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Technically a Transport

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And you thought your commute was pure carnage.

Transport vehicles, planes, and vessels, whether on land, sea, air or space are valued for their roomy cargo bays, large loading doors, and powerful lifting and hauling engines, but they have a well-known list of weaknesses. They are slow, weaponless, and altogether quite vulnerable. But what if you could fix those little issues?

In comes this trope: a humble battlefield bus, troop carrier, cargo truck/plane turned into a substitute front-line tank, gun truck, or gunship by adding armor, firing ports, missile pods and More Dakka, like Gatling Good. And it can still drop off its passengers and heavy cargo most of the time. But who'd want to stick to those roles?

Up-armoring and up-arming non-military and miltary transport vehicles is Truth in Television. La Résistance fighters add improvised armor and bolt tripod-mounted heavy machine guns onto civilian trucks because they don't have real military-issue vehicles. Even conventional armies sometimes do improvised up-armoring and up-arming in the field to keep transports safe in war zones. Real Life materials used for up-armoring include scrap metal, plate steel, sandbags, and, since the 2000s, Kevlar. Up-arming is typically done with crew-served weapons such as heavy machine guns or anti-aircraft autocannons, sometimes also with a shield to protect the gunner.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In the Dawn of the Dead remake, the survivors turn a tour bus into an armoured zombie killing death machine (complete with slots that let them use chainsaws to get rid of undead hitchers) in order to make a break towards the pier.
  • In Mad Max 2, Max drives an armoured tanker truck as a Decoy Convoy to lure the Humongous' forces away from the settlers' caravan.
  • The movie The Pentagon Wars is about a real-life development project that went this way: the Bradley Fighting Vehicle started out as a pure troop transport vehicle, but as development continued it acquired more and more features of a tank.
  • Star Wars has a surprising amount of these:
    • Corellian Engineering Corporation is well known in-universe for making highly customizable transports that could be turned into capable warships, sometimes with modification kits made directly by CEC. Among them we have the YT-series of light freighters (in their stock models they carry a single light gun... and provisions for more numerous and much heavier ones, plus the ability to mount incredibly fast engines and powerful shields. The Millennium Falcon is a YT-1300f, and the weapon array includes two capital ship point-defense quad-guns, a pop-up light blaster cannons, and concussion missiles), the HWK-290 light freighter (as a stock model, it's completely unarmed — and moves closer to a starfighter than a freighter. Kyle Katarn's first ship was a modified HWK-290), the Gozanti-class cruiser (a largish merchant ship, if a well armed and armored one and intentionally made slow to prevent pirate use. Both Rebels and Empire are known to modify it into a light assault carrier, and CEC itself has made their own militarized version), the CR90 corvette (an armed transport, with available assault corvette and troop transport configurations among many, with the stock model being already more than capable of fending off pirates), the CR70 corvette (an unarmed transport in its standard configuration. Once the Vanguard c20 retrofit suite is applied it basically turns into a CR90), the Consular-class space cruiser (a completely unarmed vessel, that both the Republic's Judicial Forces and the various local militias were known to arm for anti-pirate duties. Then for the Clone Wars CEC came up with the Charger c70 retrofit, turning it into a very capable light frigate and giving the Republic a military fleet almost overnight), and the Sphyrna-class corvette (another armed transport, even if inspired by an ancient warship model, armed with three laser cannons. The Rebellion would modify the ships with torpedo launchers or additional engines for hit-and-run attacks. In Rogue One one with an additional engine was able to push a disabled Star Destroyer into a fully active Star Destroyer and a hostile space station, destroying all three at once).
    • The Trade Federation's Lucrehulk warships were originally unarmed merchant ships, if incredibly massive, supposed to deal with pirate attacks simply by ignoring them thanks to powerful deflector shields and their sheer size. Then the Trade Federation turned them into troop transports and strapped some guns on them for the invasion of Naboo, as a planetary government, even a pacifist one, had access to better weapons than pirates (such as the proton torpedoes that eventually took out the droid control ship), and ten years later, having had time for a more complete refit, they sport stronger shields and more (and better placed) guns, turning them into formidable warships. A more detailed description can can be found here.
    • Courier ships are usually small one or two-men ships built for speed and light transport. Darth Maul's Scimitar was a Star Courier (as in, the model was actually called that) made by Republic Sienar System and customized by Raith Sienar himself and Darth Tenebrous to have guns that just bypass shields, an experimental ion drive array that would later be refined in the twin ion engine array of the TIE series, and a cloaking device (something the Scimitar is supposed to be too small to be able to mount).
    • The Rebels' Mon Calamari-made ships were originally liners, cityships, and traders that, as per Mon Cala building practices, were completely unarmed but sported surprisingly strong shields... and hardpoints for weapons, that were put to use once the Mon Calamari rose against the Empire.
    • The Dauntless-class cruisers were originally luxury liners manufactured by SoroSuub, the shipwright company of the planet Sullust, with powerful shields and thick hulls to deal with the endemic piracy in the Outer Rim. When the Sullustans rose and joined the Rebellion, SoroSuub took the ships and added stronger shields, sophisticated countermeasures, and an insane amount of weapons, turning them into one of the few ships capable of taking on an Imperial Star Destroyer and win.
    • The T-47 airspeeder was originally built as an industrial cargo handler, using its magnetic harpoon and tow cable to control repursorlift cargo modules. They're better known as the Rebel Snowspeeder, as the Rebels, strapped for resources as usual, armed them with light laser cannons and used them as recon and light attack crafts. They used it almost everywhere they had a base, but the use on the icy world of Hoth is the most famous instance due how how they put the tow cables to good use.
    • The GR-75 medium transport was made by Gallofree Yards as a cargo ship, capable of transporting 19,000 tonnes of cargo. After its manufacturer went bankrupt, the Rebel Alliance acquired so many of them it started becoming known as the "Rebel transport"... And, being perpetually strapped for ships, they adapted a number of them into light corvettes and troop transports, and would sometime load them with explosives and throw them at Star Destroyers (one of the reasons they had them at Endor being kamikaze attacks, the other being apparently draw fire away from the actual warships).
    • The V-4X-D was originally made for asteroid slalom racing. When the sport shut down due an entire group of racers getting eaten by stone mites, the Rebels acquired some of the speeders and, due their high performance, equipped them with laser cannons for use as land-based high-speed assault vehicles.
    • As hinted above, the Rebel Alliance was very prone to arm any transport they could due them having very little numbers of actual warships, and generally of smaller size, compared to the Empire.
  • During Reese's dream/flashback in The Terminator, he and another Resistance fighter use a car armed with a jury-rigged laser cannon to shoot down one of Skynet's flying hunter-killer drones.

  • In 1632, the denizens of Grantville made makeshift armored personnel carriers by adding steel plating and guns to mine trucks.
  • In Run Silent, Run Deep, the fictional account of WWII submarine warfare by real-life ace submarine skipper Edward Beach, the submarine Walrus has two separate encounters with Japanese "Q-ships," freighters outfitted with the engines, weapons, and anti-submarine sensors of a destroyer.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of NCIS: New Orleans, the New Orleans police set up roadblocks to trap a fleeing bad guy in a pickup truck. They think they've got the bad guy caught... until a second bad guy stands up from under a tarp in the bed of the pickup, unfolds a minigun on a stand, and starts blasting hell out of the police cars.

    Tabletop Games 
  • There's a few in BattleTech. Where most troop carriers tend towards carrying small missile weapons, machine guns, or the odd light laser/flamethrower, there's a few designs that substitute easily as tanks. The Tyr is a tough, fast Hover Tank that has the benefit of carrying a squad of Power Armor troopers in the back. The Hasek carries heavy armor and a PPC in its turret, making it the equivalent of a light tank. The kicker, however, is the Indra, which carries an infantry team in one end and a fearsome Clan-built ER PPC in the other, providing enough firepower to blow away light 'Mechs and potentially decapitating any 'Mech in a single shot. This is toyed with a bit regarding interstellar travel: while JumpShips are generally regarded as off-limits due to the persistent Lost Technology issues that make them extremely difficult to replace and being a vital part of traveling between star systems, WarShips (that is, JumpShips capable of maneuvering away from the system's star) are always incredibly heavily armed regardless of their intended use, even the transports.
  • Car Wars. Big rig trucks are often armed with extensive weaponry in case they're attacked by bandits or have to engage in autodueling.
  • Star Fleet Battles. Many interstellar civilizations used armed transports and Q-ships to defend convoys from Orion pirates and other raiders.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Land Raider and the Wave Serpent are both transport vehicles that function at least as well as battle tanks. The Raider is also huge, being the only on capable of carrying Terminators in full armor.
    • The vast majority of battle tanks for all sides are modified versions of that faction's main transport vehicle, swapping out their troop carrying capacity for bigger guns.
    • The Chimera is technically purchased as a transport vehicle for Imperial Guard squads, but it's really an Infantry Fighting Vehicle and players tend to use it as a light tank more often than a transport.

    Video Games 
  • The Batman: Arkham Knight version of the Batmobile has a pair of fold-away harness chairs in an armored compartment, used to get civilians, injured cops and the like to safety.
  • Battlefield 2142: With the Air Transports filled with various members of a squad. Most commonly being Engineers, a Medic/Soldier, and Supports.
  • Command & Conquer: Generals/Zero Hour:
    • Technicals are the GLA's transport vehicle. Oddly enough, despite their ramshackle construction, they're the only transport that doesn't kill its passengers on death, presumably because they can simply jump out of the open back before the whole thing goes up in smoke. They can also upgrade their weaponry increasing their strength through wreckage.
    • The American Humvee allows its passengers to fire their weapons through its fireports, turning it into a mobile firebase (it's very fragile). While it starts out with a machine gun, it can also be upgraded to fire missiles as well.
    • Inverted with the Overlord, which starts as a monstrously huge tank that can be upgraded to have a bunker installed on it, allowing infantry to fire while it's moving.
  • The Aftermath expansion for Command & Conquer: Red Alert features the campaign-only Phase Transport, a modification of the APC (a heavily armoured transport armed with a small machine gun). The Phase Transport exchanges most of the transport capability of the APC (it has room for a single infantry unit instead of five) for high-powered rocket launchers and cloaking capability.
  • Empire Earth II: In the first 5 eras, the Galley/Trireme/Decareme is the only naval combat unit and transport (the other two being a fishing ship and a merchant ship). It has surprisingly good range, allowing it to clear out fortifications and units before landing its troops. After that, combat ships undergo Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors specialization, and Defenseless Transports becomes the norm.
  • Escape Velocity:
    • Override has the Helian, a ship whose description notes that it skirts laws on civilians owning ships designed for combat by its large cargo bay allowing it to be classified as a courier vessel/light freighter. As skirts laws implies, in terms of gameplay coding it is combat-capable enough to be classified as a light warship, and its most common users are planetary militias and renegades (eg. Space Pirates). Lorewise the UE Destroyer originated as a refit of a freighter, although since the Voinian War it has been turned into a model of its own, and the source ship isn't present in-gamenote .
    • Nova has the Auroran Industries Enterprise, the workhorse cargo transport of the Auroran Empire. While the stock variant only has a single FPC turret, it has hardpoints for another turret and 4 forward guns as well as a good amount of armor. The up-gunned Heavily Modified variant and various models of Pirate Enterprise are comparable to a frigate or light cruiser. Given that the Aurorans are Proud Warrior Race Guys, the design was probably meant to be militarized from the start.
  • In Ground Control II: Operation Exodus, when properly upgraded, your dropship can be your most powerful weapon on the battlefield thanks to its mobility, firepower, and survivability. Its primary bane is dedicated anti-air units. It also only shows up for a short time before leaving and requires you to actually order some reinforcements to appear. This is in contrast to the first game's dropships, which are purely unarmed transports.
  • The Homeworld series has a few examples:
    • Inverted with the Bentusi Exchange: when they're met these ships are simply enormous trading ships whose heavy armor and weapons are simply the result of their technological superiority, but is known that in the past, before the Bentusi decided to disarm themselves, they were used as warships and carried far more powerful weapons, including a Siege Cannons.
    • In Homeworld: Cataclysm, your ship the Kuun-Lan is essentially a large mining ship equipped with some decent but not exceptional mass driver cannons, relying on its embarked fighter complement and the dedicated combat ships it can build for defense against anything larger than fighters. As the game proceeds, however, the Kuun-Lan receives upgrades that include better armor (twice), replacing the original guns with more powerful energy cannons, and mounting a reverse-engineered Siege Cannon, making it the single most formidable ship in the game.
    • Also in Cataclysm the Beast Mothership starts out as the lower section of the Kuun-Lan, infected by the Beast as it was examining a beacon pod containing it and jettisoned in a hurry before it could subvert the entire ship. The Kuun-Lan is forced to retreat, and by the time they encounter the section again it's been extensively modified into a warship, sporting guns similar to the Kuun-Lan, better armor, and, most damningly, an infection beam capable of subverting anything that comes too close, forcing most ships to run until the Kuun-Lan gets the Siege Cannon to work.
  • PlanetSide 2 has the Sunderer, a Big Badass Rig Base on Wheels. Normally outfitted only with a pair of mediocre 20mm guns and poor armor but the ability to deploy into a spawn point and carry 12 people, it can be outfitted with automatic grenade launchers, heavy armor, and an engine that lets it outrun the game's Cool Bike, all without affecting its spawning ability or carrying capacity. This "Battle Bus" is a terrifying enemy, being a Lightning Bruiser with the capacity to vomit out a dozen people in MAX Powered Armor. The original game also had the Deliverer armored truck and its empire-specific derivatives, which carried less armor but was more agile and amphibious.
  • Red Alert 3:
    • The Allied Riptide is an amphibious transport equipped with an Anti-Infantry machine gun. When in water it can also fire torpedoes.
    • The Soviet Bullfrog is an amphibious half-track with an Anti-Air gun. Unlike the other transports, they can't unload units at their destination, instead needing to fire them out of a man-cannon in the front at surprisingly long distances. The launched units are exceedingly susceptible to Anti-Air fire while parachuting down, however.
    • The Twinblade is a helicopter that can carry up to five infantry or a single vehicle (including, somehow, Apocalypse tanks), though not both at the same time. It also carries a large amount of rockets and ammo for its machine guns.
  • Supreme Commander: A T1 or T2 Dropship loaded with T1 Light Assault Bots. The Cybrans can stick a T2 Mobile Stealth Field Generator with the LAB's to make it impossible to shoot down early without Omni-Sensors. In Forged Alliance,the UEF gets a T3 Dropship with a self-projected shield to jack survivability. The in-house term is "Ghetto Gunship"
  • Twisted Metal: Just look at half the vehicles, you'll see it.

    Web Comics 
  • Schlock Mercenary: The Maxim 39 is technically just a science vessel, but it's got a famously moddable hull and has been outfitted with all the weapons and gadgets its Mad Scientist captain could wish for. The Toughs use it as a support frigate, but it's a very well-armed one. To contrast, Shiplord Srabben is stupid enough to think it's still just a stock support frigate, and assumes that his own fleet of stolen civilian ships with guns glued on will be able to destroy these military warships.
  • Girl Genius: The Corbetite trains are technically just passenger and/or freight trains. But since they're trains running across a continent where law and order frequently doesn't exist once you're more than a kilometer past the nearest town's walls, and the area between communities is filled with war machines and constructs that are either rampaging around deliberately or at random (depending on whether their creator is still around and in control of them), these trains are heavily armed, so that they can safely make it to their next stop on schedule.

    Western Animation 
  • In season 9 of Ninjago, Nya builds a tank to protect them from the Sons of Garmadon. It's heavily armored enough to survive any attack it takes and smash through walls, but it doesn't have much in the way of speed or maneuverability. They have to ditch it not too far away because it isn't really suited for mobility.

    Real Life 
  • The AC-130 gunship. It's simply a Hercules cargo plane with guns and ammo rolled on board, pointing out the port side. The AC-47 and AC-119 having a similar history, being armed versions of the C-47 Dakota (better known as the DC-3 airliner) and C-119 Flying Boxcar tranports.
  • The Merkava main battle tank has space for 6 passengers in addition to the 4 man crew.
  • Maybe not "a near unstoppable force of destruction", but a technical is a pickup truck fitted with guns. They're pretty cheap—regions vulnerable to the kinds of spontaneous and low-tech armed conflict that technicals show up in tend to have lots of reason (open terrain, farming) to have pickup trucks—and can pack a punch with the right armament, and not to mention can be armored with whatever scrap metal you can find. Disadvantage: The guy in the back actually manning the gun is pretty exposed.
    • In the right conditions they can be surprisingly effective, to the point that the final phase of the Chadian-Libyan Conflict is named "The Great Toyota War" after the large number of Toyota Hilux and Toyota Land Cruiser pick-ups that France provided to Chad and, equipped with modern anti-tank missiles, inflicted the Libyan tank-equipped forces a series of devastating and embarrassing defeats that brought Gaddafi to the negotiation's table. Afterward, Gaddafi started buying large numbers of Toyota pickups for his own army.
    • Larger technicals have also been build using flatbed trucks, mounting howitzers or even salvaged tank turrets on the bed. In the latter version, the guys in the back manning the turret have the most protection and this provides a much more powerful main gun, but unlike most pickup-based technicals the gun cannot fire directly forward since the truck's cab physically blocks it from rotating that far.
  • During The American Civil War, the Confederacy salvaged the USS Merrimack and outfitted her with iron plating, renaming her the CSS Virginia. To be fair, though, the Merrimack had been a frigate before that, so not really an example of this trope.
  • Many wheeled Armoured Personnel Carriers, awesome or otherwise, start out this way: The chassis of a light truck or large 4x4 with an armoured body-shell and a roof hatch with a ring mount for a machine gun.
  • Most Infantry Fighting Vehicles qualify, with the general definition being an armored vehicle that can transport a squad of infantry and is also armed with a 20mm or larger cannon. Many IFVs start out as an unarmed or lightly-armed APC, modified to mount a turret on top for the cannon.
  • "Gun trucks" used by the US military in both the Vietnam War and Iraq. Basically a standard military truck fitted with armour plating and automatic weapons, they started being used in both conflicts as an efficient way of protecting supply convoys from attack by insurgents armed only with small arms.
  • Armed merchant cruisers are quite literally merchant ships with guns and sometimes torpedo launchers bolted onto the decks. Though usually no match for a proper cruiser (emphasis on usually; just ask HMAS Sydney and what happened in the fateful Mutual Kill showdown with the commerce raider Komoran), they're much cheaper and are just as capable of threatening unarmed merchant ships. And having started out as ordinary merchant ships before the guns were added means they look like merchant ships. Meaning that when fake hull panels are used to conceal the guns, they look completely non-threatening and thus can potentially get in very close for a surprise attack.
  • During World War II, the Japanese Navy was critically short of ASW note  ships to escort their merchant ships, so they equipped a number of small freighters with depth charges and used those as escorts.
  • Merchant ships throughout the Age of Sail were usually armed, and to the untrained eye it is difficult to tell them apart from dedicated warships. The difference lay in the size and number of cannon deployed. Merchant vessels used smaller cannon and usually only carried them on the top deck and occasionally the first lower deck using a single row of portholes. Ships of the Line meanwhile had guns twice the size of those found on merchant vessels hand had two, sometimes even three porthole rows allowing broadsides of 80 guns or more. The lower decks of these ships were heavily reinforced and they had much deeper keels to displace more water to deal with the weight of all this weaponry. That said, some of the most famous pirate ships of this era were originally merchant vessels pressed into service as warships.
  • Most naval transports since WWI carry at least some self-defense armament, usually of the anti-air variety, though most defense is still delegated to the escorts assigned to them.
  • Amphibious assault ships are probably the best Real Life example to date. The Wasp and America classes can, on top of a heavy battalion of Marines, carry enough fighters to qualify as small aircraft carriers, and the preceding Tarawa class even had a couple of 5" guns for fire support.
    • WWII also saw numerous landing craft equipped with weapons themselves to help support the landings, mostly rockets, surplus naval guns, or in the case of some Japanese landing craft, tank turrets.
    • When the carriers USS Lexington and USS Saratoga were constructed the Navy was not yet convinced of the efficacy of aircraft as weapons. As such both were equipped with a battery of eight 8" guns in four double turrets as well as a number of dual purpose 5" guns, armament about on par with a heavy cruiser of the time.
  • Helicopter gunships are a distinct category compared to attack helicopters; the former carry passengers in addition to their armament, while attack helicopters do not. The Russian Mil Mi-24 is an example of the former category, while the American AH-64 Apache is one of the latter.
  • The galleass derived from the large merchant galleys that had been used as merchant ships in the Mediterranean through the Middle Ages-and indeed, the first batch of six were merchant ships that Venice decided to stuff with 36 heavy guns (18 per side) and many smaller ones for the Battle of Lepanto (with the commander of the League fleet, John of Austria, replacing many swordfighters of the crews with musketeers to increase their firepower). Compared to the galley warships normally used in the Mediterranean they were slow and unwieldy... And formidably armed, as a galley had a single heavy gun fore and one aft plus some lighter ones. The Ottomans thought the original six were cargo ships that had found themselves in the wrong place and tried to board them, losing 70 ships and suffering damage and personnel loss to many others before they decided to just sail around them. Lepanto ended with the annihilation of the Ottoman fleet for the loss of just 17 galleys, with the League losses in terms of personnel more than replaced by the slaves freed in the battle and the Ottoman naval power being crippled for centuries due the loss of so many experienced sailors.
  • During World War I, the Royal Italian Navy came up with the MAS (initially meaning Motoscafo Armato SVAN, Armed Motorboat SVAN, with SVAN being the initial manufacturer, later meaning Motoscafo Armato Silurante, Torpedo Armed Motorboat): literally civilian offshore motorboats massing from 20 to 30 tonnes depending on the model and manufactured out of wood (as metal models resulted slower), carrying a machine gun or a small autocannon, depth bombs, and two torpedoes-the latter of which sunk multiple Austo-Hungarian battleships, including the flagship. Their small size was however detrimental when operating outside the calm waters of the Adriatic Sea, limiting their usefulness during World War II.
  • In the 1950s, French paratroops needed anti-tank firepower that could be both launched with the soldiers and still keep up with them on land. The need was filled by the Vespa 150 TAP: a civilian Vespa 150 scooter made by Piaggio and then reinforced and fitted with a 75mm recoiless rifle, with the weapon being supposed to be mounted on a tripod before firing but still able to be fired from the moving scooter if needed.
  • When Germany started running out of tanks and SPG's in the closing years of WW2, its standard armoured troop carrier, the SdKfz 250/251 series, was repurposed to carry first the PaK38 (50mm anti-tank gun) and then the PaK40 (75mm). This was even extended to some unarmoured soft-skin halftracks as a cheap stop-gap measure.
  • Germany also converted several VOMAG Omnibus 7s (a literal passenger bus) into heavy anti-aircraft gun carriers, the Selbstfahrlafette auf Fahrgestell VOMAG 7 OR 660 mit 8,8 cm Flak.
    • Similarly, Italy converted Lancia 3Ro and Breda 52 flatbed trucks to mount their own 90mm flak guns. And made two prototypes of a more comprehensively converted Breda 52 into an armored self-propelled anti-tank gun as the Breda 501.
  • In similar circumstances, Britain repurposed surplus lorries to mount the then-standard 2-pounder anti-tank gun, which had proven too fragile on its own carriage to stand being towed off-road in North Africa. The gun portée concept was later extended to the successor weapon, the 6-pounder.
  • The tachanka was an ancestor of the technical used in the Russian civil war, a horse-drawn cart carrying a machine gun.
  • Many of Germany's World War II multi-engined bombers were originally built as airliners and cargo transports, initially to get around the prohibition on operating military aircrafts (the Heinkel He 111 being designed from the ground up as a bomber and simply operating as an airliner) and later due a lack of resources to develop new bombers from scratch forcing to adapt existing transports (as with the Focke-Wulf Fw 200).


Video Example(s):



Combat helicopters armed to the teeth with guns and rockets. Can haul troops or vehicles.

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