Home > Land Rovers & Similar > Military Land Rovers Pt. 8 ~ CAV 100 – Snatch

Military Land Rovers Pt. 8 ~ CAV 100 – Snatch

Operation BANNER, Crumlin Road, 12 July 2002 [©Bob Morrison]

A humble light armoured vehicle, the Land Rover Defender CAV 100, has now racked up over 25 years of continuous British Army operational service, writes Bob Morrison.

Much maligned in the press after nearly forty troops travelling in this vehicle type lost their lives on Operations TELIC and HERRICK in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Land Rover Defender 110 CAMAC Composite Armoured Vehicle has almost certainly saved more lives than were lost in it… but of course good news stories seldom hit the headlines. Conceived and manufactured in Coventry by the National Plastics division of Courtaulds, which became NP Aerospace, this lightweight vehicle carried the military designation TRUCK UTY MED (HT) W/VPK LAND ROVER 110 V8 PTL; the abbreviations standing for Utility, Medium, Hard Top, With Vehicle Protection Kit and V-8 Petrol engined.

Manufacturer’s diagram showing the basic construction

Essentially the manufacturer took a rolling Defender 110 chassis and added to it a lightweight composite rear body shell, front bulkhead with cab floor, and doors all manufactured from pressure formed fibreglass and resin to give a six-man vehicle which could protect against bullets and ballistic fragments but still be beneath the 3500kg GVW limit for a driver with a car licence. This meant that not only could any soldier with an ordinary car licence drive the vehicle, but as all controls and most handling characteristics were virtually identical to the rest of the military Land Rover fleet somebody used to driving a standard medium utility vehicle required little if any retraining to take the wheel of this light armoured vehicle.

‘Snatch’ on the streets of Belfast, 12 July 2002 [© BM]

Quickly nicknamed ‘Snatch’ by the troops, and now categorised as a Protected Patrol Vehicle, the CAV 100 was designed specifically for the streets of Northern Ireland to give troops on patrol a low profile and highly mobile means of transport which would provide protection from both pistol and sub-machine gun rounds plus shrapnel from pipe bombs and low velocity projectiles which could penetrate softskin vehicle bodywork and glazing. It was never intended for high threat level conflict zones but, as UK Defence Procurement is mostly cumbersome and sloth-like and as it is incredibly difficult to get the Treasury to commit to properly funding defence materiel until it becomes an expensive Urgent Operational Requirement, when the Government of the day committed to putting troops in harm’s way in both Iraq and Afghanistan the vastly over-matched ‘Snatch’ was the only (almost) suitable vehicle on the inventory in any quantity.

Upgraded ‘Snatch’ Land Rovers at a snap VCP in Basrah, 2006 [© Carl Schulze]

If one casts one’s mind back to late 2001 when the Royal Marines were first operationally deployed to Kabul following the 11th September terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, and then to March 2003 when the British Army and Royal Marines invaded Iraq as part of the international operation to topple Saddam Hussein, it was just ordinary softskin Land Rovers (plus some Pinzgauers) which were initially used. Other than the ‘Snatch’, which had been procured specifically as an Internal Security Vehicle for use on the streets of Northern Ireland, UK Forces simply did not possess any wheeled armoured personnel carriers other than the very lightly armoured, unwieldy and near obsolete SAXON Patrol, which was originally conceived as a ‘battlefield taxi’ to transport the Territorial Army from the UK out to reinforce the British Army of the Rhine if the Cold War looked like turning into a Hot War.

1 PARA ‘Snatch’ on an interface in Portadown, July 2001 [© BM]

I will come back to Iraq and Afghanistan in a later article, but first I will focus on Operation BANNER in Northern Ireland which was the conflict zone where the CAV 100 was intended to serve. In the early 1990s thoughts of lasting peace coming to the streets of Ulster seemed little more than pipe-dreams and no less than ten battalions of troops (drawn from across the British Army plus the Royal Marines) were stationed there along with a massive military support infrastructure; in extreme crisis the number of deployable could be dramatically increased with more troops from the mainland.

The ‘Snatch’ could transport six troops, including driver and commander [© BM]

Around 1,000 examples of the CAV 100 were procured from 1991 to ensure that in times of unrest when large numbers of soldiers had to be deployed onto the streets in support of the RUC (now PSNI) they could be moved quickly from barracks around the Province to the many potential flashpoints. The first of these new vehicles appeared on patrol in 1992 and by the summer Marching Season the following year they were widely dispersed around Northern Ireland with a small fleet retained at the ‘Tin City’ training facility in Kent to allow troops preparing for deployment to become familiar with both the new vehicles and the tactics for its use in riot situations; around this time the ‘Snatch’ nickname rose to prominence as one of the training scenarios where they were used saw them protecting snatch squads sent in to detain ringleaders and High Value Targets.

‘Snatch’ deployed on UN duties in Bosnia in 1993 [© Andy Burridge]

These vehicles would be widely deployed around Northern Ireland for another decade, though after 2002 their use was reduced as the recently formed PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) did not require as much support as previously on account of the greatly reduced, though not totally removed, threat of para-military violence following the Provisional IRA commencing decommissioning of weapons the previous year as part of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Operation BANNER continued until 2007 but the ‘Snatch’ was seldom seen out on Ulster’s streets in great numbers and by January 2005 the first batch of eighteen upgraded vehicles had already been deployed to Basrah on Operation TELIC.

Although the CAV 100 did not deploy operationally with the British Army in Northern Ireland after Op BANNER concluded, in 2013 a batch was refurbished and painted white with Police markings as part of the enhanced security measures brought in for the G8 Summit held at Lough Erne. These vehicles were not used by the PSNI per se, but by police officers drafted in from mainland UK constabularies to help with the massive security operation.

One of the vehicles I travelled through Bosnia in at the start of January 1996 [© BM]

From 1993 the ‘Snatch’ also deployed operationally to war-torn Yugoslavia, originally in small numbers and mostly for use by senior military officers, but by the time that NATO (i.e. IFOR) took over in Bosnia from the United Nations in December 1995 numbers had increased and the Malaysian Contingent was also using some. From Boxing Day 1995 well into January 1996 I toured quite extensively through the British-controlled IFOR sector, mostly by hitching lifts in military vehicles, and on one memorable snowy trip from Gornji Vakuf to Banja Luka via Mrkonjić Grad I crossed through all three ethnic areas in one of these nimble little armoured Land Rovers.

More recently, as you may have spotted in our Exercise News section, the ‘Snatch’ has redeployed with 3 PARA to Sarajevo in Bosnia on the Exercise QUICK RESPONSE 2018 phase of Operation ALTHEA / Op ELGIN meaning, it has now seen 25 years of continuous military service with the British Army.

To be continued...

{ images © Bob Morrison unless noted }

Page sponsored by HOBSON INDUSTRIES: UK Supplier of Genuine Land Rover Parts & Spares

3 PARA deployed in ‘Snatch’ Land Rovers in Sarajevo during Operation ALTHEA (Ex QUICK RESPONSE) on 4th September 2018 [EUFOR: WO Ulrich Kallinger]

The CAV 100 was also sold commercially to news organisations – vehicles on left and right were seen in Macedonia at the height of the 2001 insurgency [© BM]

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