Armor: Cold War Armor Invades Iraq Again


May 9, 2011: Ukraine has delivered the first 26 of 400 BTR-4 armored vehicles to Iraq. This is a new model of the BTR-80 wheeled armored personnel carriers that were built in Ukraine during the Cold War. The BTR-4 is a 25 ton vehicle that is safe from RPG rockets. It is armed with a 30mm autocannon, a 7.62mm machine-gun, and a 30mm grenade launcher (or two anti-tank missiles). It also has smoke grenade launchers. There is a three man crew, and space for seven troops or passengers in the back. There are firing ports and bullet-proof windows in the passenger compartment. The vehicle is air conditioned and amphibious. If you take away the anti-RPG armor, the vehicle only weighs 17.5 tons and can carry eight troops in the back. The heavier version costs about $1.7 million each. Iraq will receive all 400 BTR-4s by the end of next year.

After the Cold War ended, Ukraine became independent and inherited the BTR factories on its territory. The redesigned BTR vehicles have proven to be popular export items. The earlier BTR-3 has been sold to half a dozen countries. The BTR-3 is a 17 ton vehicle armed with a 30mm autocannon, a 7.62mm machine-gun, a 30mm grenade launcher and smoke grenade launchers. There is a three man crew, and space for six troops or passengers in the back and it is otherwise similar to the BTR-3. The BTR-3 sells for about $1.3 million each.  For both vehicles, max road speed is 110 kilometers an hour, and 10 in the water. Range, via road, on internal fuel, is about 600 kilometers.

Iraq is also buying less expensive, second-hand, armored vehicles. This includes a thousand refurbished M-113 tracked armored vehicles, to equip its new mechanized combat force. The U.S. has built over 80,000 of these 12 ton tracked vehicles so far. Carrying a crew of two and eleven passengers, armament usually consists of a 12.7mm machine-gun (and often another 7.62mm machine-gun).

Developed in the 1950s, and entering service in 1960, the M-113 saw lots of action in Vietnam. The U.S. began replacing the M-113 as an infantry carrier in the 1980s, but will continue to use it as a support vehicle (weapons carrier, ambulance, command vehicle and so on) until the end of the decade. Currently, the M-113 is still the most numerous armored vehicle found in American mechanized units.

Over a third of the M-113s produced are still in service, in over fifty nations. The U.S. has retired thousands, and keeps them for resale (after refurbishment). There are dozens of variants, mainly because of so many upgrades to the engine, mechanical components and electronics. M-113s are still being built, but the refurbished ones Iraq is receiving cost about $300,000 each.



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