Armor: LAV III Heads South


February 28, 2015: In 2014 the South American nation of Colombia received 32 LAV III. 8x8 wheeled armored vehicles from Canada to replace their elderly M113 tracked and EE-11 6x6 wheeled vehicles. LAV III is a 17 ton vehicle mounting a remote control turret using a 12.7mm machine-gun or 25mm or 30mm autocannon, plus two machine-guns. It has a crew of three and can carry seven passengers. Colombia bought the LAV III version with a V shaped double hull and add-on armor to provide more protection against mines and roadside bombs. Colombia paid nearly $3 million for each LAV III and may spend more on them as additional accessories become available.

Canada has a big user of the locally made LAV III and had constantly improved the vehicle. This makes the LAV III more attractive to export customers. Thus in 2008 Canada ordered $66 million worth of add-on armor for its fleet of 700 LAV III 8x8 wheeled armored vehicles. Since 2000 Canada has been replacing its 1980s era MOWAG vehicles with the locally built LAV III. The LAV III design was the model for the American Stryker. Canada has also exported LAV IIIs to New Zealand and Saudi Arabia. Although Canada also obtained more heavily protected trucks (MRAPs), for troops in Afghanistan threatened by roadside bombs, the LAV IIIs were still seen as suitable for most combat missions. Canada did not equip all its LAV IIIs with add-on armor, most of the kits went to the vehicles serving in Afghanistan.  There, the LAVs also received additional electronics and several other minor tweaks.

Other countries made upgrades to LAV III type vehicles. In 2006 the U.S. Army equipped 150 of its Stryker wheeled armored vehicles with ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor.) Invented by the Israelis in the 1970s, ERA consists of explosives packaged between layers of sheet metal. When the hot gas jet produced by a shaped charge (of an RPG or missile warhead) hits the ERA explosives, the gas jet is disrupted and rendered harmless by the ERA explosion. Many American M-2 and AAV-7 armored vehicles in Iraq are already protected by ERA kits (which cost over $100,000 each). The Stryker ERA cost nearly $300,000 per vehicle, and added 3.5 tons of weight (compared to 2.5 tons for the current slat armor it will replace.)



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