First introduced in 1999 to give 16 Air Assault Brigade a rapid deployment short range recce and patrol vehicle, the WMIK (Weapons Mount Installation Kit) variant of the Land Rover WOLF saw operational service in Sierra Leone shortly afterwards and proved to be such as success that numbers have been gradually increased over the years to give a projected fleet size in excess of 250 vehicles. Although the much larger and heavier 4-man Supacat HMT400 – based Jackal performs a similar role there is still a need for the small and very nimble 3-man Land Rover variant, which also has a considerably lower silhouette and less warlike profile.
Over the last decade the WMIK fleet has been upgraded for both performance and crew protection, first as the E-WMIK (Enhanced) with a ‘soft’ applique armour package and then as the R-WMIK (Refurbished) with additional mine protection. The latest incarnation is the R-WMIK+ (Refurbished Plus) which takes surplus stock Wolf and Snatch 2 vehicles and gives them more powerful engine performance, a drive train upgrade, a slightly wider rear body with increased mine protection and an applique ‘hard’ armour package using the latest composite technologies. By early 2011 around three quarters of the fleet should have been brought up to the R-WMIK+ standard.
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WMIKs are manufactured jointly by Land Rover and Ricardo Vehicle Engineering and feature a strengthened chassis and are stripped down, fitted with roll cages and weapon mounts. Typically the vehicle will carry one 12.7 mm Heavy Machine Gun, 7.62 mm General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) or on occasion the MILAN ATGM, on the rear ring-mount, with an additional pintle mounted GPMG on the front passenger side. In late 2006, the MoD announced it was purchasing 40 new belt-fed Automatic Lightweight Grenade Launchers (ALGL) made by Heckler and Koch (HK GMG) that can fire up to 360 grenades per minute with a range of up to 1.5 km.; they are to be mounted on WMIKs in Afghanistan.
The vehicles have become a symbol of British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In keeping with their hearts and minds philosophy they were chosen for patrol duties instead of armoured fighting vehicles such the Warrior infantry fighting vehicle. Following a spate of incidents, there has been concern that the unarmoured nature of the Wolf exposes the crews to excessive danger, and they are being supplemented by more heavily armoured vehicles such as the Vector and Mastiff Protected Patrol Vehicles.
The Land Rover is also being supplemented by the now British built Pinzgauer and Alvis Panther in some utility and liaison roles and the new Supercat MWMIK due to a shortfall of WMIKs. There are reports that some of this equipment may have to be sold at below cost once operations in Iraq are completed as the Treasury has refused to cover the cost of replacement. In Afghanistan “an average of one of these vehicles a week” is being lost, and with replacements often arriving late; a “fifth of the fleet” of WMIKs is currently “damaged or has been destroyed by enemy fire”