From humble beginnings in 1937, Toyota has become one of the world’s biggest automobile manufacturers.
Reliable, hard-wearing, and highly mobile, these characteristics have made Toyota popular among armed groups worldwide. It’s time to talk about The Toyota War.
This vehicle has played a prominent role in countless wars and conflicts worldwide. They were so heavily used in the 1987 Chadian–Libyan War that it was called The Great Toyota War.
“The technical is the most significant symbol of power in southern Somalia. It is a small truck with large tripod machine guns mounted on the back. A warlord’s power is measured by how many of these vehicles he has.”– Herbert A Friedman Writing for Psywarrior.com in 2011.
Today, we’re going under the hood of a weaponized Toyota to reveal the dark side of this iconic car.
From changing the outcomes of doomed conflicts to spawning a thriving online subculture centred around their use in global conflicts, this is Toyota like you’ve never seen before!
The Humble Pickup Defeated The Might of Gaddafi’s Army During The Toyota War
When Colonel Gaddafi first tried to annex the northernmost regions of Chad, which he claimed to be Libyan territory based on a colonial-era treaty, he had no idea what he’d unleashed.
The desert border area Gaddafi had in his sights was said to be rich in uranium and crucially valuable to the man who was planning to transform Libya into a nuclear state.
The Chadian–Libyan War erupted and became an almost decade-long conflict. In the final phase of the war, in 1987, the Western-back Chadian troops were given arms, training and Toyota pickup trucks by France.
But why Toyota Hilux and Land Cruisers? Well, they were far more affordable than Humvees, more straightforward to operate than military aircraft, and more easily manoeuvrable and even more reliable than a tank.
30,000 troops of the small Chad military faced a superior heavily-armed Libyan army of almost 90,000 men, 300 tanks, and 60 air craft.
The odds of victory for the Chad military in this African conflict were slim. At least, they were until the force of Toyotas came along to help them take the fight to the Libyans.
Using the Hilux and Land Cruiser trucks, Chadian military troops could make their forces highly mobile and engage in hit-and-run tactics on Libyan tanks and troops using Toyota Technicals like murderous hornets.
Libyan forces were obliterated in the conflict, and thanks to the light mobility provided by their fighting technicals, Chad achieved victory.
According to the last U.S. sources, over 7,500 Libyan troops were killed in action (one-tenth of the Army of Libya), and Libyan military kit worth more than $1.5 billion was either lost, captured or destroyed in combat.
The Libyans were left reeling after the conflict. In comparison, the Chadian forces only took around 1,000 casualties, and a handful of the Chad Toyotas was lost.
The Battle of Fada Is an Example of How Deadly Technicals Can Be
The pinnacle phase of the Libyan-Chad Conflict and the last major battle was during The fight of Fada. The anti-Libyan Chad commander, Hassan Djamous, led an army of 3,000 men against the Libyans.
In their highly mobile trucks, the Chadian force overran Fada as numerous countries around the world looked on.
Libyan attempts to bomb the Chadians from the air or via tanks and artillery failed due to the highly mobile aspects of the truck technicals operated by the Chadians.
Today, Hassan Djamous is a national hero of Chad, and the country’s international airport is named after him.
Toyota Technicals Have Been Seen Fitted With Everything From a Vulcan Cannon to a Rocket Pod
If you want to see the durability of Toyota trucks on full display in battle, just look into what has been successfully mounted on a Hilux or Land Cruiser in multiple conflicts worldwide.
From the Middle East to Afghanistan, here are some highlights:
- A Grad Missile Launch in South Libya:
- A Vulcan Cannon in North Yemen:
- A Rocket Pod used by anti-government forces in Libya:
- An anti-air cannon on the back of a Hilux truck in South Afghanistan
In comparison, there’s footage of light artillery fitted to a Nissan pickup truck opening fire in a battle in the Middle East. Within seconds, the vehicle became engulfed in a heavy inferno and destroyed.
They should have chosen Toyota!
These Days, There’s An Entire Subculture Around Weaponized Toyotas of War!
Regarding niche Instagram accounts centred around the world of obscure military history, none come close to ToyotasOfWar.
I was one of the first to follow this little-known account, and it never fails to disappoint.
ToyotasOfWar is an online archive of Toyota vehicles being featured in global wars in various countries and has amassed hundreds of thousands of car and conflict-centred followers.
The account became so popular that it began selling merchandise ranging from military license plate covers to steel NVG-themed magnetic badges for people to slap on their own Toyotas.
The Toyota Was Used By The IRA During The Troubles in Northern Ireland
One of the little-known facts about The Irish Republican Army is the range of infamous technicals they had in their arsenal during the thirty-year war known as The Troubles.
Amongst improvised self-propelled flamethrowers and mobile mortar launchers were the humble Toyota. Although, the IRA preferred to use vans rather than conventional pickups.
In fact, the iconic Japanese vehicle found itself at the centre of one of the IRA’s most violent encounters with British special forces.
“The orange lights of HG (Gough Barracks) made for an interesting spectacle as they shone the very many bullet holes”– Claims RUC members `held parties’ in van used at the Loughgall killings `sickening’ – Sinn Fein MP Francie Molloy.
During the infamous Loughgall ambush, eight IRA volunteers travelling in a blue Toyota Hiace were gunned down by the British Special Air Service (SAS).
The SAS fired over 600 rounds at the IRA men, all of whom were killed, and the van was torn apart with 125 bulletholes strewn across it.
Shockingly, it was recently claimed by a former Royal Ulster Constabulary member that the RUC used to hold parties in the back of the bullet-riddled van.
It’s Not Just Militant Groups Who Use Toyota
The stereotypical image of Toyotas in war is rusty, dated Land Cruisers being outfitted with various weapons. However, a far more high-end version of the weaponized Toyota is available.
At the recent SOFEX 2022 conference in Aqaba, Jordan, I explored numerous variants of brand-new, heavily armoured pickup trucks of the iconic Japanese brand.
Most of them were designed by Jordanian national defense companies and featured everything from armoured trunks, gunports, bulletproof tires, glass, air vents, and engines.
Essentially, they’re bunkers on wheels.
Modern Day Pirates Love a Land Cruiser!
Amongst the pirate clans dotted along the Somalian coast, business was booming during the height of their piracy operations.
In a Reuters interview with a local Somali pirate called Yare, he claimed that he was making $2.4 million a year from his piracy operations.
After distributing the money back to the community through clan elders and handing over a sizeable chunk to cash-hungry Islamist groups like Al-Shabaab, there’s one purchase on the mind of most Somali pirates, a Toyota!
The Reuters interview even introduced Yare as “Leaning against the door of his luxury Land Cruiser”. In Somalia, this infamous truck is a tried-and-tested status symbol.
According to Herbert A Friedman, a Somali warlord’s force is only equal to the amount of armoured Toyota pickup trucks he owns.
The Ridley Scott movie Black Hawk Down immortalised the love for equipment like Toyota technicals and their lethal combat capabilities in Somalia.
Despite Being a Favourite of Evil Forces, Toyotas Are Often Used By The Righteous
Sadly, the capabilities of Toyota vehicles often fall into the wrong hands. From ISIS in the Middle East to Somali pirates and Islamists in Africa, it’s a bad reputation to have.
However, these iconic vehicles are often used as a force for good by those fighting on the right side of history, for example, in the war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Fully understanding their lethal capabilities and seeing them used to murderous effect in the hands of ISIS themselves, the United States sent 100 Toyota Hilux pickups to the Kurdish YPG.
The vehicles were then dispatched to Raqqa in northern Syria, where they were subsequently used in the breakthrough of fortified ISIS positions.
In Hot Wars Like The Middle East, White Toyotas Are Cool (Literally!)
In the carnage of battle in the Middle East, Africa, and other destinations with hot climates, you can find an array of colour schemes being used on Toyotas.
But the ideal colour of choice? White. Let me explain why.
First, it’s believed that white-painted vehicles are much cooler (up to 15 degrees) in the sun. Compared to other colour schemes, they don’t show scratches and damage as much.
And last, on a tactical level, a white vehicle is also an excellent base colour for armed owners to add a camouflage scheme using paint or a traditional mud mix.
Modern Warfare Gave Whole New Meaning To The Toyota Hilux Slogan “Let’s Go Places!”
Did you ever see the classic Alpha male car commercials from the 1980s?
Since the Great Toyota War of 1987, the involvement of these pickups in modern warfare has truly transformed the Toyota slogans of “let’s go places” and “oh, what a feeling!”
From the deserts of Chad and Syria to the war-torn streets of Somalia and South Yemen, Toyota’s journey as an unlikely weapon of war is fascinating to behold.
For those lucky enough to live in a peaceful state, a Toyota pickup truck can be a vital tool for conventional tasks. But in less fortunate places, it can wage war and change borders.
Although for the company itself, it’s more concerning than anything. When asked for comment, the company doesn’t actually know how their vehicle has ended up in the hands of so many dubious armed organizations.
One thing is for sure, just like the iconic Kalashnikov, their use in countless wars in various countries is a testament to their reliability, power, durability, and mobility. Oh, what a feeling!