Friday, 19 February 2016
Military History Photo Friday: The Technical, a Marriage of Economy and Firepower
Ah, the good old days, when you were allowed to have a machine gun on the back of your automobile without a permit! Actually, you weren't, but it wasn't long after the invention of the car before people decided to turn it into a weapon because, well, that's what people do.
This obviously posed shot is from the Easter Uprising of 1916, when Irish nationalists launched a failed bid to overthrow English rule while the British Empire was distracted by events in Europe.
It's significant because it is perhaps the earliest photo of what we now call a "technical", a normal civilian vehicle on which is mounted a large weapon such as a machine gun, recoilless rifle, or even a missile launcher. Technicals provide a good combination of speed and maneuverability for rebel groups and cash-strapped governments of the developing world.
They've also been used by commando missions such as in World War Two, and can now be found all over the developing world. Once when I was traveling in Somaliland, our car got stopped by a technical mounted with a huge recoilless rifle (basically a cannon). The troops inside informed us that the road were were going on was now off limits, even though it hadn't been the day before. We didn't argue, and no, I didn't take a photo. There's a difference between being an adventure traveler and being an idiot!
This technical used by the Libyan rebels carries a Grad missile launcher. Photo courtesy Al Jazeera English. Fortunately for the driver, there isn't much kick from this weapon. The Sahara is perfectly made for technical use, and some of the pioneers in tactics involving them include the Saharawi in their fight against the Moroccans, and the Chadians in their fight against the Libyans. The people of Chad used so many technicals to repulse Colonel Gaddafi's invasion in the 1980s that it has been dubbed "The Toyota War".
A technical in Mogadishu, Somalia, taken by a braver (or stupider) photographer than I am. I think the guy sitting in the back with the white shirt just noticed his picture is being taken. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.