8x8 Wheeled Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV)
The MOWAG Piranha of Swiss origin has become the standard 8x8 Armored Fighting Vehicle for the West.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
The MOWAG Piranha, begun as a private venture, is a Swiss-originated Cold War-era development centered on a fully-amphibious, multirole, light-armored battlefield vehicle. Designed in the 1960s and introduced in 1972, the design grew to become a well-accepted, highly-versatile platform expanded in 4x4, 6x6 and 8x8 wheeled forms. While originally appearing under the MOWAG brand label, the vehicle now resides under the General Dynamics European Land Systems - MOWAG GmbH brand label (since 2010).
Piranhas appeared at the height of the Cold War period where track-and-wheeled armored designs still ruled the battlefield. Regardless, the series cut a niche for itself despite being wheeled and lightly armored. In return, the vehicles offered lower cost of procurement and maintenance while having a single chassis form the basis of a myriad of other battlefield vehicles - Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), Armored Personnel Carrier (APC), general purpose Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV), Command vehicle, reconnaissance, security, ambulance and so on.
The Piranha is completed with a welded steel hull that provides protection against small arms fire and shell splinters though later generation versions mount additional point-defense. To broaden their international appeal the vehicle's hull is also watertight and propellers are seated at the hull rear to give the Piranha an inherent amphibious capability. Staples such as night vision, air conditioning and a full Nuclear, Biological, Chemical (NBC) suite are all optional kits.
With its myriad of available configurations, the Piranha series has seen many operational forms appear. There are five major generations: Piranha I, Piranha II, Piranha III, Piranha IV and Piranha V.
Piranha I encompasses Canadian Army AVGP (Armoured Vehicle General Purpose) (6x6 wheeled), the USMC / Canadian Army LAV-25 (8x8 wheeled) and the Australian Army ASLAV Type I (Australian light Armoured Vehicle) (8x8 wheeled). The AVGP arrived in three major sub-forms: the "Cougar", "Grizzly" and "Husky".
The AVGP appeared in 1976 and is a 10.7 ton vehicle with a length of 19.6 feet and a width of 8. 2 feet. Depending on the model in play, the operating crew can be two or three personnel with seating for an additional six. Primary armament is equally variable, ranging from a 76mm tank gun to 7.62mm and 12.7mm machine guns. Power is from a Detroit Diesel 6V53T turbo-charged diesel unit of 275 horsepower and all three axles are suspended for cross-country travel. Road speeds each 62 miles per hour.
Piranha II encompasses the "Desert Piranha" and the LAV II, the latter which spawned the Bison (8x8 wheeled) and Coyote (8x8 wheeled). The Bison, itself, spawned the ASLAV Type II and Type III vehicles.
The Bison is an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) form introduced in 1990 and built by General Motors Diesel Division. This model is a 13 ton vehicle with an overall length of 21 feet, a width of 8.5 feet and a height of 8.5 feet. Its operating crew numbers two and there is seating for an additional eight. Primary armament is 1 x 7.62mm machine gun and power is derived from a Detroit Diesel 6V53T turbo-charged diesel unit of 275 horsepower. Suspension is to all eight wheels and road speeds reach 62 miles per hour with ranges out to 400 miles.
The Australian Light Armored Vehicle (ASLAV) Type I and Type II models are based in the Bison, the former acting in the reconnaissance role and the latter used in the APC, command, surveillance and MEDEVAC roles.
The Piranha II was purchased by the forces of Canada, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and Switzerland. The Bison was adopted by the forces of Australia, Canada and the United States (National Guard, twelve units).
Piranha III encompasses the Piranha IIIC and Piranha IIIH marks. The Piranha IIIH then forms the basis for the Canadian Army LAV III (8x8 wheeled) and this, in turn, became the basis for the U.S. Army Stryker (8x8 wheeled) series and the NZLAV of New Zealand.
The LAV III was originally known as the "Kodiak" and became a 17 ton vehicle with a length of 22.10 feet, a width of 8.9 feet and a height of 9 feet. The standard operating crew is three with seating for an additional seven. Primary armament is 1 x 25mm M242 chain gun in a powered two-man turret over the hull. Secondary armament is a coaxially-mounted 7.62mm machine gun and an additional 7.62mm machine gun can be fitted to a pintle mounting for additional suppression capability. Power is from a Caterpillar 3126 diesel-fueled engine of 350 horsepower and the suspension system is hydropneumatic. Road speeds reach 62 miles per hour with a range out to 280 miles.
The Canadian Army has taken 651 LAV IIIs into service. Upgrades to the line were announced in February of 2017. The NZLAV is the LAV III of which 105 were taken into service. The LAV III is also used by Saudi Arabia and Columbia.
The Stryker Interim Armored Vehicle (IAV) is a Untied States Army mainstay and has seen considerable combat service in Afghanistan and Iraq. The line entered service in 2002 and is produced by General Dynamics Land Systems Canada with some 4,900 having been built to the Army standard. Two major types are used: the base IFV model and the 105mm-armed Mobile Gun System (MGS). The vehicle is an 18 ton design with a length of 22.9 feet, a width of 8.10 feet and a height of 8.7 feet. The operating crew typically numbers two and seating is up to nine. Primary armament is 1 x 12.7mm heavy machine gun though the turret also supports the 40mm Automatic Grenade Launcher (AGL) in a Remote Weapon Station (RWS). Stryker "Dragoons" are another offered configuration which installs a 30mm Bushmaster Mk 44 automatic cannon in a turret. Secondary armament is usually a 7.62mm M240 medium machine gun or 12.7mm heavy machine gun. Power to the series is from a Caterpillar C7 diesel unit of 350 horsepower. Road speeds reach 60 miles per hour with ranges out to 310 miles.
Stryker global operators (beyond the United States) includes Peru which purchased ex-U.S. Army vehicles in 2016.
The Piranha III was also adopted by Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Denmark, Iraq, Ireland, Romania, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
The Piranha IV is the fourth entry in the Piranha vehicle line. It is a 25 ton design with a length of 23.75 feet with a width of 9.2 feet. The crew numbers three and there is seating for up to seven additional passengers. Primary armament if a 30mm automatic cannon mounted to a two-person turret over the hull. Power is from an MTU diesel unit and road speeds reach 62 miles per hour with an operational range out to 465 miles. There are currently no known operators of the Piranha IV product and it was developed as a private venture by MOWAG.
The Piranha V marks the current (2017) and fifth generation form of the Piranha family line. The vehicle weighs 30 tons and has a length of 26 feet with a width of 9.8 feet and a height of 7.7 feet. There is a standard operating crew of three and seating for an additional eight passengers. Primary armament is 1 x 12.7mm heavy machine gun but there is broadened support for 40mm Automatic Grenade Launchers and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs). Power is from an MTU 6V199 TE21 diesel unit outputting 577 horsepower. The suspension system is hydropneumatic to all four axles. Road speeds can reach 62 miles per hour and operational range is out to 340 miles. Current operators are Denmark and Spain.