March 24, 2012: Ukraine has become a major exporter of armored vehicles. Ukraine offers locally made Russian designs that have better features and quality control than the Russian originals, as well as lower prices and after-sale support.
For example, in the last five years Thailand has become a major customer, ordering 121 BTR-3E1 8x8 wheeled armored vehicles and 200 T-84 tanks. Thailand got a few of each at first and increased its orders as satisfaction with the vehicles increased.
The BTR-3EI is a 17 ton vehicle armed with a 30mm autocannon, a 7.62mm machine-gun, and a 30mm grenade launcher. It also has smoke grenade launchers. There is a three man crew and space for six troops or passengers in the back. There are firing ports and bullet-proof windows in the passenger department. The BTR-3EI was developed 12 years ago. Thailand pays $1.3 million for each of the vehicles, which will be used for counter-terror operations in the south. The BTR-3EI is air conditioned and amphibious, but further changes were made to adapt the vehicle to operations in the tropics. Armored vehicles are needed because the Islamic terrorists down south are increasingly using roadside bombs and ambushes against army patrols. The terrorists don't use many RPGs, however, so the BTR-3 won't need slat armor added on.
The T-84 is a Ukrainian modification of the Russian T-80 (a failed design that Ukrainian engineers managed to salvage). The latest version, the T-84 Oplot-M, is a 46 ton vehicle with a "western" style turret (as opposed to a Russian style one). The T-84 relies on a lot of reactive armor and modern electronics for protection and combat capability. It's armed with a 125mm gun and two machine-guns. The three man crew uses an auto-loader.
Ukraine is still the source of a lot of illegal arms exports, even to terrorist groups. In the 1990s, over $30 billion of Soviet era arms and equipment went missing. Many Ukrainian officials and gunrunners got rich off this deal, and no one was prosecuted. Most, but not all, of these gunrunners are out of business, but bribable Ukrainian officials still look the other way when it comes to smuggling and counterfeiting. Legal Ukrainian arms exports are over $1 billion a year. It's unclear how large the illegal exports are.