Good Bad News: 100 APCs for Ukraine
Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, and ongoing mobilization near Ukraine’s borders, left Ukraine in a difficult position. The new government was still trying to come together after the sudden popular overthrow of its predecessor, and faced an array of serious problems, but national defense remains top of the list. One of their early steps has been to appoint a new head of state firm Ukroboronprom, which runs the military-industrial complex. The task before temporary Acting Director Yuriy Tereshenko is huge, as he tries to reform an inefficient industry with quality and corruption problems. As one of his first acts, he’s offering 100 wheeled APCs to the new Ukrainian National Guard, mostly BTR-4 models.
Where do they come from? Well, that’s the bad news…
Contracts & Key Events
April 3/14: Kiev, we have a problem. Ukroboronprom head Yuriy Tereshenko posts an open article in the Kyiv Post, explaining the seriousness of the problems facing Ukraine’s arms industry. Just to make things interesting, the heavy defense manufacturing is heavily concentrated in the eastern provinces, which have a high proportion of Russians. He doesn’t really talk about that, but he does say that “what we cannot produce, we need to be able to quickly buy from abroad, including from NATO facilities.” They won’t know for sure what those drastic needs are until they get a National Security and Military Doctrine from political leadership, and turn it into a Concept of Army Development, but the broad outlines can probably be guessed by outsiders with a some research and preparation. Beyond that:
“…the state-owned arms concern is in a state of crisis by itself, and needs to increase the efficiency of its own performance…. per worker output at [our] companies… average, it was less than $10,000 per worker. At the same type, the Israeli… output is $200,000 per worker. In France, the number is 240,000 per head…. The production facilities of Ukrainian arms factories have changed very little since the Soviet times…. If one of those workers [in a long production sequence] fails to come to work, the whole production like [sic] is halted. Another key problem of Ukroboronprom is corruption, and the web of corrupt schemes that has entangled it…. I have taken a number of measures to reverse these and other schemes…. Our next task will be enhancement of human resources…. The emergency our country is facing should significanty speed up the rate of upgrades of the idustry, and trickle into the Ukrainian research industries as well…. The key directions here should be development of controls and automated systems, aviation and air-defense facilities, means of military intelligence and high pressure weaponry.”
It’s interesting that he doesn’t address output quality directly, though some forms of manufacturing modernization naturally help with that as well. Sources: Kyiv Post, “Ukraine’s arms concern needs to be free from corruption, rebuilt from scratch”.
April 2/14: Ukroboronprom head Yuriy Tereshenko announces that they can supply the Ukrainian National Guard with 100 wheeled APCs, as an immediate measure to equip 10 units. Kharkiv Morozov Machne-Building Design Bureau is offering 74 BTR-4 variants, and 16 other APCs would be scraped together from Kyiv Armored Plant, Mykolayiv Armoured Plant, Zhytomyr Armoured Fighting Vehicle Plant, and SC Ukroboronservice. The decision itself will be up to National Guard commanders, who will presumably need to authorize some for of budget for the vehicles. The exact breakdown would be:
- 41 BTR-4E IFVs, 29 ready immediately.
- 7 BTR-4K commander vehicles, 5 ready immediately.
- 2 BTR-4KSh command and staff vehicles, with raised rear compartments and no turret. All ready immediately.
- 8 BMM-4S recovery vehicles, 6 ready immediately.
- 5 new BTR-3E from Zhytomyr.
- 10 BTR-80s, 5 Ukroboronservice and 5 Zhytomyr.
- 1 BTR-70DI from Mykolayiv.
APCs of any type will be critically useful in addressing pro-Russian unrest, and the BTR-4Es can carry anti-tank missiles if Ukraine has enough to equip them. On the other hand, BTR-4s have been cited for very serious manufacturing defects, including hull cracks. Iraq and Azerbaijan had poor experiences (q.v. Sept 18/13), which is why Ukroboronprom has some to offer. On the other hand, the APCs have been exported to Kazakhstan and Thailand, and were recently ordered by Indonesia for its Marines and Army. Sources: Ukroboronprom, “Yuriy Tereshchenko: Ukroboronprom is ready to supply 100 armored personnel carriers to National Guard” | Zik, “Ukroboronprom ready to deliver 100 APCs for National Guards” | UPI, “Ukrainian industry ready to supply military with armored vehicles”.
Feb 26 – March 18/14: Crimea annexed. Massive street protests force Ukrainian President Yanukovych to flee, shortly after he signs treaties that abandon relationships with the EU and tie Ukraine to Russia. Yanukovych signed with a metaphorical economic gun to his head, but the guns quickly become real as Russian troops without identifying markings begin capturing Crimea’s Parliament building, key airports, etc. On March 18/14, Russian President Vladimir Putin formally annexes Crimea into Russia, including the key naval base of Sevastopol, after a hurried referendum takes place in that region.
Russian troops remain massed on Ukraine’s borders, and Ukraine’s eastern provinces with their high proportion of Russians remain vulnerable to similar sedition and invasion tactics.
Dec 29/13 – Jan 14/14: BTR-4s. The SE Pacifica, which left Ukraine in March 2013 and was refused unloading in Iraq on April 25/13, returns to Ukraine after passing back through the Suez Canal. If it sounds like the ship must have spent months floating aimlessly in the Gulf, that’s because the ship spent months floating aimlessly in the Gulf. A “source from the Ukrainian defense sector” wouldn’t comment on reports of hull cracks etc., and would only offer this:
“I can say only that, after the replacement of batteries and tanks with compressed air, the vehicles reached the necessary location at the port under their own power. The armored vehicles’ technical characteristics were confirmed after eight months’ exposure to adversarial climatic conditions…”
This episode appears to be a perverse form of good news for Ukraine, thanks to subsequent events. Sources: Interfax Ukraine, “3rd shipment of Ukrainian APCs intended for Iraq remains in neutral zone – source” | Defence Market Intelligence, “Iraq; Ukrainian BTR-4 shipment is rejected” | IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, “Iraqi BTR-4 shipment heads back to Ukraine”.
Sept 18/13: BTR-4 issues. Welding errors and frame cracking have reportedly stopped Iraq’s acceptance of their ordered BTR-4 APCs. That seems to fit a theme:
“The Iraqi government didn’t accept and sent back 42 BTR-4 armored personnel carriers laden ship departed from Ukraine in March this year…. According to information obtained by APA from its military sources, Azerbaijan refused to buy BTR-3 and BTR-4, which were offered by Ukraine a few years ago, because of welding and transportation problems arose from the first batch. The same problems were also observed in BTR-4…. during the tests conducted by Azerbaijan in mountainous conditions, BTR-70 armored personal carriers modernized by local experts have demonstrated higher maneuverability and performance than Ukraine-produced BTR-3 and BTR-4….”
Azerbaijan’s APA, “Azerbaijan refuses BTR-3 and BTR-4 armored personnel carriers offered by Ukraine”.
- KMDB – BTR-4 Armoured Personnel Carrier. Its weaponry would have it classed as an Infantry Fighting Vehicle in the West.
- Military-Today – BTR-4.
- Army Technology – BTR-80 Armoured Personnel Carrier, Russia. Poland also has experience building and repairing these.
- Military-Today – BTR-70. Light armor and a gasoline engine are lethal drawbacks in any heavy combat. The BTR-70DI substitutes Iveco’s Euro II 276 hp diesel engine.
- DID – Ukraine, Iraq in $2.5 Bn Weapons Deal. Will some of the APCs come from rejected deliveries?