France has a long history of building excellent, if quirky, reconnaissance vehicles. Reconnaissance vehicles tend to be small and lightly armed. But the French have always sought to use them as the heirs to the light cavalry tradition, and have armed their recon vehicles appropriately. In some cases, the result is basically a light tank. We’ll look at those later. Today, we’re looking at something quite a bit smaller but still well armed. Today, we look at the petite Panhard CRAB.
The Panhard Crab weighs eight to ten tons, depending on protection level. It is a 4×4 vehicle with some particularly interesting suspension and drivetrain capabilities. It has a crew of three, and a turret that can be fitted with a bunch of armament options.
The turret is designed to be modular. Display models have tended to have turrets equipped with the M242 25 mm autocannon and about 150 rounds. Also available is a turret mounting the M230LF 30 mm autocannon. Note that this is a variant of the M230 chain gun used in the AH-64 Apache. It is chambered in 30×113 mm, not 30×173 mm. Both autocannons are fully stabilized. Another available option is a missile turret. This turret can be configured with four launch tubes for the new French MMP ATGM or the Mistral MANPADS missile. Other missiles could probably be integrated with some extra funds and work. This is where the Crab might suffer a little. It would be nice if it could use the Spike or Javelin missiles. In any case, all turrets have a 7.62 mm machine gun (coaxially mounted for the autocannon turrets) and are unmanned.
The Crab has a few different protection levels available. The heaviest (STANAG level IV) is good against 14.5 mm AP rounds and 155 mm fragments at least 30 m away from the burst. This is a light, easily deployed vehicle. This protection level is pretty typical for a lot of small utility and reconnaissance vehicles. We’ll find a way to deal.
Most interesting is the drivetrain of the Crab. It has an active pneumatic suspension, so it can be lifted for extra ground clearance. Tire pressure is centrally regulated, which helps deal with soft or hard ground. Both axles are independently steerable, which makes the turning radius very small–the Crab can make a u-turn with a 5 meter radius. It has a 320 hp engine, giving a top speed of 68 miles an hour. Finally, it can actually drive sideways by turning both axles to the same side. This is as close to go-anywhere as you can get in a wheeled vehicle. The light weight will also help with ground pressure.
The Crab can accommodate 3 men. It has a battle management system, and comes equipped with all of the networking gear and radios to transmit information to other units. It also has 360 degree camera coverage, to help with information gathering or movement in any direction. Mast mounted sensor systems are also available. Optics or a short-range radar system can be mounted on a telescoping mast.
So what do we think? It’s light for Borgundy, but so are most things that have ‘telescoping sensor mast’ as a factory option. It is well armed, networked, and extremely agile. We’ll take the superlative agility and armament, since it’s as good as it’s going to get in the light reconnaissance vehicle role. Bonus that it resembles Halo’s Warthog vehicle, if that was designed for humans who don’t wear fancy power armor.