The Ukrainian conflict has resulted in significant numbers of improvised armoured fighting vehicles (AFV) being employed by both Ukrainian security forces and pro-Russian separatist forces. Generally, improvised combat vehicles are manufactured from poor quality components, built by amateurs with no engineering training, under terrible conditions and equipped with ill-fitted weapons and armour. This particular vehicle appears different, designed by Nikolai Stepanov, the former Chief Engineer and Head Designer for the Malyshev Tank Factory, and later Chief Designer for the Kharkiv Tank Repair Plant.
Built by the Azov Regiment’s engineering team in Kiev, the vehicle – dubbed Azovets (Азовець) – appears to be based around an up-armoured, heavily modified T-64 tank chassis. While referred to informally as a ‘tank’, the 40 ton Azovets appears similar to the Russian BMPT, with its design and armaments suggesting it will be used in a supporting role to engage both infantry and enemy AFVs, especially in urban environments. Stepanov is especially confident of the Azovets’ urban fighting capability, claiming that it would have the advantage against the modern Russian Armata tank in such a scenario.
Along with the heavy armour plating seen in pictures, the Azovets will apparently also to be fitted with explosive reactive armour (ERA). Stepanov has said that the vehicle will have all of its triplex observation devices removed, and replaced with digital cameras to provide its four man crew with 360 degrees of observation. It will also include additional decoy cameras to confuse enemy snipers targeting the cameras. The Azovets is to be armed with two twin-barrelled GSh-23 23 x 115 mm autocannon, four “mortar-type guns”, an undisclosed number of heavy machine guns (HMG) and two Ukrainian Stugna anti-tank guided weapons (ATGW). The 100 mm Stugna ATGW has a maximum range of 5000 metres, uses semi-automatic command line-of-sight (SACLOS) guidance, and has tandem charge warhead said to be capable of penetrating “not less than” 550 mm of rolled homogeneous armour (RHA) behind explosive reactive armour (ERA).
The Azov Regiment’s engineers are reportedly working on many other vehicles, including a self-propelled artillery system dubbed Veterok (Ветерок) – a PTS amphibious transport, fitted with a battery’s worth of 120 mm mortars, and capable of carrying 240 rounds of 120 mm ammunition. The Azov Regiment’s engineers claim that it will be ideal for engaging such artillery systems as the 9K58 Smerch, 9K51 Grad, and 9K57 Uragan. The use of improvised vehicles in this conflict is likely indicative of the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ massive losses, and shortage of combat vehicles of all types.