Canadian LAV-3 rolls in Afghanistan

Soldier died when driver swerved to avoid car

canadianlav3.jpgA Canadian soldier with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment was killed and four others injured when their light armored vehicle, very similar in many respects to the US Army’s Stryker, rolled over after swerving to avoid a local car that was driving without headlights on the highway between Kabul and Kandahar.

After the light armoured vehicle swerved, the driver lost control of the vehicle which went off the highway and rolled over.

“It was purely and simply an accident to avoid a head-on collision,” Craig Oliver, CTV’s Chief Political Correspondent, reported.

Pte. Braun Scott Woodfield, 24, died in the accident.

Predictably, the article contains this:

Earlier, the safety of the military vehicle, known as a LAV-III, was called into question after a media report claimed the army had been warned that “speed and driver inexperience” were frequent causes of rollovers.

There have been 10 rollover accidents in the six years the vehicle had been in use.

A 24-year-old Quebec soldier, Pte. Patrick Dessureault, died earlier this year when a LAV-III rolled over into a river during a training exercise in Alberta.

And last year, two Canadians were injured when their LAV rolled into a ravine in Bosnia.

In fact, Google News calls the article “Vehicle safety questioned after soldier’s death”. Once again we hear of the 8-wheeled LAV’s problem with roll-overs. I noted similar coverage of the Stryker very recently. While there’s little doubt that an LAV has a higher center of gravity than, say, a tank, and is much more likely to roll over than, say, a tank, I’m a bit skeptical about that wild-eyed claims that so many seem to have made over the past few years. And I’m not quite so quick to just accept the higher probability of rolling in a Stryker or LAV based on incidents like when two Strykers rolled into a canal in Iraq off of a collapsing roadway or rolling into a ravine in Bosnia.

A Marine tank flipped over while falling into the Euphrates during the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003. I don’t ever see that listed when discussing the probability of M1 tanks to roll over. But we all know that M1’s are nearly impossible to flip, don’t we? And we all know that LAV/Strykers are very prone to flipping, don’t we?

If we do, it might be because so many people act like it’s a self-evident truth. Take, for instance, this in another story:

Military sources said the LAV-3 – its inherent tippiness exaggerated by armour plates added recently to protect soldiers from explosions – rolled over after a civilian car with no headlights suddenly appeared out of the dark.

“Inherent tippiness” according to “military sources”. That, um, leaves a lot of wiggle room, I think. Also, don’t miss the fact that that paragraph is a ‘twofer’. You noticed how add-on armor was implicated in the event as well, didn’t you? And then there’s this in an article entitled Military vehicle in fatal accident has history of rollovers:

Documents obtained through Access to Information laws show the army was warned in May 2004 that “speed and driver inexperience” were frequent causes of rollovers involving the LAV III.

A two-page briefing memo prepared for military leaders said the armoured vehicle is limited in the type of terrain it can handle.

I find this a bit interesting because the article seems to use the report as a cornerstone to build its anti-LAV angle from. Except that both factors are not problems with the vehicle itself, but problems with the drivers or the way it’s used. Despite a slightly bizarre claim by POGO that training was a “band-aid” solution to Stryker driver inexperience with add-on slat armor, it’s obvious that training is how you overcome inexperience. I’m reminded that the first Stryker brigade shredded a ton of tires when they first acquired their vehicles, but as driver experience and training increased, lost tires decreased dramatically. Training and re-training is where it’s at in the military. In this particular case, the driver had four years of experience behind the wheel of an LAV, so I doubt that driver inexperience is at fault this time. And if speed was a factor, or maybe the use of the vehicle in terrain that it can’t handle, that again comes down to factors unrelated directly to the vehicle.

If you read the report note (1 page .pdf) that the story refers to, you’ll see exactly that training seems to have overcome the driver inexperience problems and that steep embankments or collapsing terrain were responsible for the rest. I’m not exactly sure where “speed” comes into it, though.

And how about this:

Like many armoured vehicles and SUVs, the LAV-3s can roll over under certain conditions.

Wow. Comparing LAVs to the big bad SUVs. Though, to their credit, they go on to note that “several defence sources” claim that vehicle structural issues haven’t been a factor in any of the Lav roll-overs and that “accidents still happen”.

I know it sounds like I’m getting all up in arms about this, here. As a bit of a Stryker fan, I guess I’m tired of seeing the same old “anti wheels” claims peddled about as gospel. Yes, the Stryker/LAV is probably a lot more prone to rolling than a tank. But, then, so is everything else. It’s this last point that usually is ignored or goes unmentioned. I don’t claim to know if Strykers/LAVs roll more often than most other vehicles or not. But let’s look at some numbers and compare.

Oh. The Canadian military has. And it says that they’re actually less-likely, statistically, to roll than other troop carriers. And later they also point out that they are also less-likely to roll than a sport utility vehicle. They give no numbers, though.

If you click the pic near the top of this story, you can access a video of a Canadian LAV firing its gun. The fact that standard Canadian LAVs are armed with stabilized turrets sporting the reliable M242 Bushmaster 25mm chain gun probably, if anything, gives them an even slightly higher center of gravity than US Strykers. And, most definitely, significantly greater firepower. Another pic of a Canadian LAV-III with full load-out, crew, and dismounts, can be seen here. For what it’s worth, I still believe that a 25mm-armed Stryker would come in handy.

There’s no doubt that the Strykers and LAVs have their downsides, but both the US and Canadian armies seem to be taking lessons learned and working hard to apply them to the real world. And there’s also no doubt that, in some cases, tracked vehicles (such as the upgraded M113s that so many anti-Stryker folks seem to advocate) would be a better choice. But nothing is a one-size-fits-all solution, and the Strykers have performed quite well overall since first arriving in Iraq at the end of 2003. By all means, let’s discuss their pros and cons. Let’s just do so fairly and honestly.

Meanwhile, let’s not forget that though the US and Canada have had some differences of opinion on a lot of things lately, the Canadians have been in Afghanistan all along and are continuing to do a great job. Sometimes at great sacrifice.

Cross-posted to Defense Tech


  1. I just that the gravitational pull is different in Iraq and Afganistan . . . Baltimore Sun November 28, 2005 Vehicle Crash In Baghdad Hurts 2 U.S. Congressmen By Associated Press BAGHDAD, Iraq–A military vehicle carrying three congressmen overturned on the way to the Baghdad airport, injuring two of them, the U.S. Embassy said yesterday. Rep. Tim Murphy, a Pennsylvania Republican, was airlifted to a military hospital in Germany for an MRI on his neck, and Rep. Ike Skelton, a Missouri Democrat, was sent to a Baghdad hospital for evaluation, said Rep. Jim Marshall, a Georgia Democrat who was also in the vehicle but was not hurt when it overturned Saturday. Murphy is ‘bumped and bruised but in good spirits,’ his chief of staff, Susan Mosychuk, said yesterday. He will return home from Germany as soon as he is cleared by doctors, she said. Skelton spokeswoman Lara Battles said she believed Skelton was also doing well. She declined to comment further. The politicians were riding in a convoy driving in the middle of the road, a common practice used by the military in Iraq to deter oncoming motorists. Shortly after dark, an oncoming tanker truck refused to yield, the embassy said. ‘Then, all of a sudden, brakes get slammed on. Then we hit something and go off the side of the road and tip over,’ Marshall told The Telegraph of Macon, Ga., by phone from Baghdad. The embassy said the driver’s quick reaction ‘probably averted disaster.’ The delegation had traveled to Afghanistan for Thanksgiving with the troops and then on to Baghdad to meet troops.

  2. MO, I was with the 1st Cav at NTC rotation 93-06, back in February ’93. Before the force-on-force maneuver phase even began, an 18 or 19 year old private was killed when the truck he was hauling ammo in flipped. I don’t know what type of truck it was, but I don’t believe there was a media outcry on the rollver tendencies of pickups, blazers, humvees, deuce-and-a-halfs or 5 tons. Matter of fact, I don’t believe the media gave a shit at all that this kid died. I don’t recall the NY Times being present at the funeral in the desert.

  3. If the kid had time to think his actions through, he probably would have let the car hit his LAV rather than swerving off the road. I’m sure tha LAV would have won that encounter. Of course then we would reading about Canadian tanks killing poor civilians.