Armor: The Twisted Tale Of Three Typhoons

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July 5, 2020: Russia uses its highly publicized military parades to show off new combat vehicles to potential customers. One type of vehicle featured is the recent annual Victory Day parade was the new Typhoon MRAPs (Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected) line of armored trucks. Two of the 4x4 Typhoons were displayed in the 2020 parade featured different turrets, one manned with a 12.7mm machine-gun while the other was an unmanned RWS (Remote Weapons Station) turret armed with a 30mm autocannon and 7.62mm machine-gun plus an impressive array of day/night sighting devices and a laser rangefinder.

The Victory Day parade was supposed to take place on May 9th but was delayed until June 24th because of covid19 fears. This was the 75th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in May 1945 and cancellation was not an option. While there were no large crowds for the parade, is was televised and plenty of professional photographers were on hand to get pictures and video that made the new Russian MRAPs look attractive to potential export customers.

The first Russian Typhoons appeared in 2014 but problems were encountered and testing was not completed until 2019. Meanwhile Ukraine, a Russian immigrant to Canada and Iranians seeking a good design to steal have all developed and deployed MRAPs called Typhoon. No wonder the well-publicized Russian Typhoon has not been a big seller, especially in the export market.

It is a little late for a Russian Typhoon because there is already a similar Ukrainian MRAP plus the Canadian Typhoon MRAPs and the Iranian copy also called Typhoon (sort of).

Russia sent some Typhoon MRAPS to Syria where they were used a lot, but the only exciting photos of that service were from February when a more agile American M-ATV (MRAP-All Terrain Vehicle) forced a Russian Typhoon off the road during a dispute over who could use a certain road. Not very good publicity for the Typhoon, especially since the M-ATV has been a much more popular vehicle.

The U.S. Army has been using M-ATVs since 2009. Nearly 10,000 have been produced and most were used by American forces in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. The M-ATV is a 15 ton, 4x4 (with independent wheel suspension) armored vehicle. Payload is 1.8 tons, and it can carry five passengers (including a gunner). Top speed is 105 kilometers an hour, and road range on internal fuel is 515 kilometers. The M-ATV is slightly larger than a hummer. An M-ATV costs about a million dollars, including equipment, weapons and transport (it costs about $150,000 each to fly one into Afghanistan). M-ATV proved to be a remarkably agile vehicle, on and off-road and the February incident in Syria was yet another example. Alas it was not the kind of publicity the Russians were seeking for their Typhoons, which are well designed and come in over a dozen 4x4 and 6x6 models. The Russian Typhoon was ok but literally too late.

For example, in January 2020 the landlocked African nation of Mali received the first seven of 130 Typhoon MRAPs from the UAE (United Arab Emirates). Actually, 30 were donated by Abu Dhabi and the rest (or as many as Mali can afford) paid for by Mali.

The UAE Typhoon is a popular MRAP and is technically a Canadian vehicle because Typhoons were first developed and built by the Canadian Streit Group in cooperation with Ukrainian firms that supplied components.

As a practical matter, the Typhoon first appeared in Ukraine in 2015 where it was hastily designed and built to deal with the 2014 Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine (Donbas). These Typhoon prototype MRAP type vehicles proved a lifesaver against rifle and machine-gun fire as well as many types of landmines and roadside bombs. The original Ukrainian Typhoon was a very basic MRAP design, but it was cheap and effective.

The original Canadian Typhoon was, like the original Ukrainian one, based on Russian trucks that were modified to become MRAPs, in this case, a 12.5-ton vehicle with a payload of 2.5 tons (or ten passengers.) The later Russian Typhoon weighed twice as much and had far more accessories and amenities.

In 2018 the Iranian Typhoon (or Tufan) appeared. It is unclear how closely Tufan copied the Canadian Typhoon design. Externally it appears identical with four bulletproof windows plus bulletproof front windows for the driver and commander. There is a remotely controlled turret on top for a machine-gun and V-shaped bottom to deflect explosions. There are three doors; two for the driver and the vehicle commander up front and one in the back. There are four hatches on top. Inside the Canadian Typhoon, the seats are protected from concussion hitting the bottom of the vehicle during an explosion. There are special dome lights inside that do not illuminate the windows. There is an air filtration system and positive air pressure to keep noxious chemicals out (as well as chemical and biological weapons) and air conditioning. This Typhoon also has vidcams all around so the crew can better see what is going on outside. Typhoons come equipped with military radio and a GPS navigation system. Canada's Typhoon sells for about half a million dollars each. The Iranian Tufans cost 20-30 percent less.

The Canadian/Streit Typhoon was developed by Guerman Goutorov, a Russian immigrant to Canada who, in the 1990s began doing business by building armored trucks for banks to transport cash in. In 1992 Goutorov incorporated his operation as the Streit Group and by 2000 he had a thriving and rapidly growing firm that also added armored protection to automobiles.

Major expansion began in 2005 when Goutorov made a deal to begin franchising manufacturing and sales to overseas firms. The principal partner here was the UAE, where the main Streit Group manufacturing plant now is. There are smaller Streit Group manufacturing operations in Canada, the United States and seven other countries, in addition to the UAE.

In 2016 Streit Group got into trouble with the Canadian government because the UAE franchise had sold Typhoons to participants in the Libyan and South Sudan civil wars. These conflicts were under a UN arms embargo which Canada supported and enforced. After much legal wrangling and the payment of some fines, Streit Group emerged unscathed by proving that Streit Group Canada did not control sales by its overseas sales franchises. Streit Group also made much of the fact that Typhoons were designed as defensive systems, often used by UN, foreign aid and diplomatic personnel in dangerous areas. Within the automotive industry, Streit Group has long been recognized as a major and legitimate manufacturer. The UAE has been a major investor in Streit Group and a major manufacturer of Typhoons. The UAE sells what it manufactures and the customers are satisfied.

Also satisfied was Iran, which was so fond of the Streit Group Typhoon that they literally copied the design and in late 2018 Iran revealed that it was producing an MRAP 4x4 wheeled armored vehicle called Tufan. Some interpret “Tufan” as “Typhoon” but most Iranians used “Tufan” to describe the less powerful tropical storms Americans call hurricanes. Whichever way you interpret Tufan the Iranian vehicle is indeed based on the Streit Group Typhoon, and most Streit Typhoons are produced across the Persian Gulf in the UAE.

Iranian publicity photos displayed five completed vehicles with eight more visible on the production line. The vehicles were very visibly similar to the Canadian Typhoon. At the time Iran was facing more violence internally with a growing number of incidents involving large protests and armed attacks. Iran could probably sell their copy for less if many of the Typhoon internal features were left out or made optional. At the moment Iran appears to be building them for internal use by the IRGC (Islamic Revolution Guards Corp) security forces and the national police.

MRAPs are built using the same construction techniques pioneered by South African firms that have, over the years, delivered thousands of landmine resistant vehicles to the South African armed forces. These were a great success. The South African technology was imported into the U.S. in 1998 and was first used in the design of vehicles used by peacekeepers in the Balkans and later in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. military bought over 10,000 MRAPs (from several manufacturers) by 2009 and then canceled orders as the fighting in Iraq died down with the defeat of the Islamic terror groups there.

MRAPs have proved very popular in Africa. In mid-2019 a regiment of the Mali army was converted to a mechanized unit with the addition of several dozen 11 ton Casspir armored vehicles. These are from South Africa, which is where this late 1980s vintage vehicle proved to be the first effective modern MRAP design to enter wide use. Casspir will always be remembered as one of the earliest and most successful MRAP type vehicles. Originally designed for the South African police in the early 1980s, this 4x4 wheeled vehicle has remained in production ever since. The basic design has been upgraded over the years. Germany paid for these Casspirs and has provided trainers for drivers and mechanics. Casspirs carry up to twelve troops and have plenty of bulletproof windows (with gun firing ports) and are excellent for patrols. Like all MRAP vehicles, Casspirs (and their passengers) can survive most vehicle mines and roadside bombs as well as rifle and machine-gun fire.

Currently, the Russian Typhoons are only used by the Russian military, although some were sold, or notated to a former part of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan.

 


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