Technical (fighting vehicle)

Technical (fighting vehicle)

A technical is a type of improvised fighting vehicle, typically a civilian or military non-combat vehicle, modified to provide an offensive capability. It is usually an open-backed civilian pickup truck or 4x4 on which is mounted a recoilless rifle, a machine gun, a light anti-aircraft gun, or another relatively small weapons system.

The term "technical" used to describe such a vehicle appears to have originated in Somalia. The name is thought to have derived from use by the Red Cross there who were often forced to bribe local militias or be the victim of robbery and attacks. The money used for the bribe was then written off as "technical expenses". [ Technical] Bellum]

Other terms for them are "battlewagons", [ [ Somali Warlords Moving Gunwagons from Mogadishu] Somalia News Update] "gunwagons", [ [ Somalia transitional government soldiers keep watch from a battlewagon over the parliament at Baidoa in November 2006.] AFP Photo] or "gunships". [ Making a killing] The Times]

Among irregular armies, often centered around the perceived strength and charisma of warlords, the prestige power of technicals is strong. According to one article, "The Technical is the most significant symbol of power in southern Somalia. It is a small truck with large tripod machine guns mounted on the back. A warlord's power is measured by how many of these vehicles he has." [ [ United States Psyop in Somalia] Herbert A. Friedman]

Combat history

The history of such improvised fighting vehicles stems back through the era of the automobile and the machine gun, and even earlier, to the horse-drawn tachanka of eastern Europe. During World War II, the British Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) were noted for their exploits in the deserts of Egypt, Libya and Chad on similar precursor vehicles. A popular American television series "The Rat Patrol" of the 1960s very clearly illustrated the use of technical-style vehicles during WWII.

Western Sahara

The use of technical-style vehicles and tactics was pioneered by the Sahrawi People's Liberation Army, the armed wing of the POLISARIO Front, fighting for independence against Mauritania (1975-1979) and Morocco (1975-today) from headquarters in Tindouf, Algeria. Algeria provided arms and Land Rover jeeps to Sahrawi guerrillas, who successfully utilized them in long-range cross-desert raids against the less agile conventional armies of their opponents, recalling Sahrawi tribal raids (ghazzis) carried out in much the same manner in the pre-colonial period. POLISARIO later gained access to heavier equipment, but the 4x4 vehicle remains a staple in their arsenal.

Libya-Chad War

In 1987, technicals from Chad drove the heavily mechanized Libyan army from the Aozou Strip. The vehicles were instrumental in the victory at the Battle of Fada, and drove into Libya itself, raiding military bases over 150 km north of the border. The vehicles became so famous that in 1984, "Time" magazine dubbed the conflict the "Great Toyota War". [ [,9171,921683,00.html "The Great Toyota War"] , "Time", April 24, 1984.]


Technicals played an important role in the 1990s Somali Civil War and the recent War in Somalia (2006–present). In Somalia after the fall of Siad Barre and the collapse of the Somali National Army (SNA), it was rare for any force to field a heavy armored fighting vehicle (AFV), but technicals were very common.

Mohamed Farrah Aidid used 30 technicals along with a force of 600 militia to capture Baidoa in September 1995. [ [ "Aideed Forces Seize Somali City of Baidoa"] , Reuters, September 17, 1995 (copy hosted by] After he was killed in clan fighting in 1996, his body was carried to his funeral on a Toyota pickup. [ [ "Somalis bury Aydiid] ", Reuters, August 2, 1996 (copy hosted by]

Proving their susceptibility in the face of heavy weapons, and their value as a prize of combat, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) was able to capture 30 "battlewagons" at the defeat of the militia of warlord Abdi Qeybdid at the Second Battle of Mogadishu. [ [ "Somali Islamists win city battle"] , BBC News Online, 11 July 2006.] Thereafter, in September 2006, an impressive array of 130 technicals were used to take Kismayo from the forces of the Juba Valley Alliance. [ [ "Witnesses: SoSomali Islamists advance on key port"] . Associated Press, 13 September 2006.]

The ICU attempted to curb the private possession of technicals, impounding them or appropriating them for use by the army of the Islamic Courts:

We were sceptical, but everyone we have spoken to since—doctors, teachers, journalists, shopkeepers—has talked of a city transformed. Gone are the ubiquitous checkpoints where the warlords’ militias killed, extorted and stole. Gone are their technicals, Jeeps with heavy machine guns mounted on the back. The infamous Bakaro arms markets has been closed. The only guns and technicals now are those of the Sharia courts enforcers.

On November 13, 2006, the President of Puntland, General Adde Musa personally led 50 battlewagons to Galkayo to confront the Islamists; they were used a month later alongside Abdi Qeybdid's reconstituted militia, backed by heavy Ethiopian reinforcements, against the army of the Islamic Courts Union at the Battle of Bandiradley. [ [ "Somalia: Puntland president deploys 50 battlewagons in Galkayo to avert Islamist fighters"] , "Shabelle Media Network", 13 November 2006.]

However, forced into conventional battles in the War in Somalia of 200607, the unarmored technicals of the ICU proved no match for the T-55 tanks, Mil Mi-24 helicopter gunships and fighter bombers employed by Ethiopia.


In the War in Afghanistan (2001–present), U.S. Special Operations Forces are known to use technicals for patrol of the rugged terrain and the nature of their clandestine operations. The Taliban also used technicals while they were in power. [ [ The Taleban Response] Institute for War & Peace Reporting]


Technicals were used by Iraqi forces in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. [ [ MILNET: Iraq]] The Iraqi Republican Guard and Fedayeen emulated tactics of the Somali National Alliance with limited success, [ [,,924430,00.html "How the Pentagon's promise of a quick war ran into the desert sand"] , "The Guardian", March 28, 2003.] [ [ Hearing of the House Committee on Armed Services] ] but were outmatched by Coalition armour and aviation. [ [ Operation Iraqi Freedom day 4] ] [ [ Operation Iraqi Freedom day 19] ] In the aftermath of the invasion Technicals saw use by Iraqi insurgents for transporting personnel and quick raids against the Iraqi police forces. The insurgent use of technicals increased after the Iraq Spring Fighting of 2004.

All models of the Humvee (e.g. M1114) allow for weapon mounts by design; thus, the HMMWV is not generally classified the same as a technical. Many vehicles not normally fitted for the carriage of weapons, however, have been modified to serve as Gun Trucks to protect Coalition convoys.

The Coalition also supplied technicals to the Iraqi police. [ [ Iraqi Police Service Gets 'Technical' Vehicles] , U.S. Department of Defense.] Private military contractors also use technicals.


Janjaweed militias use technicals on their raids against civilian villages in Darfur, Sudan, [Jerome Taylor, [ "Janjaweed ditches horseback to launch attacks from 4x4s"] , "The Independent", 8 December 2006. Accessed 14 August 2008.] as do the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) troops in defense of their areas of operations.


Technicals have been used by both sides in the war in Chad, including at the 2006 and 2008 battles of N'Djamena. [Agence France-Presse, [,25197,23146800-32682,00.html Rebels at gates of Chad capital] , "The Australian", February 2, 2008. Accessed 14 August 2008.]


Opposition forces have reportedly used technicals in the fighting for the Chouf District during the May 2008 clashes in Lebanon. [Tony Bey, [ Hezbollah's Third Botched Coup Attempt] , Across the Bay weblog, [14 May] 2008.]

See also

* Hillbilly armor
* Boghammer


External links

* [ Somali Technicals and AFV Photos]
* [ A World of Dust]
* [ Model Iman hires technical for tour of Somalia]
* [ "Road Warrior"] Journeyman Pictures, 1 Sept 1995; 40 minute documentary regarding technicals of Mogadishu

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