The Ukraine National Guard will soon receive 74 new armoured personnel carriers, national defence industrial group Ukroboronprom announced on 2 April 2014.
The National Guard was formed by Ukraine in early March in response to the Crimean crisis and subsequent stand-off with Russia. It is reported to have a target strength of 60,000, comprised in large part of reservists, and is backed by a USD700 million rise in the country's defence budget.
According to the Ukroboronprom announcement, the National Guard will imminently receive 74 of a planned 100 vehicles built by the Kharkiv Morozov Machine Building Design Bureau (KMDB).
Of this total, 58 will be of KMDB's BTR-4 8x8 armoured personnel carrier (APC), in four variants: 41 BTR-4E APCs, 7 BTR-4K command post vehicles, 2 BTR-4KSh command and staff vehicles, and 8 BMM-4S recovery vehicles. However, only 42 of these are currently fully equipped and 'combat ready', Ukroboronprom noted (29 BTR-4E, 5 BTR-4K, 2 BTR-4KSh, and 6 BMM-4S).
The BTR-4 is Ukraine's newest and flagship 8x8 armoured vehicle, the first prototype of which was only unveiled in 2006. The 19-tonne vehicle features a three-man crew and can carry nine dismounts. It is typically fitted with a BM-7 Parus Overhead Weapon Station (OWS) armed with a 30 mm ZTM-1 autocannon, a 7.62 mm co-axial machine gun, and a bank of two anti-tank guided weapons (ATGWs).
Additionally the National Guard is set to receive 5 BTR-3E 8x8 APCs, 10 BTR-80 8x8 APCs, and 1 BTR-70DI APC. These vehicles are currently in stock or set to be refurbished by the Kyiv Armour Plant, the Zhytomyr Armour Plant, and the Mykolayiv Armour Plant.
"This technology will significantly enhance the combat capabilities of units of the National Guard of Ukraine", said Acting Director General of Ukroboronprom Yuri Tereshchenko.
Ukraine is keen to emphasise its efforts to create and bolster the National Guard with new equipment - which would otherwise effectively be a paper force.
However, the quantity, designations, and availability of the vehicles points to them being vehicles rejected and returned by export customers. To date, Ukraine is only known to have ordered 10 BTR-4 vehicles, although the type's only known export customer, Iraq, ordered 420 in 2009.
Iraq has, however, complained about the quality of the BTR-4s it has received, with issues reported to have been found with the first batch of vehicles' 30 mm ZTM-1 autocannons. These issues are understood to have eventually been resolved, with Iraq reportedly happy with the second batch of vehicles.
However, the third batch of vehicles, understood to include around 40 vehicles, was returned to Ukraine after cracks were reportedly found in the vehicle's hulls. Given the similarity in the number of BTR-4s in the returned Iraq shipment and the Ukraine delivery, it appears likely that the vehicles destined for the Ukraine National Guard come from this returned batch. The readiness of the vehicles for delivery also appears to confirm this, with it taking around two years to build an APC such as the BTR-4 from order to delivery. With the vehicle type only in mass production for Iraq it is highly likely that the vehicles either come from a future part of the Iraqi order, or - more likely - the returned shipment.
Additionally, the designations of BTR-4 variants Ukroboronprom refers to match the variants of those ordered by Iraq. In particular the usage of the BTR-4E designation, understood to be reserved for the export version of the BTR-4, would appear to confirm that these vehicles were originally destined for export.