Tank vs. Toyota

In 1987 the army of Chad won a war against a more powerful Libyan force. The Libyans had tanks and aircraft; Chad had a fleet of Toyota pickup trucks.

Here’s another to add to the list of unusual wars, to go with the Pig War, the Tree War, the War of the Golden Stool, and the shortest war: the Toyota War.

In the late 1980s, Libya had taken advantage of a political division in Chad to occupy the northern part of the country. Ostensibly they were there to support the opposition to the President of Chad, but by 1986 much of the opposition had switched sides and were fighting against the Libyans too.

The Libyan forces had tanks, rocket launchers, helicopters, and combat aircraft – but they did not have many local allies left and lacked knowledge of the territory. France was supporting the Chad government with air support (to neutralise Libya’s aerial advantage), and they also supplied some equipment that would prove essential to ending the war: Toyota pickup trucks.

The technical term for pickup trucks used in war is a “technical” – they’re fast, manoeuvrable, and you can easily mount a machine gun, rocket launcher, or anti-tank gun to them. And that’s just what the Chad forces did: each truck carried anti-tank guided missile launchers. Three hundred Libyan tanks vs. four hundred pickup trucks – the war was about to end.

January 2, 1987, Chadian forces surrounded a Libyan stronghold named Fada and attacked. The results were immediate and stunning: nearly a third of Libya’s tanks were destroyed and only three Chadian trucks were lost. The Battle of Fada was a decisive victory for Chad and is now seen as the turning point for the whole war.

The Libyan army later adopted trucks and jeeps themselves to counter the Chadian advantage, but it was too little too late. By September of that year the two sides announced a ceasefire; the Toyota War was over.

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