26 Agustus 2007
Ukraina's BTR-3E (photo : Military Today)
Ukraine has won a contract to supply 96 armored personnel carriers for $117 million to arm Thailand’s military forces, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych announced last week.
While the contract has not yet been signed, the winning bid represents one of the single biggest readymade arms export contracts landed during the last several years by Ukraine, a country that ranks as one of the top 10 arms exporters in the world.
Ukraine outbid eight countries in a pitch, including Russia, China and Canada. The contract is expected to be signed in September.
Thai Defense Minister Boonrawd Somtas said last week that his country’s military opted for the Ukrainian APCs, called BTR-3E1s, because they were the cheapest of the nine bidders. Ukraine has supplied such APCs to seven different countries in the past decade.
The APCs will be supplied through Ukrspetsexport, a state company specializing in the export and import of military products and services.
Mikhail Samus, an analyst at Kyiv-based arms and military consultancy Defense Express, said the BTR-3E1 design is essentially a totally new armored personnel carrier based on a Soviet design, the BTR-80. He noted that though the price for the vehicle was a crucial factor in winning the pitch, the capabilities of the modernized APCs offered by Ukraine was also a deciding factor in the tender.
“It is rather difficult to find a similar machine produced by any other countries,” he said.
The new armored personnel carrier will be made completely out of components manufactured in Ukraine. Earlier versions used parts from the US and European countries, including engines, transmissions and tires. About 20 Ukrainian factories will take part in the production of the 96 BTR-3E1s to be sold to Thailand’s military. The final assembly will be carried out at the Kharkiv-based Malyshev Tank Factory, reputed to have churned out more tanks than any other factory in the world in Soviet days.
Samus said the contract “is very important” for Ukraine, as it will help generate badly needed revenue for all involved factories and, in turn, help fuel the development of new technologies.
Plans envision that Ukraine’s military would order yet another modified APC called the BTR-4 in coming years, Samus added.
Ukraine, which inherited a vast military industrial complex from the Soviet Union, has raised $650-700 million annually from arms export contracts in recent years. The country’s main clients have included former Soviet Union republics, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and African countries.
For comparison, the US leads the ranks of the largest arms exporting countries, selling about $20 billion in arms annually. The UK, France and Russia are not far behind, according to Samus.
Samus estimated that it would take about two years for Ukraine to produce the 96s APCs earmarked for Thailand.
The largest earlier contract Ukraine landed since independence, involving the sale of 300 T-80UD tanks to Pakistan, was fulfilled in 1996-1999.