How did "technicals" get their name?

Sometimes, in war movies (like Blawk Hawk Down), video games, etc., you see pickup trucks equipped with some sort of weapon mounted on the back, usually a machine gun.

Here’s a (bad) picture of one…

Anyway, they (or the people inside them) are sometimes referred to as “technicals”. Does anyone know why? How did they get their name?

Just wondering… thanks in advance.

Some current theories:

  1. These jeeps are called technicals because they are paid for with UN bribe money (to let food shipments pass), the outlay of which is entered into the ledgers as located ‘technical assistance’

  2. The soldiers driving the vehicles, nominally civilians, are termed ‘technical combatants’.

  3. Because they’re “technically” fighting vehicles even though they are civilian trucks.

Any other opinions/facts/lies/slanders/blasphemies?

Well, my WAG was going to be something along the lines of a translation from Somali/Arabic along the lines of Technical=Having special skill or practical knowledge especially in a mechanical or scientific field (spurious, I know).

It’s actually a difficult one to track down. I only found one explanation from Usenet where someone has (apparently) posted a US DoD Press Briefing from 12/03/92. It agrees with Hotblack’s (1):


Just thought of a related factoid. Although these sorts of vehicles exists in many places, they were only called technicals in Somalia. That might have changed now becuase of the publicity that Somalia received.

Mr. Spry provided the following information, which fits in the general trend from the previous posts.

Without an adequate military protection, humanitarian ships were looted even before they could arrive in Mogadishu port, UN workers of Somali origin were killed, and relief workers had to pay gunmen with cars looked like the one of “Mad Max” to protect their relief missions. "Relief workers called these vehicles “technicals” because they were listed on their expense reports as “technical assistance.” (

I thought it had something to do with the French and Chad, where the term ‘technical’, in the ‘small SUV with a weapon mounted’ sense, was coined. I was under the assumption that ‘technical’ was French slang for ‘SUV’.

Have you got a cite for that (technical=Chad)?

I seem to recall recently hearing some U.S. troops in Iraq call such a vehicle a “technical,” so it’s possible that the term has “branched out” from beyond Somalia.