The “Bazooka Vespa”: the scooter that could destroy a tank.
Its technical name was “Piaggio Vespa 150 TAP”, but it remained known among the experts and military history enthusiasts as “Bazooka Vespa”, for the imposing M20 cannon that crossed it longitudinally in its entirety.
It was commissioned by the French Ministry of Defense in the fifties, commissioned by the licensee in Piaggio France (ACMA) requested the development of a vehicle for military use, which was already the concessionaire for the production license of the original Vespa vehicle on French soil.
The result was a very special Vespa of which there were only about 600 produced from 1956 to 1959. Used by the Foreign Legion and the Parachute Corps, the Vespa TAP was equipped with a 75mm gun, capacity for additional ammunition, two cans of fuel and a small cart.
It was produced in two camouflage colors: green and sand. Despite the weight of 115 kg the Vespa TAP could reach a speed of 66 km / h, with a range of 200 km.
The scooter was derived from the Vespa 150, and TAP is an acronym for the Italian “Truppe Aero Paracadutate”, in French troupes aéroportées.
The modifications were numerous but they did not change the general aesthetics of the vehicle, even if from the front shield emerged a cannon over a meter long.
The “Bazooka Vespa” was relatively cheap: Vespas cost roughly US$500 at the time!
The reinforcements were numerous, and included a bumper in perimeter steel, support for the ammunition behind it, the protected and reinforced muffler and several other details functional to the impact resistance to the ground and to the heavy tasks that were commissioned.
The scooters would be parachute-dropped in pairs, accompanied by a two-man team. The gun was carried on one scooter, while the ammunition was loaded on the other.
Despite numerous sites reporting the possibility of the vehicle firing “in the race”, the bazooka had to be removed from the shield and the saddle and then used by hand by the gunner, who naturally could not arm the cannon while it was housed on the Vespa.
The vehicle was commissioned for the Indochina war, fought between 1946 and 1954, when France lost one of its last colonial possessions and formed four states: North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
The Vespa was built to be able to get behind the tanks provided by the Chinese, which were invisible to the aviation that flew over them, and which were a problem for ground troops. The scooter and its driver would have been parachuted behind enemy lines, allowing the soldier to use the bazooka to destroy the Soviet T-34s.
The defeat of the French army, which it is worth remembering supported by the United States, made the project of the Vespa useless. Unfortunately the vehicle immediately found another use during the conflict in Algeria fought between 1954 and 1964, where the African state succeeded in gaining independence from France.