Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Was ist das?

(Source)

Das ist ein Wiesel.

For those of you who spreche kein deutsch, that, meine Damen und Herren, is a "Weasel." I know, I know, it doesn't look like a politician, nor is it. (Quite frankly I am tired of comparing politicians to certain animal species, weasels are very useful critters, as are hyenas, jackasses, vultures, and sea slugs. Comparing politicians to animals insults the animal. Just wanted to put that out there.)

Anyhoo. Why this little squirt of an armored vehicle? Seriously, what was the Bundeswehr1 thinking? This little tankette-looking2 crate would get chewed up by the first real tank it ran into!

They were thinking the same thing every other nation who has ever deployed light infantry transported by either helicopter (airmobile) or dropped out of an aircraft with parachutes (airborne). While airmobile/airborne troops are delightful for performing a vertical envelopment of an enemy force and can badly surprise the enemy's rear area, once the enemy gets their act together, if they do, those light infantry chaps are surrounded, behind enemy lines, and have stirred up a hornet's nest. (Ever seen the movie A Bridge Too Far, or are familiar with Operation Market Garden?) It probably won't end well for them.

So every now and then some boffin will sit down and say, "Hey, what if we could design a small armored vehicle which can fly in with the airmobile or be dropped with the paras? It would give the chaps something to fight off random armored vehicles until they are relieved."

Well, okay, not a bad idea. However, executing that concept is a lot harder. They did try dropping the Wiesel out of an aircraft using parachutes, after they destroyed four of them, they gave it up as a bad idea. Apparently though a CH-53 can carry two of them at a time. So the airmobile idea is still a go.

Thing is, it's a tiny vehicle, it would be hard to spot if one is trundling about in a regular tank or even a reasonably size scout car or armored personnel carrier. I mean there are lots of paras running about taking pot shots at the commanders of those vehicles so they would probably stay buttoned up (hatches closed) if they wanted to survive the war. That gives the Wiesel an advantage.

Thing is though, the original was only armed with a 20 mm auto-cannon. Sounds gnarly but it's pretty much a useless weapon against anything with "reasonable" armor, which I define as being able to stop, well, 20 mm auto-cannon fire. (Which the Wiesel is not.) In fact, this vehicle from early in WWII was probably a lot more effective than the Wiesel -

German PzKpfw II Ausf. C at the Musée des Blindés
(Source)
Of course, you couldn't drop that PzKpfw II from an aircraft, heck, it wouldn't fit on the aircraft of the period. Still and all, a useful vehicle until it ran into a real tank. (What's a real tank? Well, that depends...)

I'm sure the paratroopers/airmobile guys would like the idea of having something like the Wiesel running around with them in the enemy's backcountry.  Thing is, that 20 mm cannon isn't that useful. Later versions were equipped with TOW3 missiles, which made them more useful, but not as useful as the man-portable anti-tank missile systems that were being fielded by a number of armies. Now the paras could carry a bit more punch with them, no need for the Wiesel.

To give you an idea of the size of this wee beastie -

Wiesel 1 equipped with the TOW missile system
(Source)
Wiesel 1 next to a real tank self-propelled armored howitzer*
(Source)
Useful? Probably not in a real war scenario (peer opponent, i.e. someone who can fight back), in a guerrilla war, civil unrest? Might be useful, but then again, you wouldn't necessarily need that airmobile ability in the latter case, but in a guerrilla war? Who knows. But they stopped building them in 1993. Still would be cool to own one, neh?



Suggested Reading:

Hat tip to Stefan for the idea for this post. No, no, no, you can't blame him if you thought the post sucked, the idea was sound, perhaps the execution wasn't that good. Did you just call me a weasel?

* Angus spotted the fact that the vehicle next to the Wiesel is not a tank, it's a self-propelled armored howitzer, PzH 2000. I need to look at the pictures I use much more closely I guess.
1 The Bundeswehr, (federal armed forces) are the successor to the WWII Wehrmacht and are the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany, i.e. the Bundesrepublikdeutschland.2 A tankette is a tracked armoured fighting vehicle that resembles a small tank, roughly the size of a car. It is mainly intended for light infantry support and scouting. Colloquially it may also simply mean a small tank. (Source)
3 The TOW (Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided) missile system is very useful against full-sized armored vehicles. There is also a man-portable version, obviating the need for the Wiesel.

74 comments:

  1. I know a couple of guys who would love to have something like that to run on their property, one of them would be able to up-gun from that 20mm even......jes saying. Thanks for expanding the knowledge base again Sarge.

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  2. Reminds me of the Ferret scout car. That 20 Mike wouldn't be a fun thing to dodge if you were on foot, or in a truck. Even a rock wall or building would be marginal cover.

    I've heard there is a recipe for sticky heat, and a bottle of that would probably even the odds a bit, if you could fling it from close enough.

    I'd like to mount the kanone for my daily commute. Just poke it gently through the back windshield and thwap them on the head, just to get their attention. "Pardon me. You realize the following distance at 20 mph is about 40 feet, not a 100 yards? Oh, is that grey poop on your seat?"

    Neat mechanical marvel there Sarge.

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    1. When Stefan mentioned it in a comment I just had to look it up.

      First thought, want one. Second thought, but not in battle!

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  3. Reminds me of the old Marine Corps vehicle called the M50 Ontos. Small little tracked vehicle armed with 6 106mm recoilless rifles. Was an outstanding weapon....until you had to reload it which could only be done outside of the little protective armored shell. Used extensively in Vietnam for infantry support. It was vulnerable to mines and RPG's. Was used mostly for static defense and largely gone from the inventory by 1970.

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    1. I remember the Ontos, had a toy one when I was a kid, neat looking.

      Yes, reloading could be a bit exciting I would think!

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    2. Ontos kicked ass in Hue.
      Boat Guy

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  4. Go stand in the corner!

    A PzH 2000 isn't a 'real tank'.

    It's not a tank at all!

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    1. D'oh! Busted. Why oh why didn't I look closer at the photo? Definitely tracked artillery.

      Fixed it, thanks Angus!

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  5. Now even when I was in the army almost 50 years ago we had the LAW - light antitank weapon. It was like a small bazooka one use only.

    That weasel wouldn’t last long unless it was fast.

    It surprises me because if anyone knows tanks it’s the Germans

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    1. Well, it's not a tank, the Germans didn't advertise it as a tank. They've built crappy tanks in their history. Everyone has.

      That LAW? It would take a lot of cojones to get close enough to an MBT to make a kill, I'd rather have something you could stand off a ways with. But you take to battle what you have, not what you want.

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    2. If you mean the original 66mm LAW, it's be next to useless against a modern MBT except to damage the running gear. The AT-4 and Karl Gustav are better, but still...
      Boat Guy

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  6. There was a picture of one in a shopping area parking lot, that I had seen earlier.
    Sent it to my son, who was a DAT out of Ft. Stewart once upon a time.
    Wouldn't that make a fun commute vehicle :)
    Frank

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  7. If you spent any time as a grunt on the ground, you would still appreciate the fact that it could carry heavier weapons than you could on your back. It's not necessarily that it cannot fight heavier vehicles, it's that it can fight infantry and rear area troops better than light infantry could. Drop in with a few of these backing light infantry and you have a better chance of wrecking what you went there to wreck. Get in fast, blow shit up before the bad guys can get heavier forces into place. It would surely do a number on parked aircraft etc. when raiding an airfield. No radar tech is going to kill it with trons.

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  8. In the third picture, the one in the shopping area, I just want to know what they guy holding the bow saw is up to? Thinking about shortening the barrel of the Wiesel's machine gun? He has a somewhat determined look on his face...
    My first reaction to the original question was, it's cute whatever it is...
    Danke, Oberfeldwebel!

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    1. Good question on the guy with the saw.

      Bitte!

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    2. Clear a field of fire, or trim limbs to break up the outline or enhance camouflage?

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    3. Quite possible, good to have a saw handy.

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  9. Wonder what the maintenance and logistical trail requirements were. How much better was the armour over a M-113, a much more useful vehicle.

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    1. Armor was about the same for early M113s, and the upgraded Wiesel followed upgrade developments of the M113s with applique armor of either steel, aluminum or composite.

      What was interesting about the M-113 was the MTVL, a lenghtened version (extra bogey) was developed with a 400hp diesel, upgradable with a 500hp, and with composite armors capable of standing up to 30mm ammo. Same parts for the most part as the older 5 bogie version (since, well, you could just cut an existing one in two and add a section, or take two and piece together one.) So we have ditched the M113 for a, as yet undecided or unbuilt, new modern super APC/IFV. Yay.

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    2. Actually that "cut it in half and add a new section" has been done. The owners did that to Norwegian Majesty, a cruise ship I took to Bermuda some time ago. They lengthened it by cutting it in half and adding a new section. Remember Tank Overhaul? They rebuilt a Sherman by putting two hulls together. It's possible but...

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    3. The Canucks did do it to many of their M-113s. So did Italy, which also then added pieces parts to produce the Arisgator, kind of a poor man's version of a LVT 7 / AAV-7A1. Turkey also cut and extended and uparmored many of their M-113s, and then produced home-grown versions without having to cut and paste, along with 1 roadwheel sections so they didn't have to throw away any partial vehicles. And Egypt also did the extend and uparmor. Singapore, Korea, and Australia all did the extend and up-armor.

      All are very capable, either equipped with the M-113A4's 400hp diesel or some other big power plant. Bringing the M-113's box structure to the armor and speed equivalent of a Bradley, with the top deck height still lower than the Bradley.

      So what did America do? We're throwing away perfectly good structures and parts for an as-yet unknown super-APCish thingy.

      I mean, in the middle of the whole hybrid craze, Italy partnered with some company to produce hybrid MTVLs, capable of going 50 miles just on the electric drive.

      I always wanted, as soon as I heard about the whole lopitofame cutting, to take the resulting (start with 2 x 5 roadwheel -113s, cut one's rear off leaving it with 5 roadwheels and no arse, and take another and cut it's end with 1 roadwheel, leaving a front half with 4 wheels, and then stub the 5 wheel front with the 1 wheel rear to make the MTVl) front with 4 wheels and the left-over arse and weld them together and have a 4-roadwheel stubby M-113. That would make a vehicle a little longer than it is wide. What speed!

      But, the USA being the land of stupid military waste, no. We are getting rid of M-113A4s and all their variants, and cutting them up in chunks to de-militarize them and selling them exclusively for scrap (must sign a contract saying you won't Lego pieces together, nor sell any parts on the open market, it's all metal scrap exclusively.) All the while waiting for something. The Stryker Wheeled IFV was supposed to be an interim vehicle.

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    4. Our defense industry is partly to blame for this nonsense, the remainder lies at the door of DoD. Follow the money, see who is getting rich off of this funny business.

      Ike was right.

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    5. Doesn't help when officers in charge of purchasing stuff walk out of their retirement ceremonies right into a cushy job with whom they were purchasing stuff from.

      Fat Leonard is not the only scandal. Just the only scandal the military feels safe to attack.

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  10. Hey AFSarge;

    From what I knew, it served a purpose, it would have worked great with airborne troops in rear areas, take out soft targets like fuel dumps. ammo dumps, occasional army truck and concealed positions that have a MG laying down harassing fire. As far as going against larger armor vehicles....well if they are fast, they can sting and move, won't kill an APV, but mess up the rocket launcher or radio antennas type of thing.

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  11. I can see where the things would work well in an environment where vulnerabilities could be effectively mitigated. They would need lots of cover and concealment I would think. Well practiced crews and part of a well tested and practiced team. While small and agile compared to larger armored vehicles, they're gonna be slow and clunky compared to ape-lizards with man portable anti-armor weapons and radios to whistle up arty and air. They could well be quite effective in a Wiesel-permissive environment, and for a limited time in a non Wiesel-permissive environment. You try stuff.

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    1. And if it doesn't work, you try something else, unless it's LCS, then you keep bashing your head into the wall, telling yourself that eventually it won't hurt any more.

      And you'd be wrong...

      Sorry, felt like ranting about the LCS, I need to be back at work so I can rant about something else, if you know what I mean...

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    2. So how's that DDX gun system coming along? (ducks and covers...)

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    3. What DDX gun system?

      (How I wish that was funny. Sad thing is, no one will be going to prison for that. And they should.)

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  12. To expand on what Grommet said, the heavier gun of the Wiesel I, coupled with the ability to sling all sorts of stuffs on the outside, and carry a command radio set, and stand up to small arms fire (well, except for all the stuffs hanging on the outside) is ideal for an airborne unit or an infantry unit in an area where the big guys won't fit, as long as it is understood that when SHTF, some type of support will be available.

    The 20mm pop-gun is still better ranged than an RPG. Or a normal sniper.

    The Wiesel II, upengined with a 1.9L Volkswagon diesel (heh, a diesel in a wiesel...,) with better armor, lengthened, is also a viable unit. Carrying 2+4 (2 crew, 4 passengers) or 2 stretchers or a 120mm mortar, or better radios, with the ability for the crew to up-weapon it from just a 7.62mm machinegun (maybe a grenade launcher, maybe a .50cal) with some of whatever flavor of man-portable SAMS or anti-tank rockets, that's not a bad thing.

    Considering that, now, in the 2020's, Big Army (US Army) is really considering small, semi-armored semi-autonomous vehicles as basically pack mules (and other countries have already introduced them, including Israel (in small tests) and the Russkies (well, they say they have, but one can never trust them to actually have a working model) and other places) maybe the Germans were ahead of their time?

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    1. Well, I did have a great comment here, trust me. But I hit Preview by mistake, now, like the Wiesel. it's gone. At any rate, I disagree with the Wiesel as a viable weapons system, if it was the Germans would still have it. My thought is that while it might be moderately useful for light infantry behind the lines, getting there is a significant problem. Germans don't discard useful weapons systems, see the MG mounted on the vehicle? That weapon was designed in 1942, they call it the MG-3 these days, but it's still essentially an MG-42, firing 7.62 rather than the WWII 7.92 mm round. Old, still useful, one of the best machine guns ever fielded.

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    2. According to what I have read, the Wiesel was much loved by the troops, and regularly in wargames, the little Wiesels that could did sneak up on bigger and better vehicles like the M-1 Abrams or the M2/M3 Bradleys.

      So, well, after reunification, Germany had so much to pay for, they ditched the Wiesel, because 'We don't need it and we're not really ever doing airborne operations anymore.'

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    3. If that thing was sneaking up on American armor, that says more about the laxness of our troops than anything else. And the Germans aren't doing airborne operations anymore, no call for it. (Hell, they can't even keep their U-Boats operational, their U-Boats FFS, you'd think they'd at least be good at that.)

      I'm sure the Landsers liked the wee neasties. Useful in some respects, I'm sure, but not for what they were designed for.

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    4. They were meant for combat in areas that larger vehicles were not easily used in. The teeny tankette could easily handle small Euro-streets and tight terrain without making a huge noise or damage a lot of stuff and leaving a trail behind. Which is what recon vehicles are good for. That and carrying extra radios.

      As to the Germans, they have few functioning Leopards or any other armored vehicle now. Same with most of their airforce. Seems the switch to 'green' fuels has thrashed all their engines, from lowly internal combustion motors all the way up to high-performance jet engines. D'oh! They should have listened to Kermit the Frog. He would have told them it's not easy being green.

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    5. Angela Merkel, the gift that keeps on giving.

      (Look up the German word Gift.)

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  13. "diesel in a wiesel - LOL!

    And if you hang too much stuff on the outside of it, would it become a "Koronaweisel"??

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    1. Not sure what that would become, probably too heavy to move though. 😁

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  14. The aforementioned Ontos and M113 bring back many memories of my time at Small Arms Repair School.

    Never saw an Ontos in the flesh, but I was trained to repair the M40A1 106mm recoilless.

    And the M113, or more specifically, this little beastie intended as a recon vehicle--

    http://russian-tanks.com/the-armored-command-m114.php

    I was also trained to repair all the weapons you see mounted, including the M139 20mm auto cannon--

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hispano-Suiza_HS.820

    From my notes, it had five modes of fire--

    1) Single shot
    2) Five round burst @ 200 RPM.
    3) Five round burst @ full cycle (1000 RPM)
    4) Continuous fire @ 200 RPM
    50 Continuous fire @ full cycle (1000 RPM)

    IIRC, on board 20mm ammo was 400 linked rounds.

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    1. I wonder how many spare barrels it carried?

      That M114 has a low silhouette compared to the M113.

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    2. The M-114 was a tad bit of a dog, because the front glacis plate extended past the front sprocket, so the nose would get stuck in mud banks, dunes, piles of rubble or vegetation. And it was not parts-compatible with the M-113 series. It was a fun track to use, and had a decent gun.

      Now, in contrast, the Canadians took, well, ordered, a cut-down M-113 to make the M-113CR (Command and Reconnaissance) and it had the same gun as the M-114, and could mount a 25mm or 30mm gun. And was fully parts-compatible with the M-113, including all the engine upgrades up to 400hp. And it could be easily up-armored. And was cheaper than the M-114. AND the front sprocket, and thus the track, extended past the nose of the vehicle, so it did not get mired in banks, mud, rubble, vegetation nearly as easily as the M-114. The Canadians, and FMC (manufacturers,) tried to get the US to buy the M-113CR, but Big Army dug its tracks in the sand and... well... we replaced the function of the M-114 with... the M3 Bradley (though very capable, nobody can say the Bradley is easily concealable since it's so friggin tall.)

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    3. When you mentioned the M-113 C&R the other day, it didn't ring any bells. Had time to chase that today, it's what our friends to the North called the Lynx, n'est-ce pas?

      Looks better laid out than the M-114, that's for sure.

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    4. Mais oui!

      And, yes, it is. Better laid out, lower, compatible, so, yes, WE didn't buy them. (Bangs head against wall, over and over and over...)

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    5. The "not invented here" nonsense. Seen it before, we'll see it again.

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  15. One note. The largest tank air-transported by the Germans, was the PzKpfw III, with the long 50mm. In the Messerschmitt Gigant, either the glider version or the powered version. Used mainly to resupply the Afrika Korps.

    The PzKpfw III, of any variant, was considerably larger than the Wiesel.

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    1. The Gigant was huge, must be a lot of PzKfw IIIs at the bottom of the Med. I remember the Allies splashing a number of them on a resupply mission to the AK. Moving a tank by fixed wing aircraft assumes control of the airfield on the other end. In theory we can fly the Abrams anywhere in the world. Once it gets there though, it'll be rather lonely. Moving armor by air isn't effective, nor is moving by road. But we still can if we need to, it'll be in penny packets by air and all beat up if by road. Tanks are kinda fragile in some ways.

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    2. Moving supplies by air requires also being able to control the air around the supply mover. Many a Hurricane and Kittyhawk made German supply runs very exciting, and final.

      The Gigants were successful early on, when Germany was first taking over for the Italians. About the time that lend-lease Kittyhawks (lendlease version of P-40) started showing up in decent numbers.

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    3. Why yes, yes indeed. Air superiority, the only thing which beats that is air supremacy.

      While I like tanks, I love airpower.

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  16. Thanks for the mention! Ok, the little dearie isn't meant to slug it out with MBT or APC or IFV....but in the right hands on the right terrain, it could be a nasty little pain in the rear (see what I did there?). Or in the city. Shoot and scoot. Or a nimble rapid reaction force. They are NBC capable. They can cross more bridges and duck into more alleys, storefronts, carports and truck trailers than the big boys. They are quiet. The real star is the 120mm mortar. Instead of a bunch of grunts lugging 81mm tubes, baseplates, bipods and ammo around, this thing trundles up, fires a salvo of 120mm mortary goodness, and by the time the first rounds are landing, it's off again. Rheinmetall makes a recoilless 30mm that punches harder than currently deployed 30's, perfect for this. Put a Javelin system on it, or one of the modern light/medium SAM's (pardon the mention). It is also cheap, uses VW parts, doesn't have anywhere near the logistic tail as the big boys, and works. Vids:

    4 Variants, pirouetting. Cue 80's music:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t91zzpO1KjI

    Mortar system firing. Cue 90's music:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qln3hVoe8qA

    Ocelot version, Stinger SAM (gratuitous "ptui"), in German:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0C6kXE6-SMw


    p.s. I don't get any money for this, but if any sales eventuate, I want a demonstrator example for my new career. A handy Coronatruck...I'll hide my stash of TP in the mortar barrel, like I used to smuggle beercans in the LAW tube on exercises. Be safe...

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    1. Wow, you weren't kidding about the music. Ow, my poor ears.

      The third video (even though it is about a subject which aviators always cringe at) was pretty cool. My German isn't as rusty as I thought!

      (Couldn't help but notice how thin the tracks are, wouldn't be much of a mudder I would think.)

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  17. It is basically, a TANKETTE.
    See, in 1920s Vickers Ltd. of UK made a series of small 2-3 tons scout tanks designed to be as cheap as possible to buy for customers who could not afford heavier desingns. Dozens of countries bought them, some even made own versions into hundreds like Poland and Italy. Poland on the eve of war modernised some of their machinegun armed tankettes with newly produced 20mm autocannon, and those exacted quite a toll on the Panzerwaffe in 1939.
    cue historical vid:
    https://youtu.be/Ez9pw9BJPsE
    also, the 20mm cannon plans were evacuated to the West nad reemerged as POLSTEN, a less well known rival to famed 20mm Oerlikon:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/20_mm_Polsten
    on another note, mainstay German IFV of late cold war, the Marder used 20mm autocannon as well, as it was well suited to mincing Soviet APCs as well as the notoriously soft-skinned BMP-series (design flaw due to combination of having to be amphibious AND heavily armed at same time).

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    1. Yes indeed, but a very specialized tankette meant for transport by air.

      I do like the Mark Felton videos. You'll see one here tomorrow.

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  18. Ahh, it's so cute! It's the purse dog of tanks. Paint it differently, slap a license plate on it, and it's street legal! My daughter probably couldn't wreck it like she did her last German-made automobile.

    If you're going to restrict us from degrading politicians using animal names, you have to offer us some other derogatory terminology. Heck you could probably write a whole post on that topic!

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    1. Now there's an idea.

      I'd paint a Hello Kitty on the side of a Wiesel. Chicks would dig it.

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    2. As Pawel pointed out, the Wiesel is a tankette. As Stephan mentioned, it wasn't intended to go up against MBTs or IFVs. Shoot and scoot against soft targets, provide enough armor to protect the crew against gun-bunnies, go places normal vehicles couldn't.

      It worked so well that, of course, Germany (in the throws of stupidity) had to get rid of it.

      A modern version is a viable light AFV. Add more composite armor, give the crew a half-dozen or more Javelin ATMs (or the equivalent) and hook on a bunch of cargo hooks on the outside. Not a tank-tank, but an infantry support vehicle. With exceedingly low ground pressure.

      Heck, if I had one, I'd paint a Hello Kitty on the side, maybe one of those skeletonized ones.

      Still holding out for a stubby M-113. With a wheelchair ramp and tie-downs for my darling.

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    3. What a coincidence! I just viewed a full length documentary on the Wiesel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14KJrSdsKPQ
      The German paratroopers loved that AFV!

      Out of topic.....here's a video for juvat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2RewwHY8ig
      A pair of Eagles doing low level passes in the CONUS.

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    4. I'll have to give it a look. Both actually.

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    5. Sarge, this video's for you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9khQr1iOPfs&list=UUxDrrIR89zpTRMOJNtCU1qw
      If you haven't seen it, you'd definitely enjoy it!

      - Victor

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    6. Now THAT was awesome!

      Miss the Phantom, I do.

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  19. Weisel looks about as helpful as the US M114.

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    1. Consensus seems to be that the Wiesel was better than the M-114. Then again, I was Air Force, what do I know? 🙄

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)