Ukraine Has Thousands Of Old Armored Tractors. It Just Turned Six Of Them Into Fighting Vehicles.


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The Ukrainian armed forces went to war with around 1,200 infantry fighting vehicles. In 16 months of hard fighting they’ve lost nearly 600 of them. Kyiv’s foreign allies have pledged to the war effort around 800 fighting vehicles—meaning, in theory, the Ukrainians have 200 more IFVs than they started with.

But Kyiv has stood up dozens of new brigades since Russia widened its war on Ukraine in February 2022. The Ukrainian defense ministry at the same time has bulked up its existing brigades, swapping out lighter vehicles for heavier ones.

All that is to say, the Ukrainians are desperately short of IFVs in a war where these vehicles—which transport, protect and provide fire-support to infantry—arguably are more important than tanks are.

What the Ukrainians do have in abundance are MT-LB diesel-fueled armored tractors. So it should come as no surprise that Ukrainian industry has developed a version of the eight-person tractor that can function as a fighting vehicle. Six of these new up-armored, up-gunned MT-LBs appeared in a video that circulated online on Sunday.

The MT-LB is an expedient—an imperfect solution to an urgent problem. Many of the best IFVs—the American M-2, German Marder and Swedish CV-90—are in the 30-ton weight class. Even with the addition of bolt-on armor, the 13-ton MT-LB is light, and lightly protected.

But the Ukrainians have added to their MT-LB IFVs an impressive remote-controlled turret packing a 14.5-millimeter heavy machine gun and what appears to be an array of day-night optics. The MT-LB fighting vehicle might not be capable of taking a beating, but it can give one.

The appearance of the MT-LB IFV adds yet another branch to the fast-expanding taxonomy of improvised armored vehicles of the Russia-Ukraine war. And unlike the MT-LBs the Russians have saddled with obsolete naval guns, the Ukrainian MT-LB mod appears to be balanced and integrated. Much like the MT-LB-12 mobile-gun mod that preceded it.

It’s unclear which enterprise built those six MT-LB IFVs—and how many more it might produce in the future.

There’s no shortage of MT-LB hulls. The vehicle actually originated in Ukraine—at the Kharkiv Tractor Plant in Kharkiv, 25 miles from the Russian border in northeastern Ukraine. The tractor factory produced tens of thousands of MT-LBs between the 1970s and early 2000s.

The Russians targeted the factory in the heady early weeks of the wider war. A major fire in late February reportedly destroyed the plant, compelling its owners to salvage what equipment they could and relocate to Romania.

So it’s possible Ukraine no longer can build new MT-LBs. It might not need to do so, however. As recently as 2017, Ukraine had 2,000 or more old MT-LBs in storage. Enough for a host of mods including the new 13-ton fighting vehicle.

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Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden is a news writer for LinkDaddy News. She writes health, sport, tech, and more. Some of her favorite topics include the latest trends in fitness and wellness, the best ways to use technology to improve your life, and the latest developments in medical research.

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