Sunday, November 8, 2020

Interview: Vladislav Belbas shares the latest on Ukrainian future combat vehicles

Dylan Malyasov sits down to talk with the new head of Ukrainian Armor Design and Manufacturing Company, Vladislav Belbas, to talk his priorities for his new job and about Ukrainian future combat vehicles…

Ukrainian Armor is a privately-held company specializing in designing and manufacturing modern armored vehicles and weapons for the Ukrainian Army and the National Guard of Ukraine. In recent years, the company has achieved phenomenal results. Therefore, what’s the secret of your success?

There’s nothing secret about it. Boldness, flexibility, and innovation have once united professionals from various fields behind our company’s name. We are continuously studying international experience, implementing the best solutions, optimizing production processes, challenging war, armor-piercing weapons, weather conditions, and off-road. Close cooperation with end-users and the involvement of war veterans and high-rank officers with combat experience empower us to create convenient and reliable military equipment that saves lives.

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Every day our team works to ensure the military’s safety and confidence during combat missions through modern and reliable equipment. Our efforts result in positive feedback on MRAP Varta and APC Novator operational capabilities from the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the Special Operations Forces, the National Guard of Ukraine, Ukrainian National Police Rapid Operational Response Unit (KORD), and other national law enforcement agencies, as well as brilliant performance during inter-ministerial national tests of armored vehicles held in December 2019 under the authority of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine.

Varta APC. Photo by Valentin Karminsky

Could you tell us about the Kamrat vehicle and new tracked infantry fighting vehicle that is being developed by your company?

Currently, both are being developed.

The specialized armored vehicle Kamrat is an evolution of MRAP Varta with our international partners’ recommendations taken on board. This game-changing APC will be the first Ukraine-made vehicle to have the highest protection class PZSA-6 (equivalent to STANAG 4569 Level 3). Therefore, it will protect military personnel against firearms of 7.62×54 mm caliber and armor-piercing incendiary cartridge B-32 even from 10 meters. The vehicle’s engine will be protected with additional armor plates and utterly safe from a 7.62 mm bullet. Simultaneously, APC Kamrat will uncap mine blast protection under the wheel or underbody up to 8 kg TNT.

The height is decreased to 2.6 m, which makes Kamrat one of the world’s lowest MRAP vehicles and allows C-130 transportation. The new Ukrainian armored personnel carrier is designed to transport up to 10 persons (2 + 8) in rough off-road conditions. Kamrat is built on 4×4 KrAZ-5233 chassis, known for its durable cross-country power. The operational vehicle with a gross weight of 16,400 kg will be equipped with a 6-cylinder in-line turbodiesel engine with 380 hp and 1460 N*m. Kamrat may be equipped with a Sarmat (12.7 mm caliber) combat module, Corsar (107 mm caliber), or Skif (130 mm and 152 mm caliber) anti-tank assault system.

Briefly, Kamrat will boast consistent mine and high-class small arms protection and simultaneously have smart dimensions. Such tactical and technical characteristics are in high demand within the special units of the Marines, Assault Troops, Land Forces, and Special Operations Forces.

The new tracked infantry vehicle BMP-V (Vartoviy) is a floating tracked armored closed combat platform designed to transport up to 10 persons at a maximum speed of 60 km/h. The vehicle will be equipped with either Scania or Caterpillar engine with 734 or 608 hp, respectively, and an Allison transmission. The armament of the BMP-V combat module includes automatic gun (30 mm caliber), automatic grenade launcher (30 mm and 40 mm caliber), machine gun (7.62 mm caliber), anti-tank missile system 212 (Barrier), and two launchers. The landing will be carried out through the rear ramp. As soon as we at Ukrainian Armor complete the design and R&D, we’ll get a cutting-edge, well-priced, and highly competitive BMP.

What is the situation with the artillery systems and armaments development?

Since the artillery weapon systems have been heavily used in Eastern Ukraine in 2014 – 2015, the obsolete and worn-out Soviet equipment exhausted its performance potential and needed replacement with new samples. As you may well know, artillery carries out up to 80% of fire tasks. Therefore, the Ukrainian army has a compelling need for artillery weapon systems and ammunition. To meet the demand, we at Ukrainian Armor commenced developing this segment in 2017. Currently, our product portfolio includes mortar launchers and ammunition of 60, 82, and 120 mm calibers.

In 2018, our first mortar, UPIK-82, completed national tests and entered into military service of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. To develop our next sample, MP-60 mortar launcher, we heavily capitalized on the technological and design experience from UPIK-82. We emphasized reducing the mortar weight to 19 kilos to allow transportation by one person and conduct fire “from hand” without a bipod. Simultaneously, we developed UB-60 mortar rounds that completed national tests in 2019. Today, we supply the Ukrainian army with batches of both MP-60 and UB-60.

The in-service flaws of M120-15 Molot mortars produced by Plant Mayak JSC (part of the Ukroboronprom State Concern) motivated us to commence developing a 120 mm mortar launcher that would have neither faults nor technical deficiencies. Currently, our MP-120 mortar launcher undergoes national tests at the testing site.

Moreover, as part of the artillery systems development program, our company carries our developmental work, cipher code Smereka, MRAP Varta-based 120 mm self-propelled mortar complex. The heavily digitalized and integrated system allows automatic deployment and targeting. Overall, Smereka is designed to engage hostile targets and change positions long before the enemy counterattacks.

Smereka mortar system

Ukrainian Armor took part in developing of the new Ukraine’s coastal defense system, what was your participation?

Indeed, Ukrainian Armor is the co-executor of the Neptune project headed by Luch State Kyiv Design Bureau. We perform design and manufacturing of armored cabins and exterior design of this super modern Ukrainian weapons system. Briefly, we manufacture armor and armor the cabs of three vehicles, namely missile launching vehicle, transport-loader vehicle, and a mobile command vehicle. The protection class depends on whether a vehicle carries personnel or equipment.

Photo by Ukrainian MoD

As you probably know, during the armed conflicts in Syria and Libya, small CUAVs carrying low-yield explosives destroyed or incapacitated a substantial quantity of the Pantsir missile systems and other expensive military machinery. In this regard, we support Neptune’s Customer and Developer’s strategically and technically sound decision to armor the cabins and, therefore, protect the vehicles against attempts to destroy the weapon system by subversive reconnaissance units and strike drones.

You said earlier that your crucial task as new Director General of Ukrainian Armor is to promote the company’s products in foreign markets actively. How do you see the future of your company in the defense market? Have there been any negotiations with potential external customers?

Since 2016, we have been proactively promoting our equipment in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Plus, we bid in tenders, give presentations to end-users, and invite them to visit our production facilities. Ukrainian Armor attended trade shows in Ukraine, Turkey, Peru, the UK, the UAE, and France. Every time the company’s mount caught the great interest of potential customers, partners, and international competitors.

Vladislav Belbas, Director General of Ukrainian Armor Design and Manufacturing Company. Photo by Valentin Karminsky

In 2018, the company concluded its first and, according to available information, Ukraine’s first international trade contract for the delivery of combat vehicles produced by a private enterprise. The contracted consignment of APC Varta was adapted to the end-user requirements (with the ins and outs of operating in countries with hot and humid climate taken into account) while retaining key features of MRAP vehicles.

Ukrainian military companies may take top spots in the international market. We offer potential customers exceptional value for money. Moreover, our vehicles and weapons may boast a substantial competitive advantage as the Ukrainian army heavily uses both in the course of the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war.

Could you please tell us a bit more about your company’s plans for the next five years?

We are committed to developing integral vehicle ranges based on cross-functional platforms Varta and Novator, as well as the existing and perspective wheeled and tracked samples. The critical task is to offer the military a wide selection of machines equipped with diversified weapons and capable of conducting missions of various military branches and services.

Simultaneously, Ukrainian Armor will keep extending its ammunition portfolio, namely 82 mm and 120 mm caliber mortar rounds and 120 mm caliber self-propelled mortar complex, as well as develop basic armored chassis of promising military projects.

Novator APC. Photo by Valentin Karminsky

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