flat inserts for the tires, land navigation systems, night vision equipment, self-recovery winch, wire cutters, smoke grenade launchers, or a Mercedes-Benz central tire-inflation system. This system allows the driver to adjust the tire pressure to suit the type of ground that is being crossed.
The ambulance version has a crew of three that includes a driver and two medical staff. The rear compartment is configured to carry either three stretcher patients or two stretcher patients and four seated patients.
Armored personnel carrier
The APC version can be considered as a base version of the S600. It offers seating for twelve personnel and has a total payload of 3,300 kg. This stands identical to a full rifle section, complete with a combat load. With a range up to 1,000 km, the vehicle was designed for a three-day deployment.
Heavy Barricade Remover (Riot Control)
Light Barricade Remover (riot control)
High-Pressure water Cannon
The high-pressure water cannon version carried a 3,000-liter tank which offered the capacity to have five minutes of continuous water jetting.
The command version would be fitted with up to five radios and a folding workbench that was fitted with a map board and enclosed annex. When stationary, this vehicle could be used as a command post. It would have a crew of six, including a driver, commander, and four radio operators.
This version’s main feature would be a stabilized mast-mounted sensor package, comprising a laser range finder, radar, thermal camera, and a TV camera, with an operator’s console in the hull. It would have a crew of four.
Police Internal Security Vehicle
Like the APC, the ISV configuration was another base design, which provided seating for up to 12 personnel with full equipment.
The airport security vehicle allowed the crew to remain closed up in the vehicle for longer periods in comfort, to allow monitoring from one place. It would have special provisions for airfield communication systems and provision for a concealed weapon. This proposed variant would have a crew of four.
This proposed variant could carry a standard BAE systems Ro Defence 81 mm mortar that would fire through an opening roof hatch. The vehicle would be crewed by three men, including a driver, mortar detachment commander, and a mortar crew member.
The anti-hijack vehicle was created around 2001/2002 for the South-Korean market and featured a MARS system fitted on the roof. MARS stands for Mobile Adjustable Ramp System, which provides a more tactical approach to enter and rescue in elevated locations, like buildings or planes. It also provides an elevated platform for snipers during other kinds of missions.
Under a new company
After BAe completed production of the 22 Kuwaiti vehicles, they decided to sell the Foxhound/S600 design to Tenix Defence Systems in January 1999, who continued the program and also took over the involved managers and engineers. Although the name Shorland S600 was retained, during the Tenix years, the vehicle was regularly referred to as Tenix S600. Tenix was only formed in 1997 when it split from its parent company Transfield Services. It became the largest defense contractor in Australia.
Belgium: the second customer
Since the late 1970s, the Belgian Gendarmerie (NL: Rijkswacht, a paramilitary police force) had been operating 80 BDX armored vehicles. After the Gendarmerie became a civilian police organization in 1992, the number was drastically scaled-down and, near the end of the 1990s, it became clear a replacement was needed. After evaluating a variety of options, the Alvis Tactica, Vickers OMC RG-12, and the Shorland S600 were selected as potential successors. After extensive testing in Belgium, the S600 was eventually selected and, in 1999, a contract was signed with Tenix for delivery of six vehicles, with an option for more in the next two fiscal years, although this option was never used. The deal was worth 5 million Australian dollars (120 million Belgian Francs or 3.8 million USD).
On 31 January 2001, South Australian Premier John Olsen symbolically handed over the keys of the first vehicle to Colonel Alain Mouthuy of the Belgian Police. The ceremony took place at the Technology Park in Adelaide, where Tenix Defence was based. This vehicle was painted in Gendarmerie colors, with a red-orange line protruding from the center of the bonnet up between the front windows. As the Gendarmerie had become the Federal Police after 1 April 2001, during reforms that combined all police units into one force, divided at a local and federal level, this paint scheme was never adopted. Instead, when the first vehicles were delivered to Belgium in August 2001, they were painted in a newly adopted scheme. The vehicles are registered with regular license plates. Confirmed registrations are DQM-036, -037, -038, -039, and -042. The vehicles also have vehicle numbers, identical to the last two numbers of the license plate.
According to the Belgian Police, the main purpose of the vehicles is to safely transport policemen whenever there is an armed threat or excessive use of violence, for example in the form of a rioting group throwing projectiles like stones and fireworks. Aside from protecting the police within, it can also offer protection for police behind it, and it can easily break through erected barricades and the like. Within the vehicle is space for a driver, commander, and up to seven policemen.
The Belgian vehicles are made airtight to allow operation in an environment where teargas is used. On special request, the side windows in the rear were enlarged as well to provide better vision. They are made of polycarbonate and thus fire and impact resistant. As policemen would be able to easily enter and move in the vehicle with all gear, including helmets, the vehicle was made 10 cm higher, meaning the Belgian vehicles are 2.8 m instead of 2.7 m high. Unlike the rear door, which is still manually opened, the side door is pneumatically opened. Further features include run-flat tires, folding wired mesh protection for the front windows and fixed on the sides, and a rapidly removable power-operated light barricade remover mounted on the front. There is also at least one S600 outfitted with a MARS system.
Within the federal police, the vehicles were formed in APC-teams and attached to the Directorate General Reserve (FR: Direction de la Réserve Générale, NL: Dienst Algemene Reserve). In 2004, this unit was incorporated into the Intervention Corps (FR: Corps d’Intervention, NL: Interventiekorps, combined shortened to CIK). In 2015, a new centralized police support unit was formed, the Directorate of Public Safety (FR: Direction de Sécurité Publique, NL: Directie Openbare Veiligheid). Also known as DAS, this unit currently operates the S600.
Since 2006, the three Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg) have signed a police treaty that allows the operation of personnel and materiel across their borders. Before signing, that was not allowed, but cooperation was common and an incident from April 2003 has to be noted. In that month, a demonstration took place in Luxembourg by workers from the metallurgical industry. At the time, Luxembourg, a stranger to violent protests, had no armored vehicles nor water cannons to counter the protest. Therefore, an arrangement was signed with Belgium which allowed the deployment of Belgian water cannons and armored vehicles, but due to juridical restrictions, they were only allowed to be operated by Luxembourg policemen and should have Luxembourg registration plates. Multiple S600s were sent, including number 38, which temporarily received the registration A7784, while Luxembourgish crews were hastily trained to be somewhat familiar with the vehicles.
On 29 September 2020, a tender was placed for a four-year program of modernizing, modifying, and restoring the six vehicles. The deadline was set for 22 October 2020. Somehow, in official publications including this tender, the Shorland is erroneously referred to as ‘Shortland’. The tender indicates that the Belgian S600s are planned to remain in service for some time.
South-Korea: the third customer
Tenix Defence announced in September 2002 that a ‘classified North-East Asian country’ had placed an order for two anti-hijack vehicles. This type of vehicle was not offered before. Apart from the two vehicles, Tenix delivered a comprehensive spare and service equipment package to the customer, which later turned out to be South-Korea.
The two vehicles were bought for use by the 707th Special Mission Battalion (제707특수임무단, since 2019 known as the 707th Special Mission Group), an elite counter-terrorism unit of the Republic of Korea Army Special Forces. The anti-hijack version seems to be developed from the Police ISV, but with smaller side windows, and round openable firing ports under them. Both the rear and right side doors are manually operated. Most notable is the MARS system, installed on the roof and attached to the lifting hooks on the bonnet.
Singapore: the fourth customer
In 2005, the Singapore Police unveiled two new S600s that had been acquired for use by the Special Tactics and Rescue unit (STAR) of the Special Operations Command. Both vehicles were painted in a glossy dark blue color, and bear the registration numbers YM4355K and YM4280S. The former is equipped with a light barricade remover, while the latter features a MARS system but are, apart from that, identical. At first glance, the vehicles look similar to the South-Korean anti-hijack version, but the Singapore vehicles feature a right-hand drive system.
In the lower right side of the hull, just behind the driving position and the front wheel, a large air intake is there. This feature is not seen on any other S600s.
The life of the Kuwait series prototype
The pre-series vehicle built to Kuwaiti standards was kept at the factory for driver and maintainer training. This specific vehicle was also heavily used for marketing and demonstrations during various shows and exhibitions in Europe, the Middle East, East Asia, and Australia. This vehicle was also tested by Belgium and Saudi Arabia, among others. With the company’s personnel, this vehicle became affectionately known as ‘Betsy’.
Near the end of the 2000s, the vehicle was long-term leased to the South Australian Police Special Tasks and Rescue Group and repainted white, with a blue-white blocked line along the sides. It received the registration XAH 404. In May 2011, this STAR unit was reinforced with a new Lenco Engineering Bearcat, which reduced the S600 to a second-line vehicle. By 2015, they still used it, but before 2019, it was indefinitely returned to BAE Systems. They donated this vehicle to the National Military Vehicle Museum in Edinburgh Parks on 18 December 2019.
This museum also has a bare S600 hull which was already donated by BAE before 2014. It is not, and probably never was, mounted on a chassis, but probably used for testing or as a production sample in the factory. It is painted in a similar three-tone camouflage scheme as the original BAe Foxhound prototype from 1996. The extruding windows are its most distinctive feature, which is similar to those seen on one of the original Shorts prototype at the time it was shown as a white UN vehicle. The two extensions on top of the bonnet, just below the windows, are only seen with the Kuwaiti vehicles.
During the late 1990s, Saudi-Arabia intended to buy a large number of armored vehicles, quoted to be up to 1,000, although the initial demand was set for roughly 60-70 vehicles. Their main purpose would be to protect key facilities near Mecca and Medina where yearly, millions of Muslims make a pilgrimage, known as the Hajj. In September 1998, comparative trials were held between the British Alvis Tactica and the Australian Shorland S600. Both Alvis and Tenix declared their designs were chosen because of their versatility. Eventually, Saudi-Arabia opted for the Tactica, of which 261 models were purchased. The S600 was rejected.
Undoubtedly, other countries would have considered or tested the Shorland S600, but to what extent is not publicly known.
The police of Singapore was the last customer for the S600, in 2005. In January 2008, it was announced that Tenix was bought by BAE Systems, the descendant of BAe. This third change of ownership of the production line did not result in the elimination of the project and the S600 was still being offered by 2014. However, by donating the remaining prototype to a museum at the end of 2019, BAE has made it quite clear that they have no interest in offering the vehicle any longer, which is understandable as by then, the design was more than twenty years old.
How long the S600 will remain in service is hard to tell. The Belgian vehicles will likely remain in service for at least ten years, because of their 2020 tender for refurbishment. With over twenty years of service and in their semi-military setting, the Kuwaiti vehicles will probably be replaced first, possibly within the next ten years. The Singapore and South-Korean vehicles fulfill a more specialized role and in that setting will likely remain in use for some time. Jane’s estimated a service time of roughly forty years. Based on BAEs’ current interests in the Defense market, it is very unlikely that they will offer a new design.
Compared to its counterparts, the S600 was a strong competitive vehicle, but not a great commercial success, with only 32 vehicles sold. The production was thus very modest compared to, for example, the Alvis Tactica or RG-12. The vehicle itself was good, with a reliable chassis, enough versatility, and good performance. The S600 program suffered from the constant change of ownership, which is one of the main reasons why the vehicle was not sold to more countries. As of 2021, it is believed that all 32 vehicles that were sold remain in service.
|Dimensions (L x W x H)||5.74 x 2.42 x 2.70 m (18ft10in x 7ft11in x 8ft10in)|
|Combat weight||12.5 tonnes (13.8 US ton)|
|Engine||Mercedes-Benz OM-366LA 6-cylinder, 5,958 cc, 660 Nm at 1,400-1,700 rpm, 157 kW (214 bhp) at 2,600 rpm|
|Gearbox||UG3/65, 8 forward, 4 reverse gears|
|Power to weight ratio||17,1 hp/t|
|Max. speed||110 km/h (68 mph)|
|Road range||1,000 km (621 miles) (with extended range fuel tank)|
|Armament||Optional, up to 12.7 mm machine gun or 40 mm mortar|
|Armor||Protection against regular 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm NATO rounds, resistance against shrapnel, and infantry mines|
|Payload||3,300 kg (7275 lbs)|
|Wheelbase||3.25 m (10ft8in)|
|Track width||1.92 m (6ft4in)|
|Ground clearance||0.44 m (1ft5in)|
|Fording depth||1.2 m (3ft11in)|
|Turning circle||15 m (49ft3in)|
|Side slope||31 degrees|
|Approach angle||40 degrees|
|Angle of departure||40 degrees|
Armor, January-February 1998, New Armored Vehicles Debut at British Equipment Exhibition, Peter Brown, p.50-51.
Armored Car, issue 31, 1995, Royal Navy & British Army Equipment Exhibition 1995, Peter Brown, p.1. PDF.
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BAe Foxhound, 4wdonline.com.
BAE Systems Australia Donation to the Museum, February 2020, military-vehicle-museum.org.au.
‘Betsy’ a Shorland S600 Armoured Personnel Vehicle, 8 February 2020, BAE Systems Australia.
British Aerospace Australia (BAeA), 4wdonline.com.
Bulletin des Adjucations/bulletin der Aanbestedingen, 29 September 2020, PDF.
Defense and Technology 99/8, Saudi Arabia may delay purchasing armored vehicles, p.52. PDF (Korean).
Expanded BAe Australia range wins first order, Jane’s Defence Weekly, 29 January 1997.
Forecast International, September 2014, PDF.
Jane’s Tanks and Combat Vehicles Recognition Guide, Christopher F. Foss, 2000. P.232-233.
Mobile Adjustable Ramp System, chandrainternational.com.
New high-tech armoured rescue vehicle for South Australia, Attorney General’s Department, 19 May 2011, attorneygeneral.gov.au.
Politie koopt Australische Pantsers, 31 January 2001, hbvl.be.
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S600, Jane’s report, archived 11 June 2019.
S600 APC back in production, Jane’s Defence Weekly, 4 May 2001.
Shorland S600 Armoured Personnel Vehicle, Clive Elliott, shorlandsite.com.
Short Brothers S600 Body Shell Photos, hmvf.co.uk.
Shorland S600 Series Armoured Vehicles Tenix brochure, PDF.
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Un blindé haut de 3 mètres, Gilbert Dupont, dhnet.be.
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The First World War was the first war in history in which armored vehicles were used in significant numbers, by all sides. The Netherlands, as a neutral country, only observed from the sideline. However, in 1914, one Belgian armored car was interned when it crossed the Dutch border, becoming the first armored vehicle on Dutch soil. Before it was given back to Belgium in 1919, the Dutch interned another vehicle during the German retreat at the end of 1918. This time, it was a semi-armored Ehrhardt self-propelled anti-aircraft gun. This vehicle would eventually be converted into a true armored car which became known as the Ehrhardt Potkachel.
During the First World War, the German forces made extensive use of semi-armored SPAAGs, anti-aircraft guns on truck chassis with an armored bonnet. Several reasons have been put forward to explain how this specific Ehrhardt BAK model 1913 ended up in the Netherlands. Some sources claim that the vehicle was bought from Germany several years after the war. Another source claims it was already in the Netherlands before the war. However, the current consensus, and the most likely story, is that the vehicle was left behind by German troops in 1918. After the armistice was signed, German troops wanted to return to Germany as quickly as possible. For some units, the fastest way was to go through the Dutch province of Limburg. They got permission to do so from the Dutch Army, but only if they handed over their weapons and equipment. This way, the Dutch received a lot of German weapons, possibly including the Ehrhardt.
It was not the first SPAAG the Dutch got their hands on. During the war, in August 1916, the Army had managed to acquire three flatbed Thornycroft trucks from Britain, armed with Vickers 13-pounder 9-cwt (76.2 mm) guns, designated 8tl in Dutch service. All of them were operated by the Motorized Anti-Aircraft Battery. It is unconfirmed that the Ehrhardt was operated by this unit as it was put into storage after it was handed over by German troops.
The Ehrhardt put to use
Somewhere between 1920-1923, the gun was replaced by a 57 mm gun, designated 6tl in Dutch service and one of the standard anti-aircraft guns. The vehicle would make its public appearance during the army maneuvers in the autumn of 1924. These maneuvers were the first in the Netherlands that included armored cars, or at least vehicles that were supposed to represent armored cars. Among them were the Ehrhardt, as well as a mock-up armored car based on a GMC chassis. Neither foreign observers nor the domestic newspapers were impressed by the vehicles and the maneuvers in general. One newspaper reported: “The army maneuver is imitating a war from 0 A.D. with one, say one prehistoric armored car, which already broke down on the first day of fighting”. Despite this, the use of these vehicles was very successful from a tactical view, and both the GMC and Ehrhardt were used during the following years.
It is not decisively known when the armored superstructure was added, but reports from newspapers, as well as photographs, suggest that the vehicle was not fully armored before 1927.
The only other training armored car, the GMC, was dismantled in 1931. In 1929, plans were made to acquire foreign armored vehicles but this came to nothing. In 1931, three GMC armored cars were made but these were assigned to the Second Company Police Troops in Amsterdam. Five Carden-Loyd tankettes arrived in 1931, but these were withheld from combined exercises. Three new Morris armored cars were only to be built in 1932 and ready at the end of the year. It is the author’s belief that, in this turmoil of events, the decision was made to armor the Ehrhardt, possibly in the second half of 1931 or more likely the first half of 1932. What is certain is that the Ehrhardt was not available for the army exercises of 1932, and neither were any other armored or mocked-up vehicles. When the vehicle was armored, it also received a different gun. Although the consensus is that this gun was of 37 mm caliber, maybe even the former gun of the GMC that was dismantled at the end of 1931, there are also claims that it was a 50 mm gun.
The armored superstructure was designed and built by the factory of HIH Siderius. This is a somewhat mysterious and controversial company. Between the truce of November 1918 and the final peace treaty of Versailles in June 1919, German weapon industries brought many documents, drawings, and part of their inventories to safety, as they rightfully feared Allied commissions would want this to be destroyed. One of the main destinations was the Netherlands, as it had played no part in the war.
As such, a lot of equipment and resources from the Rheinische Metallwaaren und Maschinenfabrik (Ehrhardt) were moved to the Netherlands and taken over by HIH Siderius. Some of the personnel also moved to the Netherlands and were employed by HIH, explaining why the Ehrhardt was upgraded by them. Furthermore, HIH reportedly worked on another armored car design during the early 1930s, based on a 6×4 Daimler chassis. Unfortunately, design plans are unknown. Due to the modifications, the vehicle is also referred to as Ehrhardt-Siderius in some publications.
The Ehrhardt mostly retained the layout of the original vehicle. The engine compartment remained the same. The gun stayed in the approximate position as well, maintaining the original balance in the design, but it was now limited to a small firing arc and unable to fire at airplanes. The added boilerplates that acted as armor were 6 mm thick on the sides and rear, except on the front where it was 12 mm thick. Five firing ports were made as well, with one facing to the front, one to each side, and two to the rear. Behind the driver’s position, a small round cupola was added from which the commander had an all-round vision.
The use of boilerplate, or the peculiar shape of the vehicle, maybe both, quickly led to the vehicle being nicknamed the ‘Potkachel’, Dutch for ‘Pot Stove’. Officially, the vehicle had no nickname and was just referred to as Ehrhardt, although after the armor was added by HIH Siderius, it was sometimes called Ehrhardt-Siderius. The vehicle had steel wheels, solid tires, and four-wheel drive. The official registration number was M-27011.
The engine could only be started with the help of a rigid starting handle. Once running, the vehicle was so difficult to drive that only three people in the army were capable of doing it. This was the main reason why the vehicle was rarely driven although it was often present during the annual war games.
During exercises in September 1933, the Ehrhardt was used, together with three new Morris armored cars that had been delivered in October 1932. Disaster struck when the Ehrhardt accidentally went off the road into a ditch, landing on its side. It got worse when a passing civilian driver saw the scene a few hours later and started yelling, calling the driver a fool, and lamenting what had happened to ‘little Ehrhardt’ (Dutch: Ehrhardtje). It quickly turned out that the civilian pedestrian was actually a volunteer at the corps and one of the people that regularly drove the vehicle. It is not known who drove the vehicle at the time.
The vehicle nearly saw its first operational use during the Jordan Riots in 1934. Driven by a high unemployment rate and lowered social benefits, big riots flared up in Amsterdam. The Amsterdam police force asked the military to help and they sent multiple armored cars. The Ehrhardt should also have been among them, but when the vehicle drove away from its storage unit, the steering rod broke, meaning the armored car was out of service for some time.
By 1938, new armored cars bought from Sweden had been accepted into the Dutch inventory, and plans were made to take the Ehrhardt out of service in that year, but these plans never came to fruition. In May 1940, the vehicle was found by the invading German troops, together with the unused Wilton-Fijenoord armored car, in a storage depot of the Artillery Corps in the city of Arnhem. It was taken away by the Germans and disappeared during the war, just like all the other outdated Dutch armored vehicles, without leaving a trace. The logical explanation is that they were all quickly scrapped and the armor recycled.
The Ehrhardt Potkachel has an odd place in the Dutch inter-war army. It was not their first armored car, nor their first SPAAG. It was not a particularly good vehicle either, yet it became the armored car with the longest service history in the pre-World War II Dutch army. It was a training vehicle at best, and not designed to ever see actual combat. This meant, combined with the fact that it was hopelessly outdated, that the vehicle remained in storage during the invasion of the Netherlands in 1940. Any attempt to use the vehicle would likely have failed. Yet the fact that it was still around at this time is a testament to the strength and workmanship of the original chassis design by Ehrhardt, especially when it is considered that the vehicle was outfitted with an armored superstructure the chassis was not designed to bear.
|Total weight, battle-ready||8,300 kg (18,300 lbs)|
|Crew||4 (driver, commander, 2 gunners)|
|Propulsion||80 hp engine|
|Speed||50 km/h (31.1 mph)|
|Armament||37 mm gun, 1-2 6.5 mm Lewis M.20 machine guns|
|Armor||6-12 mm (0.24-0.47 inches)|
|For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index|
C.M. Schulten, J. Theil. Nederlandse pantservoertuigen, Van Holkema & Warendorf, 1979.
Haagsche Courant, 13 September, 1933.
Arnhemsche Courant, 25 September 1924.
Hoefer, Armamentaria 3, Stichting Het Nederlandse Leger- en Wapenmuseum, 1969.
Militaire Spectator, jaargang 97, 1928.
Die deutsche radpanzer im ersten Weltkrieg, H. Kaufhold-Roll, p.44.
100 jaar na WO1: Duitse troepen huiswaarts via Limburg, 1Limburg, Frank Ruber, 11-11-2018.
Although the idea of self-propelled armored vehicles existed for quite some time before, the year 1902 brought forth the first vehicles that can, in hindsight, be described as the first armored cars that were actually built. First off appeared the War Car, designed by F.R. Simms in Britain. The other development during this year went on in France by the firm of Charron Girardot Voigt (CGV) and they were able to present their vehicle at the very end of 1902 in Paris. Only the rear portion of the vehicle was armored, leaving the driver and passenger next to him unprotected.
CGV was founded in 1901 by motorists Fernand Charron, Léonce Girardot, and Émile Voigt. The factory was based in Puteaux, a western suburb of Paris. Several major industries at the time were located in Puteaux, including the factory of Dion-Bouton. After its foundation, CGV started to produce a variety of chassis and engines which were shown at the Salon de l’Automobile et du Cycle (Eng. Car and Bike Show) in Paris at the end of 1902. Eleven (or fifteen, differs between sources) of their models were put on display with engines ranging from 15 to 20 or even 40 hp and differing bodywork. The 40 hp engine was one of two main attractions, as it was a non-dead-center 8-cylinder engine without a governor but, most importantly, the cylinders were made out of gun steel and drilled out, contrary to being cast, as was far more common. The other main attraction was the armored car.
Although the press did not give too much attention to the vehicle, most reports were in favor of the vehicle, but given the show was meant to highlight and present civil cars and engines, the audience was not focussed on new military achievements.
The design of the armored car was quite simple. It was basically a regular 15 hp four-seater passenger car of which the two rear seats were replaced by a circular armored construction in a bath-tub-like shape. In the middle of this thinly armored encirclement, a pedestal was placed on which the machine gun was mounted. A gun shield provided a bit of protection for the gunner. The driver and passenger sat unprotected in front of the armored tub and were thus very vulnerable to hostile fire from the sides and front. A hinged armored plate could be folded upwards above the front seats, but, ironically, only provided protection from their own machine gun and not from enemy fire. The engine produced 15 horsepower, contrary to claims by E. Bartholomew in his book ‘Early armored cars’ (1988), in which he mentioned the vehicle was powered by a 40 hp engine, or by Alain Gougaud in his book ‘L’Aube de la gloire’ (1987) in which he mentioned it to have a 50 hp engine.
The machine gun was developed by the firm Hotchkiss and based on a design made by an officer from Vienna in 1893. The mle. 1897 was exported in 1898 to several countries. This model was further improved, resulting in the mle. 1900. It could fire 600 rounds per minute and was designed to accept 8 mm Lebel rounds. Within the vehicle, 2,470 rounds of ammunition could be taken. At the time the CGV was tested, the French Army was trialing this machine gun as well. The use of this new equipment on the CGV, as well as the presence of a Hotchkiss engineer during the military trials, makes it clear that the armored car was developed in conjunction with Hotchkiss.
It is likely that the CGV was inspired by the War Car of Simms, because photographs, reports, and descriptions of this vehicle appeared in abundance in contemporary magazines, journals, and newspapers. However, there is no definite proof of this. In terms of armor and armament, the vehicles do share similarities in the sense that they both feature their armament placed on a pedestal and provided with a gunshield while they stick out of an open-topped rounded armored structure.
After the presentation to the public at the show, the armored car was sent to the French Army. The first military trials took place at Camp de Chalons on June 30 and July 1, 1903. The vehicle was observed by a commission of several officers, including the Commander of the Artillery of the 12th Infantry Division, the UZAC Squadron commander, the Commander of the Artillery of the 5th Cavalry Division, Commander Paloque of the Testing Board from Versailles, and Colonel Rouquerol. The firm Hotchkiss was represented by engineer M. Heryngfet, who also served as a reserve Lieutenant of the 33rd Artillery Regiment.
Already before the trial commenced, the firm of Hotchkiss noted that they were to present a quite different vehicle in the future, jointly with CGV, and that the model should be trialed only superficially as an experimental vehicle. Or, said differently, the idea and the core concept of an armored vehicle were to be tested on a tactical level, as the technical side would be greatly improved with a new vehicle in the near future.
The commission was impressed by the accuracy on the move, which turned out to be roughly 50 percent. They also concluded that the vehicle was powerful enough, as well as maneuverable enough to be able to drive over rough ground and small obstacles if driven by a skilled driver. However, they also saw the weight of the vehicle of 3 tonnes as a drawback, as well as the high price of 45.000 Francs (~223.000 USD in 2015 value). Furthermore, they thought that the vehicle would be exposed to risks that were out of proportion to its power. The number of situations the vehicle would be useful in was thought to be too limited.
The Commission also saw no need in using the armored car as a fighting machine, as that role could also be fulfilled by an unarmored car with a machine gun if it were to accompany a cavalry unit. This idea was further worked out by Captain Genty during the following years. Instead, the Commission saw an armored car to be more suitable for the general staff, to allow officers to move quickly and protected, which would make it ideal for reconnaissance missions and protect against enemy cavalry charges. This idea was actually made a reality with the Opel Kriegswagen, although that was only tested by the German Army.
As they had stated before the tests, Hotchkiss and CGV had been working on a better design. Despite the negative conclusion regarding a potential acquisition, this development was not halted. By 1904, Naval Major (R) Paul Alexis Guye joined the project, and the final design would lead to the fully armored CGV model 1906 that also featured a fully enclosed turret armed with a machine gun.
The original design was not discarded either and, in 1909, Hotchkiss managed to secure a deal with Turkey to deliver four armored vehicles known as the Hotchkiss model 1908 or 1909, the design of which was very similar in appearance to the 1902 model. Furthermore, apparently, both the 1902 and 1908 models were studied by the Spanish Army when they wanted to acquire armored vehicles but they opted for another French design, the Schneider-Brillié.
The CGV 1902 marked the beginning of armored vehicle history in France. Initial development went slowly and was basically confined to the firms of CGV (Charron since 1906) and Hotchkiss, although Schneider-Brillié delivered two armored to Spain in 1910. Only World War I would start a sudden, but great increase in the manufacture of armored vehicles in France. The CGV 1902 helped the army to formulate for the first time their thoughts about armored cars and it would provide a lot of experience to the firms of Hotchkiss and CGV, which helped them develop their next vehicles. Besides these significant influences, the vehicle played a minor role in foreign development. That role was reserved for its successor, the CGV model 1906.
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|Crew||3 (driver, gunner, passenger)|
|Weight||3,000 kg (6,600 lbs)|
|Engine||11.2 kW (15 hp)|
|Armament||1x mle. 1900 Hotchkiss 8 mm machine gun|
|Ammunition storage||2,470 rounds|
L’Aube de la gloire : les autos mitrailleuses et les chars français pendant la grande guerre, Alain Gougaud, 1987.
Tanks 100 years of Evolution, Richard Ogorkiewicz, Osprey Publishing.
Early Armoured Cars, E. Bartholomew, 1988. [used to disprove claims]
“A travers les Stands.” L’Auto-Vélo, December 22, 1902.
“Der Pariser Automobil-Salon 1903.” Neue Freie Presse, December 23, 1902.
FR Patent FR317990A filed 22 January 1902, published 3 November 1902.