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Unified truck platform for the Ukrainian Defense Forces: KrAZ, MAZ, or Tatra?

Unified truck platform for the Ukrainian Defense Forces: KrAZ, MAZ, or Tatra?

Володимир Б. Володимир Б.
Defense industry of Ukraine Procurement Ukraine

Militarnyi recently reported on the updated 2S22 Bohdana self-propelled gun – version 3.0, which changed the MAZ-6317 chassis to the Tatra T815-7 chassis.

There has long been a debate in Ukraine about the future of a unified truck platform, which could be used for a variety of tasks. It would seem that Ukrainian KrAZ could be the only logical contender, which, before the problems with the company management, sold its products mainly for export quite actively.

At the same time, it has a Belarusian competitor MAZ, which the Armed Forces of Ukraine had actively purchased. Or maybe it is still better to switch to the Czech Tatra, which has proven itself to be exceptionally good? That’s what we are going to discuss.

Pre-war period

Before the start of the Joint Forces Operation in the eastern part of Ukraine, the Armed Forces operated a large quantity of various truck chassis remaining after the collapse of the USSR.

Those included Ural-4320, ZIL-131, GAZ-66, KAMAZ-5320, and KAMAZ-4310. A number of Russian-made KAMAZ-43114 were also purchased.

Obsolete domestic KrAZ-257, KrAZ-255B, KrAZ-250, and KrAZ-260, manufactured in the Soviet period, were also used.

Until the 2010s, the topic of purchasing new trucks for the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine was basically never raised: there was no need for it, the army of that time had enough existing trucks, which after the collapse of the USSR left tens of thousands of them not only in the military but also in the civilian sector.

It is almost impossible to determine the exact number of trucks in the Ukrainian army after the collapse of the USSR due to the lack of documented information on arms control with regard to trucks.

It is also almost impossible to determine the exact number of cargo vehicles in service with the Armed Forces of Ukraine before the start of the JFO due to the absence of at least some documents in the public domain.

Already then, it was evident that the military needed a unified truck platform, but this issue was not seriously raised. The main contender to replace the fleet at that time was, of course, the Kremenchuk Automobile Plant (KrAZ – abbr.).

The KrAZ-6322 was adopted in 2006, and in the same year, the Armed Forces of Ukraine received the first 15 trucks. In total, by the end of 2008, the army received 103 KrAZ vehicles – 87 KrAZ-6322 and 16 KrAZ-6510 dump trucks.

In 2008, KrAZ was also chosen as the unified truck platform of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. By the end of the year, the company had produced 3634 trucks, with some of them probably handed over to the Ukrainian military.

KrAZ supplied its products abroad. The main operators of civilian and military truck versions were the countries in the African and Asian regions. They even had large contracts to supply 1,400 trucks for the Iraqi Armed Forces, 250 for Georgia, and other countries, including Armenia and Cuba.

In June 2012, the Ukrainian manufacturer, in conjunction with the Indian company SHRI LAKSHMI DEFENSE SOLUTIONS, showed a KrAZ-01-1-11/SLDSL armored vehicle on the KrAZ-5233VE chassis, which did not interest potential customers.

In 2011, the issue of a unified truck platform was brought up again. By August 23, 2011, order No. 523 of Mykhailo Yezhel, Minister of Defense of Ukraine, the Armed Forces of Ukraine adopted new KrAZ-5233VE and KrAZ-5233NE off-road trucks, which are modifications of the KrAZ-5233 “Spetsnaz”.

They were to replace Ural-4320, KAMAZ-4310, and their variations to enhance the unification of military automotive equipment.

There was no information about the start of mass purchases of KrAZ-5233VE and KrAZ-5233NE at that time.

The start of the JFO and the slow and painful death of KrAZ

2014 brought a lot of unpleasant surprises for Ukraine. The annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of hostilities in Donbas forced a significant increase in the number of personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

In just a year, the military increased to 250 thousand troops from the pre-war 166 thousand. It was clear that the available forces and equipment were not enough to counter Russian aggression.

Over the first two years of the JFO, the Armed Forces of Ukraine lost a large amount of freight vehicles. With an increase in army potential and a significant increase in personnel, the issue of purchasing new trucks became acute.

The only logical solution in those days was to purchase the trucks from KrAZ, which at that time, started to actively offer its new military products, which included armored vehicles produced under the Streit Group Cougar license.

In September 2014, KrAZ presented a new drip-free truck KrAZ-В12.2МЕХ “Sergeant” with a 6×6 wheel formula. In the same year, the company offered a KrAZ-A061\R2 mobile field kitchen.

In 2014, the company delivered a total of about 700 trucks to the Armed Forces of Ukraine with a loss of UAH 148 million. In the future, debts accumulated, and the number of manufactured trucks.

KrAZ produced only a few Shrek and Fiona armored vehicles on its KrAZ-5233 chassis, which were not popular in Ukraine or in the world.

In August 2019, during the Oschadbank bankruptcy lawsuit against KrAZ, the court introduced a procedure for disposing of the debtor’s property and agreed to sell a controlling stake in the enterprise, about 56%.

In the fall of 2019, the State Bureau of Investigation of Ukraine declared Kostyantyn Zhevaho, the enterprise’s owner, wanted. He was charged with involvement in the embezzling of UAH 2.5 billion.

KrAZ sold about 29 trucks in the following 2020, and only three in 2021.

Since that time, the enterprise’s activity has actually stopped, and military communities in both the society and the Ministry of Defense started to discuss the possibility and importance of purchasing a new wheeled platform.

MAZ entering the arena

In March 2016, Bogdan Corporation announced plans to localize Belarusian MAZ products. The company was to localize the chassis assembly, welding, painting, and installation of the cargo platform.

In 2016, MAZ-6317, MAZ-5316, and MAZ-4371N2 trucks appeared in service with the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the National Guard of Ukraine.

The MAZ-6317 and MAZ-5316 trucks went into service with an index of Bogdan-6317 and Bogdan-5316.

By the end of 2018, the company transferred about 200 trucks to the military, and the defense procurement for 2019 assumed an increase in the number of purchases.

Between July and November 2019, Bogdan transferred four batches of MAZ-6317 with eight units each, equal to 32 trucks.

In 2020, National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine revealed the details of the purchase of Bogdan trucks. It turned out that the state overpaid for trucks and suffered losses of UAH 17.44 million.

In addition to Bogdan, the “Ukrainian Armor” Design and Manufacturing Company used the Belarusian chassis. The MAZ-5434 chassis was used in the production of the Varta armored personnel carrier.

In addition, the 2S22 Bohdana self-propelled gun version 2.0 uses the MAZ-6317 chassis and armored cab from the “Ukrainian Armor” company.

Unexpected Tatra

The Czech chassis was first seriously discussed in 2020 when KrAZ started to collapse. Already in November 2020, the Shepetivka Repair Plant presented the Bureviy MLRS on the Tatra Т815-7Т3RC1 chassis.

In November of the same year, information that the Neptune coastal anti-ship missile system would be transferred to the Tatra chassis was released. This information was confirmed when the Mineral-U radar on the Tatra chassis was presented to the public.

Subsequently, a mobile command post, a transport and load vehicle, and a launcher on the Czech chassis were demonstrated.

The development of design documentation to place Hrim-2 TBM on the Tatra 8×8 chassis was even started.

With the beginning of a Russian full-scale invasion, Czechoslovak RM-70 MLRSs on the Tatra T813 Kolos chassis were introduced in the Ukrainian Defense Forces.

In addition, the Shepetivka Repair Plant started to massively upgrade the Uragan MLRS to the Bureviy level, using the Т815-7Т3RC1 chassis with an updated armored cabin.

The same chassis with a new cabin was used in the updated 2S22 Bohdana self-propelled howitzer version 3.0.

The Tatra chassis has proven itself worldwide with reliability and unpretentiousness. A huge number of different combat vehicles are based on the Czech chassis.

Those include Eva, Seasar, Dana, Dita, and Zuzana self-propelled guns, and many other combat vehicles for various purposes.

Truck Zoo

Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the Defense Forces of Ukraine have received a large number of different trucks as assistance from partners and allies.

Ukraine received about 141 M1083 trucks and 11 M1070 of Oshkosh production from the United States. The Defense Forces received MAN GL trucks in unknown quantities, about 26 MAN HX, and 60 Mercedes-Benz Zetros from Germany.

12 Mercedes-Benz Unimog German-made trucks were transferred from Estonia.

In addition, according to the Oryx OSINT project, the soldiers of the Ukrainian Defense Forces captured about 147 Russian Ural-4320. Another 61 units were captured in the fuel tanker version.

In addition, 39 Ural-43206, 158 KAMAZ 6×6, and 29 KAMAZ 6×6 were captured in the fuel tanker version.

Future unified truck platform

Today, the main contender for the title of the unified truck platform for the Defense Forces of Ukraine is Tatra. A large number of weapon systems are “transferred” from the KrAZ chassis to the Czech chassis.

This trend started back in 2020 when it became clear that KrAZ would not be able to meet the needs of the Armed Forces in connection with the enterprise’s financial and managerial problems.

The chassis of the Czech company proved itself during operation in various climatic and relief conditions around the globe. Various self-propelled artillery systems, rocket launchers, armored vehicles, engineering vehicles, and armored personnel carriers are based on its platform.

It is unfortunately impossible to now discuss Ukrainian KrAZ as a powerful and responsible manufacturer of reliable platforms. That is why Ukraine is forced to buy time-tested and battle-proven European solutions.

Defense industry of Ukraine Procurement Ukraine

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