The Kharkiv repair plant for armoured equipment has developed a new armoured infantry combat vehicle, the BMPT-55, as specialist defence web site has reported. It is based on the T-55 tank, cannibalizing key elements of the T-64 tank, according to BBC Monitoring service, referring to the Defense-Express.

      There is already considerable interest from foreign clients. The new combat vehicle`s technical features and low cost mean that it is bound to become a success, the report concludes.

      The following is the text of the article by Volodymyr Kopchak of the Centre for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies entitled "Ukrainian `modular` armoured hardware. T-55 next" published on the specialist defence web site Defense Express on 9 February.

      The state enterprise Kharkiv Armoured Equipment Repair Plant [AERP] has developed a project for a heavy infantry combat vehicle, the BMPT-55, based on the T-55 tank.

      This programme is the latest step by specialists at the Kharkiv plant to create base modules on the basis of tank bodies - following the creation of a working model of a combat vehicle based on the T-64 tank, it is now the turn of the 55.

      Israel has rich practical experience of creating and using Achzarit heavy infantry combat vehicles, created on the basis of T-55 tanks, in real combat conditions.

      What prompted the initiative of the Kharkiv designers and what are the technical specifications and prospects on the external market for the Ukrainian version?

      According to the director of the Kharkiv plant, Vadym Fedosov, a number of foreign countries are showing considerable interest in the creation of heavy infantry combat vehicles based on the T-55 tank. There are several elements influencing such a state of affairs. First, at one time the Soviet Union sold about 70,000 T-55 tanks abroad, and now they need in-depth modernization.

      The second, and most important element is the fact that the experience of recent military conflicts, primarily the recent Israeli-Lebanese confrontation, shows that combat vehicles with powerful armour are the most effective.

      Given the nature of combat actions with a high saturation of the battlefield with small arms weapons, including 12.7mm, 14.5mm calibre, and hand-held grenade launchers, light armoured equipment has a low life expectancy, which leads to considerable losses of personnel.

      Considering the conclusions quoted, Israel successfully mastered serial production of the Achzarit heavy infantry combat vehicle based on Soviet T-54 and T-55 tanks captured from Arab countries during armed conflicts. Israeli specialists intend the Achzarit to be used for joint combat operations with (Merkava) tanks and also for conducting special operations.

      In general the concept of the Kharkiv designers in creating the BMPT-55 consists of installing a 5TDF engine from a T-64 tank into the body of a T-55 tank (base module).

      This type of engine was designed and is produced in Ukraine (the Kharkiv Morozov Machine-building Design Bureau and the Malyshev Plant respectively). Capital repairs and modernization are provided by the Kharkiv AERP – the designer of the BMPT-55 concept.

      We should dwell in more detail on the power installation of the new heavy infantry combat vehicle. The 5TDF engine with essential control elements is located in the front section of the vehicle and has a 700 HP capacity, which corresponds to the demands of foreign clients who are displaying interest today in the Ukrainian version of the reconfiguration of the T-55.

      A fundamental aspect is the fact that it is planned to install the set longitudinally in relation to the vehicle`s axis with the aim of unifying the cooling system. With a perpendicular installation of the engine, the exhaust goes backwards, but when it is turned round 90 degrees, the exhaust goes sideways, similar to the Merkava tank.

      It is not possible to place the 5TDF engine perpendicularly (transversely) with a T-64 gear box in the body of a T-55 tank, since it (the body) is 180 mm narrower.

      It is planned to install precisely the T-64 tank gear box and the engine. By means of displacing the set, there is enough room for installation, and the interchange goes via hypoid transmission.

      It should be noted that apart from the technical advisability, installing a 5TDF engine on the BMPT-55 should facilitate progress of the Ukrainian tank engine on the external market.

      The 5TDF engine from the T-64 tank is virtually unknown abroad, since 64s were tanks of a strategic breakthrough and were not exported by the Soviet Union.

      It is also planned to replace the T-55 tank`s motor transmission mechanism and remove the forward and sub-turret metallic plates. It is planned to place new side, rear and forward armoured plates on the tank body, which, according to the designers` decision, will increase the overall height of the vehicle to 1,950 mm.

      Development of the side plates envisages the installation of elements of dynamic protection of the latest generation of Ukrainian design. The door for assault landing will be positioned at the rear.

      On the base version it is planned to mount a turret on the roof of the body with a 12.7 mm calibre machine-gun. Apart from that, depending on the client`s demands, various weapon systems can be installed.

      For additional equipment, it is intended to install a mobile system of electronic neutralization in the frequency range 20-2000 MHz for protection against radio controlled explosive devices and also other equipment.

      At the current state of the project, preparations are now in hand for trial tests of a working model of the BMPT-55 vehicle. It is planned to start these tests as early as February 2007 and, in the estimation of Kharkiv specialists, they will take about two months.

      After that, the technical specification will be formulated according to the results of the tests of the working model and a number of additional developments. In the estimation of the enterprise`s management, this may take from six months to a year.

      The implementation of such plans depends on funding, since at the present stage the development is being carried out in the form of an initiative on the part of the enterprise. It is planned to agree the developed technical specification with the Morozov Design Bureau.

      Going back to the project`s export potential, let us try to answer the question that poses itself: What is prompting the interest of potential buyers in the Ukrainian BMPT-55 project, given the existence of the ready made Israeli Achzarit that has proved itself in combat conditions?

      It is assumed that the BMPT-55 will have a number of advantages over its foreign analogue as a heavy infantry combat vehicle.

      First and foremost, it is considerably lower in cost. According to expert assessments, the Israeli Achzarit with the installation of an engine and motor transmission system of US manufacture will cost in the order of 600,000 dollars.

      In today`s conditions this is disadvantageous for Israel itself. According to the estimates of Kharkiv specialists, the cost of the BMPT-55 will not exceed 300,000 dollars.

      There are a number of advantages also connected with the vehicle`s technical arrangement. The Achzarit, as a result of the installation of the American engine, has a narrow passage in the landing section that makes landing complicated.

      The 5TDF engine is smaller in size. Because of this, the landing section is bigger.

(The engine and motor transmission mechanism of the T-64 tank were originally made minimized, which makes it possible to increase the volume of the landing section).

      This news was monitored by the Action Ukraine Monitoring Service for the Action Ukraine Report (AUR), Morgan Williams, SigmaBleyzer, Editor.