The New Zealand army is buying 105 LAVs (Light Armored Vehicles) from General Dynamics Land Systems. This wheeled armored vehicle is based on the Piranha III LAV long used by the U.S. Marines, and later adopted by the US Army as the Stryker. This vehicle was designed Mowag of Switzerland, a company now owned by General Dynamics. In some ways the New Zealand LAV is an improvement on the Stryker LAV, with many small, but important, improvements. All 105 of the New Zealand vehicles will have a turret with a 25mm automatic cannon and have room in the back for ten troops. Seven LAVs will be equipped for engineer work and three used as recovery vehicles. The 14 ton, 8×8 vehicle has a maximum road speed of 100 kilometers an hour.
New Zealand placed the order in January of 2001 to replace aging M113s. Predictably, the move has its critics. This story says that LAV stands for Lacks Army Value. An earlier story from the same source calls for canning just about anyone connected with the decision. In a Q&A with NZ Defence Minister Mark Burton, there is this:
Q: Why did vehicle trials not take place?
A: Vehicle trials would have been conducted if, after the due diligence process, they were considered necessary.
This was not the case for an “off the shelf” vehicle in service with another army.
Trials cost significant sums of money and are not necessarily any more effective than using the results of testing overseas.
While that seems to make a cerain amount of sense, I’m a little troubled by the fact that in New Zealand, just like in the US, there was resistance to in-depth testing and side-by-side trials against other potential vehicles.
I like the idea of the 25mm chain gun turret. None of the US configurations uses this weapon, and, especially with the delays in the 105mm gun-equipped Styker variant, it would maybe be nice to have a Stryker with a little more ‘punch.’ The LAV I that the US Marines currently use mounts the 25mm gun.
Also, although the Stategy Page story says the NZ LAVs have room in the back for ten troops, everything I’ve read indicates that seven troops will be able to ride along with the vehicle’s three-man crew. And the Strategy Page story says that the NZ LAVs weigh 14 tons. The only New Zealand source I’ve found says 17.9 tons. The General Dynamics Land Systems page says 19 tons, the same as the US Stryker.
As a last note, I noticed that nearly all the New Zealand pages referred to the LAV III as a Canadian vehicle rather than a US vehicle. Although the plant that actually produces the LAV is in Canada, GDLS is headquartered in Michigan. Maybe it’s more palatable to New Zealanders to buy from the Canadians.
UPDATE 26 Nov 2005: I see that this post is getting a lot of attention due to the recent accident in Afghanistan. For much more MO coverage, see Canadian LAV-3 rolls in Afghanistan