Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Russia Replacing Tracks With Wheels

Russia is reorganizing several of its mechanized infantry brigades and replacing the tracked armored vehicles with wheeled ones. This would result in units similar to the American Stryker brigades. Russia's big problem right now is that it really doesn't have a vehicle to match the Stryker (or similar Western wheeled armored vehicles Stryker was developed from.) Russia is developing vehicles similar to Stryker, but it could be over five years before these are ready for service.

Meanwhile, Russia does have the ability to improvise. For the last seven years a Russian firm has been producing a vehicle remarkably similar to the armored version of the U.S. HMMWV "hummer" (the M1114 model) called Tigr (Tiger). The major buyer has been the Russian Interior Ministry, for its police and paramilitary units. Chechnya was a particularly popular destination for this new vehicle. It is based on the hummer-like vehicle, the Gaz-2330. Like the M1114, the Tigr weighs five tons, carries a crew of four, and a load of about a ton (or an additional five men, if configured for that). The Tigr costs $88,000 each, compared to $145,000 for the M1114, and is being offered as a less expensive alternative to the M1114. .

Interior Ministry troops operating in dangerous areas like Chechnya (where roadside bombs and ambushes occur regularly) have been satisfied with the performance of the Tigr. Russian army units began receiving Tigr four years ago.

Five years ago, after more than a decade of delays, Russia finally began production of its new BTR-90 wheeled IFVs. A variant of the BTR-80A APC (which traces its lineage to the BTR-60 APC that has been purchased or built in a large number of countries), it has a crew of two and carries eight infantry. It uses the same turret as the BMP-2, with a 30mm cannon, a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun, and an AT-5 Spandrel anti-tank missile. Unlike the original 8x8 BTR-60, which carried 14 troops, the BTR-90 only carries eight, but under better armor. Both the BTR-80 and 90 are similar to the American Stryker, but are a much older design. Many variants of the 17 ton BTR90 are planned, including one that will carry a 125mm gun. The BTR-90 was first shown in 1994, but money shortages prevented tooling up for mass production. The Russian army plans to buy hundreds of this vehicle, and export sales are expected as well.

The BTR-90 costs less than half as much as the Stryker, even when equipped with a lot of the electronic gadgets that make the Stryker so popular with the troops. But Russia has found that BTR-90 performance is not quite as good as Stryker, so a new design is being developed.


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