Home > Land Rovers & Similar > Military Land Rovers Pt. 9 ~ CAV 100 aka Snatch

Military Land Rovers Pt. 9 ~ CAV 100 aka Snatch

Irish Guards rehearsing on Stanford Training Area in 2007 [©Bob Morrison]

The Land Rover Defender CAV 100 has now racked up over 25 years of continuous British Forces operational service, having recently deployed to Bosnia again, writes Bob Morrison.

Continuing the story from our first article in this mini-series about this much-maligned light armoured vehicle, in which many soldiers have died on operations but which has also kept many others alive when under attack on the frontline, possibly this second part may explain why it is still in use. The Snatch / CAV 100 is not a bad vehicle, and if used in context it is actually considerably better and more capable than significantly larger and heavier armoured vehicles costing possibly ten times as much, but if used in very high threat areas rather than the lesser threat level environments it was designed for it cannot realistically be expected to offer the high degree of protection required.

British-crewed Kosovo Verification Mission Snatch Land Rovers in early 1999 [© OCSE]

Close on ten years ago, on 16th December 2008 to be precise, the then Secretary of State for Defence (John Hutton MP, Labour) told Parliament in a Written Statement why the Defender-based Composite Armour Vehicle was being retained in service despite at that stage 37 soldiers having died while travelling in it. He had recently been asked to institute a public inquiry into the use of these vehicles but after “very careful consideration” he decided that a public inquiry would not be the right way to proceed.

Sussex Police CAV 100 photographed in Brighton in 2005 [© BM]

In his statement the Secretary of State for Defence said: “I have sought comprehensive advice on whether the continued use of Snatch is necessary, particularly given the substantial investment we have made in new protected vehicles in recent years. The clear advice to me from military operational commanders, unanimously endorsed by the Chiefs of Staff, is that Snatch remains essential to the success of our operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Around the cusp of the millennium the much larger TAVERN was introduced for high threat area deployments in Northern Ireland – though it offered better protection is was more cramped and less manoeuvrable than Snatch [© BM]

Prior to the Ministerial Statement being released the mainstream media defence correspondents were invited to the Ministry of Defence Main Building in London to be briefed by not one, but two, three-star generals – Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Sir Nick Houghton KCB CBE, and the Deputy Chief of Defence Staff responsible for Equipment Capability, Lieutenant General Andrew Figgures CBE – on the reasoning behind the continued deployment of what had now become widely known as the ‘Snatch’ Land Rover. It is not often that Whitehall invites specialist defence media journalists to ‘on the record’ briefings by such senior officers, but on this occasion (probably because at the time I contributed to both COMBAT & SURVIVAL and LAND ROVER MONTHLY magazines) my name was on the list.

NP Aerospace firing trials vehicle demonstrating effects of multiple bullet hits and even an RPG strike [© BM]

From the very outset of the briefing General Sir Nick Houghton stated that in the context of the use of Protected Mobility Vehicles it was his judgement that Snatch continued to be a mission-critical capability in both Iraq and Afghanistan. However, he added that in order to continue to minimise the risk involved in its use the MoD must continue to pursue its replacement by the improved Snatch 3 (VIXEN) variant in the short term and also that the Ministry must aspire to replace all versions of the Snatch when both science and industry produced a suitable alternative vehicle; the general added that although correspondents may have heard of alternatives, at that time no acceptable alternative vehicles actually existed.

British troops patrolling in Basrah with Snatch 1.5 column in 2006 [© Carl Schulze]

Specialist defence vehicle correspondents like myself were well aware that initial development work was underway by several companies with proven track records, and also with a few who had ideas that would never bear fruit, to create an agile and nimble small vehicle which could also survive the ever-increasing threat levels posed by increasingly sophisticated IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) being encountered on operations. Despite this will to find a workable solution, Invitation To Tender documentation being issued in February 2009, and prototypes being displayed at Defence Vehicle Dynamics expo in September 2009 it would take until September 2010 for an order to be placed for a suitable Snatch replacement and the first batch of TES (Theatre Entry Standard) vehicles would not be operationally deployed to Afghanistan until June 2012.

Crater left by an IED in Iraq – the resultant shaped charge strike could even penetrate conventional armoured vehicles [© Carl Schulze]

Two newly designed prototypes from different manufacturers, the Ocelot from Force Protection Europe and the SPV 400 from Supacat, were selected for the initial competitive trials to find the new LPPV (Light Protected Patrol Vehicle) with the former being eventually chosen in 2010. A total of 200 of the revolutionary new LPPV, christened FOXHOUND by the MoD, would subsequently be ordered to replace part of the, originally 991-strong, CAV 100 Snatch Land Rover fleet and today some of these LPPVs are not only operationally deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq but a quantity are deployed with the RAF Regiment on Exercise SAIF SAREEA 3 in Oman and others are in transit to Norway to serve with the Royal Irish Regiment on Exercise TRIDENT JUNCTURE 18.

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Snatch 3 (VIXEN) during a UOR demo in 2008 – it offered better blast protection  [© BM]

Following the ending of combat operations and drawdown from Op TELIC (Southern Iraq) and Op HERRICK (Southern Afghanistan) the MoD cast a large quantity of now surplus and mechanically tired Snatch Land Rovers, some of which were bought by military vehicle enthusiasts and restored. Others were secured for upgrade by companies specialising in refurbishment, such as the THEMIS Internal Security Vehicle designed by HOBSON Industries for example, and it is believed a quantity were also sold to other governments, but a number still remain in service with the MoD for use when a lesser protected and much less overtly aggressive vehicle than the FOXHOUND LPPV is required.

The RIDGBACK offers much greater protection but was too bulky and unweildy for many tasks in Helmand [© BM]

At the DVD 18 expo, held this September at Millbrook Proving Ground, DESA (Defence Equipment Sales Authority) displayed two Snatch Land Rovers on their stand but civilian staff on duty refused point blank to answer questions about these vehicles, stating that as I was wearing Press Accreditation they could not discuss them with me. Both vehicles were diesel-powered 2005 upgrades of the type deployed on Exercise QUICK RESPONSE 18 as part of Operation ALTHEA / Op ELGIN earlier that month; their precise designation being TRUCK UTILITY MEDIUM (HS) HARD TOP W/VPK 24V (WITHOUT ACU) REFURBISHED 2005.

FOXHOUND was one of two clean sheet designs chosen as the new LPPV[© BM]

Since entering operational service in the Former Yugoslavia in 1993 the CAV 100 or Snatch Land Rover has been upgraded several times. Of the 991 produced for the British Army by Courtaulds / NP Aerospace in 1992, by July 2006 official sources showed that 576 had been, or were being, converted to 24V and refitted with a 300 Tdi diesel engine as Snatch 2B (Desertised and Air-conditioned) or Snatch 2A and another 77 were left hand drive 12V diesel engined upgrades designated Snatch 2. Another 278 with the original V8 petrol engine and 12V electrics were designated as Snatch 1.5 (urgently Desertised and Air-conditioned for Southern Iraq under Project CHILE – a humorous play on words) were also serving along with 30 V8 12V originals known as Snatch 1. It was stated that 30 of the original 991 had been “removed from service”.

A few of the Snatch fleet were converted as Panama Unmanned Ground Vehicles for route clearance [© BM]

These figures only refer to British Army vehicles and do not include the small batch of RAF Regiment vehicles, also used operationally in Afghanistan and designated TUM Enhance Protection Vehicle (EPV CAV 100). It is unclear how many of these RAF vehicles, introduced around 1999 and recognisable by their rear body side windows, were produced but from their MoD registration and contract numbers I do not believe they were reworks of part of the original 991 procurement but were completely new vehicles.

Tired Snatch Land Rovers brought home from Iraq sitting in the disposal agents’ yard in 2011 [© BM]

Finally, in an attempt to increase protection levels of vehicles serving in Afghanistan until a suitable new Light Protected Patrol Vehicle could be brought into service, in 2008 a batch of Snatch Land Rovers was upgraded to Snatch VIXEN standard as an Urgent Operational Requirement or UOR; these are usually referred to as Snatch 3. A 4×4 version of the Force Protection Europe MASTIFF 6×6 Protected Patrol Vehicle, known as RIDGBACK (note no E) in UK service, was also procured as a UOR around the same time as Snatch VIXEN, but although used in very high threat areas this c.16-tonne vehicle was insufficiently manoeuvrable to completely replace the c.4-tonne Land Rover.

PS. Sorry it has taken me so long to pen this second part of the Snatch story, but the last month has been exceedingly busy.

{ images © Bob Morrison unless noted }

The RAF EPV fleet were not part of the original batch of 991 Snatch Land Rovers procured in the early 1990s [© BM]

The Snatch 2B is now being offered for sale by DESA – identical vehicles were operationally deployed with 3 PARA in Kosovo as recently as early September [© BM]

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