The Army Marches on its Trucks

ZIL-131

ZIL-131

A military establishment marches on its stomach, but the food that fills the stomach (and ammunition that fills the guns) marches on its trucks.

It seems each year there’s less quality Russian military journalism.  But exceptions arise.  Aleksey Ramm for one.  His work is interesting, fairly insightful, and apparently unbiased.

Ramm’s story not too long back on the pedestrian topic of Russian military trucks for VPK is provided for your edification in its entirety without interruption. Photos that didn’t appear in his article have been added.

“The Process is Stuck”

“The military and industrialists are not succeeding in unifying truck transport”

“Recently the appearance of the Kurganets BMP, Armata tank and heavy infantry fighting vehicle on its base has been actively discussed even on social networks.  And real problems with cargo vehicles, which no defense minister has been able to solve, are well-known to only a narrow circle of specialists.”

“‘Without automotive equipment not a single missile will fly, no airplane will take off, no tank will go, and the soldier will be left without ammunition and food. Trucks have to deliver fuel, lubricants, spare parts, etc.  They are making our tanks, buying airplanes, but problems with vehicles still aren’t being resolved,’ says an officer responsible for organizing logistics in the Southern Military District.”

“A Hereditary Disease”

“Until the transition to the so-called new profile begun by former defense minister Anatoliy Serdyukov in 2008, the vehicle park of the RF Armed Forces looked at first glance like a hodgepodge inheritance from the Soviet Army.  Not only models from manufacturers KamAZ and Ural, but also ZIL-131, GAZ-66, KrAZ and MAZ were in its equipment list.”

GAZ-66

GAZ-66

“Truck transport, which supports delivery of material resources, supplies of lubricants (POL), ammunition, etc., comes in companies for regiments and in material-technical support battalions for brigades and divisions (RMO and BMO).  Each company (or platoon) answers for conveyance of a concrete item. For example, the first company of a BMO (or platoon of an RMO) transports ammunition, and the fifth, equipped with tankers, transports fuel.”

“Armies and military districts have material-technical support brigades (BRMO) to organize material-technical support and transportation of material resources.”

“More than 70 percent of the vehicle transportation is constantly in depots, loaded with ammunition, POL and other cargo.”

“‘Of five companies in a BMO, 10-12 vehicles in all are used to support daily needs.  The rest stand in depots, fully loaded, fueled, but with batteries removed. During an alert, drivers come to depots, and drive already loaded vehicles to designated areas,’ the commander of one of the BMOs told VPK’s observer.”

“It’s true that the majority of vehicles standing in depots are in a pitiful state.  ‘When I served as commander of an ammunition transport company, I didn’t have a single fully serviceable vehicle.  Of course, all could go, complete a march, deliver the ammo.  But in many, the engine, the brakes had gone haywire, there were electrical problems.  We didn’t even have complete tents for the whole company.  All my KamAZes had already served 15 or even 20 years and only part of them had gone through a capital repair,’ recalls a vehicle service officer of one combined arms army.”

“Besides the RMO, BMO and BRMO, every battalion had material support platoons, into which go vehicle sections, and sometimes, if the battalion is an independent military unit, even entire platoons.  The mission of these sub-units is transporting material resources from battalion (company) material support depots directly to the front.”

“The transport system which has developed has divided the vehicle inventory.  The GAZ-66, ZIL-131 and Ural, used mainly by material support platoons and distinguished by their high mobility, are designated for supplying cargo, POL, and ammunition to the front.  Regimental RMOs, brigade BMOs, and also army and district BRMOs are practically fully equipped with KamAZes.”

“‘Vehicles of material support brigades and battalions have to complete long marches with big loads over distances of not less than 500-600 km, using regular roads.  Mobility isn’t as important to them as it is to those carrying cargo to the front.  So in this segment, KamAZ didn’t and doesn’t have competitors,’ says a Ministry of Defense Main Automotive and Armor Directorate (GABTU) officer.”

The entire country KamAZized

“‘In the mid-1990s, it already was clear that the Soviet system of four basic vehicle families was an unacceptable luxury for the Russian Army.  Each really has its own parts and components which are not interchangeable.  The ZIL-131 has a gas engine, but the Urals (with the exception of the 375D) are diesel.  So the decision to move to one universal type was made,’ explains the Main Automotive and Armor Directorate officer.”

“In 1998, the Ural Automotive Factory presented the Motovoz truck family for trial by the military, but because of drawn-out fine-tuning and financing problems the new Urals only began to enter troop use in 2006-2008.  As the producer announced, Motovoz was three practically 95 percent common vehicles — Ural-43206 (4×4), Ural-4320-31 (6×6) and Ural-5323 (8×8).”

Ural-4320-31

Ural-4320-31

“‘Only the two-axle Ural-43206 came to our division in 2008.  So we didn’t see the three- or four-axle Urals.  Even though according to initial plans, the Ural-43206 replaced the old Urals, ZIL-131 and GAZ-66 in the material support platoons of battalions, and the -4320 the transport KamAZes in divisional BMOs. We traveled in Motovozes less than six months, after which the order came to give them to depots and we received new KamAZes,’ recalls the automotive service officer.”

“With Anatoliy Serdyukov’s arrival, the Motovoz family fell into disfavor, and Kama Automotive Factory [KamAZ] Mustangs came to replace them.”

KamAZ-4350 Mustang

KamAZ-4350 Mustang

“‘It’s acceptable to abuse Serdyukov now.  Many say the transition to Mustang was connected with lobbying by KamAZ, which belongs to Rostekh, and possibly even with corrupt schemes.  But we have to recognize that only one model — Ural-43206 — was received from the Ural factory into the Motovoz family.  In my view, the ideal vehicle for transport to the front area.  Mobile, reliable, easily repaired.  But the three-axle Ural-4320-31 loses to KamAZ on the road by every indicator.  In essence, a suped up Ural-4320.  I don’t even want to talk about the four-axle.  A very capricious and unreliable vehicle,’ the vehicle service officer from the Southern Military District relates.”

“Three vehicles are in the Mustang family:  KamAZ-4350 (4×4), KamAZ-5350 (6×6) and KamAZ-6350 (8×8).  Supplies began at the end of 2008.”

“‘Currently there are practically neither old Ural-4320, nor ZIL-131, nor even GAZ-66.  A small number of Ural-43206, -4320-31 and -5323 received in 2008 remain.  The Motovozes were sufficiently fresh vehicles but were still written off early,’ the GABTU representative comments.”

“By several evaluations, currently approximately 80-90 percent of the Russian MOD truck inventory is Mustang, 10-15 percent Motovoz, and the rest is remaining and still not written off ZIL-131, GAZ-66, etc.  The MOD’s transition to a single vehicle took a little less than seven years.  In the opinion of almost all representatives of the vehicle service with whom this publication managed to talk, it was able to do this only thanks to the great production capacity of the Kama Automotive Factory and its developed service centers.”

“Mustang ridden too hard”

“‘If you compare the old brigade with different types of trucks, thanks to the Mustangs the tonnage of transported cargo has increased recently.  Because of the commonality of vehicles, going up to 90-95 percent, they succeeded in significantly cutting supplies of parts and components essential for repair, and also in standardizing the list of POL,’ says the GABTU representative.  ‘I can’t name the real figures but believe me:  the capabilities for ‘lifting’ material resources have grown a lot at the present time.'”

“But among the troops they don’t hurry to draw the same optimistic conclusions.  ‘The KamAZ-4350 came to replace Urals in the material-technical support platoons of battalions.  In exercises where they still have factory service centers, all look very good. Everything is much more complicated in real life,’ the Western Military District vehicle officer is sure.”

“In the opinion of all troop officers Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer surveyed, the KamAZ-4350 has not become an adequate replacement for the old Ural family.  ‘In mobility it lags behind the old Ural-4320, meanwhile it does not carry as much of a load.  Simultaneously these vehicles got stuck during off-road exercises in places where the Ural would have gotten through without any problems.  KamAZ has outstanding trucks, but for normal roads,’ the commander of a material-technical support battalion is sure.”

“The spring and summer of last year became especially tense when Russian Armed Forces units and sub-units moved out from permanent basing points to the Ukrainian border, operating completely without the support of repair centers.  All this publication’s interlocutors noted one more problem which appeared during the spring-summer of standing at the border, the -4350 breaks down often.”

“‘This vehicle must operate practically at the front line.  But it is packed electronics that constantly break down.  Even a platoon driver’s capabilities were enough to subdue the Ural.  Here they have to call in specialists.  Once such a vehicle was stuck in the middle of the training ground, and we dragged it from here only after a week.  Yet another problem is the turbine diesel in this KamAZ.  The turbine constantly goes out of order, breaks down.  We just manage to send it off for repair,’ complains a vehicle service officer.”

“In service centers, they do not share the military’s claims against the KamAZ-4350, arguing that the majority of damages happen through the fault of servicemen using the equipment.”

“‘Automotive equipment is developing, new technologies are appearing.  But the military wants everything to be as ‘in grandma’s time.’  The problem with the turbine is not the factory’s fault.  In the instructions it says before turning off the engine, the driver should give it some time to idle.  The military will kill the engine right away, and the turbine suddenly locks up.  But the factory’s to blame,’ complains an associate of one of the service enterprises answering for the repair of KamAZ vehicles.”

“At present, a paradoxical situation is forming where brigade BMOs, army and district BRMOs have increased by many times their capabilities to ‘lift’ and transport supplies, but providing cargo directly to sub-units at the front line is not always successful.”

“A view from the other side”

“In the Ministry of Internal Affairs they tried to find an exit from the vehicle deadend by combining the capabilities of the Motovoz and Mustang families.”

“‘We mainly use six-axle [sic, wheel?] Ural-4320-31, and sometimes Ural-43206s for units and sub-units fulfilling combat service missions in the transport of material resources directly to the area where they are employed in the North Caucasus.  Police detachments working in the region also use these vehicles,’ said an Internal Troops representative.  To transport cargo at great distances, according to our interlocutor, six-axle [sic, wheel?] KamAZ-5350s are already in active service.”

“‘We have the KamAZ-4350s, but the Ural-4320-31s are better suited to conditions in the Caucasus.  They are much more mobile and powerful in conditions of difficult mountain and considerably rugged terrain.  And, for supplying sub-units stationed a great distance away, and fulfilling missions in securing important state facilities, we also use Urals,’ the MVD VV representative answers.”

“From one side, the decision to unite two families in a single vehicle inventory is clear and logical.  Motovoz and Mustang duplicate one another to a sufficiently limited degree.  From the other, several families of trucks again appear in the force requiring separate supplies of parts and components.  VPK’s sources in the MVD acknowledge the problem.  ‘Only Mustangs and Motovozes would be good, but we still have a pretty large number of different armored vehicles and other special equipment,’ the Internal Troops representative laments.”

“‘The problem will be resolved with the acceptance of the future Tayfun and Platform vehicle families into the inventory, work on which is currently ongoing,’ the GABTU representative explained.”

Tayfun

Tayfun

“‘There were many conversations about Platform.  They talked like it was even shown to the defense minister on the test range at Bronnitsy.  But there still aren’t even photos of a prototype.  They say everything is secret.  But what’s the sense of keeping a truck secret?  It’s bull.  There still isn’t a series Tayfun [sic, Platform?].  But there are experimental prototypes of it.  We went through all this already. For several years in a row they assured us that they were fixing equipment for us and factory workers towed it off.  As a result, when the normal work began and the equipment began to break down, everyone looked at it like little kids,’ says the vehicle officer.”

“So for more than seven years the problem of the disparity of the Russian Armed Forces’ truck equipment inventory still has not been conclusively resolved.  The situation is like running in circles.  One can still hope that with the acceptance of future families of vehicles into the inventory the problem will finally be resolved.”

Just a little post-script.  The Tayfun is in serial production.  It’s in the inventory of the RVSN and Spetsnaz units in the Southern MD.  Series-produced Mustangs have been in the inventory since 2003.  The Western MD reports that 30 percent of its vehicle inventory is now less than three years old with the addition of 6,000 Motovoz and KamAZ trucks since 2012.  It also claimed it was slated to have 50 Tayfuns before the end of 2014.  Tayfuns were prominent in today’s Victory Parade as were Mustangs.

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One response to “The Army Marches on its Trucks

  1. Could this be an anti-Serdukov “vbros”?

    The talk of unifying platforms reminds of the veritable zoo of vehicles they have else where: the tracked land forces air defence, special purpose (comms, recon, etc) BTRs, BMPs, trucks and MT-LBs, T-72 based IMRs..

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