Russian ‘bears’ enter the Armed Forces

The new Medved armored vehicle.

The new Medved armored vehicle.

Vitaly V. Kuzmin
The new-generation Medved' armoured vehicle, named after the animal synonymous with Russia, is the result of years of effort to develop a more powerful and flexible APC. It features innovative new protection from firearms, and holds up to eight crew members

Moscow hosted the Army 2016 International Military Forum in September 2016. The Forum is one of the world's largest exhibitions of armaments. Besides traditional tanks and combat aircraft, a new type of armed vehicle dazzled the guests: Russia’s next-generation Medved' armoured personnel carrier (medved' means “bear” in Russian – RIR).

Located in the Voenno-Promyshlennaya Kompaniya stand, the vehicle’s name is no accident. Almost six metres long and two metres wide, the silhouette of the armoured vehicle can be easily recognized. The APC’s height is almost three times that of an ordinary light car. Its mass (12 tons) can be compared to that of a light tank. The Medved' can hold a crew of up to eight people, excluding the driver. They will be protected by the vehicle’s highly durable armour.

Emphasis on the armour

The builders of the “Bear” paid special attention to the armour, whose design features a significant contemporary design: A small air cushion between two layers of metal, which considerably reduces the force of armour-piercing bullets. There is scope to further strengthen the armour in future. Consequently, the Medved' today is one of the most strong, bullet-proof armoured vehicles in the world. Even the glass and the door slots remained intact during testing.

The new Medved armored vehicle / Source: Vitaly V. KuzminThe new Medved armored vehicle / Source: Vitaly V. Kuzmin

The Medved’s armaments make it practically a universal armoured vehicle. It has no stationary weapons. Depending on the situation, various types of weapons can be mounted on its moveable platform, from mixed-calibre machine guns to anti-tank guided missiles. What we have in the end is not a piece of hardware designed purely for the army or the police, but a vehicle that can be used in almost all combat conditions.

Lessons from the Chechen War

The necessity of building a new-generation armoured vehicle became apparent after battles in hot spots, particularly in the North Caucasus, revealed that the old armoured vehicles were easily destroyed by mines and lacked any powerful weaponry.

As a result, tanks had to perform the functions of the APCs in those battles, something that is both impractical and risky. The unsuccessful use of tanks during the assault on Grozny in 1994, among other things, proved that Russia needed to develop a new armoured vehicle.

The new Medved armored vehicle / Source: Vitaly V. KuzminThe new Medved armored vehicle / Source: Vitaly V. Kuzmin

When the Medved' was being built, its developers focused on how to protect it from mines. The special shape of the bottom, high ground clearance and additional armour help the vehicle withstand explosions even from the most powerful mines.

During tests at the Defence Ministry firing range a bomb with seven kilograms (15 lbs) of TNT was exploded under the vehicle's wheels. The Medved’s structure withstood the explosion and would have even guaranteed the crew's survival, if they had been inside.

But that is not all. The Medved' is equipped with special instruments that can incapacitate radio-controlled explosive devices, as well as with a smoke-screen system. This makes the armoured carrier a type of module that can protect all nearby vehicles.

Prospects for use

However, the Medved’s armour, with all its merits, is still not durable enough to participate in full-fledged combat. Protection from a mine or armour-piercing bullets does not guarantee protection from a grenade launcher. Additional armour-plating is necessary to overcome this defect. The Arzamassky Machine Construction Factory, which manufactures the Medved', is currently working on this challenge.

While these weaknesses have the potential to prevent the use of Medved’ on the battlefield, they will not impede the use of the vehicle in other spheres. According to the Russian daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Russia's Interior Ministry and the recently formed National Guard are showing particular interest in the armoured vehicle.

Anti-terrorist operations may one day require precisely the technical characteristics of the Medved’. Additionally, export opportunities are also opening up. During the Army 2016 Exhibition, defence ministry delegations from various countries, including Argentina and Niger, have showed an interest in the new Russian “bear”. 

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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