Canadian Defence Procurement – Armoured Vehicles
– 07 March 2006
Reviewing the LAV III – Rollovers and
Are Criticisms of the CF's Armoured Vehicles Warranted?
Stephen Priestley, Researcher, Canadian American Strategic Review
Update (06 Jan 2008): another LAV III rollover in wet terrain resulted in
the loss of two more CF soldiers. Being in the nature of LAV IIIs, rollovers will continue but must
be weighed against the IED protection that extra ground clearance provides.
The Canadian Forces' LAV III light armoured vehicle has come
under close media scrutiny in the aftermath of a fatal traffic accident near Kandahar (02 Mar 2006). The LAV
had been struck from the side by a local taxi. The CF driver lost control on the road's soft shoulder and the
LAV III rolled , losing its turret in the process.
This was an accident with a tragic outcome but it is unlikely
that any blame will be assigned. Still, sensing a story, the conventional media zeroed in on the LAV III's
stability, citing the vehicle's record of rollovers and reputation for top-heaviness.
LAV III Rollovers – SUV-like Instability or Considered Design Compromises ?
There have been a dozen rollovers involving CF LAV IIIs, some with fatal results. The most common cause
for these incidents is soft ground, either the shoulder or an embank- ment giving way beneath the vehicle. Once the
to lean over, momentum and high centre of gravity may topple the vehicle. The 'instability'
theme is a favourite for proponents of all- tracked armour. The quagmire of LAV vs M113 awaits the
The LAV III is top-heavy but journalists announcing this are implying that there is a superior
alternative. Better to ask why LAV IIIs have a high centre of gravity or what the trade-offs were. The answer is
simple. Unlike the vehicle to which it is usually compared, the LAV III is armed with a large, turret-mounted
LAV IIIs are most often compared with the tracked M113s. Invariably, the
LAV III is parked beside a turretless M113 for a dramatic height contrast. Good theatre but this comparison
completely ignores the great utility of the LAV's 25mm gun (which is showing itself to be extremely effective
in the hills outside Kandahar.)
Once both vehicle types are fitted with turrets, their height difference is minimal. The LAV III still has a
higher centre of gravity, though. Here again, there is a trade-off – the LAV III also has greater
ground clearance. This is important for off-road driving, but CF LAVs spend most of their time patrolling
on the roads. And road speed is the key difference between a LAV III (which easily hits 100km/h) and the
M113 (which tops out at 60km/h).
A day after the rollover accident, a vehicle-borne suicide bomber attacked a CF convoy. Other than shredded tires
(on which, in a pinch, the vehicle can still be driven), the LAV III was only slightly damaged by a blast that
left a crater in the road – in similar circumstances the SUV-like G-wagons are destroyed. While the vehicle damage may have been slight, a crew member was
severely wounded. The media faulted the "exposed positions" of the crew.
LAV III Crew Hatches – Dangerous Exposure or Added Situational Awareness?
In short, the LAV III's crew are "exposed" because they have to be to do their job – in the
turret hatches, the commander and gunner have a clear view in front and the sides. From the aft hull
hatches, soldiers riding 'air sentry' cover the rear quadrant. None of these roles can be performed well
with the crew members fully under armour. (Just as important in the hearts-and-minds campaign is to see and
be seen by locals.)
Unfortunately, that suicide car bomb was detonated directly below the crew commander's position which
exposed MCpl. Mike Loewen's  arm to the effects of blast. In this case, the sloped turret side (intended
to deflect shot) actually directed the blast. The irony is that the 'air sentry' positions
(below) are actually more open. Rear gunners are exposed from the waist up but luckily the sideways-opening,
spring-loaded roof hatch deflected the blast.
[Update air sentries in upgraded LAVs have armoured parapets, see LAV LORIT.]
The commander and driver of Bison are also vulnerable when exposed as proven by the tragic outcome of
a 27 Nov. 2006 suicide VBIED which claimed two lives.
The LAV IIIs will continue to patrol Kandahar and environs. CF convoy tactics will shift but LAV
IIIs will continue to drive fast to counter IEDs and other threats. The media has given lip service to
the need for high speed operation in Afghanistan but, evidently, simply questioning LAV III characteristics
makes for a better story.
This is not the time to be indiscriminately critical of CF vehicles in the field. It may sell newspapers but does
no good to Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. Nor does it add anything to the perpetual debate over the ideal
light armoured vehicle. The LAV III is an excellent vehicle. Most importantly, the LAV IIIs are better-suited to the
current mission than any other existing vehicle. Until a superior light armoured vehicle emerges, support the
troops, honour the dead, and care for the wounded.
 For the record, the LAV III is 2.88m high at the top of the turret top. Heights at hull-top: LAV III - 2m,
M113 - 1.85m. Ground clearance: LAV - 52cm, M113 - 41cm. Weights: LAV III - 17t, M113 (max., base model) - 14t
(turreted EIFV variant) - 18t.
 Road speed aside, tracks are not designed for extended road use. Shedding of tracks is the most common
cause of M113 rollovers – although, as with LAV IIIs, a soft shoulder or weak embankment are also
danger spots for the tracked vehicle. [Update Dec 2006: M113A3s
have deployed to Afghanistan to accompany tanks.]
 Since publishing, MCpl Loewen wrote to clarify that his arm was injured due to it being "... outside the
protected area ... I was waving a van over to the side. Had my arm been just resting in front of me, like
usual, it would have been fine. When driving , the gunner and crew commander ride at 'name tag'
defilade (meaning that nothing below the nametag shows) and keeps them safe. My injuries are more due to bad luck
than anything else." Our thanks to MCpl Loewen for this clarification.