Below is an interview which the Russian newspaper “The Free Press” gave to the creators of the Gaz Tiger ground mobility vehicle (dubbed the Russian Hummer) to find out why Russia’s MOD (Ministry Of Defense) chose the IVECO over the domestic Tiger. They received some interesting answers.
On January 18th, the newspaper “Izvestiya” on behalf of Russia’s MOD (Ministry Of Defense), announced that starting in 2014, production of Russian Gaz Tiger ground mobility vehicles will be ceased. In their place, Russia’s forces will receive the Italian IVECO LVM-M65, which has been given the name “Cougar” in Russia. “Even if we equip the Tiger with level 5 protection, as is required, the vehicle will not be able to move, as it will be too heavy and the engine is too weak. VPK (the company that produces the Tiger) stated that it needs 3 years to add these modifications to the Tiger.Why should we wait this long when we can start receiving the Cougars now?”, stated Izvestiya representing the MOD, who decide on which military equipment is to be purchased.
So according to his words, the Gaz Tiger, which has completed testing and is currently serving in Russia’s armed forces, has level 3 protection (protection from assault rifles from a distance of 10 meters), while the IVECO has level 5 protection. It is clear that our MOD is continuing to criticize domestic technology in order to have excuses to buy foreign technology. Let’s remember the story of the T-90 and the BTR-90, the criticism of domestic UAV’s, the purchase of the French “Mistral”, Israeli UAV’s, German armor, the Italian IVECO-these are just a few examples of MOD’s politics when it comes to purchasing military equipment. The newspaper “The Free Press” directly addressed the company in charge of producing the Tigers to get some answers. Press secretary of the “Military-Industrial Company” Sergei Suvorov answered their questions.
FP: It is already clear that by 2014, production of the “Russian Hummer” will be ceased. How many Tigers will be produced by that time?
SS: The number that will be produced is classified, but there are currently over 500 of these vehicles in various modifications for the Peace Keeping forces, the MVD, the FSB, the FSO, and that is not counting those produced for export. Out of all those vehicles, a total of 200 are operated by the MOD, not 50 as was previously stated, out of which 30 are of the modernized Tiger-M type, with the new Yaroslavskiy engine.
FP: Let’s talk about MOD’s claims. Izvestiya claimed that your Tiger has a very low level of protection compared to the IVECO, and that you will need 3 years to make the necessary modifications to “catch up”. Is this true?
SS: 3 years?! The MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs) has been purchasing Tigers from us for a long time, which have the level 5 protection that they discussed in the article. Also, in that same article, it was stated by a senior official (apparently the Chief of Tank-Automotive Management (GABTU) Aleksandr Shevchenko) that certificates issued by the MVD of RF are not necessary proof, and that they do not believe in the existence of a class of Tigers with such a level of protection. So basically, the stated characteristics, which were confirmed by MVD regarding level 5 protection, are not being accepted by the MOD. At the same time, he states that tests that were performed in Germany are valid proof regarding the level of protection of the IVECO. So basically he states that MOD has made the conclusion that the IVECO has level 6 protection based on tests made in Germany, yet they are not satisfied with Russia’s MVD’s conclusions.
FP: Then why was it stated that the Tigers in service with the MOD have level 3 protection?
SS: As a matter of fact, when MOD ordered the Gaz Tigers from us, it was specifically stated in their requirements that they needed a vehicle with level 3 protection. We satisfied their requirements. The MVD on the other hand, starting in 2005, specifically asked for level 5 protection. We met their requirements as well, and that was in 2005, mind you. When we received news of the planned purchase of the IVECO, a supposedly superior vehicle, we immediately took it upon ourselves to upgrade the Tiger to level 6A protection, which we did on our funding. It took us just half a year to upgrade the vehicle. How can they say that it would take us 3 years? We brought the vehicle to that level in spring of 2011, and in June we demonstrated it to the MOD. In September, Vladimir Putin checked out the vehicle and said “great job”! I was present there.
FP: Interesting details. What is the comparison between the price of an IVECO and a Tiger?
SS: When they purchased two samples from Italy in 2009, they paid 386,000 dollars for each, but the perspective price for each can reach as high as 644,000 dollars. A single Tiger, depending on modifications, can cost 200-230 thousand dollars.
FP: They say we are purchasing the IVECO’s because of advanced Italian technology.
SS: That is strange to hear. First of all, Italian technologies make up just 20-30% of the vehicle, while the rest of the technologies are American, German, Dutch, etc. The armor is made by 3 countries, the transmission is German, the engine is Italian. Secondly, these technologies present no value to us. The IVECO is an ancient vehicle, based upon the Jeep. By 2014, it will be obsolete. By the way, why the IVECO? The West possesses serious, competitive vehicles, those made by Germany and Switzerland, for example. And their vehicles do, indeed, possess advanced technology.
FP: So why is the IVECO being purchased?
SS: Don’t ask me, ask the MOD. According to them, it has superior protection.
FP: Ok, so what about the tests in Russia? What did they show?
SS: The armor was not tested. I have information that Italy forbade Russia from testing the vehicles resistance to small arms fire and mines. Regarding mobility testing, they were tried once in February of 2010, and there is a video on youtube (the video at the very beginning of this post) on which you can see the results for yourself.
FP: According to unconfirmed reports, for the leaking of this video, the defense minister dismissed a colonel in the GABTU and two more in the 21st Institute of Defense.
FP: Great. This is not the first time the MOD criticizes your products. We remember the recent situation in which the new BTR-90 was criticized and cancelled.
SS: It wasn’t about the criticism, but more about the principle position, which was taken in relation to the presentation of one of the parameters, because of which they decided not to purchase the BTR-the lack of doors for troops to disembark from the back of the vehicle. Almost all Western vehicles have doors in the back, while our vehicles have doors on the sides, and I guess they want us to do it the same way the West does. But from a tactical viewpoint, that is utter none-sense. By the way, according to information that we possess, the West is working on new APC’s with side doors.
FP: What for?
SS: In the conditions of today’s wars, which are mostly urban/counter-terrorism, during an ambush attack on a military convoy, disembarking from the back can mean death. Imagine you are one of those participating in the ambush. You see the back door of the vehicle open, and the troops disembark one by one, making easy targets for you. However, if that was a vehicle with side doors, the troops can disembark from the side opposite the enemy and get a chance to return fire.
FP: How did the workers of the factory react to the MOD’s decision?
SS: In regards to this, we have just one choice: we have to work and create a new vehicle with superior characteristics, superior quality, and a low price. Which is exactly what we’re doing.
We also contacted the developer of the Tiger, Alexander Masyagin.
AM: Originally, we created the Tiger for the UAE, because they needed an alternative for Hummer. Then, after they refused to buy the vehicle, we decided to manufacture it for Russia. However, recently I found out that they are continuing work on the project, and have sold over 500 of their own Tigers to other countries. I don’t know why the MOD likes this IVECO so much, but let me point out that the Tiger has a high volume body which allows it to transport up to 9 troops, while the IVECO can only carry 4-5. So while an entire Russian squad can fit inside a single Tiger, that same squad would need require two IVECO’s. Also, the IVECO is built on a frame basis with armor plates, so it is not completely protected, while the Tiger has a “one-piece body”. Also, I think that the Tiger is better suited for Russian terrain, as was shown in the video of the race in the snow.
FP: Was the Tiger tested against mines?
AM: Yes, but these were equivalents of grenades or 200 grams of TNT. The fact of the matter is, we originally weren’t ordered to make a vehicle that can withstand explosions of 1, 2, or 6 kg of TNT from underneath. If such requirements are given, they will be fulfilled. But they gave us different requirements, which we met, and yet we are at fault now-which is slightly absurd.
FP: As the creator of the Tiger, how do you feel about its cancellation?
AM: It’s a shame. If they don’t like something, we can improve the vehicle. Even the Arabs understood that our vehicle is better than the Hummer, even though it is continuously improved. In addition, we have to remember that our roads are not like those in Europe, or even Afghanistan. We need an off-road vehicle. In order to make the decision, we have to interview those who operated the vehicle-then we can understand the decision. After all, going into battle won’t be those high ranking officials, but soldiers, who have to accomplish missions every day. Their opinion, I believe, would be more credible than that of the MOD.
Note: in the interview, the word “Hummer” was used to describe the American military ground mobility vehicle known as the HMMWV (or Hum-Vee), not the civilian version of the vehicle.