Military Landrover Defender 90"

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Military Landrover Defender 90"

Since the very beginning all Series and Defender models have been used in a military capacity, in fact they are the back bone of the British Armed Forces.  Often this has entailed just slightly modifying civilian models (primarily adding military "blackout" lights), but some dedicated military models have also been developed such as the forward control and the lightweight.  The Discovery has also been used in small numbers, mostly as liaison vehicles.  Two models that have been designed for military use from the ground up are the 101 Forward Control from the early 1970s and the Lightweight or Airportable from the late 1960s.  The latter was intended to be transported by helicopter.  The famous Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Service (United Kingdom) teams were early users in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and their convoys of landrovers and larger military trucks are a sight often seen in the mountain areas of the United Kingdom.  Originally RAFMRS Land Rovers had blue bodies and bright yellow tops, to be better seen from above.  In 1981, the colour scheme was changed to green with yellow stripes.  More recently, vehicles have been painted white, and are issued with fittings similar to civilian UK Mountain Rescue teams.  The teams have recently been threatened with replacement of their beloved Land Rovers by Toyota 4 x 4 SUV-style vehicles.

Military modifications include heavy duty suspension, uprated brakes, 24 Volt electrics, convoy lights, electronic suppression of the ignition system, blackout curtains and mounts for special equipment and small arms.  Although they also lack the 'creature comforts' that would be associated with a civilian vehicle, such as sound deadening, carpets, air con, and other 'comfort' additions.

Military uses include light utility vehicle, communications platform, weapon platform for recoilless rifles, TOWs or machine guns, ambulances and workshops.

One famous adaptation of Land Rovers to military purposes is the "Pink Panther" models.  Approximately 100 Series IIAs were adapted to reconnaissance use by the British special operations forces the SAS.  For desert use they were often painted pink, hence the name.  The vehicles were fitted with among other gear a sun compass, machine guns, larger fuel tanks and smoke dischargers. Similar adaptations were later made to Series IIIs and 90/110/Defenders.

The 75th Ranger Regiment of the United States Army also adapted twelve versions of the Land Rover that were officially designated the RSOV (Ranger Special Operations Vehicle.)

Series and Defenders have also been uparmoured.  The most widespread of these is the Shorts Shorland, built by Shorts Brothers of Belfast.  The first of these were delivered in 1965 to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Northern Ireland police force.  They were originally 109" models with an armoured body and a turret from the Ferret armoured car.  In 1990 there had been more than 1,000 produced.  In the 1970s a more conventional armoured Land Rover was built for the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Wales called the Hotspur.  The Land Rover Tangi was built by the Royal Ulster Constabulary's own vehicle engineering team during the 1990s.  The British Army has used various armoured Land Rovers, first in Northern Ireland but also in more recent campaigns.  They first added protective panels to Series General Service vehicles (the Vehicle Protection Kit (VPK)).  Later they procured the Glover Webb APV and finally the Courtaulds (later NP Aerospace) Composite Armoured Vehicle, commonly known as Snatch.  These were originally based on heavy duty V8 110 chassis but some have recently been re-mounted on new chassis from Otokar of Turkey and fitted with diesel engines and air-conditioning for Iraq.  Although these now have more in common with the 'Wolf' (Defender XD) Land Rovers that many mistakenly confuse them with, the Snatch and the Wolf are different vehicles.

The most radical conversion of a Land Rover for military purposes was the Centaur halftrack.  It was based on a Series III with a V8 engine and a shortened belt drive from the Alvis Scorpion light tank.  A small number was manufactured, and they were used by Ghana, among others.

The Land Rover is used by military forces throughout the world.  However, it is increasingly being supplemented, and even replaced, by larger vehicles. For instance the Pinzgauer, now built in the UK, is increasingly common in roles previously the preserve of the Land Rover Defender, such as ambulances, artillery tractors and weapons platforms.  This is mainly due to the demands of modern warfare- combat vehicles today are generally required to carry much more equipment in the form of weaponry, communications equipment and armour.  A 'soft' light 4x4 like the traditional Land Rover simply doesn't have the load capacity or strength of a larger medium-duty vehicle like the Pinzgauer.  Even the current generation of Land Rover used by the British Army, the Wolf, have upgraded and strengthened chassis and suspension compared to civilian-spec vehicles.  See previous page for further information.