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Tanks in Fullmetal Alchemist

Amestris (1914-1915)
Tank – Fictional

In Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist, the fictional country of Amestris, based on early 20th-century European countries, with Prussia and the German Empire being the most noticeable influences, is beset by enemies from almost all sides. Amestris is in constant and intentional war with neighbouring countries. To be able to fight these wars, Amestris is developing new technologies and war machines. One of these war machines is the tank.

As the Fullmetal Alchemist story has been adapted in three different series, these tanks and their origins differ as well. In the Manga and the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Anime, the tanks were developed to help defend the country against its northern rival, where every technological edge is of vital importance to Amestris. These tanks are still prototypes and produced in very small numbers, but their first combat experience has shown promising results. The design of the tanks of these two adaptations are quite different: where the Manga tank resembles a fusion of the British WWI Tank Mark 1 and the Ferdinand, the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood tank resembles a fusion of a Panzer IV, Tiger 1, and VK 30.01 (H).

The third adaptation is from the Fullmetal Alchemist Anime. The origin of this tank is unknown, but it is likely to be a technological culmination resulting from decades of war. These tanks seem to be more common than the tanks of the previously mentioned adaptations, as it is suggested in the Anime that Amestris has experience in tank warfare. The tank from this Anime adaptation resembles a Renault FT tank.

The Amestrian need for tanks is clear, and their first steps in designing tanks seem to be very promising, albeit unrealistic in technology, the time frame of the setting, experience, and potential specifications. By using real tanks, the illustrators managed to come up with some viable tank designs for Amestris.

The Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood tank.
https://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lir3zaNl4n1qccm57o1_500.gif

Fullmetal Alchemist

Fullmetal Alchemist is a manga series written and illustrated by Mangaka Hiromu Arakawa (the male pseudonym of Hiromi Arakawa), of which two animated adaptations were made by studio Bones. The story of Fullmetal Alchemist, abbreviated to FMA, takes place in the fictional country of Amestris. Amestris is in a state of constant and total war with almost all of its neighbouring countries. In the north, the mighty Drachma (similar to Russia) always threatens Amestris, waiting for its opportunity to break its shaky non-aggression pact with Amestris by besieging the fortress of Briggs and invading. In the east, the Amestrians are embroiled in centuries-long and multiple very bloody border conflicts with Creta, a highly diverse federation consisting of various tribes which were unified by the leader of the most influential tribe around the year 900. The Principality of Aerugo (similar to Italy) lies on the south side of Amestris. Aerugo and Amestris are, like Amestris and Creta, entrenched in a bloody border conflict after Amestris invaded Aerugo by taking the town of Fotset and some territory as well. A desert on the east side of Amestris splits Amestris apart from Xing (similar to China, with some Japanese inspirations as well), with the countries having had no conflicts.

A map of Amestris and its neighboring countries.
Source: https://ginnodangan.wordpress.com/2009/07/13/fullmetal-alchemist-brotherhood-episode-15/

The reason why Amestris can fight these three countries and still remain in a status quo (the status quo is intentional from the Amestrian side) is because of the highly militaristic and authoritarian regime of Amestris. The State Military of Amestris effectively controls the entire state of Amestris under the command of Führer King Bradley (Generalissimo King Bradley if translated directly from Japanese).

The series mostly takes place between 1911 and 1915 and the technology available to Amestris is comparable to that of the European powers during World War 1, albeit with some stark differences. Weapons shown in the series seem to be based on real-world weapons, such as the Mauser C96, Mosin-Nagant rifle and the 7.5 cm Pak 40. Another comparison that can be made is the development of the first tank in the region and possibly the entire FMA world at that time. An important difference between the technology of our world in between 1911 and 1915 compared to that of FMA is that Amestris does not seem to have any airfaring capabilities at its disposal. Another difference is the widespread use of so-called automails, short for automotive armored prostheses. These highly advanced prostheses are linked to the nervous system and function almost identically as a human limb.

An automail prosthetic.
Source: FMA: Brotherhood Anime

In this universe, Alchemy is one of the most important sciences of the country. Alchemy uses transmutation circles with which an alchemist can create an object or change the structure of an object by presenting a material of equal value according to the Law of Equivalent Exchange. Skilled Alchemists can undergo an examination to become State Alchemists. When an Alchemist becomes a State Alchemist, he or she is employed by the Amestrian State Military and can be called upon to fight as human weapons in times of war. A State Alchemist is also employed to do research in Alchemy for the Amestrian Army for various purposes or perform other tasks involving state matters.

A very basic transmutation circle
Source: https://fma.fandom.com/wiki/Alchemy

Amestris is a parliamentary republic, although the parliament is a facade of a stratocracy which rules Amestris. It is led by Führer King Bradley together with an advisory staff consisting of the highest-ranking officials in the country. The government is almost completely centralized by the military and the military is present in all forms of public life. From regional governors to mine owners and from scientists to detectives, the State Military of Amestris holds a relatively strong grip on its country and inhabitants, except for some more or less intended conflicts and civil wars.

Amestris put down a very bloody revolt between 1901 and 1908 in the province of Ishval, in the Eastern sector of the country. The revolt eventually spread across the Eastern sector, but was violently crushed in 1908 when the State Military called upon the State Alchemists. The Ishvallan people were massacred and the area was devastated. Border conflicts with Aerugo and Creta intensified after the Ishval Civil War. In 1914, the State military crushed a religious revolt in Liore and defeated a large Drachman Army, which attempted to breach the Northern Fortress of Briggs. It is important to note that these conflicts were all intentionally caused by forces within the upper echelons of the Amestrian State Military in order to provide enough bloodshed for their masterplan. All these years of warfare eventually led to the first tank of the Amestrian Army.

Designation of the Tanks

There are three different takes on the tank in the FMA universe. These can be divided into FMA manga, FMA Anime (2003), and FMA: Brotherhood Anime (2009). The FMA: Brotherhood anime adaptation follows the story of the manga as faithfully as possible, while the FMA anime adaptation follows the first seven volumes of the manga, but on the request of Hiromu Arakawa, the 2003 adaptation would have its own original ending.

As such, the FMA manga and the FMA: Brotherhood vehicles are, by place of origin, the same. The Tank never got an official designation in either the manga or its Brotherhood anime adaptation. For this reason, the tank will be designated after the location it was designed and built, and receive the designation Briggs Tank. Additionally, this designation is the most widely known and accepted designation for the vehicle other than Tank by the FMA community.

The designation and development location of the tank from the 2003 FMA anime are both unknown. In the Fullmetal Alchemist Collectible Card Game, in the Seven Deadly Sins set, the tank is designated as Battle Tank. This also seems to be the designation used by some members in the FMA community, although it is good to mention that the Battle Tank from the 2003 anime is more obscure than its Briggs Tank counterpart.

Briggs Tank FMA Manga

The first appearance of tanks in the FMA Manga is in Chapter 65, which shows the construction facility, including a few tanks under construction. The first encounter and usage of the Briggs tank is in Chapter 66.

Development

The development of the Briggs tank started at an unknown date at the research and development level of Fort Briggs. Fort Briggs is a military base situated at the Northern border, between Amestris and Drachma. The base is a massive wall that closes off the supposedly only passageway through the mountains. Major General Olivier Mira Armstrong, the commander of Fort Briggs, wanted as many techniques in her arsenal as possible to combat Drachma, possibly the only bordering country which can rival the military power of Amestris. As such, Major General Armstrong has a great interest in the development of the tank.

Major General Olivier Mira Armstrong.
Source: FMA: Brotherhood Anime

Additionally, because Fort Briggs is located in the most northern part of Amestris, the researchers and engineers are probably some of the most knowledgeable experts in Amestris, likely second to only the State Alchemists, when it comes to mechanics of materials. In order to keep automails running and to prevent their users from dying from frostbite, the materials used for the automails had to comply with various specifications. Through trial and error, the engineers at Briggs have managed to create a material consisting of duralumin, carbon fiber, and nickel-copper alloys. It can be expected that the engineers at Briggs have developed various materials which could be used for tanks in their effort to find usable materials for automails. It can also be expected that the specifications of the Briggs tanks demand for a vehicle which can be used in extremely cold and snowy mountain environments. The soldiers of Fort Briggs use special oil for their automails and they also have a special composite fuel at their disposal.

Fort Briggs.
Source: FMA: Brotherhood Anime

The Briggs Tank in Detail

The actual specifications of the Briggs Tank are unknown. The following specifications are based on estimations, speculations, and assumptions. By comparing the Briggs Tanks’ dimensions to those of characters, the Briggs Tank is about 5 meters (16.4 Feet) long, 4 meters (13.1 feet) wide, and 2 meters (6.6 feet) tall. The tank is operated by 4 or 5 crew members, consisting of the Commander (left turret rear), Gunner (in front of the commander in the turret), Loader (right of the gunner in the turret), Driver (left front hull) and Co-driver/Hull Machinegunner (right front hull). The Briggs tank has been operated without a commander in one instance, where the gunner acted as the commander, but this was most likely a single occurrence. The tank has a rear turret configuration.

Hull

The hull of the Briggs Tank seems to be inspired from the British World War 1 Mark I to Mark IV tanks. Interestingly, the rear part of the suspension is shaped differently from the Mark I. The Briggs tank’s suspension has a trapezoidal shape as seen from the side, as opposed to the iconic rhomboid shape of World War I British heavy tanks. The sides of the hull, which cover the suspension, are riveted in a very similar way to the Mark I tanks. Additionally, the driver’s sight and hull machine gun port are also riveted to the hull. The upper hull is loosely based on the Ferdinand’s upper hull.

The Manga Briggs Tank, in combat with King Bradley.
Source: FMA Manga

How the armor plates of the front hull are connected to each other is unclear, as there is no sign of welding or riveting. Rivets can be seen on the top hull plate parallel to the upper front hull plate and the side hull plates. Most likely, the frontal hull plates are welded together. The upper front plate would then be riveted to the top plate of the hull. Drawings from the inside of the front hull support this theory, as the top hull plate seems to rest on an additional bend in the upper front hull armor, but no rivets are shown to connect this supposed connection plate to the upper hull. The side armor is likely to be riveted in the same way as the front hull. A single drawing shows that the rear armor plate might also be a single plate that was welded or riveted to form an upper and flat rear armor plate. The flat rear plate shows a hatch, but it is unknown where the hatch leads.

The bottom of the flat rear armor plate seems to be riveted to a connecting profile, which connects the rear hull plate to the floor hull plate. Since there is no similar type of connection profile between the lower front plate and the floor hull plate, it can be suggested that the floor plate is welded to the front plate.

The rear of the Briggs Tank
Source: FMA Manga

The armor angling and armor values of the Briggs tank are unknown but based on drawing, the armor does not seem to be exceptionally thick, but not very thin either. Based on the usage of the tank during Colonel Roy Mustangs’ coup d’etat and the subsequent defense of the captured Central Command, it can be expected that the tank is at least impervious to small arms fire from the front.

The Briggs tank has a bow-mounted machine gun operated by the co-driver. The way the machine gun is mounted might severely limit the angles at which it can fire. Additionally, the co-driver seems to have no means of vision of his own. The driver has access to a direct sight vision port. The vision port is made of glass which can be covered by a metal plate. If this plate can be opened or closed from the inside, is not clear. The Tank has a towing hook on the front and provides space for pioneering tools on the fenders. On the left fender, the Briggs tank has a box. If this box is meant for storage or served another purpose is unclear. Interestingly, the Briggs tank has some sort of exhausts on the front top plate of the hull, but no engine is shown and it is not positioned in between the driver’s compartment and the turret, as the drawings show both the driver and the turret basket behind him.

Interior of the Briggs tank, showing the Driver’s position, in combat with King Bradley.
Source: FMA Manga

Two doors have been placed on both sides of the hull. The purpose of these doors is unclear. Since the location of the engine is unclear, the doors could function as access points to the engine. The doors could also be used as entrances and escape hatches for the driver and co-driver, as they do not have any other hatches near their seats. The doors could also serve as a way to reach and close off side sponsons which could be mounted on the side of the tank, like the Mark I tanks (although this is quite unlikely and far-fetched, it is still good to mention the possibility). The side sponson system on the Briggs tank would then bear some similarity in function with the TOG 2. The doors could be remnants of an early stage of the Briggs Tank which might not have had a turret and used side sponsons instead. The turret might later have been added and the side sponsons removed. The engineers would then probably have closed the holes in the armor with these doors, as to not have to build entirely new hulls, but still keep the option for mounting side sponsons.

A door on the side hull.
Source: FMA Manga

The driver uses two traditional tiller bars to steer the vehicle and most likely a gear stick on the driver’s right side. The driver is shown to have two pedals, which can be assumed to either be an accelerator and brake pedal combination, or brake and clutch pedal combination. The latter would be the most logical. This suggests that the speed of the tank is controlled by the tiller bars. The clutch is released with one of the pedals, the tank is halted with the other pedal, and the possible gear stick on the right side of the driver for shifting gears.

Driver controls.
Source: FMA Manga

Mobility

The engine of the Briggs Tank is unknown and its location within the vehicle is also unknown. The problem with the Briggs Tank is that its layout and interior do not line up with a realistic engine placement. A rear-turreted vehicle normally has the engine either at the front of the vehicle, possibly at either the right or left front of the vehicle, or between the driver’s compartment and the turret fighting compartment. The Briggs Tank has neither of these possibilities. The Briggs Tank has both a driver and a co-driver/machine-gunner. This configuration makes the front engine placement impossible. Additionally, drawings showing the inside of the vehicle depict a compartment where nothing is in between the driver and the turret.

A possibility is that the engine is located under the turret. The turret has a turret basket which is suspended into the hull up to the heads of the driver. This means that there is about 0.8 m (2.6 feet) of height left for an engine. This is quite small, as a Ford GAA engine, used in the M4 Sherman, is about 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) tall. A boxer or flat engine could be used instead to solve this problem. The location of the door on the rear would support a possible engine in the rear of the vehicle, as it could be used for maintenance of the engine. The doors on the sides of the vehicle could provide an easy way to maintain the engine as well.

The Briggs Tank uses a running gear similar to that of the Mark I tank. The Mark 1 running gear had a drive sprocket in the lower rear and an idler wheel at the upper front. The lower rear drive sprocket on the Mark 1 was a complicated drive system. The driveshaft had a sprocket which drove a larger sprocket with a chain, which was connected to the central pivoting axle. The larger sprocket would turn the central pivoting axle, which would drive another sprocket connected to the central pivoting axle, inside the rhomboid-shaped suspension. This sprocket would, in turn, drive a lantern pinion through a chain, and the lantern pinion drove the drive sprocket of the tracks. The advantage of this complicated chain system is that the chains would not transfer external shocks to the differential components.

Mark 1 running gear.
Source: https://tanks-encyclopedia.com/lincoln-no-1-machine/

The top part has no wheels whatsoever and the lower part consists of unsprung rollers. The Briggs Tank has an estimated 16 rollers on each side of the vehicle. This is quite a bit less compared to the Mark I, which had 26 rollers on each side. This can be explained through the shape of the suspensions. The Mark I has a rhomboid-shaped suspension, while the Briggs Tanks’ suspension is shaped like a trapezium. This effectively means that the Briggs Tank misses 8 rollers. If a Mark I tank would have a similar shape as the Briggs Tank, it would have had 18 rollers. Like the Mark I, the Briggs Tank has a track tension adjuster at the front of the suspension, located at the idler wheel.

A drawing of the Briggs tank Suspension.
Source: FMA Manga

The Briggs Tank has proven itself to be able to drive up quite a steep slope, but the angle of the slope is unknown. It is estimated between 30 and 45 degrees although it varies per drawing. Based on the preferred design angle of stairs in the real world, the slope is estimated between 30 and 37 degrees.

Turret

The turret of the Briggs Tank is very heavily inspired by the casemate of the Ferdinand tank destroyer. Although the front and the upper parts of the turret armor are either rounded or angled, the hatches and their locations are identical. Also identical is the gunner’s periscopic sight and its semicircular slot in the top of the turret. On the Ferdinand, this allowed the sight to follow the gun as it traversed in the superstructure. It is useless on the turreted Briggs tank.

The turret top of the Briggs Tank.
Source: FMA Manga

The gunner is located on the front left of the turret and has access to his own hatch. The gunners’ hatch is the same as on the Ferdinand, a sliding hatch for the aiming telescope, combined with an escape hatch. The loader is located on the front right of the turret and has his own escape hatch. The commander is located on the bottom left, as demonstrated by Major General Olivier Mira Armstrong. Interestingly, these positions are swapped when compared to the Ferdinand. On the Ferdinand, the commander is located on the front right, while the gunner is located on the left rear. The two small hatches on both sides of the rear turret are periscopes for the loader. It could be argued that these would still be loader periscopes on the Briggs Tank, but during its usage, the left rear position is clearly used by the tank commander.

The rear hatch is both an escape hatch and used to eject shell cases. It consists of a large hatch and a smaller hatch in the middle. The middle hatch is used to eject shell cases during, for example, combat conditions. As the turret is based on the Ferdinand, it can be suggested that the ammunition of the vehicle is stored in the back and the middle of the turret.

Armament

The armament of the Briggs Tank is unknown. In the drawings, the armament seems to be of a very high calibre. Two types of armaments can be suggested based on the equipment of the Amestrian State Military and the inspiration of the Briggs Tank. The first armament is the artillery gun used to defend Fort Briggs. It seems to have a caliber that could be high enough for the Briggs Tank. Additionally, the gun is used in Fort Briggs, and thus is a proven and familiar weapon to the engineers of Fort Briggs.
The only reason why this gun could be used in the Briggs Tank is because of the similarity in the turret design between the Ferdinand and the Briggs Tank.

The first possibility is most likely the gun which was used on the Briggs Tank, although, most likely, converted into a tank gun. The gun of the Briggs Tank is a rifled gun and an estimated 3 to 4 meters (9.8 to 13.1 feet) long from the outside of the turret, the barrel length would be larger in total, as a decent part of the barrel would be located in the turret itself. Based on the drawing of the artillery piece stationed on the Briggs wall, the total barrel length is estimated to be in between 5 to 6 meters (16.4 to 19.7 feet), of which 1 to 2 meters would be located in the turret. The diameter of the gun is very hard to give a reasonable estimation to, as the size differs in every drawing and as such, no reliable estimation can be made.

Artillery piece stationed on the Briggs Wall.
Source: FMA Manga

The Briggs Tank has two to three different types of ammunition at its disposal. It has a solid shot armor-piercing round, which was used during its first test drive. When the ammunition was fired, the projectile did not detonate on impact, meaning it was not an armor-piercing high explosive round. The rounds used during the first test drive could also have been training rounds, but with the situation surrounding the first test run, this seems highly unlikely. The second or third round is a high explosive round, which was used during Colonel Mustangs’ coup d’etat of central command. The projectile was fired at the wall of central command.

In addition to the main gun, the tank uses a machine gun as secondary armament, located at the hull’s front.

The Briggs Tank firing at Central Command.
Source: FMA Manga

Service

The Briggs Tank was first used and tested during the winter of 1914 when the homunculus named Sloth accidentally breached Fort Briggs from the underground. The soldiers had never encountered a homunculus before and had no idea what a homunculus even was. Sloth is sometimes referred to as the unknown intruder. The homunculus was thought to be a spy from the neighbouring country of Drachma.

Homunculi are artificial humans made with the help of philosopher stones, in essence they can not be classified as humans, as their life is bound to their philosopher stone. When a homunculus ‘dies’ enough times, the energy of the stone will be depleted and the homunculus will die indefinitely. Because the homunculi’s life is bound to their philosopher’s stone, they are essentially superhumans which can have special abilities like shape-shifting or superhuman strength. In addition, the stone will regenerate damaged body parts of the homunculus until the stone is depleted of energy. Sloth was a massive homunculus, with near-impenetrable skin, extreme strength and could be extremely fast.

The homunculus Sloth.
Source: FMA Manga

When Sloth breached Fort Briggs, he was almost immediately shot by soldiers of Fort Briggs. The soldiers quickly discovered that their weapons could not penetrate the skin of the homunculus. The alarm was raised and the military base was put on high alert. The Homunculus accidentally activated an elevator which brought him to the production floor of the Briggs Tank. Upon his arrival, the homunculus was shot by Major General Olivier Mira Armstrong with a large caliber recoilless rifle, but this had no effect. Major General Armstrong took command and the defenders of Briggs decided to use their newly built tanks to defeat the homunculus as fast as possible, in an attempt to not alert the army of Drachma of their situation.

Briggs Tanks during their first usage, in combat against the Homunculus Sloth.
Source: FMA Manga

The Major General assumed command of one of the three available tanks. These vehicles were not yet tested and the encounter with the homunculus was their first test run. The guns were loaded and promptly fired at the homunculus. They managed to hit the homunculus and wound him, but the homunculus simply healed his wound with the help of his philosopher stone. In response, the Briggs defenders continuously fired rounds at the homunculus to no avail. Thinking quickly, the Major General decided that they could not defeat the creature with firepower and decided to defeat the homunculus by freezing him. She used her tank to ram the homunculus into an elevator. One tank was not enough and she ordered the other two Briggs Tanks to help push the homunculus in the elevator. Once in the elevator, the homunculus was sent to one of the openings in the wall. Major General Armstrongs’ tank soon entered the elevator as well and upon arriving at the same floor, they shot the homunculus with the main gun over the edge of the wall. The homunculus, doused with fuel, froze almost immediately in a blizzard.

Briggs Tanks pushing Sloth in an elevator.
Source: FMA Manga

The first test run can be hailed as a success. Even though the Briggs Tank was not able to reliably penetrate the thick skin of the homunculus, the tank did not break down and managed to perform its mission by defeating the unknown intruder.

The second usage is during Colonel Mustang’s coup d’etat during the spring of 1915 in Central City, the capital of Amestris. The soldiers of Briggs and the soldiers of the Eastern sector of Amestris supported Colonel Roy Mustang in his endeavor to take control of the country and overthrow Führer King Bradley. The armies of the Northern and Eastern Sector were conducting joint exercises on the day of the coup, overseen by King Bradley himself. King Bradley was convinced by his general staff to return to Central, due to suspicions of a potential coup by the Eastern sector led by their commander, General Grumman. The train carriage that took King Bradley to Central was bombed by soldiers of the Eastern Sector.

Colonel Mustang started his coup around the same time in central itself, with the aid of the Briggs soldiers and their tank.

The tank was transported in pieces to the large family estate of Major General Armstrong. The tank was assembled on the estate and then used to spearhead the advance to Central Command, the headquarters of the Central Army of Amestris and the seat of Führer King Bradley. The Central Command did know about the existence of the Briggs Tank, as did the Central Commandos tasked with stopping the Briggs advance on Central Command, but they did not expect the Briggs Soldier to have a tank at their disposal during the coup. As such, the central soldiers, already taken by surprise by the Briggsian revolt, were now also taken by surprise by the appearance of the Briggs Tank. The Tank reached Central Command and fired an HE projectile on its walls. Not long after, the Briggsian soldiers took over Central Command.

The Briggs Tank was positioned on top of the stairway to the Central Command main gate, in order to hold back the Central Soldiers who might try to recapture Central Command. Not long after the Briggsian soldiers celebrated the success of their coup, they were abruptly interrupted by Führer King Bradley over the radio, announcing his survival of the bombing and his return to Central to personally assume command and to squash the coup. King Bradley arrived at the main gate of Central Command stating:

‘Why should I enter my own palace from the back entrance’.

King Bradley charging the Briggs soldiers and the Briggs tank.
Source: FMA Manga

King Bradley was the homunculus Wrath, an extremely skilled leader and a one-man army, raised from birth to lead the country. Realising the danger of King Bradley, Captain Buccaneer ordered his tank squad to pull back, but King Bradley, being a very powerful homunculus, charged immediately at the tank squad on his own.

The Briggs Tank tried to gun down King Bradley on his approach, but missed all their machine gun fire. One main gun round was fired but missed as well. At this point, King Bradley reached the tank, and stabbed the driver by breaking the glass of the vision port with his sword. The Co-driver tried to run King Bradley over, but King Bradley cut the tracks apart and subsequently, threw a grenade through the broken vision port of the driver. The grenade detonated and the Briggs Tank was taken out by the homunculus.

No further usage is known of the Briggs Tank.

Briggs Tank destroyed by a grenade.
Source: FMA Manga

Realism

The Briggs Tank is, for the time period it was developed and used (around 1914), not a realistic vehicle. The hull stays true to its era and is based on the British Mark I tank. The turret is mostly based on a Ferdinand casemate, a vehicle that was built almost 30 years later. Its turret and armament are too large and heavy for its time, especially when considering this is seemingly the very first tank of the Amestrian State Army and possibly the world. At the same time, Amestris was a very advanced country technology and productionwise. It would not be impossible for them to actually pull this design off. So compared to the development of tanks in our timeline, it would be unrealistic, considering the potential of Amestris, it might be possible.

The Briggs Tank of the FMA Manga might be unrealistic when considering the era it was built in, but, overall, it is not a bad design for a fantasy tank. By basing it on actual vehicles, the author managed to draw a reasonable design. The main issues with the tank are the gun, and the bow machine gun. The gun seems to be a very high calibre when looking at the drawing, but the actual calibre is unknown. Lastly, the bow machine gun can easily be fixed by not mounting it in a tube but by using a ball mount for example.

Other Tanks

In the FMA manga, another drawing is seen when the protagonists get a tour around Fort Briggs. The drawing is a bit confusing, as it suggests that the casemate is mounted more towards the front of the hull. But considering the size of the humans, compared with the suspension in the front of the drawing, the casemate/turret and the hull are presumed to be separated.

An illustration of a suspension located in Fort Briggs.
Source: FMA Manga
Minenräumpanzer 3.
Source: https://en.topwar.ru/93911-minnyy-tralschik-minenrumpanzer-iii-germaniya.html

The hull and suspension at the front of the drawing are identical to the German Minenräumpanzer 3. The hull in the manga is nearly identical to the actual vehicle, except for a few very minor details at the front hull.

Maus Turret.
Source: https://tanks-encyclopedia.com/ww2/nazi_germany/panzer_maus.php

The casemate/turret has a very Maus-like gunshield, but the rest of the turret bears more resemblance to the Maus II turret. The Maus II turret came into existence after concerns about the curved Maus turret, which might deflect projectiles into the hull top. As such, the frontal turret would be an angled plate instead of a curved plate, and the gun mount was altered as well among other things. The FMA Manga turret seems to have incorporated the main features of the Maus II turret regarding the armor profile and the gun mount. The gun shield seems to have more resemblance to the original Maus turret.

Maus II Turret.
Source: https://tanks-encyclopedia.com/maus-ii/

Briggs Tank FMA: Brotherhood (2009)

The first appearance of the Briggs Tank in the FMA: Brotherhood anime is in episode 34, which shows the construction facility, including a few Briggs tanks under construction. No other type of tank is shown in the anime.

The development of the Briggs Tank in FMA: Brotherhood is the same as the development of the Briggs Tank in the Manga.

The Briggs Tank in Detail

Like the manga, the actual specifications of the Briggs Tank are unknown, and are analysed in the same way. The Briggs Tank is about 7 meters (23 feet) long, 4 meters (13.1 feet) wide, and 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) tall. As the Briggs tank is very reminiscent of the Panzer IV, it is estimated to weigh in between 18 to 25 tonnes (18.8 to 27.5 US-tons) combat-ready. The tank is operated by 5 crew members, consisting of the Commander (left turret rear), Gunner (in front of the commander in the turret), Loader (right of the gunner in the turret), Driver (left front hull), Co-driver/Hull Machinegunner (right front hull).

Hull

The hull of the Briggs Tank seems to have multiple inspirations. The most obvious inspiration is the Panzer IV, but the VK 30.01 (H) might also have been an inspiration. For the hull, the Panzer IV seems to be more likely, as the frontal hull angling, the driver’s vision slit and the hull machine gun, the engine bay, and the vision slits on the side of the hull for the co-driver and driver correspond to it. The KV-1 is also recognised in the Briggs tank, mainly because of the frontal armor profile. The exhausts on the rear sides of the hull are somewhat reminiscent of the exhaust on the Centurion. The sides of the hull are protected with side skirts, just like the Panzer IV.

The Briggs Tank in the FMA: Brotherhood Anime.
Source: FMA: Brotherhood Anime

The armor is most likely, just like the Panzer IV, welded together from multiple large steel plates. No riveting is shown at all, which supports this theory. As with the Manga Briggs tank, the armor and the exact angling are unknown. Since this is the first armored vehicle of Amestris, the armor values might be close to the very first Panzer IV version, the Panzer IV Ausf. A. This would mean that the Briggs Tank has a frontal hull armor of 10 to 14.5 mm (0.4 to 0.57 inch), 10 to 14.5 mm (0.4 to 0.57 inch) on the sides, 14.5 mm (0.57 inch) on the rear, and 8 to 10 mm (0.3 to 0.4 inch) armor on the top and bottom of the hull. The frontal armor thickness is somewhat supported by a shot close up on the hull machine gun. In this close-up, the armor does not look too thick. By measuring the length of the hull machine gun of the Panzer 4 and the Briggs Tank, and through the use of ratios, the frontal hull thickness is very roughly estimated to be around 20 mm (0.8 inch) thick.

Hull machine gun.
Source: FMA: Brotherhood Anime

The Briggs tank has a bow machine gun on the front right of the vehicle, fired by the co-driver. The driver is located on the front left side of the vehicle. The Briggs tank has towing hooks on the front side of the vehicle and two headlights.

The engine is located in the rear of the hull and two exhausts are located on both sides of the rear hull. Interestingly, another muffler is located on the rear of the vehicle, very much reminiscent of the Panzer IV muffler.

Rear view of the Briggs Tank.
Source: FMA: Brotherhood Anime

Mobility

The engine of the Briggs Tank is unknown, but since the vehicle seems to be based on the Panzer IV, an estimation can be made on the specifications. The Panzer IV Ausf. A had a Maybach HL 108TR 230 hp engine, while the Panzer IV Ausf. J had a Maybach HL 120 TRM 320 hp engine. It is more likely for the Briggs Tank to have an engine of around 230 hp, as this is Amestris’ first tank but it potentially has an engine with around 230 to 320 hp. The engine is mounted in the rear of the vehicle, and the transmission is located in the front of the vehicle.

The suspension of the Briggs Tank does not bear resemblance to either the Panzer IV’s suspension or the interleaved roadwheel suspension found on other German tanks. It seems to resemble a torsion bar suspension instead. The road wheels do seem to bear some overal resemblance with KV-1 road wheels. It has 5 road wheels on each side and the drive sprocket is located in the front of the vehicle.

The vehicle is shown to be very mobile, being able to climb a slope of in between 30 and 37 degrees at high speeds.

Turret

The turret of the Briggs tank seems to share multiple inspirations. Its main inspiration seems to be the VK 30.01(H) and Panzer IV turrets. This is mainly because of the general shape of the turret, and the vision ports located on the sides of the vehicle. The vision ports of the VK30.01 (H) seem to be integrated with the side turret hatches of the Panzer IV. Its turret hatch configuration resembles the layout of a Tiger 1. The commander’s cupola looks more or less like a generic cupola, but with the Tiger 1 layout, could be identified as a late Tiger 1 cupola. Another hatch is located on the rear of the turret, which might be used to load and eject shells.

Top view of the Briggs Tank Turret, while in combat with Sloth.
Source: FMA: Brotherhood Anime
The Briggs Tank during Colonel Mustang’s coup d’etat.
Source: FMA: Brotherhood Anime

Armament

Like the rest of the specific components, the armament of the Briggs Tank is unknown, but a reasonable origin of the Briggs Tank’s main gun can be found in the anime. The 7.5 cm Pak 40 anti-tank gun is shown at multiple points throughout the series. They are used during the Ishvalan War of Extermination, but also in the defence of Fort Briggs. As such, it can be speculated that the armament of the Briggs Tank is a 7.5 cm which was converted from the 7.5 cm Pak 40, just like the Panzer IV’s main gun. The gun is about 3.5 meters (11.5 feet) long excluding the barrel length in the turret, which is about the same length as the Panzer IV’s 7.5 cm KwK 40 L/48 gun.

7.5 cm Pak 40 located on top of Fort Briggs.
Source: FMA: Brotherhood Anime

The available ammunition of the cannon is unclear. In a scene, the commander of Fort Briggs orders her soldiers to remove the fuses from the shells. This could suggest that the only type of ammunition is APHE, as the explosions during the coup détat of Colonel Mustang are relatively small.

The hull machine gun is most likely an M1919 Browning HMG. This is because the soldiers of Fort Briggs are shown to use this type of machine gun during the coup d’état. It would be logical for the Briggs Tank to use this machine gun as well.

Service

The service of the FMA: Brotherhood Briggs Tank is nearly identical to the service of the Manga Briggs Tank. The only real difference is how the events occur during the battle between King Bradley and the Briggs Tank. While the Briggs Tank is on top of a large staircase in the manga, the Briggs tank in the anime is stationed right in front of the stairs and the lift to the top of Central Headquarters.

King Bradley right before his assault on the Briggs position.
Source: FMA: Brotherhood Anime

When King Bradley engages the tank in battle, he manages to cut a tank shell in half with his sword after it was fired upon him (an obviously impossible feat in the real world) and proceeds to advance on the tank, while deflecting hull machine gun fire with his sword. As a panic reaction, the crew of the tank starts reversing at high speed to the staircase, nearly driving over two fellow Briggs soldiers. Still reversing on the ramp to Central Headquarters, King Bradley still manages to evade the tank fire upon him. By using the blast of a shell, King Bradley launches himself to the tank and stabs the driver through the driver’s vision port. While the co-driver is ordered to take over, King Bradley cuts through both tracks of the Briggs tank. The tank slides to the side as a result, smashing the main gun into a wall. The commander of the tank opens his hatch in an attempt to shoot King Bradley with his pistol but is killed in the attempt by King Bradley. King Bradley subsequently throws a grenade in the tank and destroys it.

Briggs Tank reversing on the staircase, trying to distance itself from King Bradley.
Source: FMA: Brotherhood Anime

Realism

As with the manga Briggs Tank, this version is also unrealistic for its time period, around 1914. The vehicle is almost completely based on a tank developed in 1935, and some specific features, like the main gun and side skirts, appeared a lot later as well. Considering this is seemingly the first tank of Amestris, and possibly the world, the advancements in this tank are too great. From utilising a torsion bar suspension, its weight, its main gun, and side skirts, the Briggs Tank in the anime is overal too modern. But this is when one compares the tank to our time and development. Amestris in the Brotherhood anime is shown to have technologies like panzershrecks and 7.5 cm Pak 40 guns, eventhough their enemies don’t seem to own any tanks. At the same time, some of the manufacturing processes which would have been used for the guns of Amestris are well into 1940s to 1950s technology. Overal, when one takes the technology of Amestris into account, it would definately be possible, allthough some design steps maybe a bit too much for a first attempt. Compared to the progression of tank development in our timeline, it would not be realistic.

Apart from its era, the anime Briggs tank is a realistic vehicle. This is not surprising since it is practically a redesigned copy of a Panzer IV, but integrates various other German tank features. The Anime Briggs Tank is a good fantasy tank, maybe not very original, but also not residing in the realms of absurdity. The artists can be commended for their research and integration of German vehicles, which helps to further strengthen the link between Amestris and Nazi Germany, which is a much more important theme in the Anime than in the original Manga.

Battle Tank FMA (2003)

The first appearance of the Battle Tank in the FMA anime is in episode 39. In a brief moment, a crew is seen performing maintenance on a Battle Tank. No other type of tank is shown in the anime.

Nothing is known about the development of the Battle Tank.

The Battle Tank in Detail

The specifications of the battle Tank are unknown and are analyzed in the same manner as the previous vehicles. The Battle Tank is around 3.6 meters (11.8 feet) long, 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) wide, and 2.5 (8.2 feet) meters tall. The Battle Tank is almost identical to the Renault FT, as such, it is estimated to weigh 6.7 tonnes (7.4 US-tons) combat-ready. The tank is most likely crewed by 2 crew members, like the Renault FT, consisting of a Commander/Gunner (turret) and Driver (front hull).

The Battle Tank in the FMA 2003 Anime.
Source: FMA 2003 Anime

Hull

The hull of the Battle Tank is pretty much a copy of the Renault FT. For this reason, it is estimated to have the same armor as the Renault FT. As such, it is estimated to have 16 mm (0.6 inch) on the front, sides, and rear of the hull, and between 6 to 8 mm (0.2 to 0.3 inch) on the top and bottom of the hull. The armor is most likely riveted together, like on the Renault FT. Some scenes show a few rivets on several places on the hull to support this theory.

Front shot of the Battle Tank.
Source: FMA 2003 Anime

The driver is located in the front of the vehicle. In contrast to the Renault FT, it looks like the driver cannot enter the vehicle through a front hull hatch, but only through the turret. An exhaust is located on both sides of the tank, and the engine is located in the rear of the vehicle.

Side shot of the Battle Tank.
Source: FMA 2003 Anime

Mobility

The engine of the Battle Tank is unknown, but based on the Renault FT, it probably has a 4 cylinder 35 hp engine. In the Anime, the vehicle is seen to move roughly at the same pace as infantry, but if this is its maximum speed is unclear.

The suspension is similar to the Renault FT’s coil and leaf spring combination suspension. The tank uses multiple road wheels on the bottom.

Suspension of the Battle Tank.
Source: FMA 2003 Anime

Turret

The turret is, together with the armament, the only part that differs more from the Renault FT. The turret is quite tall, an estimated 1 meter tall, but retains the overall shape of the Renault. It seems to have a small hatch on the rear, potentially for ejecting shell cases. It has a single pericope in some depictions, located at the front of the commander’s cupola. The Battle Tank’s turret also seems to have a plate on the side of the turret in some depictions. Its purpose is unknown. The armor is estimated, based on the Renault FT, to be 22 mm (0.9 inch) all-round, and 8 mm (0.3 inch) on the top of the turret.

Turret of the Battle Tank.
Source: FMA 2003 Anime

Armament

The armament of the Battle tank is unknown. Based on different measurements and ratios, it seems to mount a 100 mm cannon. This cannon would probably be a howitzer-type cannon. The ammunition could potentially consist of HE and Canister rounds.

Alternatively, it could be armed with the Puteaux 37 mm cannon of the Renault FT. This would be a more realistic gun. The Battle Tank could then have APHE, HE, and Canister rounds at its disposal.

No other armaments are shown in the anime to give any leads on possible sources for the Battle Tank’s gun.

Service

As the Battle Tank is available in reasonable numbers and the Amestrian Army operates it as a separate division, it can be concluded that the Battle Tank is already in service for an extended period of time and that the Amestrian Army has gained some experience in using tanks. Furthermore, the Battle Tank is shown to be used with motorized infantry support, which suggests that at least early steps are taken in combined arms warfare.

In the Anime, the Battle Tank is first shown in the preparations to assault the city of Lior (Liore in the FMA: Brotherhood Mange, originally Reole). The assault had multiple reasons. The Amestrian Army had gained intelligence that a large transmutation circle was being made, and they sent the State Alchemist, and protagonist, Edward Elric to investigate the circle.

In addition, a murderer named Scar (because of a cross-shaped scar on his forehead) was sighted in the city. Scar was a serial killer who specifically murdered State Alchemists to exact revenge for his deceased brother and near-exterminated race called the Ishbalans (Ishval in FMA: Brotherhood), and was one of the most wanted criminals in Amestris.

A third reason was a brief conflict incited by Lior under control of a theocratic government ruled by Father Cornello. It was a brief but bloody civil war which resulted in the defeat of Lior and its rebelling allies. There was still unrest in Lior as the civil war ended quite recently, and as a result, the commander of the assault, Colonel Frank Archer, was planning to invade Lior with the hope of Lior retaliation, so that he had a justification to exterminate the Lior people and race.

Around 7000 troops were gathered near Lior, which were supported by at least 18 Battle Tanks. At the arrival of Lior, the Amestrian Army spots Scar, and Colonel Archer subsequently orders his Battle Tank Division to surround Lior, and his troops to enter the city. This could mean that the Amestrian Army has experience with tanks in urban warfare, and have concluded that their Battle Tanks are not suited to fight in urban terrain.

Battle Tanks and Amestrian Soldiers gathered near Lior.
Source: FMA 2003 Anime

Not long after the assault of Lior has begun, State Alchemist Edward Elric reaches the Amestrian Army near Lior and has a brief argument with Colonel Archer about not accepting Lior’s surrender. Edward Elric identified the large transmutation circle to be one to create a philosopher’s stone. The activation of such a transmutation circle would result in the death of all persons within the circle and the creation of a philosopher’s stone consisting of human souls. This stone is an all-powerful Alchemy enhancing stone, giving the Alchemist the ability to ‘’circumvent’’ the laws of Alchemy and giving him immense power.

When the troops entered Lior, the Lior inhabitants had already fled the city as part of Scar’s plan. Not long after, Scar activates the transmutation circle, and, as a result, it is suggested that almost all of the 7000 soldiers participating in the assault were killed and turned into a philosopher’s stone. If any tank crews were killed in the assault is unknown, but highly unlikely, as they were ordered to surround the city, and thus were not within the transmutation circle.

Later, in the Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa movie, set immediately after the events of the Anime, tanks are used in the defence of Central City from Thule forces.

The FMA Thule Society is based on the real-life Thule Society, which operated during and after World War 1 until around the late 1920’s. They were a society who supported the DAP (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, German Workers’ Party), which would later become the Nazi party.

In the 2003 FMA universe, our reality is a counter reality to the FMA reality. Where our main science is physics, FMA’s main science is Alchemy. Due to certain events in the Anime, the story starts to overlap both realities. The Thule Society, led by Dietliende Eckhart, wanted to return power to Germany after the defeat of World War 1. They hoped to conquer the FMA reality and, as a result, gain valuable resources and heighten the political power of Germany.

Dietlinde Eckhart invaded the FMA Reality and wreaked havoc on the Amestrian soldiers stationed in Central City. With the help of her airship and her soldiers, they try to take Central Command. The Thule forces are met by soldiers under command of Colonel Mustang, and they manage to defeat the Thule Forces. In a very brief scene, 5 Battle Tanks are seen firing at the Thule Soldiers.

Not long after, Edward Elric, Alphonse Elric, and Colonel Mustang defeat Dietline Eckhart and her soldiers with the help of the Amestrian soldiers guarding Central Command.

No further usage of the Battle Tank is known.

Battle Tanks firing at Thule soldiers.
Source: FMA 2003 Anime

Realism

The Battle Tank is the most realistic vehicle of the three adaptations. It is more or less identical to the Renault FT, and as such, is realistic in the setting of FMA. The only questionable components are the tall turret, and its potentially high caliber gun. Apart from those two somewhat minor issues, the Battle Tank is a realistic vehicle that fits the time and the setting of the FMA Universe.

Although not particularly original, the artists made a good decision by using the Renault FT as a base template for the vehicle. For the viewers who know more about tanks, and as a result recognise the Renault FT design, it added more immersion to the overall FMA setting. In this aspect, it is a very well done tank in an Anime. Where the Briggs Tank of the FMA: Brotherhood Anime strengthens the linkage between Germany and Amestris, the Battle tank strengthens the linkage with the setting.

Conclusion

Of the three adaptations, the FMA Anime 2003 is the most realistic. By using a more or less identical Renault FT, the artists of the Anime have used a realistic tank that fits in the setting of FMA, and for the tank enthusiasts, adds to the overall immersion.

The FMA: Brotherhood Briggs Tank is the next most realistic tank in terms of practicality. Certain design aspects would be unrealistic, since it is suggested to be the first tank of the FMA: Brotherhood universe. By combining multiple aspects of German tanks and staying with these designs, the artists have managed to design a tank that looks realistic and serves to intensify the connection between Amestris and Germany.

The Manga tank is the least realistic, with its huge cannon, turret, and questionable lay-out. Aside from its realism, Hiromu Arakawa, the artist and writer of the manga, did a good job in incorporating real designs into a tank.

Overall, all the adaptations artists can be commended for their usage of design aspects of real vehicles. This shows that they put thought in how a tank is supposed to look, instead of just drawing something that resembles a tank, but is completely ridiculous. The attention in something like a tank for the adaptations adds to the quality of the series. It adds to the immersion, and in the instances of the animes, it helps strengthen certain aspects of the overall setting. As such, the tanks have a real contribution to the adaptations, albeit only for tank enthusiasts.

Illustrations

The Fullmetal Alchemist Manga Briggs Tank. Illustration done by Cut_22.
The FMA: Brotherhood Briggs tank. Illustration by Cut_22.
The Fullmetal Alchemist 2003 Battle Tank. Illustration done by Cut_22.

Sources

Fullmetal Alchemist 2003 Anime
Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Fullmetal Alchemist Manga
https://fma.fandom.com/wiki/Main_Page

References for the comparisons:
Operation Priority: The Data by Jaycee Davis
Ferdinand Elefant Vol. 1 and 2 by Tadeusz Melleman
http://catainium.blogspot.com/2016/04/vk-3001-hpanzer-vi-h-heavy-tank.html
https://tanks-encyclopedia.com/ww2/nazi_germany/panzer_iv.php
https://tanks-encyclopedia.com/ww2/nazi_germany/panzer-vi_tiger.php
https://tanks-encyclopedia.com/ww2/germany/AT-guns/7-5-cm-pak-40
https://tanks-encyclopedia.com/lincoln-no-1-machine/
https://tanks-encyclopedia.com/ww2/nazi_germany/panzer_maus.php
https://tanks-encyclopedia.com/maus-ii/

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Type 1 Technical (Toyota Land Cruiser 70 Series)

Various Users (1984-Present)
Technical – Thousands built

The face of warfare is constantly changing and evolving. New technologies can turn battles and wars in the favor of the force that wields them. This can be seen throughout history, but the pace of technological advancement in the last 150 years can be said to be greater than that of the previous 2,000. Since the 1850s, with the Crimean War and the first modern breech-loading artillery, the pace of innovation has been truly staggering. The American Civil War gave us the Gatling Gun and the submarine, ironclad warships, and the use of gun turrets that would lead to the first modern battleships, along with the torpedo. The 1880s saw the invention of four very much interdependent technologies; smokeless powder, modern Spitzer bullets, the Maxim Machinegun, and the Lebel Rifle. World War I put those innovations to deadly use, along with the first chemical weapons, warplanes, and tanks. Between the wars came the invention of the aircraft carrier and radar. World War II would see the biggest leap forward in technology man has ever known; rocket- and jet-powered aircraft, helicopters, guided munitions, infrared vision devices, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, aircraft, tanks, and ships the sizes and capabilities of which exceeded those ever thought possible, the first man-made object in space, and the atomic bomb. In modern times, computers and electronics form the backbone of cutting-edge technology. During the Cold War, having encountered the upper feasible limits for conventional technology such as planes and tanks, the world’s superpowers had to turn to electronics to advance further. The Su-57, F-35 Lightning II, AH-64E Apache Guardian, Leopard 2A7+, and Virginia-class submarine represent the current cream of the crop in regards to vehicular weaponry.

With this in mind, you might be forgiven for thinking the most widely used and numerous ground combat vehicle of the modern age is one of these technological marvels. Is it the Leopard 2, which has over a dozen operators worldwide? Or perhaps the M1 Abrams, which has had a solid presence in the Middle East since 1990? Or even the venerable old T-72? The answer is none of these; it’s a Toyota.

Intrepid

The Toyota Land Cruiser 70 Series, also known as the J70, first came onto the scene in November 1984. The Land Cruiser 70 Series was an improvement on the 40 Series, at the time already over 20 years old. Development was headed by Toyota Lead Engineer Masaomi Yoshii. The Land Cruiser was redesigned from the ground up for the 70 Series, and the end result was a vehicle that had its roots in the design of the 40 Series, but tweaked and improved in almost every way. The chassis was of ladder-frame construction, one of the simplest and most rugged ways of building a car. The body panels were thickened and given “modern” styling. The suspension was copied from the 40 Series, but with the front widened by 14mm, and the rear widened by 30mm, plus an anti-roll bar. The 70 Series was, and is, produced in Japan, by Toyota’s Honsha Plant, as well as in Venezuela and Portugal. It was offered world-wide at launch, except for in Brazil, Mexico, India, Korea, and the United States.

Toyota chassis numbers may look random, but if you know their meanings, they can tell you the exact type of vehicle they describe. “J” is seen in the middle of all chassis codes on this page, this is because J is the letter used for Land Cruiser. “J7” is the Land Cruiser 70 Series. The number that comes after J7 denotes the chassis type. J70, J71, and J72 are short wheelbase models; J73 and J74 are medium wheelbase models; J75 is a heavy duty model; J76 and J77 are medium-long wheelbase models; J78 and J79 are long wheelbase or heavy duty models, depending on the generation. The letter(s) that come before “J7” denote what engine that model uses. Below is a list that explains the engine prefix meanings.

Land Cruiser 70 Series Prefix/Engine Guide. “X” represents a given model number, from 0 to 9.
BJ7X – 3B diesel engine (3.4 liter, 97 hp, inline 4)
BJ71/74 – 13B-T turbodiesel engine (3.4 liter, 120 hp, inline 4)
FJ7X – 3F gasoline engine (4 liter, 153 hp, inline 6)
FZJ7X – 1FZ-F gasoline engine (4.5 liter, ~190 hp, inline 6)
FZJ7X-K – 1FZ-FE gasoline engine (4.5 liter, ~210 hp, inline 6)
GRJ7X – 1GR-FE gasoline engine (4 liter, 228 hp, V6)
HDJ7X – 1HD-FTE turbodiesel engine (4.2 liter, 163 hp, inline 6)
HJ7X – 2H diesel engine (4 liter, 113 hp, inline 6)
HZJ7X – 1HZ diesel engine (4.2 liter, 133 hp, inline 6)
KZJ70/73/77 – 1KZ-T diesel engine (3 liter, 125 hp, inline 4)
KZJ71/78 – 1KZ-TE diesel engine (3 liter, 145 hp, inline 4)
LJ7X – 2L turbodiesel engine (2.4 liter, ~80 hp, inline 4)
LJ7X-X – 2L-T turbodiesel engine (2.4 liter, ~90 hp, inline 4)
LJ7X-T – 2L-TE turbodiesel engine (2.4 liter, 97 hp, inline 4)
LJ72 – 3L diesel engine (2.8 liter, ~90 hp, inline 4)
PZJ7X – 1PZ diesel engine (3.5 liter, 113 hp, inline 5)
RJ7X – 22R gasoline engine (2.4 liter, power varies, inline 4)
VDJ7X – 1VD-FTV diesel engine (4.5 liter, 200 hp, V8)

After “J7X” there is usually one or two suffix letters. If there is no suffix at all, or if “V” is not one of the suffix letters, then it means the vehicle is a soft top. “V” represents a hardtop wagon body, and is the most common suffix letter. “G” means it is a 3 door wagon (this was only used on the Land Cruiser Prado). For markets outside of Japan, “L” or “R” was added to the code, denoting whether the steering wheel was on the left or the right. “H” represents a 4 door vehicle with a rear hatch, this is often seen paired with “V” to designate a 5 door wagon, or van (technically Toyota considers this a van). This is not always the case, as J73s with the suffix “HV” do not have 5 doors, but are classified in Japan as “1 Number” vehicles; meaning they are taxed more heavily due to being bigger than “4 Number” minitrucks, which is the class the J73 usually resides in. The actual, physical difference between a V and HV J73 is not clear.
Land Cruiser 70 Series Chassis Code Suffix Guide:
G – 3 door wagon
H – 5 door wagon
K – ?
L – Left hand drive
P – Pickup
R – Right hand drive
V – 2 door van
W – Widebody wagon

After the suffix, there is an extension separated from the main code by a dash. Letters in this code indicate trim level, transmission type, engine sub-type, where the vehicle was to be marketed, and whether the vehicle was distributed as a complete or incomplete truck.

Land Cruiser 70 Series Chassis Code Extension Guide:
3 – Sold as a chassis and cab with no bed or superstructure
E – VX or SX5 trim
G – EX5 trim
K – 4-speed manual transmission
K (if in addition to K, M, or P) – Canadian market
K (if an FZJ model, in addition to K, M, or P) – 1FZ-FE engine
M – 5-speed manual transmission
N – STD or LX5 trim
N (if in addition to N, R, or E) – South African market
P – Automatic transmission
Q – Australian market
R – LX trim
S – Compliant with 1988 emissions controls for diesels for Japan
T – 2L-TE engine
U – Compliant with 1989 emissions controls for diesels for Japan
V, Before January 1990 – Middle East market
V, After January 1990 – Gulf Cooperation Council market (Arabian Peninsula)
W – European market
X – 2L-T engine
Y – ?

Click here to collapse in-depth model history

For its debut, three models of the 70 Series were offered; the short wheelbase J70, the medium wheelbase J73, and the heavy duty J75. The J70 and J73 came in three basic trim levels; a soft top, a hard top, and a higher trim hardtop. The BJ75, due to being a work truck, only came in base level trim, though it could be configured as either a J75V wagon, like the normal Land Cruiser, or as a J75P pickup truck. The J75 was not available in the Japanese or Canadian markets. The J73 was not available in right hand drive “General” markets, or in Canada; in fact Canada only had one option for the 70 Series; the BJ70LV-MRK.

There were five engine options and three transmission options to pick from. The standard engine was the Toyota 3B, a 3.4 liter inline 4 diesel engine that made 97 hp. Trucks with this engine were called BJ70s, BJ73s, and BJ75s. The 3B was the only engine offered in Japan and Canada at this time. A step above the 3B was the 2H diesel, a 4 liter inline 6 making 113 hp. The 2H was only available for the J75 heavy duty model, and only in the Australian and “General” markets. Trucks with this engine were called HJ75s. The third and final diesel engine available was the 2L, a 2.4 liter inline 4 making around 80 hp. Only the J70 could be optioned with this engine, and only in European and General markets. With this engine, the vehicle was called LJ70.

Two gasoline engines were available. The 22R was the smaller of the two; it was a 2.4 liter inline 4, the power output of which is not certain, but was in the range of 90 hp. The 22R was only available for the J70, though not in Japan or Canada. With this engine, the vehicle was called RJ70. Finally, the most powerful engine was the 3F, a 4 liter inline 6 making a whopping 153 hp. This engine was an option for all three models in the Australian, Middle Eastern, and General markets as the HJ70, HJ73, and HJ75.

By far the most common transmission option was a 5-speed manual; this was the only option offered in Japan, Australia, Canada, and Europe. A 4-speed manual was offered in the General markets; and a 4-speed automatic was available in a few models in the Middle East and in left hand drive General markets.

 

A 1986 BJ70-MR soft top — the most basic model of the 70 Series. Source: Land Cruiser Heritage Museum
 
A 1988 BJ70V-MR hardtop — notice the only difference to the BJ70-MR is the roof. This particular vehicle also has the front electric winch option and served as a golf course maintenance vehicle, hence the writing on the side “柳井カントリー倶楽部” (Yanai Country Club). Source: Land Cruiser Heritage Museum
 
A 1988 FJ73L-MR — notice the stretched portion of the body before the rear tire; this can be used to tell a J73 or J74 from a J70 or J71. Source: Land Cruiser Heritage Museum
 
A 1988 HJ75RV-MRQ wagon — this vehicle has been optioned with a bullbar and a snorkel, and features an aftermarket pop-up camper roof. Source: Land Cruiser Heritage Museum

The standard model BJ70V-MR weighed 1,750 kg (3,858 lb) (-10 kg (22 lb) for the soft-top version), measured 3.975 m (13 ft) long bumper to bumper, 1.690 m (5 ft 7 in) wide, 1.895 m (6 ft 3 in) tall (+10 mm for the soft top version), and had a wheelbase of 2.310 m (7 ft 7 in). The BJ70V-MN (higher trim package) was slightly longer, at 4.235 m (13 ft 11 in), due to having a front winch, as well as 20 kg (44 lb) heavier.

The BJ73V-MR weighed 1,800 kg (3,968 lb), measured 4.265 m (14 ft) bumper to bumper, 1.690 m (5 ft 7 in) wide, 1.940 m (6 ft 4 in) tall, and had a wheelbase of 2.6 m (8 ft 6 in). Like the BJ70, the MN version of the BJ73 was longer, 4.525 m (14 ft 10 in), and heavier due to having a winch; it was also 25 mm lower. Wheel track for all versions was 1.420 m (4 ft 8 in). Optional extras for the Japanese market included climate control, a CB radio, Land Cruiser branded seat upholstery, a Land Cruiser branded spare tire cover, a roof rack, rear window curtains (BJ73 only), and a footrest in the driver’s well.

The heavy duty HJ75RP-MRQ weighed 1,755 kg (3,869 lb), measured 4.875 m (16 ft) long, 1.690 m (5 ft 7 in) wide, 1.935 m (6 ft 4 in) tall, and had a wheelbase of 2.980 m (9 ft 9 in).

November 1984 Land Cruiser 70 Series Lineup:

  • Japan
    • BJ70-MR
    • BJ70V-MR
    • BJ70V-MN
    • BJ73V-MR
    • BJ73V-MN
  • Australia
    • BJ70RV-MRQ
    • BJ73RV-MRQ
    • RJ70R-MRQ
    • RJ70RV-MRQ
    • FJ70RV-MRQ
    • FJ73RV-MRQ
    • FJ75RP-MRQ3
    • FJ75RV-MRQ
    • HJ75RP-MRQ
    • HJ75RP-MRQ3
    • HJ75RV-MRQ
  • Canada
    • BJ70LV-MRK
  • Europe
    • BJ70LV-MRW
    • BJ73LV-MRW
    • BJ75LP-MRW
    • BJ75LV-MRW
    • RJ70LV-MRW
    • LJ70L-MRW
    • LJ70LV-MRW
  • Middle East
    • RJ70L-MRV
    • RJ70LV-MRV
    • FJ70L-MRV
    • FJ70LV-MRV
    • FJ70LV-PRV
    • FJ73L-MRV
    • FJ73LV-MRV
    • FJ73LV-PRV
    • FJ75LP-MRV
    • FJ75LV-MRV
  • General Left Hand Drive Markets
    • BJ70L-KR
    • BJ70LV-KR
    • BJ70LV-MR
    • BJ75LP-KR
    • BJ75LV-KR
    • RJ70L-KR
    • RJ70L-MR
    • RJ70LV-KR
    • FJ70L-KR
    • FJ70L-MR
    • FJ70L-PR
    • FJ70LV-KR
    • FJ70LV-MR
    • FJ70LV-PR
    • FJ73L-KR
    • FJ73L-MR
    • FJ73LV-MR
    • FJ75LP-KR
    • FJ75LP-KR3
    • FJ75LP-MR
    • FJ75LP-MR3
    • FJ75LV-KR
    • FJ75LV-MR
    • LJ70L-KR
    • LJ70LV-KR
    • LJ70LV-MR
    • HJ75LP-KR
    • HJ75LV-KR
  • General Right Hand Drive Markets
    • BJ70R-KR
    • BJ70RV-KR
    • BJ70RV-MR
    • BJ75RP-KR
    • BJ75RP-KR3
    • BJ75RP-MR3
    • BJ75RV-KR
    • RJ70RV-KR
    • FJ70R-KR
    • FJ70RV-KR
    • FJ70RV-MR
    • FJ75RP-KR
    • FJ75RP-KR3
    • FJ75RP-MR
    • FJ75RP-MR3
    • FJ75RV-KR
    • LJ70R-KR
    • LJ70RV-KR
    • LJ70RV-MR
    • HJ75RP-KR
    • HJ75RP-KR3
    • HJ75RP-MR
    • HJ75RV-KR

The first revision to the 70 Series lineup came in October 1985. The FJ75RP-MR, LJ70L-MRW, LJ70LV-MRW, LJ70RV-MR, and HJ75RP-MR were discontinued. 19 new models were added, including the first J71s and J74s, the first 70 Series powered by a 13B-T engine, the first 70 Series powered by a 2L-T engine, the first 70 Series with a turbocharger, and the first model specifically made for South Africa.

The BJ71 and BJ74 were essentially the BJ70 and BJ73 powered by the 13B-T turbodiesel engine. The 13B-T was based on the same block as the 3B that powered the normal BJ70, but with a turbocharger that increased the power output to 120 hp. The BJ71 was introduced in the Japanese and European markets, and the B74 in the Australian market. The BJ71 and BJ73 were the first 70 Series to bring an automatic transmission to the Japanese and Australian markets. October 1985 also marked the first time a 70 Series with the 2L-series engine was available in Australia and in Japan. The 2L engine being used in this generation was the 2L-T, a 2L with a turbocharger that increased the power output by about 10 hp, giving around 90 hp total. Introduced in Japan only, the new LJ71G-MEX (lower, SX5 trim level) and LJ71G-MNX (higher, LX5 trim level) models represented a new lineage that was called the “Light Land Cruiser”, the Land Cruiser II, Toyota Bundera, and finally Land Cruiser Prado. As it would finally come to be known, the Prado was a more comfort-oriented version of the J70. It had a smoother front grille and coil spring suspension rather than heavy duty leaf springs. Despite having nearly the same body as the J70, due to its purpose, the LJ71 was given the suffix “G”, denoting a 3 door family wagon; while the J70 had the suffix “V”, denoting a 2 door work van.

 

A 1986 LJ71G-MEX “Light Land Cruiser” — notice the narrower wheelbase and redesigned front grille compared to the BJ70. Source: Land Cruiser Heritage Museum
 
A 1989 example BJ71V-MNX. Source: Land Cruiser Heritage Museum
 
A 1989 BJ74V-MNX with front electric winch option. Source: Land Cruiser Heritage Museum

For the first time, the trim levels of the 70 Series were now given names. As already mentioned, SX5 and LX5 were the trim options for the LJ71G. For the main line 70 Series, the base models were given the unfortunate designation “STD”, meaning Standard, and the higher trim options were given the name LX.

October 1985 Land Cruiser 70 Series Lineup New Additions:

  • Japan
    • BJ71V-MNX
    • BJ74V-MNX
    • BJ74V-PNX
    • LJ71G-MEX
    • LJ71G-MNX
  • Australia
    • BJ74RV-MRXQ
    • BJ74RV-PRXQ
    • FJ73RV-PRQ
    • LJ70RV-MRXQ
  • Europe
    • BJ71LV-MRXW
    • BJ73LV-MPW
    • RJ73LV-MRW
    • LJ70L-MRXW
    • LJ70LV-MRXW
    • LJ73LV-MRXW
  • South Africa
    • HJ75RP-MRN
  • General Left Hand Drive Markets
    • LJ70LV-MRX
    • HJ75LP-MR
  • General Right Hand Drive Markets
    • LJ70RV-MRX

In August 1986, 23 models were discontinued: BJ70LV-MRK, BJ71LV-MRXW, BJ73RV-MRQ, BJ74RV-MRXQ, BJ74RV-PRXQ, BJ75RP-KR3, RJ70L-MR, RJ70RV-MRQ, RJ73LV-MRW, FJ70R-KR, FJ70L-PR, FJ70LV-PR, FJ70LV-PRV, FJ73LV-MR, FJ73LV-MRV, FJ73RV-MRQ, FJ73LV-PRV, FJ73RV-PRQ, FJ75LP-KR3, LJ70LV-MRX, LJ70RV-MRX, LJ70RV-MRXQ, and LJ73LV-MRXW.

As the only Canadian model, the BJ70LV-MRK, was retired, a new one was introduced to replace it — BJ70LV-MNK. These were the only two 70 Series models made specifically for the Canadian market. Besides the BJ70LV-MNK, 46 other new models were introduced. There is not that much notable change; primarily it was phasing out unpopular models and introducing new options that were hoped to be popular in a given region. The one change worth mentioning, however, is the introduction of the VX trim package. VX was the new highest trim level; 16 of the new models were VX trim. VX trim was only applied to the J70, J73, and J74. It is denoted by the letter “E” in the extension code.

August 1986 Land Cruiser 70 Series Lineup New Additions:

  • Australia
    • BJ73RV-MNQ
    • BJ74RV-MNXQ
    • BJ74RV-PNXQ
    • BJ74RV-PEXQ
    • RJ70RV-MNQ
    • RJ70RV-MEQ
    • FJ73RV-MNQ
    • FJ73RV-PNQ
    • FJ73RV-MEQ
    • FJ73RV-PEQ
    • LJ70RV-MNXQ
    • LJ70RV-MEXQ
  • Europe
    • BJ70RV-MRW
    • BJ70LV-MNW
    • BJ73LV-MNW
    • BJ75LP-MRW3
    • RJ70LV-MNW
    • LJ70LV-MNXW
    • LJ70RV-MNXW
    • LJ73LV-MNXW
  • Middle East
    • RJ70LV-MNV
    • RJ70LV-MEV
    • FJ70LV-MNV
    • FJ70LV-PNV
    • FJ70LV-MEV
    • FJ70LV-PEV
    • FJ73LV-MNV
    • FJ73LV-PNV
    • FJ73LV-MEV
    • FJ73LV-PEV
    • FJ75LP-MNV
  • General Left Hand Drive Markets
    • BJ70LV-KN
    • BJ70LV-MN
    • BJ73LV-MN
    • RJ70LV-KN
    • RJ70LV-MN
    • FJ70LV-KN
    • FJ70LV-MN
    • FJ70LV-PN
    • FJ73LV-MN
    • LJ70LV-KN
    • LJ70LV-MN
    • LJ70LV-MNX
  • General Right Hand Drive Markets
    • BJ73R-KR
    • RJ70RV-KN
    • LJ70RV-KN

One month later, in September 1986, the BJ71LV-MNXW model was introduced to the European market. Some time later 1986, production of the 70 Series was started by Toyota de Venezuela in Cumaná, Venezuela. Models from the Venezuelan plant went on sale in South America in 1987.

In August 1987, the Canadian BJ70LV-MNK was retired for good. In September, the BJ75LP-MRV was introduced to the Middle Eastern market, and the LJ70LV-MEXW was introduced to the European market. In January of 1988, the LJ70RV-MEXW was introduced to the European market as well.

In 1987, carrying over into 1988, there was a very small production run of the BJ74 modified to have four doors. At the request of the Toyota dealer in Nagoya, Japan, a run of BJ74 chassis were fitted with BJ70 cabins specially lengthened to add a second set of doors. The success and demand for this model would prompt Toyota to release the first true 4 door 70 Series two years later.

 

A rare 4 door 1988 BJ74. This particular vehicle is a BJ74V-PNX. Source: Land Cruiser Heritage Museum

August 1988 saw the retirement of 28 more 1984 and 1986 models; BJ70L-KR, BJ70LV-KN, BJ70RV-MR, BJ70RV-MRW, BJ70LV-MNW, BJ74RV-PEXQ, BJ75LP-MRW3, RJ70L-MRV, RJ70R-MRQ, RJ70LV-MRV, RJ70LV-MRW, RJ70LV-KN, RJ70RV-KN, RJ70LV-MEV, RJ70RV-MEQ, FJ70L-KR, FJ70L-MRV, FJ70RV-MR, FJ70LV-KN, FJ70LV-PEV, FJ73L-KR, FJ73RV-MEQ, FJ73LV-PEV, FJ73RV-PEQ, LJ70R-KR, LJ70LV-KN, LJ70RV-KN, and LJ70RV-MEXQ. These were primarily European, Middle Eastern, and Australian models. In December 1988, the RJ70LV-MNEW and RJ73LV-MNEW were added to the European market lineup.

In January 1990, the 70 Series lineup underwent its first major overhaul. 52 models were discontinued and 49 models, primarily those of the General left hand drive market, were retained. 40 new mdels were added. The Toyota 3B engine that powered the majority of the 70 Series range was retired (though it continued to be used in the BJ73LV-MPW until February 1994) and was replaced with te new 1PZ, 3.5 liter inline 5, making 113 hp. Likewise, the 13B-T engine of the J71 and J74 was exchanged for the new 1HZ, 4.2 liter inline 6 diesel, making 133 hp. Both the 1PZ and the 1HZ could power the J70, J73, and J75, depending on the customer’s preference. In Japan, the J70 only had the option of the 1PZ, and the J73 only had the option of the 1HZ. In Australia, you could not get the J75 with the 1PZ; in Europe, the opposite was true, all models were available except the HZJ75. The HZJ75 was the only new engine option given to the Middle East market. No new engine options were given to the South African market. The HZJ70 and HZJ73 were not available on the General markets, nor was the PZJ73 available in General left hand drive. The General markets were the only markets to continue to use the 4-speed manual transmission; all other markets were now limited to the 5-speed manual, with the occasional automatic. VX level trim was rebranded to ZX; it was now only available on the medium and medium-long wheelbase models (J73 and J74, and later J76 and J77). The 2H engine and HJ75 range that it powered were also discontinued at this time, except for the South African HJ75RP-MRN, which continued on until August 1991.

The Middle Eastern market was renamed to the GCC market. GCC stands for Gulf Cooperation Council; the GCC is an economic union of 6 countries on the Arabian Peninsula that was formed in 1981. The GCC comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. This was a change in name only and was likely an effort by Toyota to not be seen selling vehicles to the controversial countries of Iran and Iraq, though Toyota did have some dealings with Iraq both before and after this change.

The base model, PZJ70-MRS, gained only 10 kg (22 lb) in this generation, with the step up to PZJ70V-MRS being another 10 kg, and the step to PZJ70V-MNS being yet again 10 kg. The HZJ73 model, however, was quite a deal heavier than the old BJ73. Depending on model, the HZJ73 ranged between 1,960 and 2,020 kg (4,321 to 4,453 lb).

Dimensions for the PZJ70 were the same as those for the old BJ70, with the exception of the -MNS being noticeably less tall, at 1.885 m (6 ft 2 in). The new ZX level HZJ73 was considerably larger than the BJ73. It measured 4.455 m (14 ft 7 in) long bumper to bumper, 1.790 m (5 ft 10 in) wide, 1.950 m (6 ft 5 in) tall (+20 mm for the HV model), yet it retained the same wheelbase as the old model — 2.6 m (8 ft 6 in). Optional extras for the Japanese market included climate control, a front bullbar as well as optional lights for it, a Land Cruiser branded spare tire cover, a roof rack for skis, a rear ladder, side decals- either a zig-zag stripe or the word “Cruising”, and curtains for the rear windows (J73 only).

 

A 1991 PZJ70V-MNS — this model is visually almost unchanged from the original BJ70. Source: Land Cruisers Direct
 
A 1990 HZJ73HV-PEU — a ZX model with all the options. Source: Land Cruisers Direct

n, and was the only one offered with an automatic transmission. The HZJ77 was also bigger than the PZJ77, and was billed as the 70 Series “wide body”. The HZJ77 came exclusively in ZX trim; the PZJ77 and all other J77s came in STD and LX trim. The PZJ77 in standard trim weighed 1,920 kg (4.233 lb) and 2,030 (4,475 lb) in LX trim. The HZJ77 weighed either 2,090 or 2,130 kg (4,608 or 4,696 lb) depending on if it had a manual or autom
January 1990 Land Cruiser 70 Series Lineup. Models retained from previous generations marked in bold.

  • Japan
    • HZJ73HV-MES
    • HZJ73HV-MEU
    • HZJ73HV-PEU
    • PZJ70-MRS
    • PZJ70V-MRS
    • PZJ70V-MNS
  • Australia
    • RJ70RV-MNQ
    • FJ70RV-MRQ
    • FJ73RV-MNQ
    • FJ75RP-MRQ3
    • FJ75RV-MRQ
    • LJ70RV-MNXQ
    • HZJ70RV-MRQ
    • HZJ73RV-MNQ
    • HZJ73RV-PNQ
    • HZJ75RP-MRQ
    • HZJ75RP-MRQ3
    • HZJ75RV-MRQ
    • PZJ70RV-MRQ
    • PZJ73RV-MNQ
  • Europe
    • BJ73LV-MPW
    • RJ70LV-MNW
    • RJ70LV-MNEW
    • RJ73LV-MNEW
    • LJ70L-MRXW
    • LJ70LV-MRXW
    • LJ70LV-MNXW
    • LJ70RV-MNXW
    • LJ70LV-MEXW
    • LJ70RV-MEXW
    • LJ73LV-MNXW
    • LJ73LV-MEXW
    • HZJ70LV-MNW
    • HZJ73LV-MNW
    • PZJ70LV-MRW
    • PZJ73LV-MRW
    • PZJ75LP-MRW
    • PZJ75LV-MRW
  • GCC (Middle East)
    • FJ70LV-MRV
    • FJ70LV-MNV
    • FJ73L-MRV
    • FJ73LV-MNV
    • FJ73LV-PNV
    • FJ75LP-MRV
    • FJ75LP-MNV
    • FJ75LV-MRV
    • HZJ75LP-MRV
  • South Africa
    • FJ75RP-MRN
    • HJ75RP-MRN
  • General Left Hand Drive Markets
    • RJ70L-KR
    • RJ70LV-KR
    • RJ70LV-MN
    • FJ70L-MR
    • FJ70LV-KR
    • FJ70LV-MR
    • FJ70LV-MN
    • FJ70LV-PN
    • FJ73L-MR
    • FJ73LV-MN
    • FJ75LP-KR
    • FJ75LP-MR
    • FJ75LP-MR3
    • FJ75LV-KR
    • FJ75LV-MR
    • LJ70LV-MNX
    • HZJ75LP-MR
    • HZJ75LV-KR
    • PZJ70LV-KR
    • PZJ70LV-MR
    • PZJ70LV-MN
    • PZJ75LP-KR
    • PZJ75LP-KR3
    • PZJ75LV-KR
  • General Right Hand Drive Markets
    • RJ70RV-KR
    • FJ70RV-KR
    • FJ75RP-KR
    • FJ75RP-KR3
    • FJ75RP-MR3
    • FJ75RV-KR
    • HZJ75RP-KR
    • HZJ75RP-KR3
    • HZJ75RP-MR
    • HZJ75RV-MR
    • PZJ70R-KR
    • PZJ70RV-KR
    • PZJ73R-KR
    • PZJ75RP-KR
    • PZJ75RP-MR3
    • PZJ75RV-KR

Four months later, in April 1990, two new medium-long (2.730 m, 8 ft 11 in) wheelbase versions of the 70 Series were added to the lineup — the J77 and J79. These were the first of the 70 Series family to have four doors, excepting the special run of BJ74. The J77 used four different engine types: the 2L-T diesel engine was offered in Europe and the General markets; the 22R gasoline engine was offered to the Middle East, and in the General markets; and the new 1PZ and 1HZ were reserved for the Japanese market. The J79 was only given the 2L-T, and it was only sold on the General markets. Strangely, Australia was not given any four door model, despite historically being where the Land Cruiser sold best.

 

A 1990 HZJ77HV-PEU — a ZX model with all the options. Source: Land Cruisers Direct

In Japan, the 1HZ engine was seen as the higher option, and was the only one offered with an automatic transmission. The HZJ77 was also bigger than the PZJ77, and was billed as the 70 Series “wide body”. The HZJ77 came exclusively in ZX trim; the PZJ77 and all other J77s came in STD and LX trim. The PZJ77 in standard trim weighed 1,920 kg (4.233 lb) and 2,030 (4,475 lb) in LX trim. The HZJ77 weighed either 2,090 or 2,130 kg (4,608 or 4,696 lb) depending on if it had a manual or automatic transmission. The PZJ77 measured 4.685 m (15 ft 4 in) long in standard trim and 4.805 m (15 ft 9 in) in LX trim; 1.690 m (5 ft 7 in) wide in either trim, and 1.9 m (6 ft 3 in) tall in either trim. The HZJ77 measured the same as the PZJ77, except that it was instead 1.790 m (5 ft 10 in) wide, and 1.935 m (6 ft 4 in) tall.

April 1990 Land Cruiser 70 Series Medium-long Wheelbase Lineup:

  • Japan
    • HZJ77HV-MEU
    • HZJ77HV-PEU
    • PZJ77V-MRS
    • PZJ77V-MNS
    • PZJ77HV-MRU
    • PZJ77HV-MNU
  • Europe
    • LJ77LV-MNXW
  • GCC (Middle East)
    • RJ77LV-MNV
  • General Left Hand Drive Markets
    • RJ77LV-KR
    • RJ77LV-MN
    • LJ77LV-MNX
    • LJ79LV-KR
    • LJ79LV-MN
  • General Right Hand Drive Markets
    • RJ77RV-KR
    • RJ77RV-MN
    • LJ77RV-MNX
    • LJ79RV-KR
    • LJ79RV-MN

At the same time, the “Light” Land Cruiser family was split away into the seperate Toyota Prado. Like the mainline Land Cruiser, a new four door model with a medium-long wheelbase was introduced, the J78. The now-Toyota Prado LJ71G and LJ78G switched to the more modern 2L-TE turbodiesel with electronic fuel injection. Thus the LJ78G became a more “off-roady” version of the Land Cruiser 80 Series that was launched the same year. The Toyota Prado inherited the original LJ71G trim names, while, like the 70 Series, adding a third. These were LX5, SX5, and EX5; only the LJ78 could be had in EX5 level trim. The LX5 package only came with a 5 speed manual transmission, while the SX5 and EX5 had the option for a 4 speed automatic.

 

A 1991 LJ71G-PET — apart from the wheels and front grille, it is externally unchanged from the 1986 model. Source: Land Cruiser Heritage Museum
 
A 1991 LJ78G-PGT — this example has been optioned out with a roof rack and rear ladder. Source: Land Cruiser Heritage Museum

The 1990 Prado family ranged from 1,690 kg (3,726 lb) at the lightest, to 1,920 kg (4,233 lb) at the heaviest. The LJ71G models measured 3.945 m (12 ft 11 in) long from the front of the bumper to the spare tire mount, 1.690 m (5 ft 7 in) wide, and 1.895 m tall (6 ft 3 in). Length of the wheelbase was 2.310 m (7 ft 7 in), and the car sat 4 people. The LJ78G models of the Prado measured 4.585 m (15 ft 1 in) long from the front of the bumper to the spare tire mount, 1.690 m (5 ft 7 in) wide, and 1.890 m (6 ft 2 in) tall (+15 mm for the EX models). Length of the wheelbase was 2.730 m (8 ft 11 in), and the car sat 6 people. The turning circle was 5.3 meters (17 ft 5 in) for the short wheelbase models, and 6.1 meters (20 feet) for the medium wheelbase models. Options were generally the same as for the regular 70 Series, but without the rear window curtains. The Toyota Prado was sold exclusively to the Japanese market.

April 1990 Land Cruiser Prado Lineup:

  • Japan
    • LJ71G-MET
    • LJ71G-MNT
    • LJ71G-PET
    • LJ78G-MNT
    • LJ78G-MET
    • LJ78G-PET
    • LJ78G-MGT
    • LJ78G-PGT

Also added for this generation only was the J72. The J72 was a short wheelbase model that only saw production from April 1990 to May 1993, with the hardtop KR models lasting until April 1996. The J72 was externally identical to the J70 and J71, the difference being the engine. The J72 was the only 70 Series to use the Toyota 3L engine; a 2.8 liter inline 4 making around 90 hp.

April 1990 Land Cruiser J72 Lineup:

  • General Left Hand Drive Markets
    • LJ72L-KR
    • LJ72LV-KR
    • LJ72LV-MR
    • LJ72LV-MN
  • General Right Hand Drive Markets
    • LJ72RV-KR

In May 1990, the HZJ73V-MES was added to the Japanese lineup, giving them a minitruck version of the HZJ73HV. In June, the FJ75-MR3 was launched: the first J75 to be sold in Japan. The FJ75-MR3, the “3” portion of the name signifying that it was sold as just a chassis and cabin, was distributed in Japan for specialty companies to build firetrucks on the basis of.

 

An FJ75-MR3 pumper truck. Source

In January 1991, the Australian market RJ70RV-MNQ was discontinued — the last RJ to be sold in Australia. A minor changeup came in August: 10 old models were retired and 6 new models introduced. FJ73RV-MNQ, HZJ73RV-MNQ, HZJ73RV-MNQ, PZJ70RV-MRQ, and PZJ73RV-MNQ from the Australian market were axed. In the South African market, the old HJ75RP-MRN (the last 2H-powered 70 Series) was retired and replaced by the HZJ75RP-MRN. In Japan (HZJ73V-MES, HZJ73HV-MES) and Europe (PZJ70LV-MRW, PZJ73LV-MRW), two models each were phased out. Besides the South African pickup, the other new models were for the Japanese market. HZJ73V-MEU and HZJ73V-PEU replaced the old HZJ73V-MES while now offering an automatic option. LJ78W-MGT and LJ78W-PGT represented a new widebody range for the medium-long wheelbase Prado. PZJ77V-MNU was also added.

 

A 1992 LJ78W-MGT “widebody wagon” — The LJ78W is imperceptibly wider than the LJ78G. Notice the flared wheel arches, a feature of the EX5 trim package. Source: Land Cruisers Direct

Just five months later, in January 1992, came the next major revision for the 70 Series. 26 models were discontinued, primarily FJ’s coming from the Middle Eastern and General markets: RJ70RV-KR, FJ70L-MR, FJ70LV-KR, FJ70RV-KR, FJ70LV-MRV, FJ70LV-PN, FJ70LV-MNV, FJ73L-MRV, FJ73LV-MN, FJ73LV-MNV, FJ73LV-PNV, FJ75LP-KR, FJ75RP-KR, FJ75RP-KR3, FJ75LP-MR, FJ75RP-MR3, FJ75RP-MRN, FJ75LP-MRV, FJ75LP-MNV, FJ75LV-KR, FJ75RV-KR, FJ75LV-MRV, LJ70LV-MNX, HZJ75RP-KR, HZJ75RP-KR3, and HZJ75LV-KR.

The above listed FJ models were discontinued as the start of the shift to the new 1FZ engine from the old 3F engine. The 1FZ was a 4.5 liter inline 6 that made around 190 hp, a 40 hp increase over the 3F. This shift would be completed with the changes in August.

January 1992 Land Cruiser 70 Series Lineup New Additions:

  • GCC (Middle East)
    • HZJ75LP-MNV
    • FZJ70LV-MRUV
    • FZJ73L-MRUV
    • FZJ73LV-MNUV
    • FZJ75LP-MRUV
    • FZJ75LP-MNUV
    • FZJ75LV-MRUV
  • South Africa
    • FZJ75RP-MRUN
  • General Left Hand Drive Markets
    • HZJ75LV-MR
    • FZJ70L-MRU
    • FZJ70LV-MRU
    • FZJ70LV-MNU
    • FZJ73L-MRU
    • FZJ73LV-MNU
    • FZJ75LP-MRU
    • FZJ75LP-MRU3
    • FZJ75LV-MRU
  • General Right Hand Drive Markets
    • HZJ75RP-MR3
    • FZJ70RV-MRU
    • FZJ75RP-MRU
    • FZJ75RP-MRU3
    • FZJ75RV-MRU

In August, the last of the remaining FJs were phased out, along with the narrowbody Prado EX5s, and the PZJ75 pickups in the European market: FJ70LV-MR, FJ70RV-MRQ, FJ70LV-MN, FJ73L-MR, FJ75-MR3, FJ75LP-MR3, FJ75RP-MRQ3, FJ75LV-MR, FJ75RV-MRQ, LJ70RV-MNXQ, LJ78G-MGT, LJ78G-PGT, PZJ75LP-MRW, and PZJ75LV-MRW. The PZJ75s in Europe were replaced with the HZJ75LP-MRW and HZJ75LV-MRW. With the success of the widebody Prado in Japan, two new SX5 trim models were added, LJ78W-MET and LJ78W-PET. Finally, 5 new FZJ models were added to the Australian market to replace the FJs: HZJ75RV-MNQ, FZJ70RV-MRKQ, FZJ75RP-MRKQ3, FZJ75RV-MRKQ, and FZJ75RV-MNKQ. In December, the HZJ75-MRU3 was introduced in Japan to replace the FJ75-MR3, retired in August, as the specialty fire engine chassis.

 

A 1993 HZJ75-MRU3 crew cab pumper truck, formerly of the Japanese Marugame City Fire Department. Source: Land Cruiser Heritage Museum

Another adjustment was done in May 1993. A large portion of the European models were dropped from the range: RJ70LV-MNW, LJ70L-MRXW, LJ70LV-MRXW, LJ70RV-MNXW, LJ70RV-MEXW, LJ73LV-MEXW, LJ77LV-MNXW; three of the five LJ72 models were retired: LJ72L-KR, LJ72LV-MR, LJ72LV-MN; and the LJ77LV-MNX and LJ77RV-MNX were pulled from the General markets.

In Japan, 1993 was a major year for the Toyota Prado. All of the first generation Prado models were retired: LJ71G-MET, LJ71G-MNT, LJ71G-PET, LJ78G-MNT, LJ78G-MET, LJ78G-PET, LJ78W-MET, LJ78W-PET, LJ78W-MGT and LJ78W-PGT. Replacing them was an entire range of models, both Prados and main line Land Cruisers, that were powered with the 1KZ engine. The 1KZ, or to be more precise, the 1KZ-TE, was an inline 4 diesel engine of 3 liter displacement that put out 125 hp. This was a major step up from the old 2L engine that had carried the LJ70 family through three iterations, and seemed to have met its limit just shy of 100 hp. The KZJ70 range had an extremely neat run; 24 models that all ran from May 1993 to April 1996. The KZJ70, KZJ73, and KZJ77 were available in the European and General markets, and, as had always been the case, the KZJ71 and KZJ78 were only available in Japan. All KZJ’s had the 5-speed manual transmission, Japan being the only market where an automatic option was available. KZJs in European and General markets were sold with 1KZ-T engines, those sold in Japan had 1KZ-TE engines. The 1KZ-TE, with electronic fuel injection, increased the power output by another 20 hp.

May 1993 Land Cruiser KZJ70 Series Lineup:

  • Europe
    • KZJ70L-MRXW
    • KZJ70LV-MRXW
    • KZJ70LV-MNXW
    • KZJ70RV-MNXW
    • KZJ70LV-MEXW
    • KZJ70RV-MEXW
    • KZJ73LV-MNXW
    • KZJ73LV-MEXW
    • KZJ77LV-MNXW
  • General Left Hand Drive Markets
    • KZJ70LV-MNX
    • KZJ77LV-MNX
  • General Right Hand Drive Markets
    • KZJ77RV-MNX

May 1993 Land Cruiser Prado Lineup:

  • Japan
    • KZJ71G-MNT
    • KZJ71G-MET
    • KZJ71G-PET
    • KZJ71W-MET
    • KZJ71W-PET
    • KZJ78G-MNT
    • KZJ78G-MET
    • KZJ78G-PET
    • KZJ78W-MET
    • KZJ78W-PET
    • KZJ78W-MGT
    • KZJ78W-PGT

The next change for the 70 Series came swiftly, in January 1994. The 1PZ engine was retired due to emissions regulations and the fact that it produced insufficient torque. Among a few other models, all but one PZJ70 was retired (the PZJ75RP-MR3 would hang on for another year): RJ70L-KR, HZJ73V-MEU, HZJ73V-PEU, PZJ70-MRS, PZJ70R-KR, PZJ70LV-KR, PZJ70RV-KR, PZJ70LV-MR, PZJ70V-MRS, PZJ70LV-MN, PZJ70V-MNS, PZJ73R-KR, PZJ75LP-KR, PZJ75RP-KR, PZJ75LP-KR3, PZJ75LV-KR, PZJ75RV-KR, PZJ77V-MRS, PZJ77V-MNS, PZJ77V-MNU, and PZJ77HV-MNU. With the passing of the 1PZ, the lineup of trucks with the 1HZ engine was bolstered, primarily in Japan, as it was now, along with the 1FZ, the backbone of the 70 Series, with few exceptions.

The HZJ70 of this generation weighed between 1,850 and 2,000 kg (4,079 and 4,409 lb) depending on model. They measured 4.045 m (13 ft 3 in) long (4.165 m (13 ft 8 in) for the HZJ70V-MNU, due to its winch), 1.690 m (5 ft 7 in) wide, and 1.895 m (6 ft 3 in) tall (1.885 m (6 ft 2 in) for the HZJ70V-MNS). All models had a wheelbase of 2.310 m (7 ft 7 in).

The HZJ73 weighed 1,950 kg (4,299 lb) for the LX model, and 2,020 kg (4,453 kg) for the ZX model, with 40 kg (88 lb) extra for the models with automatic rather than manual transmissions. The HZJ73V-MNU was an exception, it weighed 2,030 kg (4,475 lb). The LX trim HZJ73s measured 4.335 m (14 ft 3 in) long (4.455 m (14 ft 7 in) for the HZJ73V-MNU, due to its winch), 1.690 m (5 ft 7 in) wide, and 1.930 m (6 ft 4 in) tall. The ZX models were 20 mm taller, and shared the same length as the -MNU; they were also wider, 1.790 m. All models had a wheelbase of 2.6 m (8 ft 6 in).

The HZJ77 weighed 2,000 kg (4,409 lb) for the HZJ77V-MNU, 2,080 kg (4,586 lb) for the HZJ77HV-MNU, and 2,090 kg (4,608 lb) for the HZJ77HV-MEU. Their respective automatic versions, HZJ77V-PNU, HZJ77HV-PNU, and HZJ77HV-PEU, were each 40 kg (88 kg) heavier. The HZJ77V models were 4.685 m (15 ft 4 in) long, while the HZJ77HV models were 4.805 m (15 ft 9 in) long. LX models were 1.690 m (5 ft 7 in) wide and 1.9 m (6 ft 3 in) tall. ZX models were 1.790 m (5 ft 10 in) wide and 1.935 m (6 ft 4 in) tall. All models had a wheelbase of 2.730 m (8 ft 11 in).

January 1994 Land Cruiser 70 Series Lineup, excluding KZJ models. Models retained from previous generations marked in bold.

  • Japan
    • BJ73LV-MPW
    • RJ70LV-MNEW
    • RJ73LV-MNEW
    • HZJ70-MNS
    • HZJ70V-MNS
    • HZJ70V-MNU
    • HZJ73V-MNS
    • HZJ73V-MNU
    • HZJ73V-PNU
    • HZJ73HV-MEU
    • HZJ73HV-PEU
    • HZJ75-MRU3
    • HZJ77V-MNU
    • HZJ77V-PNU
    • HZJ77HV-MNU
    • HZJ77HV-PNU
    • HZJ77HV-MEU
    • HZJ77HV-PEU
  • Australia
    • FZJ70RV-MRKQ
    • FZJ75RP-MRKQ3
    • FZJ75RV-MRKQ
    • FZJ75RV-MNKQ
    • HZJ70RV-MRQ
    • HZJ75RP-MRQ
    • HZJ75RP-MRQ3
    • HZJ75RV-MRQ
    • HZJ75RV-MNQ
  • Europe
    • LJ70LV-MNXW
    • LJ70LV-MEXW
    • LJ72LV-KR
    • LJ72RV-KR
    • LJ73LV-MNXW
    • HZJ70LV-MNW
    • HZJ73LV-MNW
    • HZJ75LP-MRW
    • HZJ75LV-MRW
  • GCC (Middle East)
    • RJ77LV-MNV
    • FZJ70LV-MRUV
    • FZJ73L-MRUV
    • FZJ73LV-MNUV
    • FZJ75LP-MRUV
    • FZJ75LP-MNUV
    • FZJ75LV-MRUV
    • HZJ75LP-MRV
    • HZJ75LP-MNV
  • South Africa
    • FZJ75RP-MRUN
    • HZJ75RP-MRN
  • General Left Hand Drive Markets
    • RJ70LV-KR
    • RJ70LV-MN
    • RJ77LV-KR
    • RJ77LV-MN
    • LJ79LV-KR
    • LJ79LV-MN
    • FZJ70L-MRU
    • FZJ70LV-MRU
    • FZJ70LV-MNU
    • FZJ73L-MRU
    • FZJ73LV-MNU
    • FZJ75LP-MRU
    • FZJ75LP-MRU3
    • FZJ75LV-MRU
    • HZJ70LV-MR
    • HZJ70LV-MN
    • HZJ75LP-MR
    • HZJ75LP-MR3
    • HZJ75LV-MR
  • General Right Hand Drive Markets
    • RJ77RV-KR
    • RJ77RV-MN
    • LJ79RV-KR
    • LJ79RV-MN
    • PZJ75RP-MR3
    • FZJ70RV-MRU
    • FZJ75RP-MRU
    • FZJ75RP-MRU3
    • FZJ75RV-MRU
    • HZJ70R-MR
    • HZJ70RV-MR
    • HZJ75RP-MR
    • HZJ75RP-MR3
    • HZJ75RV-MR

In February 1994, the very last 3B-powered 70 Series, the BJ73LV-MPW, which had managed to hang on in Europe, was rescinded from sale. In August, the last LJ73, LJ73LV-MNXW, was also retired.

In January 1995, the PZJ75RP-MR3, the last 1PZ-powered 70 Series, was pulled from the General right hand drive market. The last LJ70s, LJ70LV-MNXW and LJ70LV-MEXW were retired, along with the HZJ70RV-MRQ, FZJ70L-MRU, FZJ70RV-MRKQ, and FZJ75RP-MRU3. At this time, in Japan, a new Land Cruiser 70 Series, depending on the model, ranged in price from 2,345,000 yen (HZJ70-MNS) to 3,071,000 yen (HZJ77HV-PEU). Adjusted for inflation and converted to USD, this is 22,026 to 28,846 dollars (2019).

In April 1996, 39 models were retired. This included all remaining RJs, all remaining LJs, and all KZJs. With the retirement of the KZJ71/78, the Toyota Prado at this time became its own unique model. In May, the Prado emerged as the J90, and as such will no longer be covered under the scope of this article. In August, the ‘S’ models of the HZJ in Japan (HZJ70-MNS, HZJ70V-MNS, HZJ73V-MNS) were retired. HZJ70-MNU was introduced to retain a soft top option.

Sometime around 1997, a very low production version of the HZJ73 was offered in Japan only, known as the PX10. The PX10 was an HZJ73 modified by a third party to superficially resemble the classic Land Cruiser FJ40. Although a commercial flop, this would be the first step on the path to the Toyota FJ Cruiser.

 

A 1997 HZJ73V-PNU PX10. Source: Land Cruiser Heritage Museum

In September 1997, FZJ73L-MRK and FZJ75LP-MRK3 were introduced to the General left hand drive market; these were the first FZJs outside of Australia that were sold with electronic fuel injection. 1998 was the first year in which no changes were made to the 70 Series.

August 1999 brought the greatest amount of change to the 70 Series in its history. 51 models were retired, and 47 new models created, effectively cycling the entire lineup. Among the new models introduced, 29 were HZJs and 18 were FZJs. The entirety of the old 70 Series range was cut except for four models; HZJ75RP-MRN from the South African market, FZJ73L-MRK and FZJ75LP-MRK3 from the left hand drive General market, and HZJ70R-MR from the right hand drive General market. The J70 and J77 were phased out, the J71 and J74 were resurrected, and the family was joined by a new medium-long wheelbase model — the J76. The J79 was redesigned and was now the heavy duty pickup truck option, and J78 was the ‘troop carrier’ option (not military troop carriers, rather small buses). J71, J74, and J76 were the conventional wagon Land Cruisers, of increasing wheelbase length.

 

A 2005 HZJ78R-RJMRSQ troop carrier — the “troopy”, as it is affectionately known in Australia, is very popular among off-road enthusiasts as it can serve as a sort of camper van. Source
 
A 2005 HZJ79R-TJMRSQ3 pickup. Source: autotrader.com.au

The front suspension of all models was changed from leaf springs to a live axle on coil springs to reduce understeer. The wheels were changed from having 6 lugs to only 5, and the interior was redesigned. The 1HZ engine was downrated from 133 hp to 128 hp, though it is not clear if this was a difference in tuning to reduce wear, a difference in construction, or just an adjustment in the paperwork to be more precise. All FZJ models from this point onward now used the more modern 1FZ-FE engine.

The HZJ71 models remained dimensionally unchanged from the previous generation’s HZJ70s. The soft top model weighed 1,920 kg (4,233 lb), and the hardtop 10 kg (22 lb) more than that. Height was still 1.895 m (6 ft 3 in), with the soft top model being 10 mm taller, as it had been since the beginning of the 70 Series. Wheelbase lengths remained the same as the previous generation, with the J71 being 2.310 m (7 ft 7 in), the J74 being 2.6 m (8 ft 6 in), and the J76 being 2.730 m (8 ft 11 in).

The HZJ74 models in LX trim weighed 2,010 kg (4,431 lb) (+40 kg (88 lb) for automatic transmission) and measured 4.335 m (14 ft 3 in) long, 1.690 m (5 ft 7 in) wide, and 1.940 m (6 ft 4 in) tall. In ZX trim, they weighed 2,040 kg (4,497 lb) (+40 kg (88 lb) for automatic transmission) and measured 4.455 m (14 ft 7 in) long, 1.790 m (5 ft 10 in) wide, and 1.950 m (6 ft 5 in) tall. The HZJ76 models weighed 2,070 kg (4,564 lb) for the HZJ76V, 2,150 kg (4,740 lb) for the HZJ76K in LX trim, and 2,120 kg (4,674 lb) for the HZJ76K in ZX trim, with the respective automatic models each 40 kg (88 lb) heavier. The J76 measured 4.835 m (15 ft 10 in) long (4.685 m (15 ft 4 in) for the HZJ76Vs), 1.690 m (5 ft 7 in) wide for the LX models and 1.790 m (5 ft 10 in) for the ZX models, and 1.910 m (6 ft 3 in) tall for the LX models and 1.935 m (6 ft 4 in) for the ZX models.

In Japan and Europe, only diesel-engined HZJ models were sold. Australia and the right hand drive General market were primarily given diesel models; while the left hand drive General market and the Middle East greatly favored gasoline FZJ models. Somewhat oddly, the Australian market, which historically has always been a guaranteed sale for the Land Cruiser, was only given the option of heavy duty models at this time. August 1999 was the last major overhaul for the Land Cruiser 70 Series. Some of the models introduced at this time are still in production today!

Also at this time, a slight change was made to the 70 Series chassis codes. Two letters were added to the front of the extension code: KJ, FJ/RK, RJ, or TJ. KJ represents a soft top wagon; RK represents a hardtop wagon; FJ also represents a hardtop wagon, but only as the J74 model; RJ represents a troop carrier, and TJ represents a pickup.

August 1999 Land Cruiser 70 Series Lineup. Models retained from previous generations marked in bold.

  • Japan
    • HZJ71-KJMNS
    • HZJ71V-RJMNS
    • HZJ74V-FJMNS
    • HZJ74V-FJPNS
    • HZJ74K-FJMES
    • HZJ74K-FJPES
    • HZJ76V-RKMNS
    • HZJ76K-RKMNS
    • HZJ76V-RKPNS
    • HZJ76K-RKPNS
    • HZJ76K-RKMES
    • HZJ76K-RKPES
  • Australia
    • HZJ78R-RJMRSQ
    • HZJ78R-RJMNSQ
    • HZJ79R-TJMRSQ
    • HZJ79R-TJMRSQ3
    • FZJ78R-RJMRKQ
    • FZJ79R-TJMRKQ3
  • Europe
    • HZJ71L-RJMNSW
    • HZJ74L-FJMNSW
    • HZJ78L-RJMRSW
    • HZJ79L-TJMRSW
  • GCC (Middle East)
    • HZJ79L-TJMRSV
    • FZJ71L-RJMRKV
    • FZJ74L-KJMRKV
    • FZJ74L-FJMNKV
    • FZJ78L-RJMRKV
    • FZJ79L-TJMRKV
    • FZJ79L-TJMNKV
  • South Africa
    • HZJ75RP-MRN
  • General Left Hand Drive Markets
    • HZJ71L-RJMRS
    • HZJ78L-RJMRS
    • HZJ79L-TJMRS
    • HZJ79L-TJMRS3
    • FZJ71L-RJMRK
    • FZJ71L-RJMNK
    • FZJ73L-MRK
    • FZJ74L-KJMRK
    • FZJ74L-FJMNK
    • FZJ75LP-MRK3
    • FZJ78L-RJMRK
    • FZJ79L-TJMRK
    • FZJ79L-TJMRK3
  • General Right Hand Drive Markets
    • HZJ70R-MR
    • HZJ71L-KJMRS
    • HZJ71L-RJMRS
    • HZJ78R-RJMRS
    • HZJ79R-TJMRS
    • FZJ71R-RJMRK
    • FZJ78R-RJMRK
    • FZJ79R-TJMRK

In September 1999, three more models were added to the left hand drive General market: FZJ70LV-MRK, FZJ70LV-MNK, and FZJ75LV-MRK. In November, the last South African market 70 Series, HZJ75RP-MRN, was retired; at the same time, the HZJ79-TJMRS3 was introduced in Japan to replace the HZJ75-MRU3, retired in August, as the specialty fire engine chassis.

In August of 2000, the last HZJ70 and HZJ75, HZJ70R-MR and HZJ75RP-MR, were retired. In June 2001, the FZJ75LV-MRK, as well as the last FZJ70s, FZJ70LV-MRK and FZJ70LV-MNK, were retired as well. In August, HZJ71L-RJMNSW, HZJ74L-FJMNSW, HZJ78L-RJMRSW, HZJ78R-RJMNSQ, HZJ79L-TJMRSW, and HZJ79R-TJMRSQ were retired and the European market was closed, meaning this was the last generation of the 70 Series to be sold there.

A small new range was added to the Australian market: HDJ78 and 79. The HDJ range consisted of four models, two troop carriers (HDJ78R-RJMRZQ and HDJ78R-RJMNZQ) and two pickups (HDJ79R-TJMRZQ3 and HDJ79R-TJMNZQ3). The only difference between the two of each was that one was an STD model and the other an LX trim model. The HDJ was powered by the 1HD-FTE, a turbocharged, fuel injected inline 6 of 4.2 liters displacement, making 163 hp. The HDJ models would only last until 2007.

In Japan in 2002, a new Land Cruiser 70 Series cost between 2,426,000 and 3,087,000 yen (22,214 to 28,266 US dollars in 2019), up only a very small amount from 1995.

2004 saw the most recent downsizing of the 70 Series. In May, the last FZJ73, the FZJ73L-MRK, and the last FZJ75, the FZJ75LP-MRK3, were phased out. In August, the last 70 Series sold in Japan were taken off the market; these were the last HZJ71, HZJ74, and HZJ76 models. The HZJ79-TJMRS3 model was also retired, though the HZJ79 in general endures. In May 2006, the last 1FZ-engine Land Cruisers were taken off the Australian market: FZJ78R-RJMRKQ and FZJ79R-TJMRKQ3.

January 2007 marked the last notable change in the 70 Series lineup before the modern period, when the range has been kept very much reduced compared to its glory days.

The four FZJ74 models were discontinued, as well as the FZJ78L-RJMRKV, HZJ78R-RJMRSQ, and HZJ79R-TJMRSQ3. The short-lived HDJ range was replaced with the VDJ range, powered by the 1VD-FTV 4.5 liter V8 diesel, making 200 hp. This is the first V8 engine put in the 70 Series. The VDJ range consists of the VDJ76 wagon, two VDJ78 troop carriers (STD and LX trim), and two VDJ79 pickups (also STD and LX trim versions). A handful of other models were introduced to the other surviving markets — General and the Middle East — at this time as well. Externally, the 70 Series was given a facelift; the grille was redesigned and the headlights and indicators were made less angular and given a more “modern” look as they curved into the redesigned side body panels.

January 2007 Land Cruiser 70 Series Lineup. Models retained from previous generations marked in bold.

  • Australia
    • VDJ76R-RKMNYQ
    • VDJ78R-RJMRYQ
    • VDJ78R-RJMNYQ
    • VDJ79R-TJMRYQ3
    • VDJ79R-TJMNYQ3
  • GCC (Middle East)
    • HZJ76L-RKMNSV
    • HZJ78L-RJMRSV
    • HZJ79L-TJMRSV
    • FZJ71L-RJMRKV
    • FZJ76L-RKMNKV
    • FZJ79L-TJMRKV
    • FZJ79L-TJMNKV
  • General Left Hand Drive Markets
    • HZJ71L-RJMRS
    • HZJ76L-RKMRS
    • HZJ78L-RJMRS
    • HZJ79L-TJMRS
    • HZJ79L-TJMRS3
    • FZJ71L-RJMRK
    • FZJ71L-RJMNK
    • FZJ76L-RKMRK
    • FZJ78L-RJMRK
    • FZJ79L-TJMRK
    • FZJ79L-TJMRK3
  • General Right Hand Drive Markets
    • HZJ71L-KJMRS
    • HZJ71L-RJMRS
    • HZJ76R-RKMRS
    • HZJ78R-RJMRS
    • HZJ79R-TJMRS
    • FZJ71R-RJMRK
    • FZJ78R-RJMRK
    • FZJ79R-TJMRK

These 13 HZJ and 5 VDJ models remain in production today. Although they have been tweaked and improved, specialized moreso to their respective markets than any previous generation, they retain these same chassis numbers.

In a speech on December 23rd, 2009, former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez threatened to expel major automotive manufacturers, primarily Toyota, from Venezuela and replace them with Russian and Chinese makers if they did not “share their technologies” with Venezuelan industries. He put specific emphasis on Toyota, telling them to “get out” if they could not produce the rugged, simplistic work vehicles they were known for in sufficient numbers required by the government. It is reported that there was not much change during Venezuelan production of the 70 Series. The engine was only changed three times from 1986 to 2009. The medium wheelbase models were never built or sold in Venezuela, only the J70, J71, J75, J78, and J79.

 

A post-facelift, South American-produced 2009 HZJ79L-TJMRS — this is an optioned out example, possessing a front winch and air conditioning. Notice the distinctive crimping along the top of the bed walls, this is an easy way to distinguish a 70 Series pickup from other trucks. Source: Land Cruiser Heritage Museum

It was around this time, 2007 to 2012, that the 70 Series was also given a new engine for the South American and Middle Eastern markets. In those markets, which prefer gasoline over diesel engines, the 1GE-FE replaced the 1FZ-FE. The 1GR-FE is a 4 liter V6 gasoline engine that makes a maximum of 228 hp, and 266 lb-ft of torque. The 1GR used in the 70 Series has dual variable valve timing, while other models of the engine only have singular. This engine gave the 70 Series a rather poor fuel economy of 6.6 km/l (15.5 mpg). It seems the FZJ went out of production with the coming of the GZJ, but the author has not been able to find any documentation concerning this point in time. In 2009, driver’s and passenger’s airbags were made a standard option, and in 2012 so were anti-lock brakes.

 

A post-facelift, 2014 HZJ76L-RKMRS wagon from Toyota of Gibraltar.
 
A post-facelift, 2014 HZJ78L-RJMRS troop carrier from Toyota of Gibraltar. A 13 seat version of this model is also available.
 
A post-facelift, 2014 HZJ79L-TJMRS single cab pickup from Toyota of Gibraltar.
 
A post-facelift, 2014 HZJ79L-DKMRS double cab pickup from Toyota of Gibraltar.

At some point, the different markets adopted their own trim names. For Australia, the standard model became the WorkMate, the LX became GX, and VX/ZX became GXL. The notable visual difference of the GXL is the flared wheel arches and alloy wheels. The single cab pickup and “WorkMate” troop carrier seat 2 people, while the double cap pickup, wagon, and GXL troop carrier seat 5. The WorkMate and GX models come with vinyl interiors, while the GXL has fabric. 7 color options are available: french vanilla, silver pearl, graphite, Merlot red, “vintage” gold, sandy taupe (grey-brown), and midnight blue. Optional extras include two types of roof rack, a different grill design, extra headlights, seat covers and floor mats, rain guards for the doors, a tow hitch, a sun visor, a hood bug shield, headlight covers, two types of bullbars and extensions for the bullbar that run down the sides, and a winch.

Spurred by interest from mining and construction users for a model that was able to carry more people, like the wagon, while retaining the bed from the pickup, the double cab 70 Series was launched in September 2012. In Australia, it was available in the base model WorkMate, and top of the range GXL models, at 63,990 AUD and 67,990 AUD respectively. The double cab was also sold in the Middle East and South Africa, marking the return of a market-specific 70 Series model for the latter. The two letter code at the beginning of the chassis extension code for the double cab is DK.

In South Africa, the single and double cab J79 pickups are available with one of three engine options; 1VD-FTV, 1HZ, and 1GR-FE. The 1HZ engine used in South African trucks is equipped with an Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) system, which feeds some exhaust back into the engine to decrease emissions. This has decreased the power output of the 1HZ from 133 hp to 126 hp. The only other option available in South Africa is the VDJ76 wagon.

On August 25th, 2014, the 70 Series made a return to the Japanese market for one year as a special 30th Anniversary Edition model. For the Anniversary models, the 1GR-FE engine was used. The transmission was again limited to the 5-speed manual that the Japanese market 70 Series always had. Two models were available: the GRJ76K-RKMNK 4 door van, and GRJ79K-DKMNK double cab pickup. The double cab pickup had a suggested retail price of 3,500,000 yen (31,616 USD) and the wagon 3,600,000 yen (32,519 USD). Anniversary Edition 70 Series were made in Toyota’s Yoshiwara plant, in Toyota City, southwest of Tokyo. Dimensions of these models are, for the van: 4.810 m long (15 ft 9 in) (+40 mm for winch option), 1.870 m (6 ft 2 in) wide, 1.920 m (6 ft 4 in) tall, wheelbase of 2.7 m (8 ft 10 in). For the pickup: 5.270 m (17 ft 2 in) long (+40 mm for winch option), 1.770 m wide (5 ft 10 in), 1.950 m tall (6 ft 5 in), wheelbase of 3.180 m (10 ft 5 in).

 

A 2015 GRJ79K-DKMNK 30th Anniversary Edition. Source: Land Cruiser Heritage Museum

In 2015, Salvador Caetano, a vehicle manufacturer and ally of Toyota based in Ovar, Portugal, announced they would be switching licensed production from Toyota Dyna trucks to the Toyota 70 Series, on account of the former no longer being compliant with coming Euro 6 emissions regulations. As the 70 Series is also non-compliant with European laws, Salvador Caetano would be building them specifically for the African market — Morocco in particular. Salvador Caetano projected it would produce 1,257 70 Series units in 2015 as it switched over from the Dyna.

For the 2017 Australian model, which went on sale in September 2016, the 70 Series was extensively reworked. For the single cab pickup, the side rails of the ladder chassis were thickened and the chassis in general was stiffened. It was given curtain shield airbags (which block shattered glass from the windows) and driver’s knee airbags, bringing the total number of airbags up to five and earning it a 5-star NCAP safety rating in Australia. The double cab pickup, wagon, and troop carrier models did not receive the same changes as the single cab, though all models were given a myriad of modern electronic functions, including electronic stability control, traction control, hill start assist, electronic brakeforce distribution, a trailer sway control mechanism, and brake assist. Cruise control now came as standard. An A-pillar mounted snorkel that allows for deep wading also now came as standard on all models. The engine was given new piezoelectric injectors and a filter was fitted to the exhaust to allow the 1VD engine to meet Euro 5 emissions standards. The transmission’s 2nd and 5th gears were made taller, for better economy cruising. The 70 Series gets an impressive (for its class) 9.35 km/l (22 mpg). The single cab has a 130 liter (34 gallon) fuel tank, while the other models carry 180 liters (47.5 gallons). Towing capacity is 3,500 kg (7,716 lb) for all models. These improvements came with a price however — an increase of 5,500 AUD for the single cab, and 3,000 AUD for the other models of the range. In 2017, the price for the Australian 70 Series ranged from 62,490 AUD to 68,990 AUD.

In terms of dimensions, the modern Australian 70 Series pickup measures 5.220 m (17 ft 2 in) long (5.230 m for the single cab GXL), 1.790 m (5 ft 10 in) wide for the WorkMate models and 1.870 m (6 ft 2 in) wide for the GX and GXL models, and 1.970 m (6 ft 6 in) in height for the WorkMate single cab, 1.960 m (6 ft 5.2 in) for the WorkMate double cab, 1.955 m (6 ft 5 in) for the single cab GX/GXL, and 1.945 m (6 ft 4.6 in) for the double cab GXL. The WorkMate model wagon measures 4.870 m (16 ft) long, 1.790 m (5 ft 10 in) wide, and 1.955 m (6 ft 5 in) tall; while the GXL wagon measures 4.910 m (16 ft 1 in) long, 1.870 m (6 ft 2 in) wide, and 1.940 m (6 ft 4 in) tall. The troop carrier measures 5.210 m (17 ft 1 in) long (5.220 for the GXL), 1.790 m (5 ft 10 in) wide, and 2.115 m (6 ft 11 in) tall. The pickup models have a wheelbase of 3.180 m (10 ft 5 in); the wagon a wheelbase of 2.730 m (8 ft 11 in); and the troop carrier a wheelbase of 2.980 m (9 ft 9 in). Ground clearance across the range is 230 or 235 mm (9 or 9.25 in). Weights range between 2,165 kg (4,773 lb) and 2,325 kg (5,126 lb).

 

A 2012 VDJ78R-RJMNYQ troop carrier – This truck, nicknamed “Fernweh” (Wanderlust), took part in the Expeditions 7 project. It is the only vehicle in history to traverse all 7 of Earth’s continents. Source: Land Cruiser Heritage Museum

Despite the 70 Series’ importance, it would be largely overshadowed for much of its life by the 60 and later 80 Series SUVs, which appealed more to families on account of their comfort, as opposed to the 70 Series’ work truck demeanor. The 70 Series has never been offered for sale in the United States, and has been out of sale in Europe since the 1990s due to stricter emissions laws there. Its regular sale was discontinued in Japan in 2004, but it continued to be marketed in more rugged regions of the world, particularly Australia. While the 80 Series has since been discontinued, along with the 100 Series that followed it, the 70 Series has endured, and remains in production in Venezuela, Portugal, and of course, Japan.

In addition to standard work truck, off-roading, and people-moving uses, the 70 Series has lent itself to more specialized fields as well. Modified trucks have competed in off-road competitions such as the Australian Outback Challenge. They have been outfitted as television broadcast test trucks, armored cash transport cars, game viewer safari trucks, ambulances, police cars, camper vans, long-range and arctic exploration vehicles, curtain side transports, and war machines.

Indomitable

The year is 1987; the prolonged conflict between the African countries of Chad and Libya has been ongoing for more than 8 years. On the morning of January 2nd, dust clouds rose above the Sahara Desert; a recently reunified, re-equipped, and motivated Chadian army was on a high-speed flanking maneuver against entrenched Libyan tanks. Their chosen mount, the Land Cruiser. The Toyota War had begun.

The Republic of Chad is a large country in the dead center of Africa. Chad was originally a French colony that gained independence in 1960 under François Tombalbaye. Tombalbaye gradually came to be hated for his authoritarianism, and for his forced attempt to “re-Africanize” Chad, which involved trying to stamp out Christianity in the South, where it was practiced by Frenchmen and Chadian converts, and convert the nation back to traditional African religion. His mismanagement of the country led to the Muslim north fracturing into liberation groups, inspired and backed by those in Libya, which started the 1st Chadian Civil War and resulted in Tombalbaye’s deposition in 1975. After Tombalbaye’s death, the military that overthrew him set up a provisional government led by Félix Malloum. Despite the best efforts of the interim government to run the country, the civil war only intensified, with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi fanning the flames.

Libya first had men in Chad in 1969, when Gaddafi claimed the Aouzou Strip, an area of land that comprises Chad’s border with Libya. The Aouzou Strip is said to be rich in Uranium, which Gaddafi wanted for nuclear weapons. François Tombalbaye was poised to sell it to him before his death.

Acronyms to know:
FROLINAT (Front de Libération Nationale du Tchad) – National Liberation Front of Chad, most successful rebel group, backed by Libya
FAT (Forces Armées Tchadiennes) – Chadian Armed Forces, traditional military of Chad
FAN (Forces Armées du Nord) – Armed Forces of the North, FROLINAT units that remained loyal to Hissène Habré
FAP (Forces Armées Populaires) – People’s Armed Forces, FROLINAT units that remained loyal to Goukouni Oueddei, made up largest section of GUNT
FANT (Forces Armées Nationales Tchadiennes) – Chadian National Armed Forces, combined FAT and FAN under Hissène Habré
GUNT (Gouvernement d’Union Nationale de Transition) – Transitional Government of National Unity, successful government formed out of FROLINAT, backed by Libya

Gaddafi backed the Chadian rebel groups, particularly FROLINAT, with men and weapons, hoping to destabilize Chad for his own gain. This was the start of the 2nd Chadian Civil War, as well as the Chadian-Libyan Conflict which ran concurrently, and which would last for almost 10 years. Libyan forces would be present in Chad off and on from 1978 till 1981, with a final clash in 1986-87. During this time, Chad was still supported by France, despite being an independent country. If it was not for French assistance, Chad likely would have fallen apart.

FROLINAT took over the country in 1979 and replaced the Malloum government with the Transitional Government of National Unity (GUNT), led by Goukouni Oueddei. A short while later, long-time Chadian political leader Hissène Habré, who at different times had been the Prime Minister, Vice President, and Secretary of Defense of Chad, split from Goukouni Oueddei’s GUNT. Habré was exiled to Sudan, only to return to Chad in 1982 with his forces, FAN, and overthrow GUNT. Habré would remain in power until 1990, and sadly was a no better ruler, and in many ways worse, than François Tombalbaye had been.

Although overthrown, GUNT remained active in Chad, and continued to receive support from Libya. As the enemy of GUNT, Habré’s government by default came to be enemies with Libya. The remaining Chadian Army and Habré loyalists were consolidated as FANT, the Chadian National Armed Forces. Fighting continued in 1983 and 1984, with FANT, the French Foreign Legion, the French Air Force, and French airborne units, with some passive assistance from the United States, attempting to defeat Chadian rebels and flush Libyan forces out of northern Chad. In the French military, this was known as Operation Manta.

French efforts resumed in 1986 under Opération Épervier. At this time, GUNT numbered between 4,000 and 5,000 soldiers, and Libyan presence in Chad was an additional 5,000 men. Changes in GUNT’s leadership and loss of morale led to FAP, the largest subgroup of GUNT, changing sides in late 1986. Men of FAP assimilated into FANT, and the war essentially became a united Chad and France against Libya.

 

During the Battle for Chicha in central Chad, which precipitated the Great Toyota War, this 70 Series bed and ZPU-1 gun mount was cut off for unknown reasons and left abandoned in the desert. These photos were taken in 2005. Source

In late 1986, FANT forces, under the command of Idriss Déby, began amassing in the Kalait prefecture in the Northeast of Chad. Their target was the town of Fada, occupied by 1,200 Libyan soldiers and 400 men of the CDR, one of the remaining pro-Libyan groups from GUNT. United against a common enemy unlawfully operating on their land, the Chadian Army had the arsenals of France and America at its disposal. The men were fierce fighters, but untrained and primitive. Hissène Habré knew that if given tanks or other advanced weaponry, they would not be able to make effective use of them. What the Chadian soldiers needed were rugged, simple, “fix it with a hammer” weapons. What they needed were Toyota trucks and machine guns.

Chad received hundreds of Toyota Land Cruiser 70s and MILAN anti-tank guided missile launchers from France, and FIM-43 Redeye man-portable surface-to-air missile launchers from the United States. The Libyan Air Force no longer just had to worry about French air support, but Chradian ground fire as well. Besides the MILANs and Redeyes, Chadian forces also had 105 mm M40 Recoilless Rifles and heavy machine guns of both US (.50 cal M2 Browning) and Soviet (12.7 mm DShK) origins.

The combination of wide open desert, four wheel drive trucks, and tribal cavalry tactics created one of the most mobile ground forces in recent memory. The Chadian trucks stuck to no fixed formations, and no set doctrine. They were easily able to outpace Libyan armor, outflank minefields, and outlast their weary enemy. Chadian MILAN teams adopted a shoot-and-scoot tactic whereby they drove to an unexpected firing position, fired on enemy vehicles, and were gone before their enemy could even lay the gun on them.

The turning point in the Chadian-Libyan Conflict came on January 2nd, 1987, when the Chadian forces launched an assault on the Libyan defenses south of Fada. The Libyan army had set up several defensive lines consisting of dug-in T-55 tanks overwatching minefields. To circumvent these defenses, the Chadian trucks repeatedly flanked around the minefields, utilizing their off-road speed. They enveloped the Libyan armor from both sides and destroyed them at close range.

The Libyan army’s morale was at an all-time low when Chad finally struck. Some vehicles fled as soon as the first tank was knocked out. They plainly did not want to be there, and their performance shows this.

The Chadian forces overcame several Libyan defensive lines in the manner described. The final two lines, 10 km (6.2 miles) and 20 km (12.4 miles) outside of Fada respectively, were ordered to fall back to the airfield at Fada, but it was already too late. By noon, the attack that had started just that morning had taken the Libyan airfield and headquarters at Fada, routed the Libyan forces, taken 150 prisoners, and left 700 Libyan soldiers dead. Most of the Libyan command had escaped by air, but many aircraft, vehicles, and soldiers were left behind. Aircraft captured at the Fada airbase include three C-46s, two C-130 Hercules, a DC-4 Transport (Possibly a C-54 Skymaster, but there is no record of the Libyan Air Force operating these, even though they were based in Libya previously), a CASA C-212 Aviocar, two Pilatus PC-7 Turbo Trainers, and a SIAI-Marchetti SF.260 trainer.

 

A Libyan BMP-1 knocked out during the Battle of Fada. Photo taken in 1996. Source

Humiliated and desperate, Gaddafi nearly doubled the number of troops in Libya to 11,000 by March of 1987. A column of armor, consisting of 600 men, was dispatched from Ouadi Doum airbase (also in Chad) with the intention of retaking Fada. Chadian reconnaissance followed the Libyan convoy out from Ouadi Doum and relayed their position to the main force. On the evening of March 18th, after the Libyan troops had set up camp for the night near the village of Bir Kora, the Chadians surrounded them in the darkness. Chadian troops set up ambushes for Libyan armor, Panhard AML-90 armored cars overwatched by MILAN and rocket teams on the hills. At dawn, they launched a small force to one side of the Libyan camp, causing the Libyans to divert all their force toward that side. This left their rear open for the Chadian armed Toyotas to rush in and swarm the Libyan tanks.

A second column of armor, this time with 800 men, was sent out from Ouadi Doum later in the day on March 19th to rescue the Libyan force, only to be surrounded in the night and destroyed in the same way as the first. Between the two engagements, 786 Libyans were killed, 86 tanks were destroyed, and another 13 were captured.

 

Libyan T-62s and a BM-21 Grad rocket launcher knocked out and abandoned in the skirmish near Bir Kora. Source

The remains of the Libyan columns fell back to Ouadi Doum with the Chadians following, something the defenders of Ouadi Doum were completely unprepared for. Despite a defending force of 5,000 men, minefields, barbed wire, AA gun emplacements, and tank and AFV support, the Chadian force of 2,500 was relatively easily able to breach the base, splitting their attack in two to simultaneously attack opposite points of Ouadi Doum. Although the Battle of Ouadi Doum lasted for 25 hours from March 22nd to March 23rd, the airbase was all but captured in the first 4 hours. In total, 1,269 Libyans were killed and 438 were captured, including base commander Khalif Abdul Affar. Many were killed when, in panic, they attempted to flee through their own minefields.

54 tanks, including 12 brand new T-62s, 66 BMP-1s, 6 BRDM-2s, 10 BTRs, 8 EE-9 Cascavels, 12 vehicles of the 2K12 Kub system (2P25s and at least one 1S91), 4 9K35 Strela-10s, 4 ZSU-23-4 Shilkas, 18 BM-21 Grads, 92 anti-aircraft guns, over 100 soft skin vehicles, 2 additional SIAI-Marchetti SF.260 Prop Trainers, 11 L-39 Albatros Jet Trainers, and one 1 Mi-25 attack helicopter were all captured at Ouadi Doum. In addition to these vehicles, a great deal of radar equipment that accompanied the 2K12 system was also captured intact.

Three Mi-25s were destroyed in the raid, with a fourth turning out to be salvageable. This Mi-25, the export variant of the Mi-24, was the first “Hind” the west had gotten its hands on, and it was quickly removed to America under Operation Mount Hope III. In the raid, Chad lost 12 trucks and 29 men, killed when they tried to pass through a minefield in the mistaken belief the trucks were too light to set off the mines. Just 58 Chadians were wounded in the action.

 

Chadian troops with one of the 2P25 Kub launchers captured at Ouadi Doum. The gross incompetence and negligence of the Libyan troops was illustrated when none of the operators of these SAM launchers bothered to pick up the phone when radar operator Ismael al-Barassi acquired a target on January 14th.

With Libya’s forward operating airbase gone, Gaddafi ordered a retreat from Chad. The garrison of 3,000 men at Faya Largeau was the first to pull out. Survivors of Bir Kora and Ouadi Doum, and the men of Faya Largeau retreated to Maaten al-Sarra airbase within Libyan borders. Eleven T-55s were abandoned in the evacuation from Faya Largeau, due to being too slow. At the same time, bombers were sent from Maaten al-Sarra to destroy the captured Libyan equipment to prevent the Chadians from using it.

After a brief respite, Chadian forces continued their advance toward the Aouzou Strip. In late July, they retook the area of Tibesti, and on August 8th, thwarted the Libyan assault to retake the town of Bardai, destroying them at Oumchi in the same manner they had at Bir Kora. The Chadians followed the retreating Libyans and took the town of Aouzou itself later the same day. In total, 650 Libyans were killed, 147 men were captured, 111 vehicles were captured, and at least another 30 pieces of armor were destroyed on August 8th. Libya ramped up its bombardment of northern Chad, and at this time the French began to distance themselves from Habré.

Gaddafi assigned Ali Sharif al-Rifi, his most able general, to take charge of the troops and retake Aouzou. After two unsuccessful, traditionally heavy-handed armor attacks starting on August 14th, the Libyans were only able to retake Aouzou on August 28th, utilizing shock troops, extreme firepower, and the fact that the Chadians had all but left the town in anticipation of a large assault, leaving just 400 men behind. This was the first success the Libyan Army had had since the beginning of 1987, and it came only once they ditched their tanks for Toyotas instead. Even so, 1,225 Libyans were killed and 262 wounded in trying to take the Aouzou Strip.

Instead of focusing on fighting over Aouzou itself, Habré directed his troops to cut off the Libyan base of operations at Maaten al-Sarra airbase, 100 km (62 miles) from the Libya-Chad border. The surprise attack was conducted on September 5th, and resulted in the deaths of 1,713 Libyans and the capture of 312 more. 26 aircraft were destroyed, including three MiG-23s, four Dassault Mirage F1s, at least one Mi-24, and numerous MiG-21s and Su-22s. Also destroyed in the raid were eight radar stations, a radar jammer, and about 70 tanks. Chadian losses counted 65 dead and 112 wounded.* At the end of the attack, the Chadians withdrew from Libya. This would be the last action of the Toyota War, with an uneasy ceasefire being called on September 11th.
*These are all Chadian numbers/claims

It was not strictly Toyotas that were used in the Toyota War. Of the 400 trucks delivered to Chad, only a majority were Toyota Land Cruisers. The other models were the American Humvee and the French Sovamag TC10. It was the Toyota however, that held the greatest potential as a weapons platform, on account of its large bed.

With 400 trucks, 50 MILANs, and a few other weapon types in smaller numbers, the Chadian forces were able to capture from Libya, whose active personnel outnumbered them 3 to 1:

  • 3 T-54s
  • 113 T-55s
  • 12 T-62s
  • 10 Tank Transporters
  • 8 EE-9 Cascavels
  • 146 BMP-1s
  • 10 BRDM-2s
  • 10 BTRs
  • 18 BM-21 Grads
  • 4 ZSU-23-4 Shilkas
  • 4 9K35 Strela-10s
  • 12 2P25 Kub Launchers (This number may be lower depending on whether or not the number of “2K12”s captured includes 1S91 radar vehicles, of which at least one was also captured.)
  • At least 1 JVBT-55A/BTS-3 Armored Recovery Vehicle
  • 152 Assorted Cannons and Guns
  • Over 300 Softskin Vehicles
  • 9 SIAI-Marchetti SF.260 Prop Trainers
  • 2 Pilatus PC-7 Prop Trainers
  • 11 L-39 Albatros Jet Trainers
  • 3 Mi-24/5 Attack Helicopters
  • 3 C-47s
  • 2 C-130s
  • 1 DC-4 Transport
  • 1 CASA C-212 Aviocar
  • Roughly 1,000 Libyan fighters

They also captured a number of Libyan technicals, but due to counting re-captured Chadian vehicles, it is difficult to determine the number of them. For 1987, the dead numbered 7,500 on the Libyan side, and only 1,000 on the Chadian side.

The Toyota War was not the first conflict to see the use of technicals, but it popularized their use and served as a deadly illustration of their effectiveness. The term “Toyota War” had been coined as early as 1984 by Time Magazine, as the Chadian forces utilized pickups for transport for much of the conflict. However, in modern usage it has come to refer only to the final portion of the Chadian-Libyan conflict, where the 4-by-4 cavalry made the greatest use of its mobility.

“Technical” is the term given to any improvised war machine consisting of a commercial pickup truck fitted with weaponry. The origin of the term is said to come from the period of time following the Ogaden War, when technicals were used to oppose Somali President Siad Barre. Among the Somali officers that opposed Barre were engineers that had been educated in the USSR, at the time an ally of Somalia, at vocational schools called Tekhnikum. They utilized the knowledge they gained in those schools to create the technicals that eventually helped bring down Barre’s government. For this reason, the trucks became known in Somali as “tekniko” (also spelled as “tikniko”), and this became anglicised as “technical.” Since then, tekniko has come to mean “two things which can be added together to create something better” in the Somali language.

The Toyota War, it is believed, was also the Land Cruiser 70’s baptism by fire; the use of the 40 Series and the 70 Series that replaced it by Chad and its adoption by Libya would set the course for it to become the most prevalent ground vehicle in all of 21st century warfare. Sadly, there are no photos of Chadian 70 Series Land Cruisers that can be confirmed to date to the Toyota War. Very few photos exist of early Chadian techncials of any kind, likely due to the rarity of cameras in 1980s Africa.

 

The signature Land Cruiser, in this case a J79L-TJ single cab, still forms a large part of Chad’s military. Here Chadian forces are providing security during a simulated attack on the town of Faya-Largeau in northern Chad during Exercise Flintlock 2017, March 3rd, 2017. The soldier in the foreground is holding an AKM rifle. Source

The 70 Series still sees widespread use by the Chadian military, notably in their fight against Boko Haram, a west African offshoot of ISIS. Chad continues to receive Land Cruisers donated by the United States, under the auspices of the G5 Sahel, a west-central African military alliance between Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Mauritania. As of 2020, the largest portion of the fighting occurs in the area of Lake Chad, where Chad, Niger, and Nigeria border each other.

 

A Chadian Type 1d (J79L-TJ) armed with a Type 63 rocket launcher that was part of a joint force operation against Boko Haram in Nigeria, February 2015. The J79 can be differentiated from the J75 by the size of the B-pillar rearward of the door, which is wider on the J79 than on the J75. Source
 
A Chadian Type 1a (J79L-TJ) parked outside the Zinder Airport in Niger, around March 2015. This truck displays a few unique features that set it apart. Most notable is the purplish-brown paint underlying camouflage. This is in contrast to most Chadian Land Cruisers, which are left in their factory-applied tan paint. Second, a sturdy A-frame is mounted in the bed of the truck, supporting a Chinese-made 12.7 mm W85 heavy machine gun. Source
 
Possibly the same truck as above, photographed on September 3rd, 2015, in the Diffa region of Niger, the location of the heaviest fighting. Source

Implacable

The origin of the technical is often traced back to the “Pink Panther” Land Rovers of the British Special Air Service in Oman during the Dhofar Rebellion in the 1960s and 70s. These were simple Land Rovers adapted for desert warfare, painted pink for camouflage, that carried several machine guns with limited traverse. The SAS Land Rovers were the spiritual descendents of similar vehicles that had been used by the Long Range Desert Group in North Africa in World War II.
 

An SAS Pink Panther Land Rover Series IIA. Source

There is no definite date or place where the invention of the modern technical can be said to have occurred. Early technicals started to pop up in use by various unrelated factions across Africa and the Middle East beginning in the 1970s. Some of the early adopters of the technical were the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (a terrorist, revolutionary, Arabian nationalist group), all factions involved in the Lebanese Civil War, the Sahrawi People’s Liberation Army (a group fighting for independence of Western Sahara from Morocco), and, of course, the Chadian FANT.

The technical has formed the backbone of revolution and continued conflict in the Middle East and Africa. To catalog all the conflicts that technicals have partaken in would be to catalog most, if not all of modern conflict. Early technicals, much like modern technicals, would be built on any vehicle that could be acquired. Even so, certain makes were preferred for their ruggedness; these were the Land Rover and the Toyota Land Cruiser 40 Series. With the discontinuation of the original Land Rover, and subsequent models moving more toward the luxury market rather than the work truck market, the 40 Series’ descendant, the 70 Series, remains the “gold standard” for technicals.

Limiting the scope of this article to the 70 Series after the Toyota War, a trend starts to develop where Liberia is as far west, geographically, as the 70 Series technical is often seen. The eastern boundary for the range is Iran, as it has for the most part stayed out of the wars that have consumed much of the Middle East. The areas where the 70 Series, and technicals in general, see the most service are Somalia and Syria.

Due to the improvised nature of technicals, there is great variation between them. Even vehicles converted by the same unit or workshop are rarely identical. Weaponry, how the weapons are mounted, gun shields, and above all, camouflage, depends highly on what was available or needed at the time. Even so, in cataloging these vehicles for the Middle East Media Archive Project, we have developed a system of generally classifying technicals based on the model of truck and type of weapon they carry.

The Land Cruiser 70 Series was arbitrarily assigned the designator “Type 1”, because it was the most common. The Toyota Hilux is designated Type 2, and so on. The type of weapon carried is denoted by a lowercase letter:

  • a – Single heavy machine gun mounted on a pintle in the bed of the truck. May or may not have a gun shield. The most common weapons are the .50 cal M2HB Browning, the 12.7 mm DShK, and the 14.5 mm KPV.
  • b – Dual anti-aircraft cannons mounted in the bed of the truck. These are the most common and most well-known type of technical. Usually Type b technicals carry a ZU-23-2 twin 23 mm autocannon, but occasionally are fitted with a ZPU-2 twin 14.5 mm KPV.
    • b “Special” – A Type b technical with a ZPU-4 quad KPV mount. Relatively rare.
  • c – Truck carries an anti-tank guided missile launcher. Common types of missiles are the BGM-71 TOW, 9M113 Konkurs, and 9M133 Kornet.
  • d – “Katyusha”-type multiple launch rocket systems. The rocket rack is either pointed forward, over the cab, or it is mounted facing to the side. Both arrangements offer minimal to no traverse, meaning any aiming has to be done by moving the truck. The type of rockets carried vary widely, from purpose-built launchers to rockets pressed into the ground-to-ground role, to improvised rockets and warheads. Two of the non-improvised rocket systems seen on technicals are the 107 mm Type 63 and the UB-16-57 — the latter is normally an aircraft-mounted launcher for the S-5 rocket.
  • e – Recoilless rifle mounted in the bed of the truck. The gun is usually mounted high enough to fire forward over the cab, or the cab is removed entirely. Almost exclusively, the types of guns used are the 73 mm SPG-9, 82 mm B-10, and the 105 mm M40.
  • f – Miscellaneous category for any types of armament that do not fit in the above categories. Includes but is not limited to: mortars, grenade launchers, singular 20 and 23 mm autocannons, and larger caliber cannons.

The choice of automatic anti-aircraft guns as the primary weapon of technicals stems back to the Lebanese Civil War, and came about because of several reasons. The first is that much of the fighting was in an urban environment; enemies would hold out in buildings and ruins and fire down on men and vehicles. A Molotov cocktail or grenade dropped out of a window could be sufficient to disable a tank. Tanks and other conventional armored vehicles, on top of being cumbersome, could not elevate their guns high enough to return fire. The selection of anti-aircraft guns, the primary feature of which is high degrees of elevation, was an obvious one. This workaround in urban warfare has also led to the resurgence in popularity of the ZSU-23-4 Shilka, which acts as a protected and more heavily armed Type b technical.

The other reasons for the choice of anti-aircraft guns is that they are primarily used against soft targets — people and trucks — so the tradeoff of power for high rate of fire allows unskilled operators to “spray and pray”. The ZU-23-2 in particular is also powerful enough to defeat light armor at close ranges.

Recoilless rifles, rocket launchers, and ATGMs are popular as they are lightweight, easy to use, and made exponentially more effective when made mobile by being mounted on a truck. Above all, the choice in weaponry for technicals is based on what is available at the time. Stockpiles of weapons are taken from the bases and depots of recently defunct national militaries and put into use by the rebel groups fighting for control of the same country. Depending on whether a country was NATO or Soviet-aligned, or both, before its fall, large amounts of obsolete weapons provided by its backers make their way into the hands and onto the technicals of irregular factions.

Heirs of the Toyota War

There have been several subsequent conflicts across Africa that echo the Toyota War. It is interesting to note how the tactics employed by technicals have developed differently in Africa as opposed to the Middle East. In African countries, there are often great portions of open land, totally uninhabited except by primitive and isolated communities. The terrain is what led to the development of traditional African cavalry tactics up until the 20th century. These tactics were reborn with the coming of the 4-wheeled horse, and have proven so effective there is hardly reason to change them.

Angola

Many of the wars mentioned in this article were part of the Cold War, with one side backed by the United States and the other backed by the Soviet Union. The largest of these proxy wars in Africa is also one of the most forgotten. The Angolan Civil War was just one of a long string of interconnected wars that involved Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), South Africa, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo), and Zambia.

Skipping over 30 years of politics; rising strife over ethnic and ideological differences led three rebel groups to arise in Angola:

  • People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola [Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola] (MPLA)
  • National Union for the Total Independence of Angola [União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola] (UNITA)
  • National Front for the Liberation of Angola [Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola] (FNLA)

All three of these groups were anti-colonial, and had successfully fought against Portugal in the Angolan War for Independence that immediately preceded the Angolan Civil War. Efforts to consolidate the three rebel groups by outside forces failed, and all three moved to set up their own governments, with the MPLA supported by Portugal and Cuba (the latter playing the part of the USSR in this proxy war), the FNLA supported by the United States and Zaire, and UNITA supported by South Africa. The MPLA’s military wing was called the People’s Armed Forces of Liberation of Angola [Forças Armadas Populares de Libertação de Angola] (FAPLA), and UNITA’s military wing was called the Armed Forces of the Liberation of Angola [Forças Armadas de Libertação de Angola] (FALA).

In August 1975, South Africa intervened in the conflict that had erupted between the three powers, fueled by weapons and men from Cuba. The Soviet Union also got involved, supporting the communist MPLA. The FNLA was quickly defeated by its own incompetence, leaving the South African Defence Force and UNITA on one side, and the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces and the MPLA on the other. FAPLA was able to overpower FALA, leading the weary South African army to abandon their goal of preventing a communist Angola and start fighting their way back out of the country. South Africa and the Angolan factions at this time were also involved in fighting the South African Border War, along with the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), making it difficult to separate that war from the war in Angola.

The remains of FALA continued to resist FAPLA, with continued support from South Africa. With training and support, FALA grew into a fully fledged rebel army. In contrast to FAPLA’s cumbersome heavy armor, FALA adopted fast and mobile technicals. In the 1980s, activity from FALA and international interest in the region steadily grew. FALA made large gains in 1983, however their success prompted Cuba to move more manpower and more modern weaponry into Angola, leading to FALA suffering losses in October and September. Even so, by the start of 1984, UNITA controlled roughly 20% of Angola.

Although an agreement was reached on February 16th, 1984, for South Africa, Cuba, and PLAN to pull out of a portion of southern Angola, UNITA was not consulted and was not ready to give up. PLAN also continued fighting, and neither South Africa nor Cuba were willing to be the first to withdraw. The agreement however did mean that fighting, even though it continued through 1984, was much less intense. FALA gained ground in 1984, and established their headquarters at Jamba, Cuando Cubango, Angola.

In July 1985, PLAN and the Cuban-Angolan forces launched a major attack toward Jamba. They succeeded in retaking the Cazombo salient, which FALA abandoned in order to prevent them from taking Mavinga, 315 km from Jamba. FALA was again saved by the South Africans, and together they stopped the Angolans 32 km from Mavinga.

Beginning in 1986, the war in Angola drastically heated up. The Soviets poured resources and men into the country, and on May 27th, 1986, a renewed assault, 30,000 men strong, was launched against FALA. They were again able to halt the attack. FALA was now operating with more modern weapons of increased number, given to them by foreign allies including South Africa, Morocco, the United States, France, and Zaire. America in particular provided FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles.

1987 and 1988 were marked by the extensive use of armor by the Soviet-backed forces; the largest tank forces in Africa since World War II. Like the Libyan tanks of the Toyota War, the Cuban-Angolan armored spearheads were brought to a halt by the much more mobile FALA forces. When South Africa was again needed to help repulse another massive assault, they brought up their own Olifant Mk.1As and G6 Rhinos to meet the Cuban T-55s and T-62s, as well as Soviet T-64s deployed to the area. Heavy fighting continued for two years.

In both South Africa and Cuba, people were growing tired of supporting the conflict in Angola; in the former, due to rising tensions on the home front, and in the latter due to a senseless loss of life. Peace talks finally made progress in July of 1988, and in August, redeployment lines were agreed on for Cuban and PLAN forces. South Africa was happy to pull out of Angola, only having just lost air superiority in the conflict. Cuba continued fighting in spite of the peace agreement until December, when another agreement was made. This was effectively the end of the South African Border War, and South Africa ceased providing support to FALA as United Nations forces took over. In one of the last actions of the war, the Battle of Mavinga was fought in 1990. FALA technicals ran rings around FAPLA T-55s, echoing the combat of the Toyota War. Most of the technicals used by FALA were Land Cruisers mounting DShK and ZPU-1 heavy machine guns, but they also operated a smaller number of Humvees fitted with M40 recoilless rifles.

The Bicesse Accords were signed in 1991, and set up the two factions as opposing political parties in Angola’s government. All the while, they retained their own lands and militaries. In the first election, held in 1992, the MPLA’s José Eduardo dos Santos was declared the winner. Nearly half of the Angolan political parties involved, foremost UNITA, claimed the election was rigged. Tensions were reignited, and FAPLA launched attacks on FALA and massacred citizens who had voted for them and other parties. The Angolan Civil War continued until UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi was killed in action in 2002.

Unfortunately, not much specific information on the combat employment of Angolan technicals is known; nor does there exist many photos of them. It is possible, probable even, that the Land Cruisers referred to in various sources are old 40 Series, not 70 Series. While South Africa was a market for the 70 Series, the South African Army was well-funded enough to not need to employ technicals, meaning they can be ruled out as a likely source whereby FALA acquired its Land Cruisers. Unlike Chad, which was given its Toyotas by western powers, it is unclear where UNITA/FALA got its trucks from.

Liberia

The nation of Liberia was settled by freed American slaves that chose to return to Africa, a group called the Americo-Liberians. This group formed the ruling class of the country, while the indigenous Liberians were the lower class. This state of affairs persisted until 1980, when Master-Sergeant Samuel Doe of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) led a coup against the ruling party. Doe’s rule over the country was bloody and barbaric, and Liberia steadily declined.

On December 24th, 1989, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) entered the country from Ivory Coast. The NPFL was made up of Americo-Liberians intending to take back their country. The AFL’s resistance to the invasion was ineffectual, and both sides committed war crimes as the NPFL made its way to the capital, Monrovia. Nearing Monrovia, a breakaway faction was formed out of the NPFL, the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL), creating a three-way war.

In response to the Liberian Civil War, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sent in the ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) as a peacekeeping force. ECOMOG found itself in strongest opposition to the NPFL, which was the largest of the three factions. The NPFL managed to take control of large portions of the country, but never took Monrovia. Fighting continued for years, but was at a stalemate. ECOMOG forces would not advance into NPFL territory, fearing a guerilla war. The INPFL disintegrated, and several more factions appeared, including the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO), which itself split into two other factions based on ethnicity. Eventually, there were eight factions involved in the fighting. Despite ECOWAS’s efforts, all attempts at peace failed. Corruption was high in ECOMOG, with ulterior motives to benefit Nigeria (the largest contributor to ECOWAS) at the higher echelons, and theft and rape among the regulars. This led to the Liberians seeing “ECOMOG” as standing for “Every Commodity or Movable Object Gone.”

All of the fighters involved, both in the field and in the commands of the various factions, were totally uneducated. The fighting was barbaric, and far from the conduct of any legitimate military force. Torture, rape, and murder were just as common, if not more common, than killing of the enemy. Showiness and intimidation played a large role in Liberian combat, with soldiers dressing up in colorful costumes, or sometimes being completely naked. Technicals were similarly decorated, adorned with trinkets and slogans.

 

Type 1b (J75LP) armed with a ZPU-2 anti-aircraft gun. None too concerned with war crimes, these fighters have “liberated” a Doctors Without Borders truck and converted it to a technical, still retaining the pseudo-Red Cross markings. Monrovia, Liberia, during the 1st Liberian Civil War. Source: Osprey New Vanguard 257 – Technicals

In August 1995, a ceasefire was brokered. Despite this, some fighting continued, particularly in Monrovia starting in April 1996. Fighting intensified to such a degree that peacekeeping forces were helpless. It took until August for peace to be reestablished. During this time, the effectiveness of ECOMOG greatly increased and corruption was removed, thanks to the leadership of Victor Malu, who took command in August. In July 1997 a general election was held in Liberia, ending the First Liberian Civil War.

Charles Taylor was elected president of Liberia, however after only two years, another group arose to overthrow him. Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) were a loose group of rebel factions united primarily by the goal of removing Taylor’s government. LURD was supported by Guinea. This conflict, the Second Liberian Civil War, lasted from 1999 until 2003. The course of the war was a relatively straightforward takeover of the country by LURD, ending in Taylor’s resignation.

 

Type 1a (J79L-TJ) armed with what appears to be a KPV in the 2nd Liberian Civil War, Near Old Bridge, Monrovia, Liberia, 2003. The man in the foreground is holding an AKM rifle. Source

As with the Angolan Civil War, there is little photographic record of the technicals used in Liberia, though photographic evidence proves that Type 1 technicals were used in both civil wars. The combat employment of such trucks is also not recorded, however it was unlikely to be in line with the type seen in Chad and Angola, and more akin to the urban combat of Lebanon. Many of the “technicals” employed in Liberia were not even real technicals. Mounted weapons were not as common as in other conflicts, and trucks were simply weaponized by having men stand in the bed and fire their rifles at the enemy.

Since the end of the Second Liberian Civil War, the country has steadily improved. Today, the new Armed Forces of Liberia continues to use 70 Series Land Cruisers, some of them donated by the United States.

 

20 Land Cruisers donated by the United States to Liberia in 2016, to aid the latter’s peacekeeping operation in Mali. Barclay Training Centre, Monrovia, Liberia, July 12th, 2016. At the front of the line is a J79L-DK, followed by an HZJ79L-TJMRS3 or FZJ79L-TJMRK3, then another J79L-DK. Source

Sudan

Chad’s neighbor to the east, Sudan, has had near constant war since the 1950s. There have been three civil wars, and numerous smaller confrontations and wars. The Second Sudanese Civil War began in 1983, when tensions between the Muslim north and Christian south boiled over when then president Jaafar Nimeiry enforced Sharia, a Muslim legal code, on the whole country.

In response to this, a rebel army comprised of peoples from the south of Sudan, most notably the Dinka people, was assembled and quickly grew in strength, being joined by defecting units of the Sudanese Army. The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) was backed by Ethiopia, which supplied weapons and training to allow the SPLA to become a proper fighting force. Part of the SPLA’s strategy was to disrupt food distribution, leading to widespread starvation. Unable to defeat the SPLA militarily, Jaafar Nimeiry motioned to repeal Sharia in the south, but was deposed in a coup in 1985 regardless. The coup leader, Abdel Rahman Swar al-Dahab, promised reform, leading to a ceasefire. However, the SPLA was not satisfied with the reforms, and resumed fighting. In the 1986 election, voting could not take place in the south due to the fighting, leading the north to elect Sadiq al-Mahdi as the president of Sudan. Al-Mahdi was backed by the extremist National Islamic Front (NIF), meaning that a diplomatic solution to the conflict would now be impossible.

 

Two SPLA Land Cruisers, likely J79 models. The truck on the right sports a rather striking animal print camouflage scheme, as well as a crudely drawn “SPLA” license plate. The soldiers are watching a UN Mi-17 helicopter coming in to land. UN Base in Abyei, Sudan, May 16th, 2008. Source: Reuters
 
An SPLA Type 1a (J79L-TJ) armed with a DShK, at the same place and time as the previous picture. It is unusual to see such care and effort put into the paint scheme of a technical. Source: Reuters

Over the next two years, the conflict continued to devolve, with starvation increasing and thousands of Dinka people being slaughtered in atrocities committed by Muslim northern militia groups. The Sudanese Army was almost entirely destroyed by the SPLA, which continued to grow in strength. Despite requests for peace talks by the SPLA, all attempts failed, as anything less than full Islamification of Sudan was unacceptable to the NIF.

In 1991, Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia, and as repayment for support by the Sudanese government, expelled the SPLA and Sudanese refugees, further worsening the starvation in the south of Sudan. At this time, Iraq also began to support the Sudanese government, as Iraq was supportive of the NIF’s goals. Increased pressure on the SPLA led to infighting, with the formation of the United Democratic Salvation Front (UDSF), made up of Nuer people, the Nuers began fighting with the Dinkas.

In 1992, the Sudanese Army retook large portions of the country that had been under SPLA control. Back and forth fighting continued for the next two years, with the Sudanese Army launching large scale attacks supported by Libyan aircraft. The SPLA regained its footing in October 1994, with the supply of new weapons from the US or Israel. At the same time, the UDSF began fighting government forces as well, eventually reconciling with the SPLA in April 1995.

Despite Sudan’s government supporting Eritrea’s independence in the end, they had originally backed Ethiopia; a fact the Eritrean government resented. For this reason, Eritrea backed the formation of the Sudanese National Alliance (SNA) in northeastern Sudan, a political group of northerners opposed to the Sudanese government. The SNA formed a military wing, the National Alliance Forces (NAF).

After a ceasefire mediated by US President Bill Clinton, which both the Sudanese government and SPLA regarded as a formal waste of time, the SPLA resumed operations out of Uganda, enjoying the support of that country’s government. The NIF backed the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel movement, in order to oppose by proxy both the Ugandan government and the SPLA. With help from the Ugandan military, and renewed support from Ethiopia, the SPLA retook portions of southern Sudan under the name Operation Thunderbolt. At the same time, the NAF attacked in the north, aimed to cut off Port Sudan.

Despite encountering success, infighting resumed in the SPLA, and in April 1997 the UDSF, along with various other breakaway factions, changed sides. By July, all three forces were at a stalemate. Local victories were made by both sides, but the line did not progress in either direction. Fighting continued until 2005, when a Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed on January 9th. The 2005 agreement led to the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement on October 14th, 2006, which addressed the grievances of the three eastern states. Provided for in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement were referendums on independence to take place in 2011. The referendum for independence of South Sudan passed by 98.8% approval. South Sudan almost immediately descended into a civil war of its own. After 2011, renewed fighting took place in the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, as they had been denied their promised referendums for independence, and were forced to remain with Sudan.

The longest-lasting of the Sudanese conflicts is the War in Darfur. The Darfur region of Sudan comprises the western third of the country. The northern portion of Darfur is ruled by the Sahara Desert, while the southern portion is an arid plain, in some places suitable for agriculture, but otherwise inhospitable. Being such a large country with little infrastructure, the people in Darfur feel little connection to their leaders in Khartoum.

On February 26th, 2003, the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), whose military wing is the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), attacked Sudanese government forces at Golu. On April 25th, they took over the town of Tini, capturing weapons stored there. Now armed and ready for a fight, the SLA, along with the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), made an attack on al-Fashir airbase on April 25th. In a replaying of the Chadian action at Maaten al-Sarra, the SLA/JEM force of 30 technicals stormed al-Fashir and destroyed Sudanese Mi-25s and other aircraft on the ground. They captured weapons and vehicles from the airbase and were gone before the Sudanese could organize a response.

Two technicals, the further one likely a Type 1, moving across the Darfur desert in early 2009.

Over the next several months, the SLA continued to make raids, until a ceasefire was briefly established in September. Now fighting wars on three fronts, the Sudanese government did not have enough resources to handle the uprising in Darfur. Instead, they employed local militias called Janjaweed, made up of Arabian nomads, to fight the SLA and JEM, which were primarily African farmers. The Janjaweed were provided trucks by the Sudanese government, who bought them new from just four different dealerships, likely in the GCC region. Starting in early December, the Janjaweed began making attacks on villages in Darfur. The conduct of the Janjaweed was horrifically brutal, bordering on genocide. By mid-2004, both the UN and AU (African Union) tried to get involved to establish humanitarian aid, but a ceasefire could not be established long enough to allow this. In July, the Sudanese government indicated it would disarm the Janjaweed, in light of their war crimes and pressure from outside nations. The SLA/JEM refused to negotiate for peace until the Janjaweed was disarmed.

What happened next is not entirely clear, but it can be summarized that the situation got worse. 1,000 Sudanese troops were deployed to the region, and by early 2005, AU observers reported that the Sudanese Air Force were bombing their own villages. Nearly 3 million people were displaced by the fighting. Starvation and disease affected more than half the population.

 

A Type 1b in Darfur, sometime before 2011. The weapon mounted in the bed is a ZPU-2. In front of the passenger, a Chinese 7.62 mm Type 80 machine gun is strapped precariously to the hood, and slung over the driver’s door is an RPG-7 launcher loaded with a Chinese Type 69 anti-personnel rocket. “N.R.F.” stands for National Redemption Front, the cooperative combination of the SLA and JEM. This vehicle was originally white or beige, but has been turned green with camouflage, apparently painted on with the same tiny paintbrush that the letters were. Source

In 2006 and 2007, numerous agreements were made between the rebel factions, Janjaweed militias, and the Sudanese government. Despite this, there were too many rebel factions and subfactions, all with differing goals, meaning that a meaningful peace was not achieved.

In 2007, the United Nations and the African Union initiated a joint humanitarian aid and peacekeeping operation, called UNAMID (United Nations–African Union Mission in Darfur). UNAMID was established after the failure of three AMIS (African Union Mission in Sudan) observation and peacekeeping missions. The presence of the 20,000+ strong UNAMID forces greatly reduced the amount of fighting, but low-intensity conflict continues in Darfur as of November 2020.

 

UNAMID Type 1a (J79L-TJ) armed with a DShK escorting a convoy of food trucks. UNAMID has constructed rather ingenious bench seating for some of their Land Cruisers, allowing mounted troops to disembark quickly. At the insistence of the Sudanese government, UN troops in UNAMID are all African. These particular soldiers are from Rwanda. They are armed with AKM rifles and a Type 80 machine gun. Northern Darfur, Sudan, February 10th, 2014. Source

In one of the largest actions of the conflict, JEM launched a raid on Khartoum, the country’s capital, in May 2008. Between 130 and 300 technicals were used in this raid. The JEM force got as far as Omdurman, a suburb of Khartoum just across the river Nile from the capital, before the attack was repulsed. To the JEM, the war in Darfur is known as the Land Cruiser War— a name which was coined independently of the Toyota War.

 

Sudanese government forces with two Type 1b’s captured from JEM, South Darfur, 2015. The nearer truck, a J75LP, is armed with a ZU-23-2, the farther one with a ZPU-2. Source: Osprey New Vanguard 257 – Technicals

In 2013, the Sudanese government reorganized their employment of Janjaweed militias into the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Despite now being a legitimate, government-supported organization, the change in name has not stopped the Janjaweed tendencies toward war crimes and atrocities. The RSF was responsible for the Khartoum Massacre in June 2019. In April 2019, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was deposed in a coup, placating some of the rebel groups in Darfur. Since then, Sudan has embarked on the road to peace, yet some fighting continues.

 

Two J79L-TJ Land Cruisers in use by the United Police Forces, the Sudanese government police. The heavy guns resting on the roofs of the trucks are Type 80 machine guns; the soldier on the left is armed with an AKM rifle. Note the wire mesh over the windows and headlights to prevent the glass from being broken. Here, the mesh over the driver’s side windshield is moved to allow better visibility. Source

The RSF purchases its own new trucks for use as technicals. It is a matter of contention where they get the money for this. An RSF financial spreadsheet leaked in December 2019 reveals much about the process of sourcing trucks. The spreadsheet details expenditures made between mid-January and mid-June 2019. Listed are all the vehicles purchased, their prices, date of transaction, invoice numbers, shipping costs, and the dealerships they were purchased from. All of the dealerships are based in the United Arab Emirates, and all denied knowing they were selling trucks to the RSF when asked. All nine companies (Ghassan Aboud Cars, Arabian Ronz Used Cars, MotorsCity.com, Bin Humaidan Motors, Al Karama Motors, Motors Mart, Noble International Group, Golden Arrow Company, and Sahara Motors) supplied 70 Series Land Cruisers, with some supplying smaller amounts of other vehicles. Technicals have been photographed in use, still with the GCC energy efficiency sticker from the dealership in the driver’s side window.

The complete breakdown of vehicles purchased by the RSF from January 18th, 2019 to June 18th, 2019:
4x 2012 Toyota Land Cruiser, Unspecified
13x 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser, Unspecified
31x 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser, Unspecified
11x 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser Pickup, Standard Trim, Beige
3x 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser Pickup, High-spec Trim, Beige
513x 2019 Toyota Land Cruiser Pickup, Standard Trim, Beige
92x 2019 Toyota Land Cruiser Pickup, Standard Trim, Beige with 2018 Graphics
5x 2019 Toyota Land Cruiser Pickup, Standard Trim, White
42x 2019 Toyota Land Cruiser Pickup, All options, Beige
1x 2019 Toyota Land Cruiser Pickup, All options, White
12x 2019 Toyota Land Cruiser Pickup, All options, Unspecified
30x 2019 Toyota Land Cruiser J79
20x Toyota Land Cruiser Pickup, Standard Trim, Unspecified
39x Toyota Land Cruiser Pickup, All options, Unspecified
11x 2019 Toyota Land Cruiser GXR (J200), Standard Trim
5x Toyota Land Cruiser VXR (J200) 3UR Engine
5x Toyota Land Cruiser GT (J200) 1UR Engine
89x 2019 Toyota Hilux, White
17x 2019 Toyota Hilux, Unspecified
30x 2019 Toyota Prado GXR (J150) 2TR Engine
1x Toyota Prado, Unspecified
2x Toyota HiAce
30x 2019 Toyota Corolla (E210) 1ZR Engine
12x 2019 Mitsubishi Pajero, White
1x 2019 Hino ZS 4041
10x 2020 Hyundai i10
4x Firetruck

In total, 816 70 Series Land Cruisers, at a cost of 86,210,199 dirham (23,471,330 USD), and 217 vehicles of other types, at a cost of 24,770,600 dirham (6,743,969 USD), were purchased. In total, this is 1,033 vehicles for a grand total of 110,980,799 dirham (30,215,299 USD).

From the distributors in the UAE, trucks are taken across Saudi Arabia to the port of Jeddah, where they are loaded onto ships and moved across the Red Sea to Suakin, Sudan. Ships known to be contracted for these shipments include Egyptian Dignity, registered to the port of Alexandria, and Med Link, registered to Tripoli. Once in Sudan, the vehicles are then moved by truck to Khartoum.

 

A convoy of five or six car haulers transporting around 50 brand new J79L-TJs down Air Street, Khartoum, Sudan, May 2019. Source
 
Two of the trucks involved in the Khartoum Massacre in June 2019; both are J79L-TJs. These vehicles are a good representation of RSF technicals, which are often painted in green to dark olive, and lightly camouflaged with slightly darker green repeating patterns. The truck on the left is a rare Type 1b Special, mounting a ZPU-4. The cabin has been cut off to allow the weapon to face forward, but strangely the right side A-pillar and snorkel have been retained, despite the fact the driver of the now topless truck would be underwater by the time the snorkel would be needed for deep wading. Source

Indefatigable

Elsewhere in Africa, and in the Middle East, the tactical employment of technicals developed differently. In Somalia and Libya, the combat was less in open desert and more in urban environments. Conventional tactics were thrown out altogether. The technical was no longer to be seen as a modern cavalry horse, but as a mobile gun platform.

Somalia

Following Somalia’s defeat at the hands of Ethiopia in the Ogaden War in 1978, Somali President Siad Barre grew more and more unpopular among the Somali clans. Culture in Somalia is heavily influenced by families, or clans, with histories dating back up to one thousand years. Barre had risen to power through ruthless means, often involving the murder of opponents, particularly of the Isaq clan, with whom his own clan, the Marehan, had a blood feud. Following the loss of the Ogaden War, in 1978 men of the Isaq and Mijerteen clans attempted a coup against Barre, but this failed. The perpetrators of the coup escaped to England, where they formed the Somali National Movement (SNM) and returned to Somalia to overthrow Barre’s dictatorship.

In response to the coup, Barre began open attacks on the civilian population of the Isaq clan, in the northern part of the country. As Somalia began to break down, warlords arose and clans formed their own militias. The SNM was supported by Ethiopia, occasionally being provided T-54s. This insurgency continued through the 1980s until it found success in 1987 when the SNM succeeded in cutting off the northwestern section of the country. Heavy fighting occurred in 1988 as the SNM struggled to hang on to their northern territory, eventually being pushed out by the Somali National Army (SNA), which committed atrocities the whole way. The SNM captured Toyota Land Cruisers from the SNA and turned them into technicals by fitting them with DShK and KPV machine guns, M40 recoilless rifles, and rocket launchers.

Somalia continued to fall apart during 1989 and 1990, until Siad Barre fled the country in January 1991, just as the fighting exploded into a free for all. Up until the expulsion of Barre, no less than seven militant factions emerged in Somalia.

  • Somali Democratic Alliance (SDA), composed of the Gadabursi clan
  • Somali Democratic Movement (SDM), composed of the Rahanweyn clan
  • Somali National Front (SNF), composed of the Marehan clan
  • Somali National Movement (SNM), composed of the Isaq clan
  • Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM), primarily composed of the Ogaden clan
  • Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF), primarily composed of the Majeerteen clan
  • United Somali Congress (USC), composed of the Hawiye clan

The SDA and SNF were pro-Barre factions, while the others were opposed to the Barre government.

The USC, led by Mohamed Farrah Aidid, was instrumental in taking the capital, Mogadishu, and ousting Barre. The USC also defeated Barre’s attempts to return in April 1991, April 1992, and September 1992. The anti-Barre factions only engaged in very limited cooperation, as each of their goals varied from the others. The USC was one of the largest factions, and it held the center of the country, as well as the capital. To the south was the much smaller SPM. The USC and SPM were allied against the SNF, which held the northern portion of Somalia’s southern “hook”. The SNF incorporated a portion of the now-defunct Somali National Army. North of the USC, the SSDF held Somalia’s northwest corner. The SNM, the largest faction, held the northeast of the country, which, in May 1991, it declared to be an independent country called Somaliland.

 

A USC technical armed with an M40 recoilless rifle, Mogadishu, Somalia, 20 November 1991. The left rear quarter panel seems to have been blown away by repeated backblast of the rifle firing over the right side of the truck. This truck is actually a 60 Series Land Cruiser, a handful of which were converted into technicals in Somalia.
 
SPM Type 1a (J77LV) with a 7.62 mm SGM (or the Chinese copy, Type 53) machine gun mounted on the hood in front of the passenger’s seat. This is another Land Cruiser SUV with the top cut off. This vehicle has been given an artistic quadricolor camouflage scheme; “SPM” is barely visible in black on the door. Buulo Mareer, Somalia, 24 March 1991.
 
A 70 Series Land Cruiser leads a ragtag parade of SNM vehicles through the streets of Hargeisa, the proclaimed capital of Somaliland, March 1992. Source

By this time, the international community had taken notice of the crisis in Somalia, not least of which was mass starvation. Humanitarian organizations began to send missions to Somalia, hiring mercenaries to protect them, as they were forbidden from carrying weapons themselves. These hired guns utilized the trucks with machine guns that had become popular after the Toyota War, as did most combatants in Somalia. It is said that payment for the mercenaries was written off as “technical support”, and the mercenaries themselves were referred to as “technical advisors”. This is not the origin of the word “technical”, but it may have helped solidify its usage in the western world.

The United Nations-brokered a ceasefire between the factions in March 1992, and initiated a humanitarian aid operation called UNOSOM (United Nations Operation in SOMalia). The first UNOSOM turned out to be woefully unprepared and was undermined by the warlords as fighting restarted. The UN then initiated UNITAF (UNIted TAsk Force), led by the United States. The goal of this was to use military force to bring peace to certain areas so that humanitarian aid personnel could work without being shot. The United Nations had contemplated forceful disarmament of the warlords, but American troops were unwilling to carry this out, fearing being mowed down by the Somali technicals.

AH-1 Cobra and UH-1 Iroquois helicopters were widely used by US forces in Somalia, one of their roles being to destroy technicals. It was made clear by peacekeeping forces to the Somalis that any technicals that could constitute a threat to UN forces would be destroyed. American special forces held a “kill on sight” order in regard to technicals. After losing three trucks to an ill-advised attack on American helicopters in December 1992, the USC quickly learned to keep them hidden.

During this time, Mohamed Aidid succeeded in unifying the USC and SPM, along with several smaller factions. The new faction was called the Somali National Alliance (SNA). On December 9th, 1992, the American military made a show of force by landing a large number of troops on the shore of Mogadishu. The US forces were initially supportive of the SNA but changed sides to support the SNF. Satisfied they had done their job of intimidating the Somali forces, the Americans left Mogadishu. The area having been “stabilized”, UNITAF turned into UNOSOM II on May 4th, 1993, bringing in a massive relief operation.

Under UNOSOM II, the UN negotiated with the warlords for them to turn in their weapons, to limited success. Among the weapons surrendered were technicals, particularly the oldest and most worn-out ones. It is speculated that the Somalis were agreeable to the surrender of the technicals as they knew the UN would not take them with them when they left Somalia, and they would fall back into Somali hands. US forces categorized technicals into two types: “light technicals”, based on pickup trucks, and “heavy technicals” based on large straight trucks with heavier weaponry.

 

A Type 1d (J75LP) armed with a UB-16-57UMP rocket pod. In addition, the windshield has been removed and an HK21 light machine gun has been mounted in front of the passenger’s seat. This vehicle is part of either the SPM or USC. Kismayo, Somalia, 15 May 1992.
 
The same truck exactly one month later. Kismayo, Somalia, 15 June 1992.

Behind the scenes, the United States had the goal of eliminating Aidid, as they suspected he was a communist sympathizer. Although UNOSOM II started out well, the Somali factions began to see the relief operation as just a cover for another combatant to contend with. SNA forces began to attack UN workers and troops, leading to increased hostilities. Lack of direction and coordination meant that various UN contributing country’s forces began to act on their own, in what they believed was their best interest.

The United States made its move against Aidid on October 3rd, 1993, under Operation Gothic Serpent. An aerial attack on Mogadishu led to the loss of two MH-60 Black Hawks (this incident is the one depicted in Black Hawk Down) and ended with a mass bombardment of the city that resulted in hundreds of Somalis killed, Aidid not among them. No technicals were involved in this battle, all of them being kept hidden, as the Somalis knew the American’s propensity for destroying their valuable trucks.

The loss of American lives in Somalia turned the US population against their military’s involvement there, and only a few days after Operation Gothic Serpent, the withdrawal of US forces was announced. The American withdrawal was complete by March 3rd, 1994. With Somali opinion now against them, the remaining UN humanitarian forces could make little progress and were withdrawn in 1995. Infighting resumed among the Somali factions with renewed vigor. Aidid would die of wounds sustained in battle in August 1996. Opposition arose to the rule of his son, Hussein Farrah Aidid, who succeeded him. Ethiopia supported the formation of anti-Aidid Jr. factions, among them the Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA), made up of the Rahanweyn clan. In the north, in 1995 and 1996, opposition to the independence of Somaliland led to insurgency on behalf of the Gahardji clan. Fighting continued, but on a diminishing scale, until the new millennium.

In 2000, the Somali Transitional National Government was established, and in 2004 gave way to the Transitional Federal Government. In 2006, however, a new dimension opened in the Somali Civil War in the form of Islamic extremism. The now-militant Islamic Courts Union (ICU) battled with the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT) in Mogadishu. Islamic factions had existed previously in the war, but their impact was negligible. The ICU prevailed over the ARPCT and quickly took over much of southern Somalia, in the area formerly claimed by the SNA. In December, Eritrea came to the aid of the legitimate Somali government, causing further dissent from the ICU and its sympathizers.

From late 2006 into 2007, the ICU began to break up. A breakaway group was formed, al-Shabaab, which usurped the ICU’s antagonistic role in Somalia, and was in itself a far more clear-cut Islamic terrorist group. In early 2007, the African Union formed the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) to provide humanitarian aid and peacekeeping for the Transitional Federal Government. Both AMISOM and al-Shabaab employ technicals of their own; the latter’s use of them being curtailed by the presence of Ethiopian helicopters, part of the AMISOM force.

 

AMISOM Type 1a (J79L-TJ) standing guard over a camp for internally displaced people in Baidoa, Somalia, 2017. Many Somalians have had to travel over 100 miles on foot just to find a place with available food. Famines are made worse by al-Shabaab, which steals what little food does exist. Source

A great deal of fighting has gone on in Somalia since then, so much so that even a full-time scholar of the conflict would struggle to understand all of the intricacies of the politics being fought over. While Somalia now has an internationally recognized government, fighting is still ongoing. Today, the Somali National Armed Forces (SNAF), the reformed military of Somalia, employs Land Cruisers both as personnel carriers and as technicals.

To the Somali fighter, his truck is known as a “Battlewagon”, and it is a great source of pride. Somali technicals are often painted in colorful and elaborate paint schemes. More than any other country, Somalia is inextricably linked with the technical. Having been in use for over three decades, technicals have permeated Somali culture; a culture that is, unfortunately, one of war.

 

A Type 1a (J75RP) of the Ahlu Sunna Waljama’a, a Somali Islamic anti-terrorism group. Mounted in the bed of the truck is a 14.5 mm ZPU-1, an anti-aircraft mount version of the KPV. In the hands of the men in the back of the truck are several AKM rifles and an RPG-7. Mareer Gur, Somalia, 17 December 2012. Source

Afghanistan

The Afghan Mujahideen were another early adopter of technicals. The Mujahideen were a collection of revolutionary groups opposed to the government of Afghanistan, called the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan. One of these groups would emerge as the Taliban. Like Iraq, the majority of vehicles available in Afghanistan were of Soviet origin, however, the Afghan rebels imported some foreign pickup trucks from Pakistan. This was often done by transporting the disassembled trucks over the mountains and reassembling them again in Afghanistan. Trucks of American make, and especially the Toyota Hilux, were the preferred type.

At least some Land Cruisers made their way into Afghanistan, as evidenced by photos taken by Soviet Spetsnaz special forces during the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. Spetsnaz troops operated technicals they captured from the Afghans in order to remain inconspicuous.

 

Soviet special forces with a Type 1a (J75LP), mounting a 12.7 mm DShK. Source
 
Two J75LPs in use by Soviet forces in Afghanistan. The Type 1a on the right carries a DShK, while the Type 1f on the left is armed with an AGS-17 30 mm grenade launcher. To the left of the technicals is a BTR-70. Source

It is said that Osama bin Laden, leader of the Taliban-aligned Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda, preferred to ride in a Land Cruiser, while the rest of his organization favored Hiluxes.

Following the US invasion of Afghanistan, and the subsequent occupation, the use of technicals dropped significantly. Like in Somalia, technicals were no match for modern aircraft, and the Taliban and al-Qaeda were forced to keep their trucks hidden and rarely used. Many of the trucks were destroyed early in the fighting, and a sufficient supply of them did not exist in Afghanistan for technicals to stay common, as they did in other countries.

 

A Type 1b (J75) in service with the Taliban, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, 2000. Source: Osprey New Vanguard 257 – Technicals

Libya

For as long as the country was ruled by Muammar al-Gaddafi, Libya has been a dangerous and destabilizing force in Africa. Gaddafi focused the entire country toward militarism, purchasing large amounts of equipment from the Soviet Union, which the poorly trained Libyan Army could never hope to fully utilize. Gaddafi’s end goal was to see to the success of Islamic rebel groups in Africa and the Middle East and to unite the Islamic world in a holy war against Israel.

Inspired by the success of Chad during the Toyota War in 1987, Libya began to copy Chad’s tactics and their use of technicals. Very little documentation exists regarding Libya’s early use of technicals, however Chadian sources record that in 1987, the final year of the Toyota War, Chad captured 60 Toyota technicals and 194 non-technical Toyota trucks from the Libyan Army. This evidences that Libya did adopt the use of technicals, but does not indicate much as to Libya’s creation of technicals, as many of the trucks were captured back and forth between Chad and Libya.

The modern conflict in Libya started with the period between 2010 and 2012 known as Arab Spring. All over Africa and the Middle East, civil rebellions began to break out, as citizens were fed up with governmental tyranny, corruption, and disregard for human life. In Libya, this resulted in the First Libyan Civil War in 2011. Protests against the government began in January, and intensified in February. As the protests turned into a full on civil war, the National Transitional Council (NTC) was founded on February 27th to coordinate the rebellion and to govern the country once Gaddafi had been removed. The military wing of the NTC was the National Liberation Army (NLA), which comprised the Libyan rebels in general, and was outfitted with weapons captured from Libyan Armed Forced stocks.

Particularly large numbers of Soviet air-to-ground unguided rockets were captured from the Libyan Air Force, owing to Gaddafi’s heavy investment into aircraft. While the NLA did operate a small number of captured aircraft, the majority of captured aircraft weaponry was repurposed into the ground-to-ground role, especially mounted on technicals. While the Libyans were not the first to use these rockets in this role, being preceded by first the Soviets in Afghanistan, then the former Yugoslav countries, they were the first to utilize them in a large enough role that it can be said they made an impact on the conflict. By far the most common weapons seen in this role are the UB-16-57UMP and UB-32-57, 16- and 32-round launchers respectively for the 57 mm S-5 rocket. Somewhat less common are the B-8M1 launcher for 80 mm S-8 rockets, and the French Matra Type 155 launcher for 68 mm SNEB rockets.

Unguided rockets in general are a staple of Libyan technicals. Again, this can be attributed to what Gaddafi’s military had in stock, rather than what is optimal for the role. When properly mounted on an aircraft and stabilized by the airflow over the wings, unguided rockets are inaccurate at best. When shoddily attached to a pickup truck and fired from a stationary position, the likelihood of hitting a target with the 5-kilogram rockets is “not good.” Regardless, inaccuracy is compensated for by sheer numbers, and air-to-ground rockets are not the only type in the Libyan arsenal. Chinese 107 mm Type 63 12-round launchers, Egyptian SAKR RL-4 4-tube launchers for 122 mm Grad rockets, various improvised launchers, and even the 240 mm S-24 rocket have found their way onto Toyota technicals. Other weapons captured from the Libyan Army and mounted on Type 1 technicals during the First Libyan Civil War include 14.5 mm ZPU-2s and ZPU-4s, 23 mm ZU-23-2s, 105 mm M40 recoilless rifles, and BMP-1 turrets.

 

NLA Type 1d armed with a UB-16-57UMP rocket pod, western entrance to Ajdabiya, Libya, 7 April 2011. This truck is unusual among those armed with rocket pods in that its weapon seems to have quite a high degree of horizontal traverse. On most technicals of this type, the weapon is fixed, with only the elevation able to be changed. It is uncommon to see a Type 1 technical with this type of rocket pod, which is more often fitted to Type 2 technicals, possibly because the Type 1 is better suited to handling heavier weapons. Notice that the rocket pod is painted in the colors of the Libyan flag, a common motif. Source
 
Two typical Libyan technicals, both Type 1d’s armed with Type 63 rocket launchers. The nearer truck is a J79L-TJ and the farther one a J75LP. The cords hanging off the beds of the trucks lead to the operators of the rocket launchers, out of frame. With the cab and bed of both trucks full of blankets and pillows, it is not hard to see why Type d technicals are often lost to fire. The “17” scrawled on the side of the nearer truck is in reference to the 17 February Revolution, regarded as the start of the First Libyan Civil War. The number 17 can be seen on many Libyan technicals. This photo was taken in February or March 2011. Source
 
A Libyan rebel Type 1d (J79L-TJ) armed with an SAKR RL-4, Ajdabiya, Libya, 25 April 2011. Source

Gaddafi continually tried to dismiss that the rebellion was a threat to him, stating that the rebels were terrorists or foreign instigators. In his typically heavy-handed way, he brought the Libyan Army against protestors, massacring hundreds of civilians. In a vicious cycle, the more Gaddafi tried to suppress the rebellion, the more intense and convicted the rebels became, and the crueler the atrocities committed against them by the Libyan government. Libyan forces targeted medics and hospitals, and by May, were conducting airstrikes and artillery bombardment of civilian areas.

The rebellion swept quickly from west to east across Libya. Benghazi was the first city taken over by rebel forces, followed quickly by Misrata. In March, the Libyan Army attempted an offensive to retake the two cities but failed. Later in March, UN and NATO countries began to intervene in Libya on the NTC’s behalf. Combat continued for several months, with NATO forces conducting regular airstrikes against Libyan government forces. Too little and too late, in June, Gaddafi tried to plead with the rebels by offering to allow political elections.

By the end of August, the NLA controlled the entire country, including the capital of Tripoli, with the exception of a few small pockets of pro-Gaddafi forces. The last areas fell to the rebellion in late October — Bani Waled, and Sirte, the latter where Gaddafi was killed on October 20th, when he was shot in the head.

 

Type 1e (J75LP) armed with an M40 recoilless rifle driving down the B13 Coastal Road between Brega and Ajdabiya, Libya, 7 April 2011. Source
 
A Libyan rebel Type 1b Special (J79L-TJ), armed with a ZPU-4, Sadada, Libya, August 30th, 2011. Like many white trucks, this Land Cruiser has been coated with dirt for camouflage, which has since been wiped away in some areas. Technicals from the First Libyan Civil War tend to show a great deal of wear and tear, even though the war was less than a year long. One possibility is these trucks were not in great condition to begin with when they were converted to technicals. Source

The National Transitional Council initially governed Libya successfully after the overthrow of Gaddafi. The NTC was recognized by foreign nations as the government of Libya, and it represented Libya in the United Nations. Unfortunately, some of the soldiers who took part in the overthrow of Gaddafi refused to lay down their arms and began to factionalize and form militias. Trying to maintain control over these groups, the NTC, and later the General National Congress, a more permanent government structure that replaced it, made these groups semi-legitimate institutions by paying them. The subsequent series of events is complex and largely irrelevant to the discussion of the eventual outcome; government-sponsored militias began to fight with each other, and like with the clans in Somalia, these groups were also political ones. Unlike in Somalia however, the factionalism and rise of militias did not lead to a total breakdown of the central government, but the formation of two separate governments, both of which claim to be the legitimate government of Libya.

  • House of Representatives – Legitimately replaced the General National Congress in 2014, based in Tobruk.
  • National Salvation Government – Illegitimately formed by politicians of the General National Congress who lost to those elected to the House of Representatives in 2014, and instead remained in Tripoli. This group also continued to use the name of the General National Congress. In 2016, it rebranded to the High Council of State.

In 2015, the United Nations attempted to rectify the two Libyan governments by consolidating them into the Government of National Accord. This effort was only partially successful, and rather than combining the two existing governments, created a third out of parts of both of them. The Government of National Accord is the currently recognized ruling government of Libya, although it lacks the power of the other two.

While the two, and later three, Libyan governments form a backdrop to the fighting between the Libyan militia groups, the Second Libyan Civil War, which began in 2014, cannot be thought of as a traditional ‘one side versus another’ war. To fully understand the Second Libyan Civil War would require a compendium unto itself. Though it might seem to be a free-for-all to the outside observer, the conflict between the Libyan militias is a focused one, albeit with constantly shifting allegiances, alliances, goals, and groupings. Militias may be formed according to race, religion, location, family, government affiliation, or national identity. Out of all the conflicts discussed in this article, the Second Libyan Civil War is the most incomprehensible. For that reason, and for the sake of brevity, the politics and the specifics of the war will be passed over, in favor of examining the use of the Land Cruiser.

 

A Type 1f (J79L-TJ) belonging to the Libyan Air Defense Forces. These trucks carry dual 9K388 Igla-S surface-to-air missile launchers. March 16th, 2013. Source

Toyota first established dealerships in Libya in 2010, but they were quickly closed due to the First Libyan Civil War. After the overthrow of Gaddafi, the dealerships reopened in 2012. Heavy-duty models of the 70 Series are not imported to Libya; such models have 11 leaves in their leaf spring suspension, as opposed to 8 in the standard models. The extra suspension makes these trucks more suitable for mounting heavy weapons. Libyan Toyota dealerships are mandated by Toyota corporate not to sell to people they suspect are connected to the militias. However, these efforts have made little difference to the prevalence of Type 1 technicals in Libya. Since many of the militias are technically on the government payroll, it is perfectly legal for Toyota dealerships to sell to them.

Once a militia has acquired a fresh truck, they take it to a workshop to be converted into a technical. Assumedly, some militias have their own workshops and armories, while others rely on local shops to do the work. In Misrata for example, the Industrial Technology Faculty of Misrata, one of the colleges under the umbrella of Misrata University, serves as one of the technical workshops for the city’s militias. ITFM, like many technical schools and workshops across Libya, first got into this “business” during the 2011 revolution, when they produced weapons and technicals for NLA fighters. When fighting began again in 2014, the college was compelled to go back to working on technicals.

Generally, the way it works is the brigade will approach us. They’ll say, ‘Look, we’ve got X numbers of cars and we need you to put this on this car, this on that car, different types of weapons and so on. We’ll look at the car, we’ll see if it’s capable of carrying the weight of the weapon they’re asking for. If not we’ll make a few suggestions about what they could change or what alternative weapons could cover instead. … I didn’t think that we were going to have to come back and restart, I had people coming to me after the revolution asking if I could mount weapons and I just said, ‘No, we’re not mounting any more. What do you need a weapon for now? The fighting is over.’ I don’t even really like weapons, I’ve never really liked them and never thought of this being a job for me!” -Abdelsalam Gargoum, a former teacher at the technical college in Misrata, during an interview in 2014.

 

Workers at the Industrial Technology Faculty of Misrata working on an order of Type 1d technicals. The vehicle seen in the background displays a few signatures of this workshop, namely a base coat of black paint and an improvised flat four-tube launcher for 122 mm Grad rockets. This particular truck, a J75, has a striking blue camouflage pattern. September 4th, 2014. Source

The trends seen in the construction of technicals during the First Libyan Civil War were continued in the second, namely the use of rockets and the choice of weapon types. The Gaddafi regime stockpiled far more ammunition than it could ever realistically use, and now that surplus of weapons is being used to keep the civil war going. In regard to technical design, there is little reason to distinguish between the first and second Libyan Civil Wars, as what can be said of one of them also applies to the other. One exception to this is that farther along in the second civil war, there grew greater and greater ambition to mount larger and more extravagant weaponry onto technicals.

Two such weapons that began to appear on technicals around 2016 are the 90 mm CN90F1 from the AML-90 armored car, and the 90 mm EC-90 (Brazilian licensed copy of the Cockerill Mk.III) from the EE-9 Cascavel. Libya purchased just 20 AML-90s from France in 1970, and 500 Cascavels from Brazil in 1973. For mounting onto technicals, the entire front of the AML-90 or EE-9 turret is cut off and placed on a triangular mount that allows 360° rotation. So far, at least four such conversions have been done with the CN90F1, three on 70 Series Land Cruisers, and one on a Humvee. While conversions with the EC-90 are more common, owing to the donor vehicle being more common, they are still quite rare. For Type 1 technicals mounting these weapons, while the gun can face forward, it cannot effectively fire over the cab. Firing over the side is liable to tip the whole vehicle, so firing over the rear is the only option.

 

A Government of National Accord-aligned militia with a Type 1f (J79L-TJ) mounting a partial AML-90 turret and CN90F1 cannon, Tripoli, Libya, 18 October 2019. Source
 
A Type 1f armed with the EC-90 cannon demonstrating the issue with firing over the side of the vehicle. Photo taken in May 2019. Source

The First Libyan Civil War was the first conflict to see the use of Type 1BMPs — a severed BMP-1 turret mounted in the back of a technical. The BMP-1 turret mounts the 73 mm 2A28 Grom low-pressure cannon and has a launch rail for the 9M14 Malyutka anti-tank guided missile. The first Type 1BMP conversions were crude. The turret was seated on a simple angle iron frame, left open on the sides and only sometimes protected by a metal plate at the rear. The turret basket was removed, and along with it went the ammunition storage and gunner’s seat. On BMP technicals, the ammunition is carried in the bed of the truck, and the gunner is given an office chair to sit on. The electrical components and drive motor from the BMP are also transplanted onto the technical to power the turret’s electric traverse and elevation mechanisms.

The reasons for doing these conversions are numerous. Most probably, the donor BMPs were destroyed, damaged, or cannibalized for parts to keep other BMPs running, yet their turrets were still functional and now left without a vehicle. It is possible that the donor BMP was in working order, but the turret was removed so the hull could be used for another purpose. Finally, there is the fact that tracked vehicles are large and difficult to maintain, and the BMP-1, being a lightly armored APC, is unsuitable to urban combat, where an RPG hides around every corner. Therefore, it is possible nothing at all was wrong with the donor vehicle, but the turret was mounted on a technical to make it more mobile and smaller profile.

Libyan rebel forces testing the systems of a Type 1BMP in preparation for the Battle of Galaa/Sofitt Hill on June 7th, 2011.

 

A Libya Dawn Type 1BMP in Bir al-Ghanam, Libya, on March 5th, 2015. This unique short wheelbase Type 1BMP is unlikely to be useful for much outside of fire support. Having been converted from an SUV, there is not enough room in the bed for the gunner to man the gun if it is pointing over the rear of the truck, and there may not even be enough room to operate it when aiming over the right side, assuming that the mount provides any traverse and is not just fixed in place. Without room to mount the whole turret, the trunnion and cannon have been cut out and placed on a pedestal. The mounting of this gun does not look very sturdy, even against the low recoil force of the 2A28. Source

In general, Libyans keep their trucks in the factory colors, usually tan. Occasionally this is covered with a smearing of dirt, especially if the truck is white, but the tan color is usually already a perfect match for the Libyan terrain. Trucks are usually given the identifying mark of their militia on the door at minimum, and more commonly are covered in slogans and patriotic symbols and flags. When seen operating in groups, such as during an offensive, large sections of trucks such as the hood, doors, or gunshield can be painted in the colors of the Libyan flag.

Combat in Libya is a mix of urban fighting and fighting in the open desert. In urban combat, Type 1a’s, Type 1b’s, and Type 1e’s are commonly employed to fight against entrenched enemy troops. In hilly and desert terrain, Type 1b’s provide fire support for infantry. A common tactic is for the technicals to lay suppressive fire on a defending enemy in order to allow friendly troops to advance to close range. This method was used particularly in the first civil war against government forces.

The Type 1d’s, armed with rockets, are kept to open spaces and used in indirect fire and long-range direct fire roles. Due to the inaccuracy of these rockets, their use is more as a terror weapon similar to the Soviet World War II Katyusha, rather than as targeted artillery. For safety, Type 1d’s are almost always fired with the crew dismounted. Because technical crews have to live out of their trucks, technicals can be stuffed with ammunition, food, water, bedding, clothes, and so on. This makes them extremely flammable, and many a technical has gone up in flames when the exhaust of a rocket caught something alight.

 

An ISIL Type 1e (J79) armed with an improvised single-tube launcher for 122 mm Grad rockets fires on the oil fields in Sidra, Libya, 7 May 2016. Source

One of the dangers of operating in open terrain is attack from aircraft. NATO forces in Libya largely limit themselves to air support. This is what prevented Gaddafi’s tanks and aircraft from being used to their full potential during the first civil war. In the second civil war, half of all targets claimed by NATO aircraft were technicals. Target identification in this situation is problematic, and NATO aircraft often accidentally bomb the wrong side’s technicals.

In urban combat, some technical crews have begun to fit their vehicles with light armor. Usually, this is a flat plate or wedge attached to the front of the vehicle, mostly to protect the engine from gunfire. Even on armored technicals, the crew are left completely exposed. The frontal armor also helps to protect the vehicle when ramming through barricades or into other vehicles. Sometimes chains are hung from the bottom of the front armor; it is believed this is intended as a way to protect the tires.

 

Libyan National Army Type 1b (J79L-TJ) with additional frontal armor and a pintle-mounted DShK on the hood. The usefulness of this weapon is questionable, seeing as there is nothing to stop its user from falling off, nor is he offered any protection from the armor. Notice a removable cover has been fashioned into the armor plate over the left side headlight. The soldier hanging out of the hole where the passenger’s side door used to be is armed with a 7.62 mm PKM machine gun, and the person behind him with an RPG-7. The black truck to the left of the picture is a Type 10a, a Mitsubishi L200. Sabha District, Libya, 19 January 2019. Source

Several militias have distinctive technicals that are worth discussing on their own. The Mobile National Force (MNF) has a standardized camouflage pattern that they apply to nearly all of their technicals. It is a forest camouflage with a dark green base covered with a pattern of irregular brown, black, and off-white shapes. Strangely, this pattern seems to be a vinyl wrap, rather than painted or sprayed on camouflage. This observation is drawn from the fact that vehicles with MNF pattern camouflage often have areas that are left in the original paint, with crisp lines of definition where the wrap was applied. Areas that are sometimes left uncamouflaged are the extremities around the grille, bed, windshield, and roof. The largest number of vehicles in this pattern were seen in late 2012, but as the MNF is still active, though less often photographed, it is highly likely a good portion of their trucks are still in this pattern, though they seem to no longer apply it to new technicals.

Whether camouflaged or not, most MNF technicals carry a sticker on the door with the militia’s logo, and under that, a number written in five decimal spaces. Numbers observed on Type 1 technicals range from 00090 to 01250, always being multiples of 10. The exact purpose of this number is not known for certain, but it is likely a unit numbering system. MNF Type 1s have been seen to carry the usual range of ZPU-1s, ZPU-2s, ZU-23-2s, and M40s, but they have also been seen with the much more rare ZPU-4 and the Zastava M55A4B1 triple 20 mm.

 

Mobile National Force Type 1a (J79L-TJ) armed with a ZPU-1. Notice the sharp line at the bottom of the door where the original white paint can be seen not covered by the vinyl wrap. This vehicle bears the number 360. Photo taken sometime before April 2013. Source
 
A column of MNF vehicles being led by a Type 1b (J79L-TJ) armed with a ZPU-2. The black truck to the left is another J79L-TJ also armed with a ZPU-2, and in the back is a J75LP, armed with an M55A4B1. The armored car is a Bravia Chaimite that has been fitted with a rocket or missile launcher. Photo taken sometime before April 2013. Source

The Libyan National Army (LNA) is the military maintained by the House of Representatives. It is led by Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, and is often described as “Haftar’s Army.” As one of the largest fighting forces in Libya, the LNA does not have an army-wide standard for the outfit of their technicals, though, in general, LNA Type 1s are kept in the factory tan paint and camouflage patterns are applied over this.

The most common camouflage pattern to see on LNA technicals is large brown splotches with a black spray-painted border. These camouflages seem to come in two varieties, one can be identified by large semi-circular spots on the hood above both headlights, and the other can be identified by squiggly lines of camouflage coming up onto the hood from either side above the front wheels. It is impossible to say when this pattern was introduced, but it appears to be relatively recently, within the last several years.

 

A force of al-Saiqa (LNA special forces) Type 1b (J79L-TJ)s from 497th Battalion assembled in Benghazi, Libya, on June 18th, 2020. The first, third, and fourth trucks have the first camouflage pattern variant, the second, fifth, and sixth trucks have the second pattern variant. This photo also offers a comparison of the relative size of the ZU-23-2 and ZPU-2, mounted on the first and second truck respectively. Among the second row of vehicles in the background is a J78L troop carrier ambulance and a J79L-TJ with an improvised 4-tube launcher for Grad rockets. Source
 
An LNA Type 1d (J79L-TJ) armed with a massive 240 mm S-24 air-to-ground rocket. This vehicle is being prepared to fire on ISIS positions near Sirte, Libya. Photo taken on June 10th, 2016. Source
 
This Type 1b (J79L-TJ) was captured by Ansar al-Sharia from the LNA in Benghazi in October of 2014. It has vinyl wrap camouflage similar to that used by the MNF, and the number on the door indicates that it may be one of several similarly decorated trucks. So far this is the only known photo of a LNA technical with this camouflage pattern. Source
 
LNA Central Security, a military police unit, paints their trucks in a slate blue base color and adds distinctive light blue camouflage spots. This Type 1a (J79L-TJ) was photographed in Sabha, Libya on February 6th, 2019. Source
 
The 106th Brigade of the Libyan National Army uses a camouflage pattern wherein the shapes of Africa and Libya are stenciled in black/dark olive onto the tan base paint of their vehicles, seen here on a Type 1b (left), Type 1a (middle), and Type 1b Special (right). Source

Libya Dawn used two notable types of camouflage on their Type 1s. The first was a pattern similar to that used by the LNA’s 106th Brigade, albeit with spots not shaped like landmasses. Libya Dawn’s pattern had more densely packed spots, which are an earth brown color. The other camouflage type was used in the area around Zintan, south of Tripoli. It consisted of comedically shaped green, black, brown, and white splats over the basic tan paint. A corresponding feature seen on trucks with this camouflage was a simple metal shield for the ZPU gunner in the back.

 

A pair of Libya Dawn Type 1b (J79L-TJ)s on the side of a road into Zintan, Libya, on March 4th, 2015. Notice that both trucks have an upright metal plate attached to the left side of their ZPU-2s to protect the gunner. The “lion head” seal on the door of the truck is indicative of Libya Dawn. The meaning of the seal on the hood and of the pink panel is not known. The tan and black trucks behind the Type 1 in the foreground are both Toyota Hiluxes.

Indestructible

Like the Libyan Civil Wars, the Syrian Civil War and Yemeni Civil War were brought about by the Arab Spring movement. The Syrian Civil War in particular has fostered renewed Islamic terrorism that has spread throughout the world. Largely for that reason, the conflict has been covered far more extensively than any other conflict described in this article. The Syrian Civil War and the Yemeni Civil War are different to the other conflicts discussed in this article in that researching them poses the opposite problem than researching other conflicts does. Rather than a scarcity of information, there is an overabundance of information about these wars. Thanks to the pervasive use of social media, almost every skirmish is documented, and every vehicle photographed at least twice. The challenge is in correlating this information, which is spread out across hundreds of news outlets, observers, websites, and forums.

Syria

To properly cover the Syrian Civil War would require an encyclopedia unto itself. “Syrian Civil War” is often used as a collective term for the many smaller wars and skirmishes centered around Syria, but also affecting Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Turkey. At times, the conflict looked like a free-for-all, and at best is a multi-way war between at least four sides; the Syrian government, Syrian rebels, Kurds, and the Islamic State.

Beginning in March 2011, protests and civil unrest arose in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad. As part of the Arab Spring, the people demanded reform, the end of corruption, and political and personal freedoms. In response, Bashar blamed Israel for the uprisings and sent in the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) to quell the riots, resulting in the death of over 1,000 civilians. In retaliation to the Syrian government’s disastrous handling of the protests, riots and armed insurrections began. Deserters from the SAA formed their own rebel armies, most notably the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which was established on July 29th, 2011.

Fighting quickly intensified as forces loyal to Assad tried to crush the rebellions, further cementing the resolve of the rebels. During the first half of 2012, the UN and Arab League attempted to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the conflict arising in Syria, but these efforts failed, and in June, the UN abandoned Syria. The FSA arose in the Latakia Governorate, north of Lebanon, bordering the Mediterranean. Fighting then moved inland, centered on the major cities of Aleppo in the north and Damascus in the south. SAA attacks on Kurdish civilians led the People’s Protection Units [Yekîneyên Parastina Gel] (YPG) to enter the fighting against the Syrian government. The YPG had been formed in 2011 as a military wing of the Democratic Union Party [Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat] (PYD) to protect Kurds from the fighting in the Syrian Civil War; this was their first major act.

In January 2012, Jabhat al-Nusra l’Ahl as-Sham was formed. Better known as al-Nusra Front, or just al-Nusra, this Islamic extremist group originated when al-Qaeda decided to make a Syrian offshoot in late 2011. Despite radically opposed ideologies, al-Nusra and the FSA cooperated in the fight against the SAA. Al-Nusra operated primarily in the Idlib Governorate, between Aleppo and Damascus. While their fighters were said to be elite in regular combat, al-Nusra also engaged in terrorism and greater than average amounts of war crimes.

In the second half of 2012, the FSA took ground around Damascus and Aleppo. They captured several SAA barracks and bases, gaining large amounts of supplies and weapons. Speaking in regard to these gains, FSA General Ahmad al-Faj declared, “There has never been a battle before with this much booty”. In November, another FSA force arose in the Deir ez-Zor Governorate, bordering Iraq, and took the town of Mayadin, along with the SAA base there. By the beginning of 2013, FSA and al-Nusra forces, incidentally aided by the YPG, which took control of much of the northern territory, “spilled over” the top of Syria and linked up with the FSA contingent in Deir ez-Zor. In February and March, Raqqa, capital of the Raqqa Governorate, emerged as a fierce battleground, being fully in the hands of the rebels by March 6th.

Starting in late 2012 and increasing their involvement in the opening months of 2013, the militant Lebanese Islamic extremist political party called Hezbollah began interventions in Syria on the side of the Syrian government. Other prominent Lebanese figures and groups urged Hezbollah not to get involved in Syria, for fear that it would drag Lebanon into the war. Hezbollah ignored these pleas, intent on combating what they called American and Israeli influence in Syria, in the form of the FSA.

With help from Hezbollah forces, the SAA launched an offensive to retake areas south of Homs from the rebels in April 2013. Pro-Assad forces made several smaller gains over subsequent months. During this period of SAA offensives, rebel forces claimed that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against them. In July, the YPG emerged victorious over the village of Ras al-Ayn, for which they had been fighting the FSA, al-Nusra, and the SAA since November 2012.

Intense back and forth fighting over Homs and Aleppo continued in July between various Islamic groups, the FSA, and SAA. On August 4th, the FSA launched the Latakia Offensive, aimed at taking al-Haffah in the Latakia Governorate. After two weeks, the SAA had retaken all the ground gained by the FSA in the offensive. On August 6th, the FSA took the Menagh Military Airbase, north of Aleppo, which had been under siege since November 2012. For the remainder of August, rebel forces made small-scale assaults, but any ground they took was quickly retaken by the SAA.

The organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) had been active in Iraq in one form or another since 1999. The original founder of ISIL, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2004, and thereafter ISIL took orders from al-Qaeda and was largely seen as al-Qaeda’s presence in Iraq. When the Syrian Civil War began in 2011, ISIL attempted to establish an offshoot organization there — al-Nusra. On April 8th, 2013, ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced that al-Nusra had been funded by ISIL and that it would be merging with its parent organization. Neither al-Nusra nor al-Qaeda had agreed to this, and this led to ISIL breaking away from al-Qaeda on its own. ISIL (during this period normally called ISIS) initially played a small role in the fighting against the SAA. Their first major move toward becoming a power was turning on the FSA and taking control of the town of Azaz, north of Aleppo.

An FSA Type 1BMP (J79L-TJ) taking several shots at Syrian government forces then quickly ducking into cover during the fighting for al-Manshiyah District of Daraa, Syria, July 10th, 2013.

Renewed SAA and pro-Assad forces assaults on Damascus and Aleppo occurred in October and November 2013. Toward the end of November, the FSA retook some territory from the SAA. Back and forth fighting continued into December. Meanwhile, one of the Islamic rebel factions, the Islamic Front, took some northern territory from the FSA, including warehouses of equipment provided by the US.

On January 3rd, the FSA and two of the moderate Islamic rebel groups, the Islamic Front and the Army of Mujahideen, launched an attack against ISIS, a growing thorn in the side of the Syrian rebellion. FSA-aligned forces were able to expel ISIS from Aleppo and Raqqa, however, the terrorist group managed to retake the latter. Aircraft from Turkey also engaged ISIS vehicles at this time.

During March and April 2014, pro-Assad forces made gains in the area of the Qalamoun Mountains, along Syria’s border with Lebanon, north of Damascus. They also found success in the Homs Governorate, north of the Qalamoun Mountains. The FSA ceded Homs itself to the SAA on May 7th.

By mid-2014, ISIS had grown into a considerable power in Syria. Also existing as a fighting force in Iraq, ISIS captured much Iraqi equipment and vehicles and deployed some of them to Syria. Both the SAA and Iraqi Air Force conducted airstrikes against ISIS’s strongholds in the region of Aleppo, however, ISIS continued to quickly snatch up neighboring territories. In its attacks, ISIS frequently employed suicide bombers. During August, ISIS laid siege to and captured the SAA’s Tabqa Airbase, thereby pushing the SAA out of the Raqqa Governorate. In regard to ISIS, the SAA then changed focus to the Deir ez-Zor Governorate, east of Raqqa. Deir ez-Zor not only contains Syria’s largest oil reserves but was a territory necessary for ISIS forces in Syria to maintain contact with ISIS forces in Iraq.

Already conducting airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, the United States began attacking ISIS in Syria as well in September 2014, after having informed both the Syrian government and FSA. With material support from the Syrian government, the YPG retook its city of Kobanî on January 26th, 2015. The YPG’s forces in Kobanî would later be bolstered by troops from Iraqi Kurdistan’s Peshmerga.

With al-Nusra having gained control of most of the Idlib Governorate, many of the Islamic rebel factions in the area, including al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, consolidated to form the Army of Conquest. The goal of this coalition was taking Idlib, the capital of the governorate. On March 28th, 2015, Idlib was captured by the Army of Conquest forces. From there, the Army of Conquest launched an offensive that pushed the remaining SAA forces out of the governorate almost entirely. By this time, the FSA’s dominance had waned. Many of the fighters left to join other rebel factions, the largest of which was Ahrar al-Sham.

 

Al-Nusra Type 1s on their way to Busra al-Harir, Syria, on April 20th, 2015. The lead Type 1a is armed with a KPV heavy machine gun, behind it is a Type 1c, mounting a BGM-71 TOW, and bringing up the rear is another Type 1a. All three trucks are J79L-TJs. Source

In May, ISIS launched the Palmyra Offensive, taking control of much of the Homs Governorate and capturing the city of Palmyra on May 21st, after only one week. After this offensive, ISIS controlled about half of Syria. A counter-offensive by the SAA in July and August failed to retake Palmyra.

In September 2015, with the war situation the worst it had ever gotten, Bashar al-Assad asked Russia for air support against ISIS and the anti-Assad rebels. In response, the United States reinitiated its support for the Kurds and Syrian rebels. With the Syrian Civil War now being a practical Cold War reunion, fighting on all sides intensified, with morale running high for both the SAA and Syrian rebels. After the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, attributed to ISIS, France redoubled their bombing efforts in Syria, and deployed their aircraft carrier, Charles de Gaulle, to join the US fleet there. In December, the British joined the air war over Syria, having previously limited themselves to only bombing ISIS in Iraq.

In October 2015, the SAA launched the Latakia Offensive, to push rebel forces out of the Latakia Governorate. The SAA was supported on the ground by Hezbollah, and in the air by Russia. By the time it ended in February 2016, the offensive had been a resounding success, and most of the governorate had been retaken. At this time, the United Nations-brokered a ceasefire between all forces (excepting ISIS), which went into effect on February 27th. In March, the SAA retook Palmyra. The ceasefire fell apart in July, and fighting between the pro-Assad forces and anti-Assad forces reignited in Aleppo, which had been continually fought over since it was first contested in 2012. It took until December 22nd, 2016, for Aleppo to be fully under the control of the SAA, ending the Battle of Aleppo after 4 years, 5 months.

A rebel Type 1b (J79L-TJ) in Aleppo in 2015 displaying superb coordination between the crewmembers, as the truck pops out of the alleyway just long enough for the ZPU-2 gunner to empty the magazines. Source

 

A Type 1b (J79L-TJ) belonging to the Harakat al-Abdal, a member of the Iraqi PMU, in northern Aleppo Governorate on February 5th, 2016. The birdhouse-like structure behind the cab is a crude early warning system meant to detect incoming infrared guided missiles. Source

In October 2015, the Kurds formed the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), based around the YPG, including many smaller militias. The SDF’s goal of a religiously free and democratic Syria, with an autonomous Syrian Kurdistan existing east of the Euphrates River, put them at odds with Assad’s government. Between August 16th and August 23rd, 2016, the SDF took control of the remaining areas in the al-Hasakah Governorate that were under the control of Syrian government forces. The following day, Turkey initiated Operation Euphrates Shield, and invaded the northern Aleppo Governorate, to the condemnation of all involved, except for the United States. Despite the fact the Turkish government regarded the Kurds as a terrorist organization, and the United States having pledged support for the Kurds, American Vice President Joe Biden threatened to pull support from the SDF unless they kept to their side of the Euphrates, allowing the Turks into Syria. Prior to this point, Turkey had materially supported some of the Islamic rebel factions.

Unsurprisingly, Turkey, and its sponsored rebel groups which it formed into a faction called the Syrian National Army (SNA), continued deeper into Syria, coming into conflict with the SDF/YPG. Both the US and Russia condemned Turkey for picking fights with Syrian rebel groups, rather than focusing on ISIS.

 

A small force from the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, a pro-ISIS militia, in a town near the Golan Heights, March 25th, 2016. On the left is a T-55, and on the right is a BMP-1 with the turret replaced by a ZU-23-2. In the center is a Type 1b (J79L-TJ), which is unusually covered with a camouflage net. Source

In November 2016, the SDF initiated Operation Wrath of Euphrates, aimed to take ISIS’s capital of Raqqa and the ISIS-held Raqqa Governorate. Phase I of the operation involved taking the area north of Raqqa, and Phase II involved taking the area to the west. Both of these were completed by January 2017. Phase III, the taking of the largest portion of land east of Raqqa, took until April for completion. Phase IV, the final push to Raqqa itself, ended in early June.

An FSA fighting group of Type 1 technicals, consisting of at least seven Type 1a’s, a Type 1b, and a Type 1b Special, all of which are J79L-TJs. Some of the trucks have tactical markings on their roofs for identification, likely for friendly drones, such as the one that filmed parts of this video. Presumably, this unit is the equivalent of D Company, and each truck is individually numbered, as D17, D40, D52, and D58 can all be seen. This video was taken in Zamikyiah, Syria, during Operation Euphrates Shield on 9 November 2016; it illustrates the typical countryside fighting fire support that technicals engage in.

The Turkish forces succeeded in taking al-Bab, a major city east of Aleppo, from ISIS on February 23rd, 2017. After having taken Aleppo, the SAA rushed eastward to take Dayr Hafir, south of al-Bab, and prevent Turkish forces from moving further south. Dayr Hafir was in Syrian hands by March 23rd. Pursuit of ISIS would take the SAA south toward Raqqa, however, the SDF had already taken control of the region of al-Tabqa, on the other side of the Euphrates from Raqqa.

Meanwhile, in March 2017, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham launched the Hama Offensive in the Hama Governorate, between Homs and Idlib. Tahrir al-Sham was formed in January out of al-Nusra and several other Islamic extremist rebel groups. The SAA stopped the offensive at the outskirts of Hama, and by the end of April had regained all lost territory.

 

A Type 1b Special (J79L-TJ) belonging to Tahrir al-Sham firing on SAA forces in Suran, north of Hama, on March 21st, 2017. Source

Between July and October, the SAA moved south and retook the area of central Syria between al-Tabqa and Palmyra, eventually taking the city of Deir ez-Zor on September 5th. On October 17th, the SDF and US forces took control of Raqqa. Following these two massive successes, SAA forces chased ISIS east, meeting Iraqi forces at the border, who had been pursuing ISIS west, out of Iraq. In early December 2017, Russia declared that ISIS had been destroyed in Syria and that Russian forces would be leaving.

In January, Turkey and the SNA began an operation against the SDF/YPG units in the Afrin region, which it had cut off from the rest of Syrian Kurdistan when it invaded Syria. Turkey cynically called this Operation Olive Branch. Afrin was taken on March 18th.

 

A Turkish Special Forces Type 1b (J79L-TJ) in the area around Afrin, circa January 2018. The Turkish military did not use many technicals, but those it did use were quite competently built. Turkish Type 1b’s were fitted with large three-sided gunshields, as seen here. Source

In April 2018, after bombarding one of the cities in the region with chemical weapons, the SAA broke the Islamic rebel siege of Eastern Ghouta, a week over five years since it began. Several days later, the SAA retook full control of Damascus from remaining ISIS holdouts and rebel groups. The remainder of 2018 would be taken up by the cleanup of various pockets of rebel resistance in the south by Syrian government forces, as well as the refocusing on the Idlib Governorate as the front between the Syrian government forces, and the Turkish-backed rebels.

 

A Tahrir al-Sham J79L-TJ armored troop carrier participating in an exercise in preparation for attack by the SAA in Idlib, northwestern Idlib Governorate, August 14th, 2018. The troop compartment, complete with side firing ports and rear door, bears a strong resemblance to the Daimler-Guinness Armoured Lorry of over one hundred years prior. Source
 
A Type 1f (J79L-TJ) belonging to Liwa al-Quds, a pro-Assad militia, on 23 September 2018. This truck mounts a 30 mm 2A42 autocannon, normally seen on infantry fighting vehicles such as the BMP-2. Source

In December 2018, US President Donald Trump abruptly announced that US forces would be leaving Syria, after assurances from Turkish president Recep Erdoğan that Turkey would see to the destruction of terrorists. Whether he knew or cared that Erdoğan was speaking in regard to the Kurds cannot be said. It took until October 2019 for US forces to withdraw from Syria, and immediately Turkey invaded Syrian Kurdistan. Having been abandoned by their ally, the Kurds made an agreement with the Syrian government, brokered by Russia, that the two enemies would work together to fight the Turkish invasion of their country. Attempts at peace and compromises all failed, and in 2020 Turkey began a genocide of the Kurds. The situation is still unfolding.

Into the first half of 2019, ISIS still existed in the Deir ez-Zor Governorate, however, very much reduced from their time as a territory-holding state. Despite being declared “defeated” on several occasions, it was believed that thousands of fighters remained loyal or sympathetic to ISIS and that they would return to being an insurgency, rather than a fighting force.

 

ISIS Type 1f (J70/71/72LV) mounting a 25 mm Oerlikon KBA recovered from the wreck of an Egyptian YPR-765 APC, Sinai, March 25th, 2019. Source
 
Several Hezbollah J79L-TJ Type 1b’s and Type 1a’s in Jroud Arsal, on the Lebanon side of the Lebanon-Syria border. Photo taken on August 1st, 2017. Notice the range of colors which are used for the base color. The Type 1b’s in this photo also appear to have a portion of the cab roof cut out to act as a sort of travel lock for the ZU-23-2. Source

Type 1b’s (autocannon armament) are the most common variant of the Type 1 technical in Syria. ISIS operates Type 1b’s almost exclusively. The Free Syrian Army is the largest operator of Type 1a’s (machine gun armament), to the extent that they have greater numbers of Type 1a’s than they do Type 1b’s, which is highly unusual. Small numbers of Type 1c’s (ATGM armament) are employed by Syrian rebel forces, which were supplied with TOW launchers by the United States. Al-Nusra has also come into possession of TOWs and employs them on their technicals as well.

As in Libya, there are large numbers of Type d technicals (rocket armament) in use in Syria. However, owing to the fact that the Syrian Air Force did not have such large stockpiles of rockets as the Libyan Air Force did, air-to-ground rocket pods have not found much use on Syrian technicals. Type d’s in Syria are relegated to using ground-to-ground rocket launchers, and due to the increasing scarcity of those, improvised rockets and launchers.

 

A Type 1d (J79L-TJ) belonging to Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS), an Iraqi militia active in both Iraq and Syria. This truck was photographed in Nebai, Iraq, on January 13th, 2015. The rocket and launcher could not be identified and may be an improvised model. Source
 
Trucks of the “Badr Rocket Brigade” preparing for an attack on ISIS in Fallujah, Iraq, on May 20th, 2016. On the right is a Type 1d (J75LP) armed with four “Shams” (Sun) tubes. Shams is a nebulous term referring to a type of improvised rocket created by multiple factions in the Syrian Civil War. A Shams rocket consists of a disproportionately large warhead and a long slender rocket motor. Shams rockets are tube-launched and are highly inaccurate, but carry a large explosive charge. This Type 1d has a small crane on the back of the launcher to facilitate loading the rockets. The truck on the left could not be identified; it is armed with an improvised rocket. Source
 
A Type 1d (J70/71/72LV) belonging to a minor militia aligned with the Mu’tasim Division firing its Type 63 rocket launcher toward ISIS positions in Aleppo, Syria, 20 December 2015.
 
Another peculiarity is the use of Russian 82 mm mortars on technicals by the Free Syrian Army. The Type 1f (J79L-TJ) seen here belongs to Jaysh Usud al-Sharqiya, more commonly known as Lions of the East Army, one of the militias that made up the FSA. Qalamun Desert, Syria, 31 March 2017. Source

The Type 1BMP was first built in Libya, but Syria was where it was perfected, in the hands of the mad engineers powering the Islamic State’s war machine. Known simply as “The Workshop”, located on the grounds of what as the Thawrah Industrial Facility in the Raqqa Governorate, this single compound is where nearly all of the legitimate fighting vehicles of the Islamic State were maintained and modified. The largest number of vehicles overhauled at The Workshop were BMP-1s. Due to their large size and thin armor, however, most BMP-1s that fell into ISIS hands were expended as SVBIEDs (Suicide Vehicle-borne Improvised Explosive Device). Converting a BMP-1 to an SVBIED entailed removing the turret and filling the hull with as many explosives as possible. This resulted in a surplus of BMP-1 turrets that needed to be found a use.

The use that they found for these turrets ended up being one of the most strangely elegant and well thought out designs to come out of the Syrian Civil War. A semi-modular box was built onto the back of a J79L-TJ, to a height level with the cab, and the BMP-1 turret mounted atop it. This arrangement gave the BMP turret full 360° rotation and comparable internal operating space to its original home in a BMP-1. ISIS Type 1BMPs are known to employ the launch rail for 9M14 Malyutka ATGMs, almost one hundred of which were captured from the Syrian Arab Army. At least four Type 1BMPs have been built by ISIS. Three individuals have been seen in the Deir ez-Zor Governorate and a fourth in the Aleppo Governorate. A Type 8BMP (based on a Ford F-350) having the same type of turret module has been seen in use by ISIS in Iraq.

 

An ISIS Type 1BMP firing its cannon at a building down the street in Hasrat on April 19th, 2017. The Islamic State name for Hasrat, Syria, is al-Khayr. Source: Unknown
 
Vehicles overhauled by The Workshop were given black serial number patches. Serial numbers used for BMP-1s were in the 200 range, this includes BMP turreted technicals. 232 is the most frequently photographed Type 1BMP, seen here launching a Malyutka missile. The other two from Deir ez-Zor do not seem to have been given serials, even though one has the black patch painted on. The Type 8BMP in Iraq has the serial number 231. Photo taken on April 12th, 2017. Source

One of the latest incarnations of the Type 1 technical is not actually a technical at all, but an SVBIED. They were made by the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army, which began as a rebel faction operating on the southern front in the Daraa Governorate, but which turned into an ISIS-aligned terrorist group in 2016. Khalid ibn al-Walid was smaller and less equipped than other ISIS groups and rarely employed SVBIEDs up until 2018. In the final few months of their existence, Khalid ibn al-Walid began to make larger use of SVBIEDs. One of the first to appear was a 70 Series Land Cruiser covered with the armored body of a BTR-152, which was deployed in al-Shaykh Saad on April 19th, 2018. Two more such vehicles would be seen on June 5th and July 15th, both near the town of Hayt.

 

The first Land Cruiser/BTR-152 SVBIED, which was detonated in al-Shaykh Saad, Syria, on April 19th, 2018. Source

It is clear that a lot of effort went into these conversions, probably more than was warranted. Armoring SVBIEDs is nothing new, it helps ensure the operator stays alive long enough to get the explosives to the desired target. However, using the bodywork of a BTR-152, cutting apart the entire vehicle in the process, and basing the SVBIED on a Land Cruiser, one of the most desirable platforms for technicals, are very strange choices. Khalid ibn al-Walid captured several BTR-152 armored trucks from the stocks of Syrian government forces. Presumably, these trucks were non-operable, as otherwise they could have been used as SVBIEDs with little alteration necessary.

After the defeat of Khalid ibn al-Walid in July, at least two additional BTR-bodied Land Cruisers were discovered in their former territory by the SAA. These trucks, however, were different to the SVBIEDs; they used nearly the full body of the BTR-152, whereas the SVBIEDs had only used the forward section of the BTR armor. These Type 1BTRs were intended as fighting vehicles. The first vehicle was armed with a KPV machine gun and used the body of a single BTR-152 with only the rear cut off to fit the shorter Land Cruiser chassis. The second vehicle used a combination of three BTR-152 bodies, with the troop compartment made from welding two BTR-152 troop compartments together. When photographed in Syria, this Type 1BTR had a mount for a weapon in the back, but no weapon was fitted. Both Type 1BTRs were taken to Russia and went on display at Patriot Park. The second vehicle has since been given a coat of tan paint and been fitted with a fake recoilless rifle.

 

The two Type 1BTRs at Patriot Park in Russia on August 23rd, 2018. Source

Yemen

The Yemeni Civil War began in September 2014, when the revolutionary group Ansar Allah, better known as the Houthi movement, or simply the Houthi, took over the capital city of Sana’a. This act was motivated by economic and political difficulties in the country dating back to 2011. To end the violence, concessions were made by Yemeni president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi that entailed giving the Houthis large amounts of power in the government and eventually ended in Hadi’s resignation and the Houthis declaring the former Yemeni government defunct. In February 2015, Hadi escaped from his detention in Sana’a and declared to the rest of Yemen that the Houthi government was illegitimate and that he remained the president of Yemen. This created a divide in the Yemeni military, with part of the force remaining loyal to Hadi, and part of the force being loyal to the Houthis.

In March, Houthi forces took over the cities of Taiz and Mocha, having rapidly expanded their landholding in southwestern Yemen. Several days later, at the request of Hadi, a coalition force led by Saudi Arabia was formulated to assist the Yemeni government in the fight against the Houthis. Neighboring countries that were part of this force include Sudan, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, the UAE, Bahrain, and Qatar. It is said, however unconfirmed, that the Houthis were supported by Iran, with which Saudi Arabia had been waging a cold war.

By the end of March, the Houthis had reached Aden, on the southern coast of Yemen, where Hadi had temporarily moved his capital. At this time, the Houthi movement controlled roughly the western third of Yemen. The Houthis had taken Aden by April, but in July were pushed out by Coalition and Yemeni forces. Another Yemeni government push came in August, taking a large section of the Houthis’ southern holdings. From this point onward, no great advancements were made. Back and forth fighting continued for years, with the same areas of land being fought over repeatedly. Very slowly, Coalition and Yemeni forces have chipped away at the Houthis’ territory, yet the latter still controls a sizable portion of Yemen. As of November 2020, this situation endures.

During the fighting between the Houthis and the Yemeni government, smaller portions of the country came under the control of other groups, such as al-Qaeda, Ansar al-Sharia, ISIS, and the Southern Movement. The former three are Islamic extremist groups, the latter is a group pushing for the regained independence of South Yemen. The Southern Movement established its own government in 2017, called the Southern Transitional Council (STC), which is backed by the UAE. Despite at times controlling considerable portions of land, these lesser factions have not greatly influenced the course of the conflict between the Houthis and the Yemeni government.

Prior to the civil war, the Yemeni Armed Forces employed multiple variants of the Type 1 technical, including the J70/71/72LV, J78L, J75LP, and J79L-TJ. Type 1a’s were employed by multiple Yemeni military and secret police organizations. The Yemeni Army operated Type 1a’s, Type 1b’s, and Type 1e’s. A notable feature of pre-war Yemeni technicals is the care with which they were designed and built. Yemeni Army technicals generally retained their tan base color and were camouflaged with darker brown in various patterns.

 

A Type 1a (J79L-TJ) armed with a DShK belonging to the Central Security Organization, the pre-war Yemeni military police. This photo was taken in Sana’a on January 13th, 2011. CSO technicals seem to have been given quite elaborate camouflages, such as the quadricolor woodland scheme seen here. Digital camouflage patterns have also been observed. Source
 
A Yemeni Army Type 1a (J79L-TJ) with DShK in Sana’a on May 25th, 2011. From January 2011 to February 2012, large scale protests and riots occurred in Yemen, eventually culminating in the overthrow of president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Source

The Yemeni Army built a standardized type of technical with a fighting compartment in the bed, having two windows per side and a roof-mounted turret. Several variations exist in the armament of this type of technical. Standard armament is a 12.7 mm DShK heavy machine gun, which comes in either a conical or open-topped turret. The open-topped variety is more common, the conical turret possibly being an earlier variant. A single Yemeni-type technical having an octagonal open-topped turret with 105 mm M40 recoilless rifle has also been seen.

 

A Yemeni Army Type 1a (J79L-TJ) with conical turret, 2014. The conical turret type of Yemeni Type 1a has also been seen in service with the Central Security Organization. Source
 
A Yemeni Army Type 1a (J79L-TJ) with open-topped turret. Source
 
Yemeni Type 1e with M40 recoilless rifle mounted in an octagonal open-topped turret. Source

In the Yemeni Civil War, the Yemeni government’s use of technicals has greatly diminished. The Houthis are now the largest operator of technicals in Yemen. Houthi technicals are characterized by ingenuity and outlandish weaponry. With limited access to modern weaponry, the Houthis have had to make do with whatever they are able to capture. This includes such antiques as the Soviet 57 mm ZiS-2 and 76.2 mm ZiS-3, both of which they have mounted onto Toyota Land Cruisers.

 

A Houthi Type 1a (J75LP) armed with a ZPU-1 in Sana’a, sometime in 2014. The door of this truck has been adorned with portraits of Ali Abdullah Saleh, to whom the Houthis remain loyal. Source
 
A Houthi Type 1f (J75LP) with a Soviet 57 mm ZiS-2 cannon mounted on the back. This truck is very clearly on its last legs, yet still it soldiers onward — a testament to the desperation of the Houthi fighters and the indestructibility of the Land Cruiser. Photo taken on May 21st, 2017. Source
 
A Houthi Type 1f (J75LP) armed with a 76.2 mm ZiS-3 in the Lahij Governorate, Yemen, on August 25th, 2018. At least half a dozen such vehicles have been built. While in most cases the cannon can be traversed over the cab for transport, it must be fired facing the rear so as not to destroy the vehicle. Source

In 2016, the Houthis unveiled the mother of all technicals — an M167 VADS 20 mm gatling gun mounted to a pickup truck. In 1979, Yemen had received 52 M167 Vulcan Air Defense System guns from the United States. The M167 is the towed version of the famous M163. The Houthis had employed these guns as early as 2015, and they found their way onto technicals not long after.

A Houthi Type 1f (J79L-TJ) with 20 mm M167 VADS, July 29th, 2020. Just a short burst from the massive gatling gun is enough to rock the truck; sustained fire would likely push the vehicle down the street.

Iraq

Iraq, for the most part, has not used the 70 Series Land Cruiser. Prior to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, their equipment was primarily of Soviet origin. After the occupation, the new government of Iraq was provided with enough American Humvees that they had no large need for technicals. The trucks that are used by the Iraqi Armed Forces, particularly by the Popular Mobilization Units (Iraqi PMU), tend to be Type 2 (Toyota Hilux), Type 13 (Nissan Navara), and trucks of American make. Nevertheless, some Type 1s did make their way into service with the Iraqis in the fight against ISIS.

 

An Iraqi PMU Type 1c (J79L-TJ) along with an M113, Humvee, and an MRAP (possibly a MaxxPro), after having taken the village of Ghazila, west of Mosul, Iraq, November 3rd, 2016. Source

An Iraqi PMU Type 1c (J79L-TJ) firing on and destroying an approaching ISIS SVBIED, west of Mosul, Iraq, December 4th, 2016.

 

An Iraqi PMU Type 1d (J79L-DK) firing toward ISIS positions in the desert south of Hatra, Iraq, as part of the Hatra Offensive, April 26th, 2017. Source
 
A Land Cruiser J75LP flying the flag of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran [Mujahedin-e Khalq]. The MEK was an Iranian revolutionary group that sought refuge in Iraq. It was disarmed by the Americans in 2003. As an American soldier can be seen in the photo, it was likely taken sometime after the invasion of Iraq. The truck does not exhibit any signs of having carried mounted weaponry, but an armored troop compartment is fashioned in the bed. Source: Iraqi Army Equipment 1930-2017 Special Report Vol.2

At some point, Iraq came into possession of Iranian-built Type 1d’s mounting HM-27 launchers for 122 mm Grad rockets. The HM-27 has a 2×4 launcher configuration, for 8 tubes in total. These trucks are series built by the Iranian Defense Industries Organization (DIO), and are marketed to military users. The HM-27 can be identified by the rectangular vertical launcher mount, and the “A”-shaped frame which carries the tubes. These vehicles have been spotted in Iraqi hands as early as 2014.

 

An Iranian-built Iraqi-operated Type 1d (J75LP) near the Iraq-Syria border on May 29th, 2018. Source

Vehicles similar to the Type 1d (HM-27) have appeared in Syria in use by rebel factions, particularly Ahrar al-Sham. The Syrian vehicles are semi-standardized but are not consistent in design like the Iraqi ones. The Grad launchers seen on Type 1d’s in Syria have 14 tubes in 2×7 configuration. It is believed that these launchers are also of Iranian origin, but no corresponding model is known at this time. These launchers may have been provided to Syrian rebels by Iraq.

Video depicting the operation of a Syrian Type 1d (J79L-TJ) (Grad). This video was uploaded after the original was deleted, and it does not provide the date and location details the original description might have. Notice that trucks of this type employ outriggers at the rear to stabilize the vehicle when firing.

 

Another Syrian rebel Type 1d (J79L-TJ) of the same type, but with a different launcher mount. The launcher type seen in the video above is the common variety; so far this second version has only been observed once. Photo taken on February 12th, 2018. Source

A number of “half” Type 1b’s have been captured by ISIS in Iraq, having just one barrel of the normally twin-barreled ZU-23-2. It is not known whether this alteration was done by the Iraqis or by ISIS after they captured the technicals. However, due to the Iraqis being relatively well-equipped, it is more likely this was done by ISIS as a way to “stretch” the small number of weapons they captured as far as possible. Most halved ZU-23-2s do not retain their original gun mounts, possibly because the mount was destroyed in the deconjoining process. Singular ZU-23s are then mounted on technicals in improvised mounts made of angle iron. The mount used is somewhat standardized, the common feature being three springs on a diagonal projection underneath the firing chamber to balance the gun.

 

An ISIS Type 1f (J79L-TJ) mounting a halved ZU-23-2. Notice the distinctive springs underneath the cannon. The man in the center is holding a Type 80 machine gun, and the man on the right an AKM rifle. Source
 
Another Type 1f (J79L-TJ). These two photos were taken in Iraq in 2014, but further details are not available. Source

Type 1f (J79L-TJ)s armed with halved ZU-23-2s have also appeared in use by the SDF in the Raqqa Governorate in March 2017. This video, taken on March 25th, as well as other videos show that Syrian half ZU-23-2s are unable to operate automatically, and must be recocked by hand for each round they fire. No videos are available that show the operation of ISIS half ZU-23-2s, but they likely suffered from the same problem.

Insurmountable

Despite the popularity of the 70 Series and the Hilux with warfighters, Toyota actively tries to prevent their trucks from falling into their hands. Being the brand of choice for terrorists, revolutionaries, and war criminals does not reflect well on Toyota’s corporate image. Toyota’s official statement on the matter is thus: “Toyota has a strict policy not to sell vehicles to potential purchasers who may use or modify them for paramilitary or terrorist activities, and have procedures in place to prevent their products from being diverted for unauthorized military use. Toyota complies with export control and sanctions laws, and requires dealers and distributors to do the same.”

Toyota does not sell vehicles in Syria, and until 2012 did not sell in Libya. In the five years prior to the US invasion of Afghanistan, Toyota insists that only a single truck was sold legally to that country. Toyota does freely sell trucks in Iraq, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE; it is from these countries that Toyotas make their way into the hands of warfighters in the Middle East. Obviously, not all trucks are acquired by legal means, some are stolen secondhand, and some right from the distributor. It is estimated that as many as 800 Toyota trucks have been stolen during transport by or for irregular militaries.

Be that as it may, many special forces purchase Toyotas, sometimes in great numbers, for their own operations. The benefit of using technicals is that it allows them to blend in with every other irregular faction in a given conflict. US special forces use a mix of different makes and models, with a large number of Toyota Hiluxes and Land Cruiser 70s. In US military jargon, a technical is an “Unarmored Non-standard Commercial Vehicle” or UANSCV, or NSCV for short. The first use of the 70 Series by US special forces was during Operation Desert Storm, the 1991 intervention in Kuwait. While other units also utilized non-standard vehicles, the 5th Special Forces Group was given Land Cruiser J75s, apparently a donation to the effort by Japan. These Land Cruisers were given small modifications, such as side stowage racks, and identification markings in the form of a black “^” painted on the doors, and a VS17 orange signal panel strapped to the roof of the cab. A pintle mount was placed in the bed, and trucks were equipped with either a .50 cal M2 or Mk.19 40 mm grenade launcher. At least one such truck had the cab cut off and an M40 recoilless rifle was mounted in the bed.

 

A 5th Special Forces Group Type 1a (J75LP) entering Kuwait City, Kuwait, during Operation Desert Storm, 1991. Notice the identification marking on the door, painted over the factory graphics, as well as the panel on the roof and the stowage slung over the side of the bed. Source: Osprey New Vanguard 257 – Technicals

In addition to using them for their own special forces, western countries purchase and donate trucks to third-world governments and revolutionaries they support. Recently, “defense contractors” have taken notice of the popularity of the Land Cruiser as a fighting vehicle and have begun to offer their own modifications and aftermarket versions. This certainly predicates that Toyota knows about these uses of their vehicles and at least tolerates them, despite the fact that cutting off these supplies would help to reduce the number of trucks that fall into the hands of less desirable operators.

 

Jankel is a British company that modifies commercial vehicles for both civilian and military use. They produce armored versions of the Land Cruiser J76, J78, and J79 for non-combat uses; the Hunter Protected Patrol Vehicle based on the Land Cruiser J79 for law enforcement; and the Jankel Fox (pictured) for military use. The Fox is based on the Land Cruiser J79 and comes in four versions: Rapid Reaction Vehicle (RRV), Long Range Patrol Vehicle (LRPV), Light Utility Vehicle (LUV), and Tactical Utility Vehicle (TUV). Source
 
When originally developed in the mid-2010s, the Jankel Fox looked considerably different to its modern iteration. The Jordanian Army was an early customer for the Jankel Fox, which it called al-Thalab (“The Fox”). Source
 
During the Africa Aerospace and Defence Expo in 2012, 2014, and 2016, the South African division of Thales displayed its Scorpion mortar on the back of a modified Land Cruiser J79L-TJ. Supposedly, this automated gun mount can function with the Type 63 rocket launcher in addition to most types of mortars. Source
 
Proforce, a Nigerian company, produces the Buffalo Improvised Combat Vehicle based on the Land Cruiser VDJ79L-DK. The vehicle is fitted with an armored fighting compartment and machine gun turret in the bed. It is currently used by the Nigerian Air Force for airfield defense. Source
 
Australian Patrol Vehicles, a subsidy of Australian Expedition Vehicles, offers a 6×6 conversion of the Land Cruiser J79 for military use. It is called the LRPV, or Long Range Patrol Vehicle. A pintle is provided for mounting a light machine gun above the cab. Source
 
The Terrier LT-79 is a light armored personnel carrier built by The Armored Group out of Dearborn, Michigan. It is based on the chassis of the VDJ79L. Source
 
The LRPV Gepard (Long Range Patrol Vehicle Cheetah) was developed cooperatively between Autosalon Dajbych and Tatra Trucks. It is based on the Land Cruiser VDJ79L and was meant to replace the Kajman D130 in the Czech military. Source
 
Mezcal Armored Vehicles, an Emirati company, produces the Tygra armored personnel carrier in both 4×4 and 6×6 configurations. Based on the 70 Series chassis, multiple models of the Tygra 4×4 exist and are in use with several African nations. Source
 
The Aras is a mysterious truck from Iran which first appeared in 2019. Little is known about it, but the chassis is believed to be a loose copy of the Land Cruiser J79. The Aras has been seen configured as Type a, Type b, and Type d technicals. Source
 
This J71L fitted with a 105 mm M40 recoilless rifle was exhibited at BIDEC (Bahrain International Defense Exhibition & Conference) 2019 as a product of the Bahrain Defence Force. Being a short wheelbase Land Cruiser, it does not offer much in the way of a fighting compartment; the single cannoneer was likely meant to operate the gun while dismounted. Only six rounds of ammunition are carried. Also seen at the exhibition was a Land Cruiser J76L-RKMR with a remotely controlled SARP-L machine gun turret mounted on the roof. Source

It would be impossible to list every military and paramilitary group that has utilized the Type 1 technical, not only because of the sheer amount of groups that have arisen in the Middle East in recent times, but because of their often short-lived and undocumented nature. However, based on photographic evidence a list can be drawn up of the major operators:

  • Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas Forces
  • Afghan Mujahideen
  • Afghan National Army
  • African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS)
  • African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM)
  • Ahlu Sunna Waljama’a (ASWJ)
  • Ahrar al-Sham
  • Ahrar al-Sharqiya
  • Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT)
  • Ali Hassan al-Jaber Brigade
  • Alwiya al-Furqan
  • Al-Bunyan al-Marsous
  • Al-Qaeda
  • Al-Shabaab
  • Ansar al-Din
  • Ansar al-Islam
  • Ansar al-Sharia
  • Armed Forces of the Liberation of Angola [Forças Armadas de Libertação de Angola] (FALA)
  • Bangladesh Army
  • Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council
  • Boko Haram
  • Central African Republic National Police
  • Central Security Organization [Yemen] (CSO)
  • Chadian National Armed Forces [Forces Armées Nationales Tchadiennes] (FANT)
  • Chadian National Gendarmerie
  • Chadian Rebels (Third Chadian Civil War)
  • Fajr Libya
  • Free Idlib Army
  • Free Syrian Army (FSA)
  • French Special Forces
  • Harakat al-Abdal
  • Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba (HHN)
  • Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham
  • Hezbollah
  • Houthi Movement
  • Imazighen / Berber Militias
  • Integrated Security Detachment [Détachement Intégré de Sécurité] (DIS)
  • Iraqi Ground Forces
  • Iranian Army
  • Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)
  • Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant/Syria (ISIL/ISIS)
  • Jaish ul-Adl
  • Janjaweed
  • Jaysh Ahrar al-Ashayer / Army of Free Tribes
  • Jaysh al-Ababil
  • Jaysh al-Izza
  • Jaysh al-Mujahidin
  • Jaysh al-Muwahhideen / Army of Monotheists
  • Jaysh al-Nasr
  • Jaysh al-Thuwar
  • Jaysh Usud al-Sharqiya / Lions of the East Army
  • Justice and Equality Movement (JEM)
  • Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS)
  • Katiba al-Bittar al-Libi
  • Khalid ibn al-Walid Army
  • Kurdistan Workers’ Party [Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê] (PKK)
  • Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD)
  • Libya Dawn
  • Libya Shield Force
  • Libyan Air Defense Forces
  • Libyan Army (Gaddafi Era)
  • Libyan National Army (LNA)
  • Libyan National Guard
  • Libyan Special Forces / Al-Saiqa
  • Liwa al-Baqir
  • Liwa al-Quds
  • Liwa Fatemiyoun
  • Malian Armed Forces
  • Mauritanian Armed Forces
  • Misrata Military Council / Misrata Militias
  • Mobile National Force (MNF)
  • National Liberation Army [Libya] (NLA)
  • National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA)
  • National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL)
  • National Redemption Front (NRF)
  • Nawasi Battalion
  • New Syrian Army/Revolutionary Commando Army
  • Nigerian Army
  • People’s Mujahedin of Iran [Mujahedin-e Khalq] (MEK)
  • People’s Protection Units [Yekîneyên Parastina Gel] (YPG)
  • Peshmerga
  • Popular Front for the Liberation of Libya (PFLL)
  • Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) / Popular Mobilization Units (Iraqi PMU)
  • Qatar Armed Forces
  • RADA Special Deterrence Forces
  • Rapid Support Forces (RSF)
  • Republic of Yemen Armed Forces
  • Revolutionary Commando Army [Jaysh Maghawir al-Thawra] (MaT)
  • Royal Moroccan Army
  • Russian Forces in Syria
  • Saraya al-Salam
  • Saraya Ghuraba Filistin
  • Saudi-Arabian “Coalition” Forces in Yemen
  • Sham Legion
  • Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries (SCBR)
  • Shura Council of Mujahideen in Derna (SCMD)
  • Somali National Armed Forces (SNAF)
  • Somali National Movement (SNM)
  • Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM)
  • South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF)
  • Southern Transitional Council (STC) / Southern Movement
  • Spetsnaz GRU
  • Sudan Liberation Army (SLA)
  • Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA)
  • Sultan Murad Brigade
  • Suqour al-Sham
  • Syrian Arab Army (SAA)
  • Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)
  • Syrian Liberation Front [Jabhat Tahrir Suriya] (JTS)
  • Syrian National Army (SNA)
  • Syrian Rebels/Syrian Opposition Forces
  • Taliban
  • Third Force (Libyan Militia)
  • Tripoli Protection Force (TPF)
  • Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade (TRB)
  • Tuareg Militias
  • Turkish Army
  • Turkish Special Forces
  • United Nations–African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID)
  • United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali [Mission multidimensionnelle intégrée des Nations unies pour la stabilisation au Mali] (MINUSMA)
  • United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo [Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en République démocratique du Congo] (MONUSCO)
  • United Police Forces [Sudan] (UPF)
  • United Somali Congress (USC)
  • U.S. 5th Special Forces Group
  • U.S. Army Special Forces
  • Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade
  • Yemen National Army (YNA)
  • Zintan Brigades
A base model Land Cruiser J75LP.
A base model Land Cruiser J79L-TJ.
A base model Land Cruiser J79L-TJ with facelifted bodywork.
Land Cruiser J75LP with 105 mm M40 recoilless rifle, photographed on the B13 Coastal Road west of Brega, Libya, on 7 April 2011.
Land Cruiser J75LP mounting a ZPU-2. This truck was stolen from Doctors Without Borders during the 1st Liberian Civil War. Photographed in Monrovia, Liberia.
Land Cruiser J79L-TJ with 14.5 mm KPV heavy machine gun. Photographed during the 2nd Liberian Civil War near Old Bridge, Monrovia, Liberia, in 2003.
Land Cruiser J79L-TJ mounting a SAKR RL-4 122 mm rocket launcher. This truck belongs to Libyan rebels. It was photographed at the Western Gate of Ajdabiya, Libya, on 13 April 2011.
Land Cruiser J79L-TJ mounting a M167 VADS 20 mm gatling gun. This truck belongs to the Houthis. It was photographed in Yemen on 29 July 2020.
Land Cruiser J79L-TJ Facelift mounting a ZPU-1. This truck belongs to the Libyan Third Force. It was photographed at the Sabha Airport in Libya on 4 April 2017.
Land Cruiser J79L-TJ Facelift mounting a ZU-23-2. This truck belongs to ISIS. It was photographed in the area of al Bab, Syria, in February 2017.
Land Cruiser J79L-TJ Facelift mounting a ZPU-4. This truck was seen in an FSA promotional video that was released in April 2017.
Land Cruiser J79L-TJ Facelift mounting a ZU-23-2. This truck belongs to the Turkish Special Forces seen around Afrin, Syria, Circa January 2018.
Land Cruiser J79L-TJ Facelift with 20mm Oerlikon. This truck belongs to the Turkish Special Forces seen around Afrin, Syria, Circa January 2018.
Land Cruiser J79L-TJ Facelift with a TOW missile launcher. This truck belongs to the Lions of the East Army. It was photographed in the Qalamoun Desert in Syria on 31 March 2017.
Land Cruiser J79L-TJ Facelift mounting a 90 mm Cockerill Mk.III. Photographed in Libya on 15 April 2020.

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Categories
Modern Japanese Other Vehicles

Type 16 Manoeuvre Mobile Combat Vehicle (MCV)

modern Japanese tanks Japan (2016)
Wheeled Tank Destroyer- 80 built

The Type 16 MCV (Japanese: – 16式機動戦闘車 Hitoroku-shiki kidou-sentou-sha) is one of the Japanese military’s latest developments. The MCV originally stood for ‘Mobile Combat Vehicle’. In 2011, this changed to ‘Maneuver/Mobile Combat Vehicle’.
Classed as a wheeled tank destroyer, the Type 16 is much lighter and faster than the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force’s tanks. As such, it is far more flexible in its deployment options. It can traverse tight rural trails and heavily built up city blocks with ease, or even be air transported for island defense if necessary.

Side view of the MCV. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Development

The Type 16 project began life in 2007-08 and was led by the Technical Research & Development Institute of Japan’s Ministry of Defense. Work on the first prototype began in 2008. A series of four tests began following this.
Test 1, 2009: This tested the turret and chassis separately from each other. The turret was mounted on a platform for firing tests. The chassis – without engine and transmission – was put through various stress tests.
Test 2, 2011: Gunnery systems were added to the turret such as the Fire Control System (FCS), aiming devices, and traverse motors. The engine and transmission were also introduced onto the chassis. The turret was also introduced to begin evaluation of the 2 components together.
Test 3, 2012: Alterations made to the turret, gun mounting, and chassis. A small trial production run of four vehicles started, with the first of the vehicles unveiled to the media on the 9th of October 2013.
Test 4, 2014: The four prototypes were put through their paces by the JGSDF. They took part in various live fire and combat condition training exercises until 2015.

Photo: SOURCE
Following these tests, Type 16 was approved and orders placed for 200-300 vehicles with the aim of getting them into deployment circulation by 2016. The MCV is to built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Komatsu Ltd. usually produces the Japanese Military’s wheeled vehicles – APCs, carriers – but the contract was given to Mitsubishi as the company has more experience building tanks and vehicles.
The total cost of the development, revealed by the Japanese MOD, was 17.9 Billion Yen (183 Million US Dollars), with each vehicle projected to cost ¥735 Million Yen (Approx. US$6.6 Million). This was also one of the required features of Type 16, to be as cheap as possible. This amount of money may seem like a lot, but when it is compared to the individual cost of one Type 10 Main Battle Tank at ¥954 Million Yen (US$8.4 Million), it is an amazingly cheap vehicle for its prospective capabilities.

Design

The Technical Research & Development Institute based their design on similar vehicles across the world, such as the South African Rooikat and the Italian B1 Centauro. A number of the internal systems were based on the American Stryker APC.
The Tank Destroyer consists of a long chassis, with 8 wheels and a rear mounted turret. It is crewed by four personnel; Commander, Loader, Gunner all stationed in the turret. The Driver is located at the front right of the vehicle, somewhat in between the first and second wheels. He controls the vehicle with a typical steering wheel.

Mobility

Mobility is the most crucial part of this vehicle. The chassis and suspension are to that of Komatsu’s Type 96 Armored Personnel Carrier (APC). It is powered by a 570 hp water-cooled four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine. This engine is placed at the front of the vehicle, to the left of the driver’s position. It provides power to all eight wheels through a central drive shaft. Power is then divided off to each wheel via differential gearings. The front four wheels are the steering wheels, while the rear four are fixed. The manufacturer of the engine is currently unknown, though it is likely to be Mitsubishi. The MCV is fast for what is quite a large vehicle, with a top speed of 100 km/h (62.1 mph). The vehicle weighs 26 tonnes, with a power to weight ratio of 21.9 hp/t. The tyres are imports from Michelin.

The Type 16 displays its maneuverability at the Fuji training grounds. Photo: tankporn of Reddit

Armament

The vehicle is armed with a 105mm Gun. This gun, a licensed copy of the British Royal Ordnance L7 built by Japan Steel Works (JSW), is the same one found on the long-serving Type 74 Main Battle Tank. The Type 16 is the newest vehicle to use what is now a quite outdated, but still capable weapon in the form of the L7 derived 105mm. Originally entering service in 1959, the L7 is one of the longest-serving tank guns ever produced. The gun is, in its substance, the same to the Type 74’s albeit with an integrated thermal sleeve and fume-extractor. It does feature a unique muzzle brake/compensator, consisting of rows of nine holes bored into the barrel in a spiral formation.

Close up of the unique muzzle break on the Type 16s 105mm gun. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The barrel is also one-caliber longer. The gun on the Type 74 is 51 calibers long, the Type 16’s is 52. It is still able to fire the same ammunition though, including Armor Piercing Discarding-Sabot (APDS), Armor Piercing Fin-Stabilised Discarding Sabot (APFSDS), Multi-Purpose High-Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT-MP), and High Explosive Squash-Head (HESH). The Type 16 is equipped with a Fire Control System (FCS). The properties of this are classified, but it is believed to be based on the FCS used in the Type 10 Hitomaru MBT.
Loading of the gun is done manually due to balancing issues with the turret. The deletion of the autoloader also saved on development and production costs. Secondary armament consists of a coaxial 7.62 mm (.30 Cal.) machine gun (on the right of the gun) and a Browning M2HB .50 Cal (12.7mm) machine gun mounted on the loader’s hatch at the right rear of the turret. There are banks of integral smoke dischargers on the turret; one bank of four tubes on each side. Around 40 rounds of ammunition for the main armament are stored in the rear of the vehicle, with a ready rack of about 15 rounds in the turret bustle.
Type 16 MCV
Get the Type 16 MCV and help support tank encyclopedia ! By Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet
Type 16 MCV by Andrei ‘Octo10’ Kirushkin
Illustration of the Type 16 MCV by Andrei ‘Octo10’ Kirushkin, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Armor

Mobility is this tank’s protection, as such armor is not exceptionally thick. Exact armor properties of the MCV are not currently known as they are still classified, much the same as the Type 10’s armor. It is lightly armored to save on weight and keep the MCV maneuverable. It is known that it consists of welded steel plates providing protection from small arms fire and shell splinters. It is reported that the frontal armor can stand up to 20 and 30 mm shells, and the side armor is at least enough to stop .50 caliber (12.7mm) rounds. The undercarriage is vulnerable to mine or IED (Improvised Explosive Device) attacks, but as it is a defense based vehicle it is not meant to enter mined territory.

The bolt-on armour can be seen on the front end of the Type 16. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Defenses can be bolstered with the use of bolt-on modular hollow metal plates, just like the Type 10 MBT. These can be added to the bow of the vehicle and the turret face. Being modular, they are easy to replace if damaged. These modules are designed to give protection against Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and hollow-charge projectiles, such as Rocket-Propelled Grenades (RPG). When tested, they were shot at with the Swedish Carl Gustav M2 84mm hand-held Anti-Tank Recoilless Rifle and the armor was not defeated.

Doctrinal Woes

In its intended operation, the Type 16 was designed ground forces in repelling any contingency an attacking enemy may put into action, from conventional to guerrilla warfare. The MCV would play a supplemental supporting role to the JGSDF tank forces by supporting infantry and engaging IFVs.
When facing an attacking enemy force, tanks, specifically the Type 90 ‘Kyū-maru’ and Type 10 ‘Hitomaru’ Main Battle Tanks, would take on the brunt of the attack from defensive positions. Exploiting the enemy’s focus on the largest guns, the MCV – as its name suggests – will maneuver to a more concealed area, engage an enemy vehicle while it is occupied by the tanks, then withdraw once the target has been destroyed. It would then repeat the process.

Type 16 with a Type 10 MBT behind during a display on the Fuji training grounds. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
With its lightweight construction, the Type 16 is air transportable via the Kawasaki C-2 transport aircraft. In Japan, this ability is unique to the Type 16, and allows it to be quickly deployed – in multiples if necessary – on the various smaller islands in Japanese waters. A great asset to the defensive capabilities of the garrison units of these natural outposts.
However, the Type 16 currently finds itself in a predicament, meaning it is having to adapt from its original role of Infantry Support and Tank Destroyer. This is due to a combination of two reasons; budget and sanctions.
In 2008, there were major budget changes in the Japanese Ministry of Defense, meaning reduced spending on new hardware and equipment. As a result of this, the new Type 10 Main Battle Tank, unveiled in 2012, became too expensive to fully re-equip the JGSDF Tank Arm. As such, the cheaper Type 16 became the obvious choice to replace aging tanks and bolster the JGSDF stocks of armor.

Type 16 of the 42nd Regiment, 8th Division of the JGSDF on exercise. Note the attached cab over the driver’s position. This is used in non hostile areas or for parades. Photo: SOURCE
Here is where the issue of the Sanctions come in. The strict sanctions still imposed on the Japanese military only allow a total of 600 tanks to be maintained in active service. An extract from the 2008 Budget is presented below:

“Development conducted with the intention of not procuring vehicles such that, when added to the total number of tanks in service, the number does not exceed the total authorized number of tanks (600 in the current Defence White Paper)”.

To stay in line with these sanctions, older tanks like the aging Type 74 will finally start to be officially removed from service, and are set to be replaced by the Type 16. This has already begun to happen on Honshu, Japan’s main island, with plans to retain most of the Ground Forces’ tanks on the Islands of Hokkaido and Kyushu.

Type 16 driver operating the vehicle ‘head-out’. Photo: SOURCE
As it is a very new vehicle, it remains to be seen how much deployment the Type 16 will see or how successful it will be. It is unknown what or if any variants or modifications are planned for this vehicle.

An article by Mark Nash

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 27’9” x 9’9” x 9’5” (8.45 x 2.98 x 2.87 m)
Total weight 26 tonnes
Crew 4 (driver, gunner, loader, commander)
Propulsion 4-cylinder water-cooled
turbocharged diesel engine
570 hp/td>
Speed (road) 100 km/h (62 mph)
Armament JSW 105mm Tank Gun
Type 74 7.62 machine gun
Browning M2HB .50 Cal. Machine Gun
Produced >80

Links & Resources

www.armyrecognition.com
www.military-today.com
The Japanese Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF) website
Japanese MOD Paper, dated 2008. (PDF)
Japanese Defense Program, 17/12/13 (PDF)