Tuesday, 15 December 2015

BTR-152

GUN TRUCK

By Miguel Miranda


The former Soviet Union built the most dangerous APC’s in the world. Whether wheeled or tracked these machines always packed a punch and had incredible speed. By comparison, until the advent of the IFV, NATO’s only successful response to the Soviet’s superb APC development was the American M113—a remarkable, albeit utilitarian, vehicle in its own right.

To think the whole concept of the personnel carrier, armed and armored for combat, didn’t catch on for some years after World War Two and it was still the Soviets who led the way with an impressive range of vehicles. Including a very peculiar truck.

The BTR-152 was one of the first Soviet vehicles to proliferate across the Middle East and Africa. Pictured are BTR-152B’s armed with quad-mounted DShK’s and a lone Goryunov. Because Arab armies sucked at waging war the Israelis ended up collecting a sizable fleet of their own BTRs
The BTR-152 was one of the first Soviet vehicles to proliferate across the Middle East and Africa. Pictured are BTR-152B’s armed with quad-mounted DShK’s and a lone Goryunov. Because Arab armies sucked at waging war the Israelis ended up collecting a sizable fleet of their own BTRs...

As a matter of fact, the Soviets inadvertently arrived at the concept in 1950 after using their 6x6 ZiS-151 truck as the basis for an armored troop transporter whose exterior vaguely resembled a US Army half track.

This hybrid vehicle was designed by a team of engineers led by B.M. Fitterman and staffed by K.M. Androsov, V.F. Rodionov, A.P. Petrenko, P.P. Tchernayev, and N.I. Orlov.

...which they gladly turned on their former masters. See this IDF BTR-152 mounted with a French Hispano Suiza .404 20mm anti-aircraft gun. Fun fact: France was actually Israel’s biggest arms dealer in the 1960s.

The final result was the Bronetransporter-152 or BTR-152. It was ugly, to be honest. But it promised to shield a dozen infantrymen from harm and mount the kind of heavy weapons that would make NATO troopers’ toes curl. (It wasn’t actually the first BTR, a distinction reserved for the 4x4 BTR-40.)

The BTR-152 was hardly a far cry from its ancestors, trucks and half-tracks alike, and even performed like these vehicles. It ran on a 110 horsepower ZiS-123 gasoline engine and managed a top speed of 68 kilometers per hour. Unlike the 8x8 BTR’s that succeeded it, the 152 wasn’t amphibious and could only manage fording across 30 inches of water.


From 1950 until 1962 the BTR-152 enjoyed levels of unprecedented success as the primary heavy troop transport and workhorse for Red Army and Warsaw Pact forces. Manufactured in untold thousands (exact production figures are conflicting, but are in the five digit range) and exported to dozens of countries, the BTR-152 was the truck that could fight back and do a lot of other things besides.
This despite the fact that its welded steel armor wasn’t really as tough as it appeared—more on this later.

China allegedly built its own copies of the BTR-152 but a lack of photographic evidence puts this claim in doubt.

What is beyond question, however, is the BTR-152 was an inelegant marvel that was tough, reliable, and provided a fighting chance for every poor man’s army in a dozen forgotten wars.

It’s still being driven around today, for eff’s sake.

THE PERSONNEL CARRIER


The BTR-152 was a project of the Zavod Imeni Stalina plant or ZiS in Moscow and irony of ironies before World War Two its truck production line was modernized by an American firm.

This meant that American DNA permeated the modern lineage of Soviet truck manufacturing. Undeniable proof of another bizarre twist in the Cold War’s technological showdown. It deserves mention that substantial quantities of US Army M2 half tracks were transported to the USSR as Lend Lease.

Initial production was carried out at the ZiS’ Automotive Factory No.2 from 1950 until 1956. It was then shifted to the Zavod imeni Likhacheva or ZiL until production ceased in 1962.


The M2 half track was a genuine multirole platform that could be equipped for various tasks. That front grille looks familiar though. Hmmm...
The influences that shaped the BTR-152 gave it its best asset: spaciousness. Compared to all the other Soviet APCs that followed the BTR-152 never lacked for space in its passenger compartment. On paper the Soviets figured out 15 troopers could fit at the back plus a driver and co-driver in the cab. Fifteen!

This is what an empty BTR-152B looks like. Troops enter from a rear swing door and parallel rows of seats can fit seven each. The 15th trooper mans the missing Goryunov machine gun. But ideally there should be a machine gun up front.


  For a wheeled APC driving the BTR-152 wasn’t a chore. That is, so long as no hostile fire was directed at it.


Its design patterned after the M2 half track, the BTR-152’s windshield was separated into two panels. When buttoned up the driver just had to lower the hatches and reduce his vision to those classic Soviet viewing slits. (That’s a fuel tank behind the driver’s seat, by the way.)

The side doors were just as interesting. The upper panels could be lowered for better visibility and/or ventilation.
 
Check out the vacant driver’s seat

From a different angle in a better preserved vehicle.

In case you ever need to drive a BTR-152 here’s a handy guide to what’s what.






  1. Throttle pedal carburetor
  2. Brake pedal
  3. Clutch pedal
  4. Control panel
  5. Signal button
  6. Tire air control
  7. Gear lever transfer
  8. Air vents and windscreens
  9. Wiper
  10. Front axle lever
  11. Handbrake lever
  12. ???
  13. ???
  14. ???
  15. Tire valve block
  16. Gearbox shift
  17. Heater
  18. Lever for radiator shutters
And if you want to ace a quiz on the parts of a BTR-152K—a later variant with an armored roof—this might come in handy.





  1. Ax
  2. Compartment for RPG launcher
  3. Headset bag
  4. Container for RPG rockets
  5. Compartment for driver/co-driver personal effects
  6. Compartment for spare radio parts
  7. Gun rack
  8. Compartment for spare parts
  9. Compartment for ammunition
  10. Starting lamp
  11. Oil tank
  12. Compartment for spare parts
  13. Block winch
  14. Spare tire
  15. Ammunition box
  16. Shovel
  17. Canvass bucket
  18. Spare box
  19. Mounting kit
  20. Antenna
  21. First aid kit
  22. Tool kit
  23. Compartment for spare parts
  24. Saw
  25. Extinguisher
  26. “Document bag”
  27. Jack
  28. Starting handle
  29. Tow rope
Indeed, the BTR-152 had a lot of neat features that are a bit scarce in modern APCs.

The vehicle’s exterior was furnished with a complete set of entrenching tools. These included a shovel at the back and opposite it was a crowbar, a two-handed saw clipped to the vehicle’s side, an ax attached behind the frontal left tire, and a pick axe attached behind the frontal right tire.

Sometimes a lug wrench was affixed beneath the driver’s door.

Don’t forget the spare tire attached to the rear swing door!

You’d think these tools were enough for dismounted infantry to build a log cabin. But such implements were needed to ready a prepared position if the situation arose.

Also notice the tarpaulin spread over the BTR-152. This was a common half-measure to protect the BTR’s interior from snow and rain. The arrival of the BTR-152K with three roof hatches rectified this glaring fault.

Unlike the emerging generation of NATO APCs, the BTR-152 was designed to allow its passengers to fight from within the vehicle. Hence the three circular firing ports on either side of the hull and two additional firing ports next to the rear swing door.

This meant infantry could fight at 360-degrees within the BTR-152.


The BTR-152’s armored grilles could be opened and closed at the push of a dashboard button. This was to protect the radiator from gunfire. Some analysts claim this safety feature made the BTR-52 prone to overheating.

But take note of the BTR-152’s headlights in the photo above. The original BTR-152 only had a single pair and so did succeeding variants. However, by the time the BTR-152V1 rolled out an additional pair of infrared lights were installed along with improvements to the chassis and transmission. See below.

The bulge on the bumper, by the way, was the housing for the mechanical winch. The original BTR-152 and BTR-152A only had flat bumpers with a length of wire rope (for towing) wrapped around it. The winch first appeared on the BTR-152B and succeeding variants and was encased in a special container with a round flip top.




The BTR-152 also had a few worrisome quirks like…


Every time the Soviets built an APC their engineers would place the fuel tank in the most awkward position imaginable. This applied to the BTR-152, where separate fuel tanks were located behind the driver and co-driver’s seats. The photo above captures the tank behind the co-driver.

The BTR-152’s fuel tanks were identifiable from the outside via the round caps behind the driver and co-driver’s doors.

It might have been the vulnerability posed by these tanks that explains the large number of BTR-152’s abandoned in combat. This phenomenon was quite common during the Six Day War when captured or salvaged BTR-152’s resulted in the IDF having to maintain a whole fleet of these APCs.

Maybe the driver and crew, being aware of the BTR-152’s thin armor and the proximity of the fuel tanks, always found it sensible to vacate the vehicle one it was crippled. 

Since it was based on a proven truck chassis, the BTR-152 was adaptable for multiple roles. It could also tow stuff, like artillery or a ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft gun.


Here it is towing a ZU-23-2, a.k.a. everybody’s favorite cheap AA gun.

There were reportedly several BTR-152 variants. But thanks to the wonders of online research it has come to light that not only were there more different types of BTR-152’s—the Soviets classified them alphabetically! This makes it easier to identify them.


For the record, the ZiS and ZiL factories recognized 14 BTR-152 variants. Their combined production numbers reached 12, 421 units while the highest estimate for BTR-152’s built is a rounded figure of 15,000.

Here’s the breakdown.

BTR-152 – Original open top production variant armed with a Goryunov machine gun. (See above.)

BTR-152A – The first genuine an anti-aircraft variant although the type of gun used wasn’t specified.

BTR-152B/1 – A mechanical winch drum was installed on the bumper beneath the grille.

BTR-152C – A so-called “communication variant” with a large radio antennae near the windshield.

BTR-152D – A BTR-152V mounting a 14.5mm ZPU-2

BTR-152E – A BTR-152V1 with a ZPU-2.

BTR-152V1 – Infrared headlights installed for driver visibility along with crew compartment heater and a blower for windshield.

BTR-152V – The heavily upgraded variant produced by ZiL from 1956 onward. Had equidistant tires and axels, increased performance, and an enclosed passenger compartment.

BTR-152K – An armored roof with three hatches installed on a BTR-152V.

BTR-152 HS.404 – An Israeli variant mounted with an HS.404 anti-aircraft gun.

BTR-152B ZU-23-2 – A technical used by Arab militias in the Levant armed with twin 23mm anti-aircraft guns.

This is the BTR-152K converted into an ambulance.

Arab forces were among the BTR-152’s most prolific users. This modified BTR-152 captured by the IDF was converted into a tow truck/recovery vehicle by a Lebanese militia.

Here’s the rare and completely weird BTR-152S, a command vehicle. It looks like a house built on a truck.

WEAPONRY


This profile dubs the BTR-152 a “Gun Truck.” The term itself conjures visions of a mean-looking rig with bulging tires and serious firepower on its bed.

This is precisely where the BTR-152 excelled. The Soviets knew it and produced a dazzling selection of variants that carried almost all their large caliber machine guns in the 1950s. Ditto every other army that found a use for the BTR-152, be they Palestinian freedom fighters, the Vietnamese, the Israelis, and many others.

Although to call the BTR-152 “modular” won’t cut it, different types of weapons were fitted into its spacious passenger compartment. This converted the BTR-152 into a fighting vehicle that could participate in mechanized combat (the 1967 Six-Day War) or vicious street battles in the streets of Budapest or Beirut.

According to open sources the BTR-152’s first public outing was a Red Square military parade on November 7, 1951.

The photo above could be the very first one of the BTR-152 in its original open top configuration. It was a moderately spacious vehicle - those are five motorized infantrymen seated in three rows, totaling 15 diehard Commies - and was armed with a single machine gun.

 Meanwhile, in East Germany, the BTR-152 sat nine Germans and their machine gunner. That’s 10 people and still a lot more than the mech infantry squads crammed into APCs today.
The original BTR-152’s sole armament was the dependable 7.62x54mm Goryunov SG-43 mounted behind the enclosed cab. Although a leftover from World War Two, it still uses a powerful round and has an awesome rate of fire (500 rounds per minute), you couldn't really tell from the business end.

The Goryunov in action. Fun fact: The Chinese PLA actually converted it into a squad automatic weapon called the Type 67 by adding a pistol grip and a fixed wooden butt stock.
It didn’t take long before the BTR-152’s role shifted from an APC to a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun. As previously mentioned, the first iteration of this variant was the BTR-152A, whose main armament was the 14.5mm ZTPU-2/ZPU-2. Basically a pair of the notorious KPV anti-tank machine guns that would become the BTR-series’ perpetual main armament.

The 14.5x114mm KPV is no laughing matter. It’s still the world’s most powerful machine gun that can penetrate the armor of most APCs and military vehicles in use today. The KPV’s 1,000 meter range made it just as lethal against low-flying aircraft.



Other sources suggest the BTR-152A also had quad mounted 12.7x108mm DShK’s behind the Goryunov. Another variant, the BTR-152D, was allegedly the one that mounted the ZPU-2’s. When Russian sources are consulted this was revealed to be the BTR-152E. Confusing? Blame the conflicting uncorrected “facts” of neglected open sources.

Judging by the image above it appears the BTR-152A/D/E was developed into a complete system. Take note of the P-12 mobile radar array in the background. Did it serve to relay targeting information to the BTR-152? Or was the BTR deployed as a mobile escort to protect the P-12? What are those levers stuck on the wheels? (This was the external tire deflation system.)
The configuration of the BTR-152A/D/E is also interesting. The ZPU-2 is fixed behind the cab and seats a gunner. The remaining space at the rear of the vehicle is for the spotter…who stands gazing at the sky with his binoculars.


Here’s another grainy picture of the BTR-152 A/D from behind. It appears the ZPU-2 was installed on a retrofitted ring mount whose exact designation has been lost to history.

It appears eight (yes, EIGHT) people can fit in a BTR-152 even with a 14.5mm ZPU-2 installed. Wow!


The photo above is of a BTR-152A/D in Hungary. Come to think of it, the superb elevation of the ZPU-2 made it quite useful in suppressing hostiles taking pot shots from windows during urban combat. But a well-aimed Molotov cocktail can still completely crisp the BTR-152’s exposed interior.

The Soviets later developed an anti-aircraft BTR-152 that could mount a ZPU-4 in a different setup. Given how the armor of the BTR-152 enclosed the entire vehicle, the ZPU was reconfigured to have two KPV’s above the cab and two KPV’s behind them whose elevation could be raised. Peculiar but sensible. The same from another angle:

Since the BTR-152 was a vehicle of the 1950s whose production ceased soon after the Soviets never developed the platform to remain in step with advancing technology. It turns out it was the client states and customers left with stocks of the BTR-152 who kept installing larger and larger weapons.

It was the storm and stress of the Palestinian struggle against Israel that brought the BTR-152 to its lethal apogee. During the 1970s the PLO were able to mount a ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft gun on a BTR-152. The result was impressive in light of all the crappy Hilux technicals roving Third World war zones today.



Keep in mind the original BTR-152 weighed a little over 8 tons. The ZU-23-2 added about 950 kilograms. Throw in a driver, gunner, and loader and the BTR-152 is somewhat encumbered and rather top heavy. Ergo this modification hampered the vehicle’s mobility.

 
A BTR-152mounted with a ZU-23 in action. Notice the helmets of the soldiers—they’re Israelis!
The Israelis began seizing abandoned BTR-152’s as early as the 1956 Sinai War. No doubt aware of the vehicle’s potential (look at all that room at the back!) they soon figured out a 20mm Hispano Suiza .404 anti-aircraft gun could fit inside it. Israel’s first genuine SPAAG was born and served with distinction during the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War.


This rare low-quality and date unknown photo reveals a bizarre mating of a US-made M61 Vulcan anti-aircraft gun with a BTR-152. Was it effective?

The BTR-152’s peak was still a time where anti-tank or anti-aircraft missiles and automatic grenade launchers were absent from the battlefield. It would have been interesting to witness the additional variants developed if it stayed in production.

Egypt actually took the initiative in this regard. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery the BTR-152’s welded steel body was copied and mounted on a German 4x4 truck chassis and engine.

Spot the differences!
The vehicle was designated Walid and it begat several variants, including a short-lived 122mm multi-rocket launcher that saw extensive use in the Yom Kippur War. Several hundred Walid’s were manufactured and select numbers were sold to Iraq and Sudan as well as a few other African countries. The Egyptian Army still maintains a small fleet of its Walid APCs today.

PROTECTION

An armored vehicle’s absolute survival in brutal combat is never a sure thing.

When facing modern anti-tank weapons, RPGs, and autocannons, the long and short of it is the BTR-152’s “armor” is exactly that. Armor in quotation marks. Almost as if there weren’t any to speak of.

Consider that the BTR-152 was conceptualized in the fires of the Great Patriotic War, prototyped in the late 1940s, and built in the 1950s. This meant it was an extremely simple design, even crude, and the fineries that are taken for granted in today’s personnel carriers were non-existent.

Based on available open source specifications of the BTR-152’s armor, the protection levels were distributed in a familiar pattern. The cab and engine compartment were best protected, followed by the sides, and then almost nothing at the bottom.



The annotated photo above of a BTR-152K reveals its frontal armor around the cab was an impressive 15mm. This made it impervious to sustained small arms fire.

The sides and rear were enclosed in welded steel with a thickness of 9mm. A bit dicey, as NATO  7.62x51mm rounds, rifle grenades, and rockets like the M72 LAW could’ve blown right through it.

The armor on the steel roof was little better at 10mm. At least this could preserve any passengers from fragments and flying shrapnel. A direct hit from rooftop RPG-7 would have turned the BTR-152K into a fiery coffin.

The bottom, with its 300mm ground clearance, had just 4mm.

Examining available photos of wrecked BTR-152’s does reveal an interesting pattern. Few of these photos reveal any penetration from small arms. It appears that shaped charges and explosions were the biggest risks for BTR-152 crews.

Did somebody mention land mines?

The above wonderfully illustrates the BTR-152’s strengths and weaknesses. Knocked out by a land mine and ambushed by Rhodesian/South African troops (those skimpy khaki shorts are a dead giveaway), the passenger compartment is charred black and smoking. The tires have melted and the escaping crew were probably gunned down as they burned alive.

But the cab is 100% intact. Now imagine if a BTR-152 bore the brunt of an IED, i.e. a booby-trapped 155mm shell.  If fragments tore through the bottom and hit the gas tanks situated behind the driver’s seat the resulting inferno would incinerate everything inside.

Like this unfortunate BTR-152 armed with a single 14.5mm KPV. Notice how the armor is intact but the insides are charred.

Another glaring weakness of the BTR-152 was its open top. Until the BTR-152K arrived in limited numbers, the open top was a juicy target for all kinds of mischief. See this, circa Hungarian revolt:

Take note of the different set of tires it uses—these are indicative of the ZiS-151.



Throughout history people have been mesmerized by wreckage of any sort. Anyway, the warped side armor and the gaping hole suggest a shaped charge knocked out this BTR-152 and sent it careening into a wall where it burned to oblivion.




Though relatively intact, the mangled BTR-152 above suggests its fuel tank was detonated. It set fire to the engine and blew the separate panels that serve as a hood and the burning fuel pooling up underneath the truck then melted the tires. The remarkable part is the rest of the vehicle is intact.


MOBILITY


The BTR-152 originally ran on the 110 hp six cylinder ZiS-123 gasoline engine. This gave it a modest top speed of 65 km/h and a 650 km range.

From 1956 onwards it ran on the 107 hp six cylinder ZiL-137K in-line gasoline engine.



For lack of a credible photograph let this suffice as a glimpse into a BTR-152V’s engine. Note the radio antennae and the windshield wiper underneath the polycarbonate windscreen. Also note the thickness of the armour plating sheltering the engine and its associated supporting elements.

It’s easy to dismiss the BTR-152 as a primeval wheeled APC with questionable mobility on rough terrain. Like many Soviet war machines the BTR-152 was also accused of being unreliable. Hindsight proves the first criticism irrelevant and since no vehicle can run perfectly in all conditions it’s worth mentioning the BTR-152 managed to honorably soldier on like a Cossack's horse in the snow, in the tundra, in the desert, and in the tropics during its 65-year career.

The second barb - unreliability - is a perplexing one given how long the BTR-152 remained in distinguished service for more than half a century, starting in 1951 with the Soviet Red Army until the present with various militaries. Furthermore the Vietnamese army remains the BTR-152’s most eager user. They most certainly know it’s an old vehicle and modern alternatives can be imported from their suppliers, i.e. Russia, Israel, China, and South Korea, yet they’ve managed to keep it running and even upgraded it with a diesel engine as recently as 2012.

The model above is a Vietnamese BTR-152B—notice the mechanical winch beneath the grille as well as the addition of wing mirrors.

The BTR-152B above was photographed in Afghanistan where it functioned well despite freezing weather, thin air, abysmal roads, and the persistent threat of land mines. Count the soldiers in the photo and this reveals the BTR-152B also carried its full complement of 17. History sure rhymes because NATO forces would later take their own armored trucks, the heavier 15-ton MRAPs, and see these get bogged down in the Afghan highlands.

But the BTR-152 did have its shortcomings that manifested as early as 1953 and its designers spent years grappling with these. For a Soviet APC weighing between 8 to 10 tons (depending on the variant) it had low permeability when running through snow or sand.

The tires were also completely exposed, thereby risking getting punctured by multiple gunshots. This compelled the installation of a central tire inflation system. To further improve its mobility in the snow a separate externally mounted tire deflation system was devised.


The BTR-152 above is running in snow with each of its ZiS tires wrapped in snow chains.

To improve its mobility in the snow engineers installed a tire deflation system on the BTR-152. This is a rare upgrade and isn’t seen on Middle Eastern or Asian BTR-152’s.

But the BTR-152 did have a single glaring weakness that its Soviet designers never completely overcame. Its 6x6 chassis and the suspension and transmission that supported it wasn’t very capable running over obstacles.

The BTR-152’s wheels, two at the front and four at the back, used torsion bar suspension. But only the front had hydraulic shock absorbers mated with leaf springs. The four wheels at the back had leaf spring suspension too and no shock absorbers until 1957, a year after production was moved to the ZiL factory.

In the mid-1950s a test involving the upgraded ZiL BTR-152V and two earlier ZiS BTR-152B’s exposed this glaring weakness. The BTR-152V successfully crossed a 2.5 meter wide trench that was 1.5 meters deep. Its rivals, BTR-152B’s, struggled to accomplish the same.
 
A BTR-152V caught in a moment of weakness. If you can’t exactly stop it with bullets a wide enough ditch can ruin its day.
The original BTR-152’s turning radius of 12 to 14 meters was another problem for an APC that had to run on city streets—imagine how it manages tight corners and alleys—and the best efforts by ZiL engineers were able to reduce this by half. 

When BTR-152 production ceased in 1962 the consensus on the 6x6 chassis was clear. Its suspension system was inadequate for the rigors of cross-country movement against obstacles and even less effective when amphibious crossings are required.

This led to the remaining BTR-152’s “retirement” to rear echelon motor pools and security units once the BTR-60’s long reign commenced.


CURRENT STATUS


For a vehicle with questionable protection levels and mobility issues the BTR-152 proved an indomitable war machine. Based on archival footage and photographs it had a sterling combat record in the Middle East where it fought in almost every Arab-Israeli war from 1956 until the 1980s.

The BTR-152 had a very prominent role in the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) where it functioned as a poor man’s fighting vehicle for the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and other factions. The Rhodesian Bush War (1964-1979) was another theater where it saw extensive use by Soviet-backed forces.

At the same time the Soviets deployed the BTR-152 and its brethren in Afghanistan—a country littered with the charred hulks of wrecked BTR-series APCs.


Check out these Pashtun mujahideen posing in front of a wrecked BTR-152. Capturing the quad-DshK should have been quite a windfall.
The civil wars in Somalia and Yemen during the 1990s also revived it. In a strange twist the BTR-152 has resurfaced in the ongoing Syrian Civil War (2011-?). The irony is quite painful because the present conflict involves so many anti-tank weapons ranged against the aging second-generation Soviet-era armor deployed by the Syrian Arab Army.


The image above portrays the BTR-152 in its glory. Sure it can take abuse but don’t expect it to withstand direct hits from shaped projectiles and calibers above 14.5mm. Notice the gaping hole behind the driver’s seat? If it hit any lower it would’ve struck the fuel tank and kaboom!

This is the state of most BTR-152’s today. It appears old fighting vehicles never die. They just collect rust and turn ugly. Notice the T-10M next to the ISU-122 at the back?

Rare footage of an up-gunned BTR-152K fitted with a 14.5mm turret mounted on a custom roof. Take note of the viewing slits installed above the firing ports.

Except for grim war zones the BTR-152 is no longer fielded by any national army even though its proliferation reached 40 countries across Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Even when its production ceased in 1962, the BTR-152 was still deployed by the Red Army and the Warsaw Pact until the fall of the Berlin Wall. Based on open sources by 1993 BTR-152’s could still be found in the Russian Army’s motor pool.

It survived the Cold War. Imagine that.


Yet its legacy lives on in the most surprising way possible. In this day and age where roadside bombs loom large in the minds of strategists and commanders armored trucks are once again in vogue. There are a hundred different kinds of “tactical” and “mine-resistant” wheeled vehicles peddled by at least a dozen countries today.

They’re easy to produce—India’s state-owned factories had no trouble developing an indigenous MRAP based on a common truck chassis—and can take on different roles, from battle taxis to command vehicles to ambulances. Just like the BTR-152.

If one could imagine renewed production of the BTR-152 with all of today’s bells and whistles the resulting platform could be interesting. It won’t look pretty but it won’t be a pushover either. It’s also perfectly suited to carrying big guns.



But fear not. Because the spirit of the BTR-152 lives on…in the BPM-97*!


*You can bet its armor is "inadequate" too since destroyed “separatist” BPM’s have been spotted in Ukraine.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR



Miguel Miranda is a writer based in the Philippines. He harbors a smoldering passion for Cold War militaria that contrasts his shameful background as a recovering ex-journalist.

His other interests span writing for magazines, massage therapy, heavy metal, collecting old paperback novels, and admiring good industrial design.

Miguel is the founder of 21st Century Asian Arms Race (21AAR), a website about modern weapon systems and their impact on ongoing wars and crises across Eurasia.

The website was founded because Miguel got the impression that China was buying and reverse-engineering far too many advanced weapons for everybody else's comfort. Now he realizes a handful of powerful countries have made perpetual war a matter of business-as-usual and this is why the 21st century is going to be really something else. So he writes about this phenomenon instead.
  
Some of 21AAR’s content also takes on a historical and (gulp!) geopolitical perspective too, which means he’s got variety down pat.

In his spare time Miguel likes to be affectionate toward living things. He’s currently working on an erotic spy thriller.



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