Drug Running Tanks Seized by Mexican Authorities

Julian Miglierini, BBC News, June 7, 2011

The Mexican army has seized a number of home-made tanks that have been built by Mexico’s drug cartels and used to protect trafficking routes into the US.

The steel-coated, air-conditioned vehicles, were recovered during a raid on a metal-working shop in the north-east of the country.

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  • Tim Mc Hugh

    There`s a jumper cable joke in there somewhere but I`m late for dinner…

  • Hirsch

    These tanks look suspicously like the “hillbilly armor” we used to put on our vehicles in Iraq. If you’ll remember the furor that was caused by Sec. of Defense Donald Rummy explaining that our troops would have to make due with whatever armor was available, we on the front lines were forced to improvise. There was more than one soldier in my unit who was a recent Mexican emigre still working on his citizenship. Think it’s a coincidence that this sort of improvised method was taught to dual-citizenship holders from Ciudad Juarez, who then went home on leave and perhaps showed their buddies in the cartels a thing or two?

    It’s already been revealed in the Army Times that some gang-bangers join the military for the express purpose of transplanting their methods to another theater of operations. Diversity has born more fruit today.

  • Tony Soprano

    I guess we can stop pretending that we are not being invaded by an army. I wonder what the families of those five army soldiers who were just killed in iraq would think.

  • E

    Those truck-tanks look like something out of Mad Max.

    I say give it another 30 years and we’ll see those monsters prowling the streets of LA.

    Enjoy the collapse.

  • Anonymous

    “Only anti-tank grenades can destroy these vehicles”.

    Just as a matter of clarity, I’d like to point out that any .50 sniper rifle (retail cost about $1500) or, especially, machine gun fire, will easily penetrate that armor, slaughtering anyone inside.

    A number of .50 rounds are designed to fragment after piercing….killing anyone inside with only a couple of shots.

    So, while, yes, it might take a few rocket propelled grenades to destroy one of these, most US citizens can buy and afford weapons that will “stop” these vehicles by killing everyone inside.

    Which, in all liklihood, is how the mexican military acquired these fine specimens.

  • Vick

    Looks Mexican… probably runs about as well as anything Mexican.

  • WhiteWarrior88

    You gotta give these guys credit, imagine the time it took to design that and weld it all together. They left out a major weakness tho, the tires are exposed, they need to add extended metal plates on the sides of the tank to cover them, like the late model panzers, bazookas were putting a lot of tanks out of commission just by knocking the tracks off.

    This would be pretty effective in paintball tho ha

  • Anonymous

    Tanks have three principle conditional metrics of performance by which they are judged: Firepower, Protection, Mobility.

    Since these look to be less ‘tanks’ than armored trucks on the order of MRAPs-

    http://goo.gl/Qygxo

    http://goo.gl/AESPz

    They can perhaps be excused for lacking in offensive firepower, though lighweight, cannon-caliber (20-30mm) weapons would certainly prove a useful overmatch against any threat ambush attacking from within conventional buildings or light vehicles.

    In terms of protection, I doubt seriously if these trucks are protected by 1″ thick armor as steel weighs about 495lbs per cubic foot and even flattened to plate, any T600/T800 based ‘technical’ which has a typical 110-125″ BBC (bumper to back of cab) length is going to be front-axle limitered (10-14,000lbs) from being effectively protected across the multiple planes of the hood.

    It is interesting that the interior of the vehicle appears to be covered in spray-on insulative foam. Which, to me indicates either a desire for acoustic insulation (hail on corrugated roof) or to serve as an antispall liner in case of overpen by antimaterial rifles.

    Rather a unique solution but one which, if it ever lights off, will cook everyone inside in very short order.

    Mobility wise is where you are going to suffer big penalties. Specifically, this is not a vehicle which the border patrol has to worry about as it’s high center of gravity and highly loaded footprint weight on it’s smallish tires all tend to point to this ‘tank’ being almost useless for any kind of rough or off-road conditioned. There is a reason why tracked AFV weigh anywhere from 40-70 tons: they can. And remain highly mobile in the process by distributing weight along the full run of the long tracks.

    On prepared roads, it may do better but much will depend on how well it’s chassis is armored (more weight) as I see no sign of a boat-hull blast deflector and ground clearance remains a bit low in the face of Mines/IED.

    Given the large sidelamps and and suggested number of internal troops, I would offer that this is a vehicle similar in mission to the ‘gun trucks’ of Vietnam where 2-3 uparmored vehicles with some protection were intended to provide convoy escort to conventional Deuce or Five Tons making supply runs up and down the MSR-1.

    In this case, you are looking at a similar mission with drugs being run up highways, likely at night, with heavy support and from both integral and presweep/screening units.

    The cops will be paid to simply ‘not be there’ and any fighting between the cartels themselves will be handled by in-house mercenaries so as to limit problems with ‘coordination’ between corrupt officials and DTO drug runners.

    If they are truly making behemoths like this in multiple as optimized conversions, you are probably looking at a convoy system of 10-30 vehicles and multiple TONS of contraband in motion. Which makes sense, because if you are paying protection money through the nose, you want to minimize your payouts as vulnerability windows, making just a few runs per month and garnering as much profit ‘in bulk’ deliveries, as possible.

    Which in turn should tell you just how far gone Mexico really is.

  • Periapsis

    Those wanna be armored vehicles are death traps when they are hit by .50 or even .30 caliber armor piercing bullets. A 7.62mm caliber rifle with full metal jacket bullets can penetrate a half inch of mild steel at considerable distances, and the enourmous weight of all that steel will make them an even easier target for white Americans defending themselves. The tires engine and fuel tank are vulnerable as well, and these vehicles will abosolutely not withstand an explosion from beneath either. There is a very good reason why gasoline is not used for armored vehicles, and that is the fact that any hit that penetrates will cause an immediate explosion that incinerates the occupants. There is no way they could hope to fend off the rockets, mines and machine guns even National Guardsmen have. I think these vehicles show what sort of enemies we really have south of the border, because cars and trucks can be much better armored that that and not be an obvious target for counter-attacks on the part of whites.

  • ATBOTL

    Vehicles like this are probably intended for onetime assault missions against rival cartels and then to be abandoned. Notice that they don’t have hoods that open — they can’t be serviced. All the extra weight on transmissions and suspensions that weren’t designed to handle it means lots of breakdowns.

  • ProudtobeWhite

    The weak link is that the tires are unprotected and easily punctured with armor=piercing rounds. What’s next, half-tracks or surplus Bradley Fighting Vehicles? I half expect to see The Humongous sitting on top of this contraption, with one hand on the valve of a nitrous oxide bottle…

    Ay carramba!

  • Michael C. Scott

    That big box on wheels is full of shot traps, though the smaller vehicle with the boat-shaped hull front is better; a mobility kill for either would merely require shooting the tires out. After that the crew inside would be easy game for other narcos with gasoline bombs or Mexican cops with tear gas. Proper armored cars have “run-flat” tires, or solid rubber, and in cases like the British Saracen and Saladin, South Africa’s Rooikat and Ratel, Russia’s BTR-60 series and others they have steering on the front four wheels which allows continued operation with one of the wheels blown completely off the vehicle (like by a land mine).

    Where armor penetration is concerned, the standard NATO M855 5.56mm ammunition will penetrate 3mm of steel at 600 meters’ range. The black-tipped M995 AP round for the same chambering will penetrate 12mm of rolled homogenous armor plate at 100 meters. The new M855A1 cartridge should also defeat the boiler-plate “armor” on these vehicles, as the bullet is solid copper with a hardened steel penetrator tip. Rolled homogenous armor is approximately equivalent to AISI alloy 4340, which is certainly better than the boiler plates the Mexican welders used here. Against pistol and shotgun ammunition these trucks are doubtless adequate – except for the tires – but against centerfire rifle ammunition, they’re “armored” in name only.

  • Michael C. Scott

    As an aside, it doesn’t look like the welders cleaned the mill scale off the plates they used. I imagine a lot of those welds are porous and weak.