Artillery tractor

Wheeled British WWII Scammell Pioneer towing an 8-inch howitzer
Tracked Finnish WWII Komsomolets (captured from USSR)
Half-tracked German SdKfz 7 towing an 8.8cm Flak

An artillery tractor, also referred to as a gun tractor, is a specialized heavy-duty form of tractor unit used to tow artillery pieces of varying weights and calibres. It may be wheeled, tracked, or half-tracked.


There are two main types of artillery tractors, depending on the type of traction: wheeled and tracked.

In addition, half-track tractors were used in the interwar period and in World War II, especially by the Wehrmacht. This type of tractor was mostly discontinued in the postwar.


World War I

The first artillery tractors were designed prior to the outbreak of World War I, often based on agricultural machines such as the Holt tractor. Such vehicles allowed the tactical use of heavier guns to supplement the light horse drawn field guns. "Horseless artillery" available prior to World War I weighed 8 tons, had 70 horsepower and could go 8 mph.[1] For example, in the British Army it allowed the heavy guns of the Royal Garrison Artillery to be used flexibly on the battlefield.

World War II

German RSO towing 105 mm howitzer, Albania, 1943

In World War II the draft horse was still the most common source of motive power in many armies. Most nations were economically and industrially unable to fully motorise their forces. One compromise was to produce general purpose vehicles which could be used in the troop transport, logistics and prime mover roles, with heavy artillery tractors to move the heaviest guns.

The British Army had fully mechanized prior to war. The Royal Artillery persisted with specialist artillery tractors - known as "Field Artillery Tractors" (FAT) - such as the Morris "Quad", Canadian Military Pattern (CMP) "Quad" and AEC Matador throughout World War II, rather than adopt a general purpose vehicle. Artillery tractors were different from "General Service" (GS) vehicles by having a compartment for the gun detachment immediately behind the cab and separated from the cargo space containing ammunition and gun stores.

German forces used half-tracks as artillery tractors, such as the Sd.Kfz. 7. Half-tracked tractors were not commonly used in this role in other nations. Compared to wheeled vehicles they had better off-road capabilities, but were slower on roads and were more prone to breakdowns. However, for Germany horses remained the most common way of towing artillery throughout the war.

Modern warfare

In modern warfare, towed artillery has given way in part to self-propelled artillery, it is also common to find auxiliary power units built into the gun carriage to provide limited battlefield mobility.

Traditional towed artillery can still be found in units where complexity and weight are liabilities: e.g. airmobile, amphibious and other light units. In such units, where organic transport is usually limited, any available transport can double as artillery tractors in order to reposition guns when needed. For example, engineer vehicles of a different primary purpose such as the U.S. Marines' Light Capacity Rough Terrain Forklift (LCRTF), a versatile telehandler forklift capable of towing gear from either end.

List of artillery tractors

The following is a non-comprehensive list of artillery tractors, classified by its traction system and era.


Fiat artillery tractor in the journal Horseless Age, 1918
AEC Matador towing a 3.7 inch gun, Caen, 1944
pre- and First World War
Interwar and Second World War


SdKfz 10 towing 5cm AT gun, Russia, 1942

Tracked, tank chassis

Tracked, other chassis

A Holt tractor used by the French Army in the Vosges, Spring 1915.
An American M6 Tractor, on display
pre- and First World War
Interwar and Second World War

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Artillery tractors.



  1. "Horseless Artillery". The Independent. Jul 13, 1914. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  2. Ministry of Defence (22 April 2009). "200 new armoured vehicles for front line operations". Archived from the original on 13 May 2009.
  3. "Coyote / Jackal 2 Tactical Support Vehicles, United Kingdom". 2009.

Further reading

External links

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