Ukraine makes exactly one oddball Kevlar-E fighting vehicle

    WORLD  29 March 2023 - 19:08

    The Ukrainian army’s weirdest infantry fighting vehicle shouldn’t have survived this long. That it has survived might be an argument for the Ukrainians to make more copies.

    The sole Kevlar-E IFV was just a prototype for a class of new armored vehicle—for export, primarily—when Russia widened its war on Ukraine in February 2022, Forbes reports.

    It was an emergency. Kharkiv-based vehicle-maker UkrInnMash handed the approximately 20-ton Kevlar-E to the army—and it promptly rolled into action in defense of its home city, which lies just 25 miles from the border with Russia.

    A year later, Kharkiv still is free, and the Kevlar-E—remarkably—still is in action. A photo that circulated online on Feb. 3 depicts the unique IFV in what could be the combat zone outside Kharkiv.

    The eyebrow-raising tale of the one-off Kevlar-E is the umpteenth example of the Ukrainians’ wartime ingenuity. Or desperation, if you’re being less charitable. The Kevlar-E isn’t the only one of Ukraine’s lonely prototype vehicles to go to war.

    The Kevlar-E is an oddity. It’s the hull of an early-1970s-vintage 2S1 self-propelled howitzer with the turret and 30-millimeter gun of a BMP-3 from the late 1980s. But with a few enhancements. In particular, thicker armor offering protection from heavy machine guns.

    The idea, when UkrInnMash designed the Kevlar-E around 2017, was to cobble together an infantry fighting vehicle that the firm could pitch as a replacement for some of the many thousands of 1960s-vintage BMP-1 IFVs that were, and still are, in service all over the world. Including in Ukraine.

    The BMP-1 is obsolete. Its low-pressure 73-millimeter gun is all but useless in a hard fight. Its armor is thin. From the right angle, even a determined machine-gunner can take out a BMP-1.

    The BMP-1’s main virtue, 60 years after it entered service, is that it’s abundant and cheap. So the Kevlar-E also had to be cheap. That meant making it with existing components from Ukrainian companies. “A new platform would take a substantial amount of money to develop from scratch,” UkrInnMash representative Andrii Hryshchenko said.

    Better gun. Thicker armor. Besides price, those were UkrInnMash’s criteria in developing the Kevlar-E. Adding a Shturm turret to a beefier 2S1 hull satisfied all the criteria, but also produced an ungainly-look IFV with at least one important flaw. It has space for just six infantry in addition to the three crew. Compare that with the eight infantry a BMP-1 carries, and the seven a BMP-3 can fit.

    But the reduction in troop capacity is the compromise the Ukrainians made in order to develop, from existing components, a new IFV with a good balance of firepower and protection—and one that cash-strapped customers should be able to afford.

    The capacity compromise hasn’t yet proved fatal for the sole Kevlar-E, which survived 12 months of war and apparently still is in working condition. Whether Ukraine reads the protoype’s success in combat as a sign it should build more Kevlar-Es is an open question.

    There’s at least one good argument for making more. The Ukrainian army owns hundreds of old 2S1 howitzers whose guns are wearing and whose 122-millimeter ammunition is in short supply.

    As newer Western-made howitzers gradually replace the aging 2S1s, UkrInnMash could pop off the 2S1s’ turrets, gut their interiors and install Shturms and infantry seats. Voila—instant IFVs to replace a few of the many death-trap BMP-1s that the Ukrainian army at present has no choice but to continue using.

    Caliber.Az

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