Murphy's Law: Too Good Is Not Enough

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January 6, 2020: Why have Italian LMV (Light Multipurpose Vehicles) M65 "Lynx" 4x4 armored vehicles been seen in Syria used by Russian and Syrian troops? This has been the case since 2016 and several times Italy was accused of violating the 2014 sanctions against providing Russia with military equipment. Several investigations were conducted and it was discovered that Italy did not violate the sanctions, it simply fulfilled one phase of the LMV sale to Russia before the 2014 sanctions took effect.

The Russian LMV saga began in 2012 when, after nearly two years of negotiations, vigorous internal dissent within Russia and several successful tests, Russia finally signed a purchase order for 60, not the 2,500 originally discussed, Italian LMV armored vehicles. Kits were sent so that the vehicles could be assembled in Russia. The number of component kits was later increased to 264 before the 2014 sanctions took effect. Yet Russia reported that they had assembled 358 LMVs. There is no way to confirm the Russian claims, which do not match export sales records the LMV manufacturer and Italian government maintained.

In Russia, the LMV deal was opposed by Russian vehicle manufacturers and Russian generals who resented depending on foreign armored vehicles when Russia had long designed and built similar equipment. The main reason given, in Russia, for the LMV deal was to improve Russian production techniques. This made sense because the LMV was a superior light armored 4x4 wheeled vehicle, not just because of good design but also because of high quality manufacturing methods. This was demonstrated in Syria where Russian and Syrian troops preferred the LMV to similar Russian made vehicles because the LMV offered better protection and was easier and more comfortable to operate.

The main Russian competitor for the LMV is the Tigr (Tiger). It is based on a hummer-like vehicle, the Gaz-2330. Like the American M1114 (armored hummer), the Tigr weighs five tons, carries a crew of four, and a load of about a ton (or an additional five men, if configured for that). The Tigr costs $88,000 each, compared to $145,000 for the M1114, and was offered for export as a less expensive alternative to the M1114. But the M65 provides much better protection than the Tigr or M1114 and many Russian officials would like to see Russian vehicle manufacturers get a close look at the LMV. That apparently led to some improvements in the Tigr.

The seven ton, 4x4 M65 LMV is another design influenced by the success of American armored hummers and MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan. Like the hummer, the LMV normally carries five people. The LMV can carry a RWS (Remote Weapons Station) on the roof and there are variants with the rear of the vehicle used for cargo or equipment. The LMV is similar in size to the hummer (5.1 meters/15.8 feet long and 2.35 meters/7.3 feet wide) but is actually a few percent larger and weighs about a third more. Like the hummers built with armor (rather than having it added), the LMV provides excellent protection from bullets and roadside bombs. The V-shaped hull of the LMV improves protection from explosions beneath the vehicle. The LMV costs nearly half a million dollars each, when tricked out with all the accessories and is a major improvement over the older vehicles is was meant to replace.

So far the Italian manufacturer, Iveco, has sold about 4,000 LMVs to Spain, Italy, Belgium, Britain, Brazil and Norway. The Italian army ordered 1,210 LMVs and some were used in Afghanistan, where they performed well. Russia was going to buy, or build under license, over 2,000 LMVs but the 2014 economic sanctions placed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine halted that. The Russians originally wanted to build most of their LMVs locally under license and thus obtain a lot of practical knowledge in the use of Western manufacturing techniques. Even before the 2014 sanctions, the collapse of oil prices after 2013 put that idea on hold.

By 2014 Russia was in the process of buying warships and other Western military equipment using licensed production deals. Those were halted abruptly in 2014 and Russian manufacturing techniques still are in need of updating.

 


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