The Wheeled Piranha Fighting Vehicle Family

The Wheeled Piranha Fighting Vehicle Family was develped in the 1970’s as a private venture by Swiss Firm MOWAG who was an established manufacturer of military vehicles. The Piranha comes in both 6×6 and 8×8 wheeled configurations.

The Piranha vehicle concept

This includes the modular family approach; power pack in the front, right-hand side; central driveline; independent wheel suspension; amphibious capabilities and large useable volume at the rear for weapon stations, equipment and troops. These features are identical throughout all generations.

The Piranha Timeline and Generations

Piranha I

Wheeled Piranha Fighting Vehicle Family – Piranha I

The Piranha I generation was the first in the series and entered production around 1976.

Piranha II

Wheeled Piranha Fighting Vehicle Family – Piranha II

The Piranha II generation was the next in the series and entered production during the 1980’s.

Piranha III

Wheeled Piranha Fighting Vehicle Family – Piranha III

The Piranha III generation was the next in the series and pre-production vehicles were completed in 1996. It has gone on to and still is the most widely exported model of the series. To see an in-depth manufacturers PDF specifications sheet click here.

Piranha IV

Wheeled Piranha Fighting Vehicle Family – Piranha IV

The Piranha IV generation was next and the first prototype was completed in 2001. The most significant improvements over the Piranha II and III vehicles are it’s higher level of protection. No production orders were placed on this vehicle to date.

GDLS purchase of MOWAG

Since January 2004, MOWAG has been a company within the General Dynamics European Land Systems group. From the 1st of April 2010, the company is now known as General Dynamics European Land Systems – MOWAG GmbH.

The Piranha Evolution

Wheeled Piranha Fighting Vehicle Family – Piranha Evolution

The Piranha Evolution vehicle was an interim design and is the basis for the development of the Piranha V (see below). The Piranha Evolution vehicle was General Dynamics’ candidate vehicle in the British Army trials for a new utility vehicle under the FRES program, which were held in 2007 at the MoD’s armoured trials and development unit at Bovington.

The Piranha V

Wheeled Piranha Fighting Vehicle Family – Piranha V

The Piranha V generation is thenext of the series. It was designed by General Dynamics European Land Systems – Mowag GmbH and offers vast improvements in armoured protection achieving STANAG 4569 Level 4/4a/4b.

To see an in-depth manufacturers PDF specifications sheet click here.

The Desert Piranha V is intended for deployment in high ambient environmental conditions, unlike the first pre-production Piranha V that was shown in public for the first time in mid-2010 in an infantry fighting vehicle configuration.



The PIRANHA 3+ was unveiled during the June 2014 EUROSATORY show in Paris. IT has a crew of three (driver, gunner and vehicle commander) plus 9 infantry soldiers and is fitted with a Kongsberg 12.7 mm Protector Weapon Station.


It has a completely modular protection system, an enhanced drive system with 30 % more engine power and an improved driveline. It has an  additional larger internal volume, ten percent payload growth and  provides reserve electrical power for running Battlefield Management Systems when the engine isn’t running. Click here for GDLS Spec’s brochure

Piranha Variants

Armoured Personnel Carrier
Infantry Fighting Vehicle
Command Vehicle
Fire Support
Repair and Recovery Vehicle
Mortar Carrier
Load Carrier
Mortar Fire Control
The Armoured Command Vehicle (ACV) 10×10

PIRANA 3 CBRN Reconnaissance Vehicle

General Dynamics partnered with THALES to deliver a state-of-the-art Quickly deployable and highly protected, this wheeled recce vehicle discovers and identifies CBRN hazards using integrated navigation equipment to monitor large areas and mark contaminated zones. Its nuclear segment contains detection probes, and a particle monitor and a telescopic arm measure radiation on the ground.

The double-wheel sampling system makes it possible for chemical ground contamination to be detected while on-the-move. Deeper chemical analysis with mass spectrometry and a gas chromatograph can be performed while driving through rough terrain. This first-to-deploy CBRN recce vehicle also contains a biological aerosol detector and collector.

Its user-friendly CBRN management software controls the sensors and supports operators during missions. In the sophisticated, protected backend all sorts of manual samples can be taken and transferred to a cooling compartment and handed over for further external analysis.

Licensed Manufacturers

Canadian firm GM Defence (Former, now GDLS Canada) – The LAV series
Chilean firm FAMAE
British firm Alvis PLC (former)
BAE Land Systems – Desert Piranha III (not to be confused with desert version of Piranha V)

The relationship between the Piranha Family and the Canadian Light Armoured Vehicle Family

Many internet sources incorrectly label each generation of both vehicles as the same, for example the LAV III is the Piranha III. However during an exclusive interview with one of the GDLS-Canada’s management TankNutDave learnt that LAV I, which was built only in the 6×6 configuration (Armoured Vehicle General Purpose AKA “AVGP”) for the Canadian Army was the only licence built Piranha (the Piranha I).

Since the production of the AVGP, GDLS-Canada have gone on to develop the LAV II & LAV III, which despite some similarity’s to the Swiss Piranha’s are GDLS’s own designs based on the AVGP and are not copies of Swiss Piranha’s. However GDLS-Canada has worked closely with MOWAG on the Piranha V.

The LAV II 8×8 was developed during the 1980’s and is known as the LAV-25 with the USMC, Coyote (Reconnaissance Vehicle) & Bison (infantry carrier) in Canada and ASLAV in Australia.

The LAV III was developed in the late 1990’s for the Canadian Forces and also is in service with the New Zealand Army. It serves as both armies principal Infantry Fighting Vehicle.

The US Army Stryker is a lighter armoured version of the vehicle, however a new version of the Stryker equipped with double-V hulls (DVHs) is in production and first vehicles were delivered to the US Army in May 2011.

Piranha Operators

Belgian Army

In February 2006, the Belgian government selected the Piranha IIIC 8×8 for its Armoured Infantry Vehicle (AIV) program. vehicles will be equipped in seven variants: Infantry Carrier, Armoured Personnel Carrier with Medium Calibre Gun, Direct Fire, Command Post, Engineering, Ambulance and Recovery. Delivery of the first 138 vehicles will occur from 2007 to 2012; additional vehicles could be delivered from 2012 to 2015 if all options are exercised (a possible total of 242 vehicles).

Botswana Defence Force

Botswana has received a total of 45 Piranha IIIC 8×8 through out 2003 to 2004.

Brazilian Marine Corps

In November 2008 Brazil ordered 18 Piranha IIIC 8×8 in three amphibious configurations: Armoured Personnel Carrier, Ambulance and Command. This contract was a follow-on order to the 12 vehicles ordered in 2006 and 2007 (11 APCs and 1 Recovery Vehicle). The Piranha’s will start to be delivered in 2010.

Chilean Army and Chilean Marine Corps

Chilean firm FAMAE had built under licence in the past 175 6×6 Piranha (I or II?) for the Chilean Army under the designation Piraña. In 2008 FAMAE obtained a licence to build the 8×8 Piranha (III?) under the designation Piraña 8x8D. 25 to 30 have been built for the Chilean Army.

The Chilean Marine Corps has purchased 30 Piranha IIIC 8×8 from GDLS.

Danish Army

Denmark ordered its first Piranha III’s in 1997, totalling 22. A further 91 were ordered in total during 2003 and 2004, in the APC, Ambulance, Command Post, and Reconnaissance all are 8×8.

Ghanaian Army

Ghana operates 63 Piranha I 4×4, 6×6 and 8×8.

Irish Army

Ireland’s first order of the Piranha III in 1999 and made a second order in 2002, both totalling 65 vehicles. In January 2006 a third order for 15 vehicles was made.

9 of the 2006 Piranha III vehicles ordered will be equipped with a remotely controlled and stabilized 12.7mm Kongsberg weapon station and 6 will be equipped with a stabilized Otomelara 30mm weapon system. This brings Irelands fleet up to 80 Piranha III’s.


Believed to operate Piranha I 6×6

Nigerian Army

Nigeria operates the Piranha I 6×6. Numbers estimated between 60 to 140.

Royal Army of Oman

Oman operates 160 Piranha II 8×8 in 7 versions. These were built under licence by former British firm Alvis PLC.

Qatar Army

Qatar operates 40 Piranha II 8×8. These were built under licence by former British firm Alvis PLC.

Romanian Army

In 2007, Romania purchased 31 Piranha IIIC 8×8. Deliveries were completed in 2009.

Saudi Arabian National Guard

Saudi Arabia operates 160 Piranha II 8×8. These were built under licence by former British firm Alvis PLC. It also operates several hundred LAV II (LAV-25) and its variants. It has been seeking the purchase of several hundred more in recent years.

Sierra Leone

The nation operates an estimated 10 Piranha I 6×6.

Spanish Marines

Spain received between 2003 to 2004 some 18 odd Piranha IIIC 8×8 in APC, command post and ambulance variants. In December 2007, Spain placed another order for 21 more Piranha IIIC 8×8.

Swedish Army

Sweden operates the specialist 10×10 ACV command vehicle and sensor vehicle for the coastal artillery based on the Piranha IIIC 8×8.

Swiss Army

Switzerland originally ordered 310 Piranha I 6×6, which were equipped with the Norwegian Thune-Eureka twin TOW (anti-tank missile) turret. Each infantry regiment has nine vehicles forming a anti-tank company.

A large number of these anti-tank vehicles are being converted in to other variants as part of the Panzerjaeger re-role program announced in January 2006. 40 are now protected ambulance vehicles (replacing part of the Pinzgauer 6×6 un-armoured ambulance). Deliveries began at the end of 2006.

The Swiss Ministry of Defence is moving ahead with a second program, another 160 of these vehicles will be converted to protected command vehicles ready for integration with the Swiss Army’s future Communication and Battle Management System (FIS HE). Deliveries will take place between 2008-2010.

For the infantry, the Swiss operate over 500 Piranha II 8×8, which is designated the Pal Pz 93 armoured personnel carrier. Some are being converted into the Kdo Pz 93+ command vehicle.

In 2008 12 Piranha IIIC NBC Reconnaissance Vehicles were also purchased. Other Piranha IIIC have also been bought and out of the ordered vehicles, 6 will be delivered as armored brigade command vehicles, 8 as armored communication vehicles, and 12 as so-called “armored Radio Access Point vehicles with increased functionality.” Close to 900 Piranha’s serve in various configurations within the Swiss Army.