A military armored (or armoured) car (see spelling differences) is a wheeled armored vehicle, lighter than other armored fighting vehicles, primarily being armored and/or armed for self-defence of the occupants. Other multi-axled wheeled military vehicles can be quite large, and actually be superior to some smaller tracked vehicles in terms of armour and armament.
In 1914, the Belgians fielded some primitive examples of armored cars during the Race to the Sea. The British Royal Naval Air Service then began using cars to rescue downed reconnaisance pilots in the battle areas, and as these excursions became increasingly dangerous, they improvised boiler plate armoring on the vehicles. Eventually, customised Rolls-Royce armoured cars were ordered , but when they arrived in December 1914, the mobile period on the Western Front was already over.
A military armored car is a type of armoured fighting vehicle having wheels (from four to ten large off-road wheels) instead of tracks, and usually light armor. Armored cars are typically less expensive and have superior speed and range compared to tracked military vehicles. Most are not intended for heavy fighting; their normal use is for reconnaissance, command, control, and communications, or for use against lightly armed insurgents or rioters. Only some are intended to enter close combat, often accompanying convoys to protect soft-skinned vehicles. They usually mount a machine gun, autocannon, or small tank gun. Other uses include as a way to move (or tow) various long-range rocket, missile, or mortar batteries through dangerous areas while giving some protection to the crew.
Armored cars are popular for peacekeeping or internal security duties. Their appearance is less confrontational and threatening than tanks, and their size and manoeuvrability is more compatible with tight urban spaces designed for wheeled vehicles. They can also be much more easily air-deployed in cargo planes.
Many modern forces now have their dedicated armored car designs, to exploit the advantages noted above. Examples would be the M1117 Armored Security Vehicle of the USA or Alvis Saladin of the post-World War II era in the United Kingdom.
Alternatively, civilian vehicles may be modified into improvised armored cars in ad-hoc fashion. Many militias and irregular forces adapt civilian vehicles into AFVs (Armoured Fighting Vehicles) and troop carriers, and in some regional conflicts these "technicals" are the only combat vehicles present. On occasion, even the soldiers of national militaries are forced to adapt their civilian-type vehicles for combat use, often using improvised armor and scrounged weapons.