by Aakrith Harikumar

Tracked Armoured Personnel Carriers:

Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) are vehicles explicitly used to transport army personnel in battle areas. Tracked APCs have conveyor belts around the wheels for easy movement. They are less prone to punctures due to an extra layer of protection and are generally seen as more durable than their wheeled counterparts. Due to the rigid structure of the conveyor belts, tracked APCs are harder to manoeuvre. However, these vehicles serve as excellent support when battlefields are on rougher terrain.

Wheeled Armoured Personnel Carriers

Comparatively, wheeled APCs are easier to manoeuvre. They are more useful for movement in civilian areas where there may be many turns in the terrain. Due to their more straightforward structure, maintenance costs for wheeled APCs are lower. They also experience lesser technical issues than tracked APCs.

The Tracked Vs Wheeled Debate

Armies are often divided on which of these vehicles offers better chances of winning a battle. While they have their own merits and demerits, there are four critical focus areas to evaluate their performance.

1. Mobility- In any battle, mobility is vital. Units must be able to move across battle areas with ease. In this case, tracked APCs offer a better chance as they can move on more diverse terrain than wheeled AMCs, especially in off-road conditions. Tracked vehicles tend to have a larger surface area, increasing the payload they can carry. Despite an immense weight, the fact that a belt protects the wheels of a tracked APC ensures its stability.

2. Maintenance- At the end of the day, buying any weapon system is an enormous cost to the government. The best way to save on military expenses is to save on maintenance costs. In this case, wheeled APCs are much more economical. They are also easier to repair. A flat tyre is much less complicated to fix and will give the vehicle enough time to seek cover in a battle zone. However, once a track dislocates from the vehicle, it instantly breaks down, rendering one vulnerable.

3. Stealth- When it concerns stealth operations, wheeled APCs take the trophy. The larger size of tracked vehicles and the belt surrounding the wheels tend to make more noise, alerting the enemy. Wheels are quieter and offer better chances of a surprise attack.

4. Survivability- Tracked vehicles usually last much longer than wheeled ones. They are usually stronger against enemy fire and protect the army personnel better than wheeled ones.

Which One Is Better? The Indian Context

As for deciding the better one of the two, the author wishes to answer the question in the Indian army context. India’s most pressing military threats are of two types: external and internal. India is fighting a long battle on its northern borders against two powerful nuclear neighbours on the external forefront. On the internal forefront, it is seeing an increase in terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir and Naxal insurgencies in the eastern portion of the peninsula. Both these situations require different measures.

Our northern borders are rockier and more challenging terrain with many mountainous slopes. In such a situation, tracked APCs serve as a better alternative during conflicts. With their durability and ability to move in diverse terrain, tracked APCs can last longer against the enemy. However, things are different in the civilian areas of Kashmir and the forest regions of Chhattisgarh and Odisha. These are areas with more turns in the terrain, requiring a vehicle with easier manoeuvrability. Especially in the Naxal-bound forest areas, stealth is an essential tool. Due to this, wheeled APCs serve a better purpose there.

However, in the end, there is no correct answer to the tracked vs. wheeled APC debate. They both serve their purposes, and it is up to a nation’s army that should be astute enough to determine which one it needs based on the conflict or situation it faces.

Aakrith Harikumar is an undergraduate student at the Jindal School of International Affairs. His research interests include International Security, Strategic Affairs, and Diplomacy. Views expressed are his own