7 Modern Russian Military Vehicles We Respect
1) IMR-3M Obstacle-Clearing Vehicle
A vehicle built for heavy engineering in tough environments, it’s hard not to respect this road-clearing (or -creating) monster. The two-man crew inside the vehicle can breach tree entanglements, blaze an 8-mile trail in an hour and lift 2 tons with a telescoping arm that extends 10 yards. It’s also prepared to survive a fight, with thick armor, masking smoke and a machine-gun turret. Best of all, it’s mounted on the chassis of a T-90 main battle tank. It can also survive blasts from explosives—the plow can clear pressure and magnetic-fuse mines—making the vehicle an all-purpose brute.
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2) 9A52-4 Multiple Launch Rocket System
One hero of Russian history is the Katyusha, a wheeled vehicle from World War II that rained rockets on German troops and tanks. This modern version, a very lightweight rocket launcher mounted on a truck chassis, has a simple design but packs a wallop—the crew inside the cab fires 300-mm rockets with warheads that include incendiary, fuel-air explosive, cluster munitions or antitank mines. The one on display here features six reusable launch tubes, which can be reloaded by a separate vehicle, using a crane, within 8 minutes. While the four-axle truck it’s mounted on is not ideal off-road driving, these systems are masters of the shoot-and-scoot; by the time counterbattery fires rain down, they have driven away. This air-transportable version of the popular Smerch rocket system was introduced in 2007 but still awaits an international customer. (The previous, heavier versions are used by India, Algeria, Kuwait and others.)
3) Kasta 2E Radar
The Kasta is a great all-purpose radar system that can be used to track helicopters, cruise missiles and airplanes. Set this up for remote operation, and you’ve got a movable defense screen for virtually anything in the air or an air-traffic-control radar that can operate in any weather for up to 20 days. The radar here can cover about 90 miles, depending on the height of the antenna it is mounted on, and can be set up for action in 20 minutes. The Kasta is said to be resistant to enemy jamming. A newer version of this radar is a popular item on the international market and guards Iranian nuclear sites. The diesel engine fires up with a whine, and the old-school mechanical radar dishes spin, unlike newer electronic radar arrays.
4) 1V13 Artillery Fire Command Vehicle
Even the most modern artillery shell or missile is useless without knowing where targets are located. This scrappy recon vehicle is made to operate, day or night, in the most miserable conditions possible to provide guidance to indirect fire coming from large and small formations, from the platoon to the battalion level. The 1V13s are studded with radios, laser rangefinders, navigation equipment and an aiming circle that provides the angle needed to correctly place a round. Once in position, the crew of six can set up to direct volleys of heavy fire within 15 minutes. The low profile and telescoping antenna are meant to protect the crew members as they sneak into position. The guys inside these things need to be close to the enemy to do their jobs—that takes bravery and good hardware, especially since they are favored targets of the enemies. Like almost all Russian military equipment, the vehicle was designed during the Soviet era and has been sold internationally and sporadically upgraded.
5) 9A39 Launch/Reload Vehicle for the BUK M1-2
The BUK M1-2 Self-Propelled Launch System (called the SA-11 Gadfly by NATO) is tailor-made to spot and destroy aircraft and inbound cruise missiles. In this photo is an oft-forgotten part of the medium-range system—the reloader. The crane, bent in the front, hoists missiles onto nearby Gadflys. The system can’t see for itself—it relies on other nearby vehicles carrying radar for targeting—but it can shoot and reload on its own. The missiles are radar guided and can reach Mach 3. These vehicles are sold all over the world, including in Pakistan, Egypt, North Korea, Syria, China and (arriving soon) Venezuela.
6) MIK-MKS Mobile Communications System
It takes a half-hour for the 100-foot mast of this vehicle to reach its full height. But once it does, the MIK-MKS provides wireless broadband access for 200 users using the four antennas atop the mast. Micran, the company that makes the system in the Siberian city of Tomsk, can tailor it for a variety of other communications uses, but the main purpose of the system is for a single vehicle to connect a slew of dispersed units. It’s designed to be hardened against jamming interference from enemies and rough conditions of Mother Nature, especially high winds.
7) Pneumatic Dummies
Okay, these aren’t vehicles, but they’ve fooled us before. These cheap decoys made by Rusbal, a balloon manufacturer near Moscow, are intended to fool satellites and aircraft by adopting the shape, color, thermal signature (by using heaters) and radar returns of things that would make a juicy target for an airstrike. At the arms show, the company chose to inflate an S-300 antiaircraft missile launcher, the system that Iran is so eager to set up to thwart an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities, if Russia will ever deliver them. Imagine they do so, with a crate of decoys thrown in. The company catalog includes aircraft, vehicles, hangars, radar arrays and forward operating bases. American military intelligence has been fooled by decoys before—notably by the Serbs, who protected their air force by setting up a fleet of faux targets. Nothing means tactical deception like launching a $600,000 cruise missile against a cheap balloon.