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BOBCAT APC

pbi

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Some posters here may be familiar with the Bobcat APC-Canada's post WWII entry into the fully enclosed, purpose-built APC field. Although only a trial vehicle, it was an interesting idea. I believe its development was dropped in favour of the purchase of the M113 from the US. There is a single version in the RCAC Park in Borden, and I recall in the 1970s seeing a CF Film Catalogue listing a Bobcat demo film. Has anybody ever seen this film or does anybody know more on the story of this little vehicle? (I used the search function but didn't come up with any hits here on army.ca)

Cheers
 

Old Sweat

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The Bobcat was planned to be the Canadian Army's APC, but lack of funds for development meant that it lagged behind the M113 and the British FV 432. I recall being told at a 3 CIBG officers' training seminar that there was only enough funds for six weeks worth of devlopment per year in the early sixties.

There were to be a number of variants including a 105mm SP. I saw this vehicle a couple of times, once in Petawawa when I was a gunner and the other time in Shilo when I was an officer cadet. It had restricted traverse and some challeges with elevation as the floor boards had to be removed to fire above 800 mils elevation. It also was prone to shed its tracks under the stress of firing.

The APC could have entered service but its unit costs might have been very high. It was probably closer in concept to the FV 432 than the M113, but had some odd features that in my opinion made it inferior to both. These included a turret for a .30 MG that could only fire in the forward arc and an odd drive shaft arrangement that ran through the crew compartment.
 

old medic

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http://www.servicepub.com/weapons.html
Shows a book in preperation named "The Bobcat APC in Canadian Service"

http://ipmslondon.tripod.com/museumreviews/id17.html
Lists the Borden Bobcat as the only surviving example.

 

Michael Dorosh

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old medic said:
http://www.servicepub.com/weapons.html
Shows a book in preperation named "The Bobcat APC in Canadian Service"

http://ipmslondon.tripod.com/museumreviews/id17.html
Lists the Borden Bobcat as the only surviving example.

Clive Law, who IS Service Publications, might have a line on some info.  He posts frequently at my own forum (he is also registered here, too, but I don't know how often he visits).  You might want to post at my forum, or drop him a line - also try the forum at mapleleafup.org as well as the modern Canadian Vehicles forum at http://www.network54.com/Forum/169232/
 

TCBF

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It was delayed in part by the delay in developing the DU ammo for the 20mm cannon it was supposed to carry.  In any case, all of that DU research data flowed south, and, voila...

Tom
 

a_majoor

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I have heard many stories over the years about the Bobcat, and have seen the survivor in the Borden Tank park.

Some stories:

The Bobcat platform was to be the basis of a family of light AFVs, even including a "Davey Crocket" nuclear weapons launcher.

The infantry version was a proto IFV, not only did it have a turret (however limited), but each soldier also had a roof hatch which allowed him to fire out of the vehicle.

One story from a crusty old WO who claimed to have been on the trials was it had too little interior room for the soldier's kit (looking at the remaining example, I can believe it).

One of the big problems claimed with the Bobcat in mechanical terms was the track system, apparently it wasn't as rugged or soldier proof as the systems on other vehicles.

The ultimate killer was probably the fact the M-113 was going into series production, and the sheer volume of production for US and foreign markets made the unit cost of an M-113 far lower than any Bobcat could hope to be. As it turns out, the M-113 was a very reliable battle taxi, and other armies have had the wherewithal to modify them to fit almost any role imaginable, somethng "we" could have done too (still could).
 

Michael Dorosh

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a_majoor said:
The ultimate killer was probably the fact the M-113 was going into series production, and the sheer volume of production for US and foreign markets made the unit cost of an M-113 far lower than any Bobcat could hope to be. As it turns out, the M-113 was a very reliable battle taxi, and other armies have had the wherewithal to modify them to fit almost any role imaginable, somethng "we" could have done too (still could).

Didn't the majority of mech troops in Vietnam ride on top of the M113s rather than inside due to their vulnerability to mine strikes and B-40 rocket attacks?  Taxi yes, battle taxi, not so sure...if you can't take the thing into direct fire, why bother with the expensive maintenance inherent with a tracked platform?
 

a_majoor

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The "Battle Taxi" concept was developed for the European Battlefield, and involved dropping off troops before contact, rather than during as in the Viet Nam war. The basic design assumptions were sound for what it was intended to do, and the M-113 was large and adaptable enough to take on all kinds of other roles. Certainly many armies have found uses for the M-113 the designers never imagined.

The BMP was fairly tightly designed around the role of "IFV on a nuclear battlefield", which made it pretty ineffective in the distinctly non nuclear battlefields of Afghanistan. I'm not entirley certain what the Bobcat was envisioned for; nuclear battlefield IFV? Battletaxi +?; which may explain some of the odd features of the design. At any rate, the decision was made to go with a product that was "good enough" and much less expensive.
 

Michael Dorosh

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a_majoor said:
The "Battle Taxi" concept was developed for the European Battlefield, and involved dropping off troops before contact, rather than during as in the Viet Nam war. The basic design assumptions were sound for what it was intended to do, and the M-113 was large and adaptable enough to take on all kinds of other roles. Certainly many armies have found uses for the M-113 the designers never imagined.

So basically you have an armoured vehicle to protect troops from shell splinters and tracks to move over difficult terrain, but not enough armour to protect the crew against serious firepower?  Just trying to define what you mean by "battle taxi".  Isn't that an awfully expensive concept if that is all you are doing with it?  If it is designed for Europe as you say, isn't there an extensive road net that allows movement by road (and wheels) faster and more cheaply?

The BMP was fairly tightly designed around the role of "IFV on a nuclear battlefield", which made it pretty ineffective in the distinctly non nuclear battlefields of Afghanistan. I'm not entirley certain what the Bobcat was envisioned for; nuclear battlefield IFV? Battletaxi +?; which may explain some of the odd features of the design. At any rate, the decision was made to go with a product that was "good enough" and much less expensive.

As indicated, I am sure Clive could put you in touch with the author of the book if you have a serious interest in the Bobcat, or a post at the modern vehicles forum will get you in touch with some knowledgeable persons.
 

a_majoor

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Michael Dorosh said:
So basically you have an armoured vehicle to protect troops from shell splinters and tracks to move over difficult terrain, but not enough armour to protect the crew against serious firepower?   Just trying to define what you mean by "battle taxi".   Isn't that an awfully expensive concept if that is all you are doing with it?   If it is designed for Europe as you say, isn't there an extensive road net that allows movement by road (and wheels) faster and more cheaply?

Some pretty big heads were working on this post WW II, so I am only paraphrasing here. The requirement  to protect against small arms and shell fragments was derived from WW II experience with half tracks (putting a roof on the machine was the big improvement), and the full track was adopted because it was simpler than the wheels + track combination of the half-tracks, as well as providing the mobility to keep up with the tanks (1950 era "Generation One" tanks, that is). Most people assumed a nuclear battlefield, but even a cursory examination of the Red Army's campaign against the Germans in WW II would have revealed the rather awesome attachment the Soviets had for firepower. Either way, much of the European road network would have to be assumed to be destroyed, either by Soviet artillery, or Allied counter-mobility efforts, requiring the ability to move cross country as well as to swim with minimal preparation.   Modern day assumptions about Wheels vs Tracks in low and medium intensity warfare might have to be rethought, as Jihadis and others learn to attack us on the roads to deny us tactical and operational mobility...

As indicated, I am sure Clive could put you in touch with the author of the book if you have a serious interest in the Bobcat, or a post at the modern vehicles forum will get you in touch with some knowledgeable persons.

My reading list gets longer and longer........ ;D

edited to correct the spell checker's corrections....
 

Michael Dorosh

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It's a short book.....just a pamphlet really, but a nice series of primers, and priced right.  I'd recommend any of the titles in the series, they are reviewed in a bit of detail at my own site.

NBC protection is something I hadn't thought of; I suppose an M113 has "aid to the civil power" uses too - ala Oka.  Seems to me they were more prevalent in the 1960s in the US than nuclear battlefields! ;D
 

Old Sweat

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I am not sure what A_M is referring to as a battle taxi to drop troops off before contact. Right from the early days in 4 CIBG the battalions trained to assault with the troops inside the APCs, but then to dismount 200-300 metres from the forward edge of the objective and carry on on foot. There was a lot of debate about that as it meant dismounting in the area of the FPF and within range of SA fire just as our artillery lifted, believe me. The alternative was to take your chances with RPGs et al and then dismount amongst the enemy trenches.

I was the HQ 4 CIBG operations staff officer responsible for the introduction of the M113 family of vehicles in the army in Europe in 1965-1966 and can state that there were a lot of tactical, technical and logistics issues to be worked out in a very short time. Fortunately the commander, all of the COs and many of the company/squadron/battery commanders had served in the Second World War or Korea or both, so that provided a firm basis of understanding what would likely work or not.

Whether we had the Bobcat or the M113A1 would not have changed the basic scenario.
 

pbi

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a_majoor said:
The ultimate killer was probably the fact the M-113 was going into series production, and the sheer volume of production for US and foreign markets made the unit cost of an M-113 far lower than any Bobcat could hope to be. As it turns out, the M-113 was a very reliable battle taxi, and other armies have had the wherewithal to modify them to fit almost any role imaginable, somethng "we" could have done too (still could).


Well, "we" did. I believe we have fielded or experimented with the following:

Light dozer;

Pioneer/Engr section variant with dozer and hydraulics;

armoured ambulance;

Armoured Recovery Vehicle (light) (ARVL): fitted with spades and hydraulic winch;

Armoured MRT (fitted with HIAB and tool/part storage);

Extended chassis variant;

Logistic carrier variant;

TUA (and) TOW "suicide mount"; and

Mortar variant (not adopted)

There is (IIRC) an M113 conversion project still ongoing to put them to new uses.

Cheers
 

a_majoor

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So "we" did! A look at Jane's or other defense reference material will show countless other variations of the M-113 family as well, and the machine soldiers on in front line service throughout the world.

Old Sweat, I know the reality of using M-113s was often to drive right up into the position, what I was getting at was the sort of considerations the designers had to work with when the project was started. In the 1950s, the general idea was the soldiers needed a protected ride to the edge of the battle, but were far better employed advancing to battle on foot where all their weapons and training could be brought to the fight. The Russians and the Germans stood that idea on its head with the introduction of the BMP and Marder, and the Bobcat could have been employed that way, given its turret and provisions for troops to fire while mounted.

The wheel seems to have turned full circle, IFVs like the M-2 and Warrior have covered over the firing ports with add on armour, and heavy APCs like the Achzarit are clearly designed to give the troops a safe ride to the dismount area and support the dismounted fight with machine guns. How long before some one decides that we really need a small, tracked APC with some limited ability for the troops to fight mounted and can be the basis for a family of AFVs..... ;)
 

Michael Dorosh

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a_majoor said:
How long before some one decides that we really need a small, tracked APC with some limited ability for the troops to fight mounted and can be the basis for a family of AFVs...

Until that need is made obvious, I guess...;)
 

Old Sweat

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A_Majoor,

I disagree that the concept was to drive to the battle area then dismount, except for motorized infantry. We used 3/4 ton trucks as section transports before introducing the APC and the troops would dismount under cover and then act as normal infantry. To use terms I know you are familiar with, motorized infantry would have been mounted infantry, while APC borne troops were closed to mounted rifles.

I submit that the Bobcat drew heavily on the experience the Canadian army had in NWE using Kangaroo APCs. I have just reviewed the attack by the Royal Winnipeg Rifles mounted in Kangaroos on the village of Louisendorf in February 1945. The APCS were preceded by two squadrons of British Chuchill tanks and the companies drove right up to the edge of their objectives, dismounted and assaulted. The attack went very well, considering that the village was defended by a battalion, as 270 prisoners were taken. At one stage, as one the companies neared its objective, it was switched to reinforce another sub-unit. The APCs changed formation and rolled up to the new dismount area.

You are correct, however, that the Bobcat was not in the same league as the Marder and the BMP.
 

pbi

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Old Sweat said:
A_Majoor,

I disagree that the concept...the Bobcat was not in the same league as the Marder and the BMP.

If we look at what was taught and practiced in the early 80s (as far back as I go in the RegForce) there was always a split of opinion and practice. (Remember: in those days doctrine was merely the opinion of the senior officer present, and given far shorter shrift than it is today...). While the idea of the "Zulu Harbour" (a secure spot for the APCs to retire to after dropping off the assault troops) was still taught (and still used by some OCs), in my experience it was far more common to see the M113s provide intimate support after dropping the troops on a dismount line about 100-300 metres out, driving right up onto the objective and out to the reorg line. In the defense, again it seemed to devolve to the OC as to whether or not he put the APCs on the position permanently, assigned them on-call run-ups, or just kept them back in the Zulu Harbour. What I saw most commonly was assigning them   in run-ups, and occasionally digging them in. As you train, so shall you fight.

Cheers
 
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