# What transfer of goods would require a large military escort these days?

I am trying to write my first story and I'm having trouble imagining goods that would need a military convoy (included private) if they were to be transferred safely on a non-at-war soil. It doesn't matter how shiny the goods are, as long they have a big value on the black market.

Gold is used a lot in fiction, but it looks like it's not actually transferred a lot IRL, not in large enough quantities that would require a military escort. Collection of antiquities, maybe? Art? Expensive cars? Weapons probably get transferred a lot but that won't fit my story, as the goods will be eventually stolen, and thieves should be just thieves, not mass murderers.

(Edit) With military convoy I mean something alongside of: 10-20 armored trucks (medium/large) "shielding" the goods. Tanks would be cool but that would probably narrow down my choices a lot. Combat helicopters, at least 4. A unit of soldiers of 50-100 people.

• ...That's why nuclear waste (arguably one of the most valuable high-quantity high-risk items transported today) are sent in relative secrecy, with little to no fanfare accompanied by a small escort that's armed up the wazoo, not with weapons, but with electronics to quickly identify potential threats. (See This.) Ultimately @WillK's probably the only sensible answer: nuclear weapons. – JBH Jun 14 '20 at 23:47
• About weapons: you said "thieves should be just thieves, not mass murderers" - they don't have to steal the weapons to commit mass murder. They could steal them so they can sell them. By the way, trying to steal anything from an armed military convoy has a high likelihood of people getting killed, no matter whether the cargo is dangerous or not... – vsz Jun 15 '20 at 7:39
• Hand sanitizer and TP? – Zev Spitz Jun 15 '20 at 8:45
• A security concept is secrecy, so many high risk convoys are covert. Some expectations would be 1. Its high profile so can't be secret (ie coming out of widget factory every wed) 2. It needs to minimize time offline during transport (so has to run with lights and sirens the entire trip at high speed blowing every set of traffic lights). – Commander Nirvanah Crane Jun 15 '20 at 10:03
• I live close to a NATO airforce base in Europe that has US nuclear missiles stationed there. We used to have a transport about every 4 weeks. (About 80 miles from US Navy vessel in port to base or vice-versa) That size of escort you specify is a bit overkill. Biggest convoy I ever saw was 4 unarmoured trailers (each carrying 2 missiles) with 2 personnel trucks with 20 commandos (green baret) each. And 6 regular police on motorcycles that rode ahead to close off intersections. 1 Apache in the air, 2nd Apache on stand-by at the base. Most transports only had 2 trailers and 1 personnel truck. – Tonny Jun 15 '20 at 11:25

Spent nuclear fuel.

From here:

Spent fuel needs to go from where it was used to where it will be stored. These are convoys with military escorts.

Transportation Security

The NRC and the Department of Energy jointly operate a system to track domestic and foreign nuclear materials shipments. The NRC also requires those involved in spent fuel shipments to: Follow only approved routes; Provide armed escorts through heavily populated areas; Provide monitoring and redundant communications; Coordinate with law enforcement agencies before shipments; and Notify, in advance, the NRC, local tribes and states through which the shipments will pass.

There are probably 10 trucks in this convoy. Places along the way are on notice so helicopters could show up fast, though out in the middle of nowhere that might be local law enforcement. Drones would be a good idea to cruise at altitude and watch for incoming trouble.

Probably 4 soldiers per vehicle. Tanks would cost a fortune to take for a long drive so probably not them.

Possibly some robots?

If I were setting up an escort I would have some plainclothes persons on motorcycles some distance in advance of the convoy to scout for obstacles, suspicious groups etc. It would be exciting to have the drone see the advance motorcylists get into trouble.

OK, not nuclear fuel.

Lots and lots of cars. 8 motorcycles. Guns are there in plenty, all hidden. There will be helicopters for sure.

Here's the goods. President Bartlett.

(From here.)

Your thieves steal the President. He is worth a lot to the government. Possibly more on the black market.

• Thank you for the answer! Unfortunately spent nuclear fuel is not something I want my thieves to steal. It's too much, same as weapons. I don't want them to be absolutely evil, selling mass murder weapons or worse. Expensive machinery is definitely something I could use. – Wes Jun 14 '20 at 21:50
• Martin Sheen for President! – Mast Jun 15 '20 at 13:38
• @willk As a slight meta-point, this feels like two entirely separate answers and they possibly shouldn't be in the same post? – David258 Jun 15 '20 at 15:05
• @Alice - because of your name I take it you are Australian, and so you can count on deadly snakes, spiders and mollusks to deter would be robbers. – Willk Jun 15 '20 at 22:12
• @Daron You're thinking of new fuel, which is mostly harmless. It's no more toxic than any other actinide (don't eat it), is not radioactive, and is way too impure to ever make a bomb out of. Even bomb-grade stuff is not radioactive; what Nicole Kidman did in "The Peacemaker" is easily cleaned up (and she knew that). Spent fuel is the scary stuff. Spent fuel is the toxin that Chernobyl spread all over Europe. It is why Chernobyl is horrible. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jun 16 '20 at 1:23

Hard drugs, if the value is high enough. When drugs are discovered by law enforcement the procedure is to destroy them, in some cases the drugs need for this purpose to be transferred to a garbage incinerator. Yet, when the quantity is large enough there exists a risk that the bad guys are trying to intercept these transports, so proper protection with helicopters and armored vehicles happens on occasion.

• This is maybe the probably the best answer for the question, specially if realism should be a factor. – The Square-Cube Law Jun 15 '20 at 13:11
• The flip side of this answer is pharmaceuticals. For the sake of Cautious Editing Judgment, imagine trying to deploy the first batch of a zombie vaccine during a major zombie event. Everybody will want the vaccine, but there's only enough for a handful of people -- and the batch has to get through to the zombie fighters. – Codes with Hammer Jun 15 '20 at 16:57
• There were rumors from the 60's, when the cops confiscated large quantities of marijuana and burned them all to destroy them, inadvertently getting everyone for miles downwind of the incinerator (sometimes just a bonfire) stoned out of their minds, including most of the cops themselves. – Darrel Hoffman Jun 16 '20 at 15:56
• "Soft" Drugs too. In states where Marijuana has become legal, private security industries have boomed. Even small mom-and-pop head shops routinely employ armored vehicles guarded by guys in full body armor with assault weapons. – Nosajimiki Jun 16 '20 at 17:06
• @Nosajimiki-ReinstateMonica: interesting! Do you have links to some stories? – Dan Dascalescu Jun 17 '20 at 17:02

As others have pointed out, there's not much that needs that amount of protection. One thing does though: pride & reputation.

The items being transported don't have to be super-super important in the grand scale, but they need to be important right now, and important enough that a government is willing to put on a show to transport them.

Today, that might be Derek Chauvin being transported to court. Given a vaguely credible threat to his life, and a suggestion that it might be convenient for the government if he didn't reach court in one piece, you can easily imagine they might deploy an over-the-top showy response – both to deter potential attackers, and to ensure no-one can accuse them of not bothering. Whatever your views on the politics of it – keep it off this answer please! – you can see it's the kind of thing where tensions run high, and an over-the-top response might be called for.

Any prisoner involved in corruption, or holding state secrets might similarly have a big convoy.

If you want something other than prisoners, it doesn't need to be really important – it just needs to be something that the media have hyped up and the government needs to not lose face over. A statue or artwork which has become notorious/controversial. Something of value to a foreign power – a gift from Putin, which anti-russian demonstrators might seek to deface, which would incur anger from the Kremlin. A panda, to be protected from those protesting Chinese human rights issues. etc.

Or if you don't want something so 'controversial', the issue of losing face could come from a previous failure to protect it.

• +1 I would love to read a book about breaking into a heavily armed military convoy to steal a panda! – David258 Jun 15 '20 at 13:48
• @David258 me too! Sadly it might be a plot to harm not steal a panda. Panda diplomacy is a big thing, so it’s not hard to imagine. – Dan W Jun 15 '20 at 13:52
• Prisoner, whether convicted or simply in custody, could be a target worth "stealing" and its not necessarily the prisoner's friends who are doing it. Could easily be the prisoner's enemies making life go from bad to worse for the subject. – Criggie Jun 16 '20 at 13:10
• @Criggie ooh yes, you could have several parties after them - his loyal friends trying to rescue him, his other “friends” trying to silence him, and a rival group looking to give him an “offer he can’t refuse” for what he knows. – Dan W Jun 16 '20 at 18:00
• Honestly, in case of trying to intercept something that carries great diplomatic value just for delivery, trying to destroy it might end up being easier than trying to steal it. A well-placed bomb would be enough for that. – Nzall Jun 17 '20 at 10:05

You tend not to get large military convoys in developed countries for various reasons. And when you do they tend to be more military than economic.

Have you considered Africa, the middle east, or Central/Southern America?

Gold, weapons, literal containers full of cash (The US shipped, IIRC, several Billion dollars of cash to Afghanistan, and drug cartels also have large quantities that might theoretically get moved around en-masse).

Most of those countries are technically not at war, just somewhat unstable.

Alien SpaceShip !!!

So, the rumor has it that, there is a crashed Alien Spaceship that is being transferred from a safe location to another.

The convoy has salvaged parts of the Alien SpaceShip, including its weapons systems, jet boosters, shield, and at least one alien dead body.

I don't need to mention how valuable these things could be for all types of people.

And the funny thing is, you may either put alien stuff in the convoy if your story allows, or it was just a rumor spread by some teenager who came to know about the convoy because his father was a part of it, and it all turned out to be a full-fledged war games exercise.

Tanks, fighter jets and military helicopters. Nations sell these to each other all the time.

Weapons probably get transferred a lot but that won't fit my story, as the goods will be eventually stolen, and thieves should be just thieves, not mass murderers.

You don't necessarily have to use these for mass murdering. A tank would do wonders if you wish to crack a bank vault open. No shots needed, use it as a ram and then as an escape vehicle/decoy, Pay Day: the Heist style.

In the US civilians can have tanks. Arnold Schwarzenegger has one and he famously lets you smash things with it for a fee. I suppose in the process of buying a tank from the armed forces you need to fetch it in a heavily guarded depot at the very least.

• A tank would do wonders if you wish to crack a bank vault open. No. Impossible to hide, not so fast, and certainly go ramming through a bank vault, just the debris of knocking down walls when entering the bank would inmobilize the tank. In fact there have been some people who has stolen tanks, and they did not get too far. – SJuan76 Jun 15 '20 at 21:54
• Modern military tanks cost millions and if they are new/experimental, would likely be worth more to a foreign state interested in the tech. Where as the average bank in the US holds significantly less than 100,000USD. So in most cases using a stolen tank to rob a bank is kind of like throwing a large diamond at a shop window just so you can empty the cash register. – DBS Jun 16 '20 at 9:21
• tanks generally arent heavily escorted when transported though, not sure about aircraft – jk. Jun 17 '20 at 12:28

With military convoy I mean something alongside of: 10-20 armored trucks (medium/large) "shielding" the goods. Tanks would be cool but that would probably narrow down my choices a lot. Combat helicopters, at least 4. A unit of soldiers of 50-100 people.

A convoy like that is going to be stupidly expensive. Nuclear waste and POTUS are likely the only two things in existence that would prompt a government to spend that much money on it. At least, it's the two I can think of (and that's already an answer).

Of course, a private company/person may use as large a convoy as they can afford... provided they find people willing to organise such a transfer. Any serious private security company would probably just recommend the bare minimum of trucks to fit all of the cargo, with a couple armed guards for each. If you were to ask them for a superconvoy, they'd probably not want the hassle or the risk associated with it without a bloody good reason.

Let's look at the requirements.

10-20 armored trucks (medium/large) "shielding" the goods.

That's a lot of trucks. You may find that many vehicles in a few convoys, but certainly not all would be armoured trucks. For nuclear waste, the armour is strictly a function of containing radioactive material safely, and the truck is just a bog-standard truck. The rest of the escort would ride in military trucks or jeeps, which wouldn't need to be armoured. For POTUS, the only armoured vehicle in the convoy is the limo. The rest is once again just bog-standard vehicles, because the people inside just aren't that valuable.

To warrant a dozen trucks or two, you would need to transport a lot of equipment. It may be particularly big, or particularly heavy, or each piece may require to be isolated from others, but it's an unusually large quantity regardless.

No passenger transport would warrant that level of protection, and if it did you just wouldn't do it that way.

Tanks would be cool but that would probably narrow down my choices a lot. Combat helicopters, at least 4.

Tanks are slow, tanks are not gentle on the pavement, and tanks are generally impractical for anything other than the combat they were designed for. You could replace them with some kind of Humvee with an anti-tank turret to keep a comparable firepower, but why?

Combat helicopters are also a bit overkill. You could have a couple in case of extreme emergency, but they would most likely be an stand-by at a nearby airfield rather than in the air constantly.

The big factor here is your threat model. What are you realistically expecting to fight that you need a tank and combat choppers on your own soil for? I can't really imagine a scenario where those would be useful, and so I can't see a reason to bring that kind of weaponry or armour in the equation.

What you would most likely have is an observation chopper flying above the convoy, another on stand-by to take over. A particularly large convoy may warrant doubling that number, with either choppers over front and back half of the convoy, or one above the convoy and one scouting ahead.

You could also imagine a couple helicopters with assault teams on stand-by, but there would be very little to be gained by having them in the air constantly that wouldn't be accomplished by having them in a jeep even just X minutes behind the convoy.

A unit of soldiers of 50-100 people.

That much manpower probably comes with a convoy of that size naturally. If you have two dozen vehicles, put four people in each and that's already the required amount of guns. A convoy that big would require the cooperation of local police, and so some of the armed personnel in the convoy would have to be law enforcement rather than military or private security.

## What are you transporting?

You can forget about art, collector's items and such. These are simply not worth the spending.

Looking at real world examples, we have nuclear waste and POTUS. So basically anything that can potentially level the country. Nuclear warheads, top secret alien debris, experimental superweapons, a real-life Superman, etc. Whatever it is, it has to blow your mind. I have to insist on that. Being high value just isn't enough to be worth the hassle, it needs to be a game changer if it falls in the wrong (i.e. not your) hands.

And again, either you have a lot of pieces, or the pieces can't be safely stored together, hence why you have so many trucks.

You also have to consider one last thing: it would be less conspicuous to move one truck at a time than have one giant convoy. The main reason you'd go for a superconvoy is because time is of the essence. There is some emergency that requires all of the goods to be transported ASAP. Otherwise, you risk much less by transporting them one at a time. Especially if you need all the parts to assemble your doomsday device, or whatever it is you transport.

• Yup. Definitely aliens. That's what I'm getting from this answer. Nicely thought out. – Mad Physicist Jun 15 '20 at 17:47

Space shuttles and/or parts.

Space shuttles themselves are not too far removed from missiles, the tech is certainly military enough to warrant an escort, while not directly being weapons themselves. Parts can also be massive and require specialist moving equipment and additionally may require rolling road closures to be able to move to their intended destination. The military is pretty well set up and resourced to provide assistance for these sort of operations, although the escort will probably only be minimally armed, which may make theft easier.

For bonus points, how about an aerial heist? Military jets have been used to escort shuttles in flight, although again this was for logistical rather than protection reasons. A shuttle full of moon gold could be pretty valuable to the right buyer! https://aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/57678/why-was-f-18-chosen-to-escort-space-shuttle-endeavour

• How about a classified spy satellite? That might use a military escort because thats the easiest way for the military to provide security to there own asset. – user1937198 Jun 15 '20 at 10:43
• The problem here is you can't abscond with the stolen goods if you need road closures or even specialty rail cars to transport them. – Nobody Jun 15 '20 at 13:34
• @Nobody - you can't abscond with all the stolen goods, nothing to stop you ripping out the super fancy bits and leaving the bulky shell behind. – David258 Jun 15 '20 at 13:43
• @David258 The bulky shell is actually one of the most expensive and fancy parts, and the engine (also bulky and hard to get out) and possibly some flight computer or some such that is buried deep within and if you know ot exists and where it is and how to get it out quickly then you could just as well ask your source to get you the blueprints or a prototype too. You would need some rather hot cold war scenario for that. – Nobody Jun 15 '20 at 13:46

# Captured military equipment.

Nation A has made a revolutionary breakthrough in (some tech). Nation B has gotten their hands on a prototype. It is big. It has to be transported from one side of nation B to the other where there is a research laboratory equipped to examine it.

Nation A hires the thieves to destroy the prototype. They take the money, but secretly plan to sell the thing to nation C!

All of the above.

I have a (smallish) frame challenge for you:

While it might be true that things like priceless art, gold etc etc are not regularly moved by military escorts, they very much can be (and are) when the situation warrants it. Somebody already mentioned the German gold as an example and similar examples can be found, and better still, made up without too much trouble.

A museum that's moved to another city, a bank that sits in a valley that will be flooded by a newly build dam, etc. etc.

It wouldn't be that hard to come up with a valid reason why "expensive stuff x" needs to be moved without breaking suspension of disbelieve, thus setting the stage for your (I assume) heist story.

A Columbian Drug Lord

The thieves steal the truck without knowing the cargo and when they open the box find a South American man in the box who offers them $1B to get him free. Data Data is one of the things you can steal and are worth a lot to the company/person you took it from. AWS has a service that is called Snowball for migrating Petabyte-Scale Data to the Cloud. On an even bigger data transfer scale, there is the Snowmobile truck that can migrate or transport exabyte-scale data sets into and out of AWS. The Snowmobile has "...an optional escort security vehicle while in transit". So if your company/person really likes to protect this data, they might wish to add some weapons and soldiers around this truck. As commented below - in real life the data is encrypted. But for your story, you can have the thieves also steal the encryption key. Or have the data not encrypted for whatever reason. • This seems logical, and may work for a story, but in practice, data should be securely encrypted, at which point it can be transmitted freely. – Dan W Jun 15 '20 at 11:51 • @DanW At those sizes, it won't be "transmitted", a trailer full of hard drives still has more bandwidth than you can get on the internet even if it just goes 30km/h on average. But it probably would be encrypted, that's right. Edit: The product page specifically mentions that data is encrypted, plus the storage trailer belongs to Amazon so the sender wouldn't care about its large hardware worth. – Nobody Jun 15 '20 at 13:37 • @Nobody yes, petabytes are a pain to transmit. I used to run a 0.5Pb array. I think the amazon box probably just exists to encrypt incoming data with amazon’s public key to save non-technical users the headache, and to provide a standard interface for amazon’s workflow. But once encrypted it can be copied freely and safely, so there’s little value in protecting it heavily. – Dan W Jun 15 '20 at 13:52 • @DanW even google regularly uses physical data transport, the hubble space telescope data is regularly transported this way becasue sending it across the internet would take months, what-if.xkcd.com/31 – John Jun 16 '20 at 17:03 • @John yes, absolutely. But the point is that once encrypted, it can be transferred freely, whether by Aspera, sneakernet, or IPoAC. Once encrypted (properly...) it’s worthless to anyone without the private key. I suppose you could have a scenario where the attackers don’t want to steal the data (as it’s encrypted, so worthless to them), but still want to prevent it from arriving. That’s not a heist though, and if they’re wanting to destroy the data (and don’t care about collateral damage), they’d have a lot more options. – Dan W Jun 16 '20 at 17:53 Next generation silicon chips which offer a major breakthrough in raw processing power to the point that generalized AI, real-time genetic folding, accurate stock market emulation and full sensory immersive virtual reality are now all possible. During the brief time that they are rare and/or unique, such chips will incarnate the highest concentration of value in recorded history. If I had a dozen of them in a titanium briefcase, locked in an armored car full of armed guards, I would want that vehicle surrounded by tanks, escorted by helicopters (with support jets on standby) and watched by satellite surveillance during the whole journey. I would also want several thousand foot soldiers with support vehicles, working as a spear point, advancing ahead of my convoy to enforce a mandatory stay inside order for all civilian populace for however long the vehicle was within one hundred miles of their locations. With all that in place, I might be willing to release the chips from the heavily armored and defended factory where they were made, but I would do so hesitantly, since anyone who successfully plunders this payload, will effectively own the future. • This doesn't really make sense to me, why not just manufacture more of them? If you can't for some reason, then you're going to have your money printing machine plugged into something, not stored in a briefcase! – David258 Jun 14 '20 at 22:24 • @David258, this is one of those cases where the scarcity of an object isn't the only thing that makes it valuable. The potential for change encapsulated in a few of these chips when utilized in a world which is unprepared for their presence is where most of its value or "potential for economic disruption" comes from. Generalized AI is the harbinger of the singularity. Real time genetic modelling could revolutionize both medicine and bio-warfare. Simulated stock market???-that is a money machine. The designer could make more but for the buyer, their value is limitless. – Henry Taylor Jun 14 '20 at 22:38 • AI is not a matter of hardware, it's a matter of software. (Except, possibly, quantum hardware - but even that's a big maybe.) If there's an algorithm that makes a learning, living, true generalized AI, if you run it on slower hardware, it will just make a general AI that runs slower. This ties into the concept that "except" for speed, all Turing machines are essentially the same. – Cadence Jun 14 '20 at 22:58 • @henrytaylor - in that case it sounds like the value of them is in the ideas and technology used to create them, not the chips themselves. Unless you're handwaving a magic process which means no others can ever be made? I struggle to think of any real world scenario where a tool is more valuable than the process that made it? – David258 Jun 14 '20 at 23:01 • @David258, I agree that tools are rarely more valuable than the process which created them, but when you factor in timing, the value differences diminish considerably. The knowledge necessary to create a cure for a virus may help many future victims of a disease but the cure itself can help today's victims. The first singularity-level AI to break free will rule the world. The second one, freed even a heartbeat later will be at an extreme disadvantage to the first. Timing should not be ignored when accessing value. – Henry Taylor Jun 15 '20 at 1:23 The US has been increasingly worried that a foreign nation is going to get to an Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI) before it does. The government, via the NSA, has set aside billions of dollars for a 'Manhatten Project' for AI. It secured five to ten of the top AI researchers in the world (possibly using the CIA to kidnap them or just bribery depending on how much of a backstory you wanted to create) to build a quantum computer that uses AI algorithms - the hardware and the software. They've succeeded and the hardware requires specialized materials and tooling to exacting specifications that it would be very difficult to replicate. They sourced materials from various suppliers which keeps the end product secret. The computer and manufacturing equipment need to be transported from Ft. Meade, MD (NSA Headquarters), a relatively low security installation, to Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs (Air Force Base), probably one of the highest security installations in the country. The transportation security surrounding this piece of hardware would be on par with a nuclear weapon. It would make any country who can harness its power the most technologically advanced country on the planet. That technology could be used for good - to cure diseases and end hunger - or it could be used to create weapons, conventional or biological that would surpass any that other countries have. That's a long trip with plenty of places for an ambush or for a carefully planned series of events that would eventually make the convoy vulnerable. The buyers could be middle men who assure the thieves it will go to a country with only good intentions for curing diseases, world hunger, clean energy, the end to wars, etc. but in fact was actually a dictatorship or the thieves could actually be an organized crime syndicate (aka Sneakers - a Robert Redford film from 1992) - or a rogue billionaire (aka the deep state - or Swordfish - John Travolta film). • "To Cheyenne Mountain" Presumably so they can send it through the Stargate. – The Daleks Jun 16 '20 at 17:32 Corpses https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8n3IskA-d4 (italian text, no spoken audio) In sad recent times due to the COVID-19 pandemic cemeteries could not keep up, deceased had to be transported elsewhere for burial/cremation. I don't have knowledge on the topic, but I'm sure there exists a lucrative black market for organs and body parts. • One common misconception is that organs can be harvested from any dead people. They can only be harvested from living or brain-dead-but-still-on-life-support people, which is why there is such a shortage. Very few people die in circumstances that allow organs to be usable. Tissue is a different story (for skin grafts etc) but there is far less demand. – KerrAvon2055 Jun 15 '20 at 11:51 As many many people have pointed out this doesnt really happen much, so you have to build your own a very specific situation where this applies. Lets imagine a man, lets call him mister Turing. He's a bit of a loner but also a genius. He dies of a heart attack or something but when locals empty the house they discover a unique world-changing piece of technology without any paperwork on how it was build. For ease lets say he's developed a very advanced dumb AI that somehow fits in a few server cabinets (a full blown AI is too valuable). Lets say its a perfect dumb AI for cityplanning or spatial reasoning or something. By the time the government gets fully involved and realizes its value the news has already blown it to ridiculous proportions, and both companies and governments are... testing the less legal markets for the potential to aquire it. This type of world-changing tech with worldwide attention is definitely going to need a big military escort. You can determine what it is. Maybe he build a cold fusion reactor in his car, or they found a small production facility for kilo's of perfect Graphene in any shape or form you want, a series of room-temperature Q-bits, a world-changing perfect supercapacitor, working spacecraft spike engines (which would require billions to get correctly). Just think of a potential science that could change the world if perfected and you've got your answer. If you dont want this messing with the future of your story, you can claim that it is still being reverse-engineered or that it was so genius that they might have broken it (possibly during the heist) and cant figure out anymore how it works. Otherwise I dont know what non-military object would require even half the escort you describe. Cash. Paper money is produced in bulk, and has to leave the factory for distribution to banks at some point. I have no inside info, but I assume it regularly leaves in bulk, with much more of an escort than your regular big-town armored cash truck. I have to add this, simply because I had a whole little scenario set up between warring factions. In this case, it was Sourdough Starter. The two factions were famous for their sourdough because the local planets flora/fauna made their sourdough especially desirable for off planet shipment as a desirable luxury. But, at the same time, they are considered critical trade secrets to the clans. Clan Karsen, due to expansion, needs to move raw material sourdough starter from the mother region to a bakery local to the Space port. They've found that they can not maintain quality locally at the Space port, as sourdough starter is typically refreshed every day. But here, only in the mother valleys and their local biome can the starter truly retain the quality. So, every week the starter necessary for the weekly production run is moved under military escort from the Clans home valley to the Space port bakeries. Sourdough starter, it's a big deal on Planet Epsilon V. ## The military convoy IS what you are transporting In reality, there is nothing that warrants that kind of escort on friendly soil. Even a President or Nuclear waste does not get that kind of firepower simply because any threat big enough to challenge a force 1/4 of what you are describing would be impossible to mobilize without going noticed by local law enforcement. That said, it is not uncommon for military factories or bases to need to transport large amounts of heavy weaponry from point A to point B. When the army needs to move big things like tanks, helicopters, etc. They typically are moving more than one; so, they form up into a large convoy and just drive where they are going. (Or at-least far enough to get to the railroad station/port which will take them the rest of the way.) Now, since you've mentioned you don't want the thieves to be evil arms dealers, you just need to think of what sorts of things might be a part of a military convoy that might have civilian applications. While a single piece of military grade, non-weapons hardware might not seem super valuable, its value as something that could be reverse engineered by the right civilian company could be worth millions if not billions of dollars. The cameras used to detect inbound RPGs might be what Tesla needs to make self-driving cars function in bad whether. The chip set from a stolen smart shell might help Google make a new generation of Android phones that can survive getting hit by a sledge hammer, or the power cell stolen from a military exo-suit might help Energizer produce a new battery that really does keep going and going and going. Two thoughts: 1. I though one of the answers was about to name it, and then they didn't. Something of immense national pride. Say the US National Archives was being moved from Washington DC to Ohio. Some of the documents are irreplacable and have quite elaborate security where they are. Moving them -- especially if several terrorist organizations felt that destroying or stealing them would be the coup of the century -- would be a big deal. Similarly, imagine Russia were moving Lenin's body, etc. 2. Does the convoy actually have to exist in a single place? When a high-value convoy goes through, all of the cars are not necessarily on the road next to the target. If they take an interstate, there may be a police car on every overpass for 20 miles. There may be teams of lead vehicles that leap-frog each other stopping at anything on the shoulder -- construction cones, etc -- looking for bombs. There may not be 4 helicopters all visible at once, but along a 50-mile route, there could easily be five helicopters doing various things. Once the strike begins, these forces would converge, if possible. But you're not going to have all of them running in a massive parade. And if you're smart, you would not want them to. Defense in depth. Eyes out ahead, and all. # Weapons of Mass Destruction Wouldn't the military usually own such things outright? Yes. Typically they wouldn't be 'escorting' the material, they'd simply be 'transporting' military property. But not always. The military employs a large (uh) army of contractors and gets a lot of technical expertise from outside firms like Boeing. As for biological weapons, the government can't even tell you how many labs are working on them. So it's not impossible that because of a bureaucratic snafu, some private lab could end up working on something they probably wouldn't have even had, in a perfect world. Then some unrelated safety incident spooks the top brass, who finally get around to untangling all the paperwork. Only to find that holy hell why is this extremely dangerous biological agent being stored in an unsecured facility? No, it can't stay there, no way, no how. Get it moved to Fort MacGuff. Yesterday. ## The convoy was going that way anyway The army base was planning a convoy anyway, to train guards / move equipment. Maybe the MacGuffin could have been transported with an armoured car and a few guards, but the base commander let the armoured car tag along with a convoy as it cost him nothing and might add some variety to an otherwise boring operation. This has the benefit that it could explain a few tanks (on tank transporters and without ammo) which would otherwise be difficult to justify. ## A top-secret unknown item The plot of Pulp Fiction revolves around the recovery of a briefcase - which is opened, but the viewers never learn the contents. Your convoy could be transporting a mystery item and you could let the reader draw their own conclusions. Or it could be a techno-thriller MacGuffin like a secret quantum computer that's going to bust encryption on the internet wide open (the plot of the film Sneakers). ## A trillion-dollar coin During one of the innumerable American government shutdowns, it was proposed that the president could bypass congress by minting a trillion-dollar coin - which he could do without congressional approval. There are also real (but not circulating) Bank of England £100,000,000 notes. There was a Simpsons episode centering around a stolen trillion-dollar bill that Truman printed for the reconstruction of post-WW2 Europe Needless to say, you'd need to explain how the thief could ever spend such a coin, and why the government wouldn't simply demonetise it. On the plus side, cash is sometimes exempt from receipt-of-stolen-goods laws. ## Truckloads of$100 bills

In the year after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 nearly 281 million notes, weighing 363 tonnes, were sent from New York to Baghdad

the deliveries took place once or twice a month with the biggest of $2,401,600,000 on June 22 2004, six days before the handover. "One contractor received a$2m payment in a duffel bag stuffed with shrink-wrapped bundles of currency. ... Cash payments were made from the back of a pickup truck, and cash was stored in unguarded sacks in Iraqi ministry offices.

Millions of civil service families had not received salaries or pensions for months and there was no effective banking system.

It sounds made up, but if your story said the army was regularly picking up shipments of \$2 billion in bank notes from New York? Actually not that far from the truth! I'm not aware that they used convoys as large and heavily armed as you want, but this at least explains why it would be guarded by the army rather than the police or secret service.

The first (or at least an early) delivery of a vaccine (or wonder treatment) for covid 19 to a country. Vunerable to attack and potentially has a 'good guy' plot to it ('we need to steal it for these orphans')