KamAZ-7850 at Army-2018. Source: naukatechnika.com
MZKT for replacement
The situation when the strategically important technology for the production of wheeled platforms for the missile shield of Russia is in the hands of a foreign state can hardly be called outrageous.
In this case, the matter is not limited only to equipment for the Strategic Missile Forces. Air defense systems S-400, Buk-2M, heavy multiple launch rocket systems "Smerch", tactical missile systems "Iskander-M", "Bal" and "Bastion" depend on the supply of equipment from the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant (MZKT).
Observing the turbulent situation in the Republic of Belarus, there is every reason to believe that the supply of strategically important equipment may stop. The entire absurdity of the situation was well understood in the military department from the very collapse of the Soviet Union. However, it was only by the end of the 2000s that they were able to formulate a tactical and technical task for a heavy wheeled platform and find funding.
Requirements for the future machine, designed to replace the products of the MZKT, were formulated in the specialized 21st research institute of the Ministry of Defense in 2007. Who should be entrusted with the development of technology so important for the homeland?
Six-axle KamAZ-78509. Source: glav.su
Common sense suggests that it was more logical to suggest this to the recent backup of the Minsk Automobile Plant KZKT (Kurgan Wheel Tractor Plant named after D.M. Karbyshev). But at the time of the announcement of the competition, the enterprise, unique for Russia, was already on its way. And in 2011, it ingloriously closed due to bankruptcy.
Specialists in the field of domestic military automotive equipment will probably also name the Bryansk Automobile Plant (BAZ), which was redesigned back in Soviet times to assemble multi-axle ZILs.
The company also has experienced specialists, and the corresponding production base is ready. However, BAZ for some unknown reason was not among the winners of the competition.
It is believed that the Bryansk enterprise was shallowed due to the status of private property - at the end of the 2000s, the state did not have shares in this plant.
Looking ahead, we would like to point out that since 2015 BAZ has become part of the Almaz-Antey holding. And now he is busy with the supply of multi-axle chassis for the Vityaz S-350 complex. There is a hope that at least the domestic air defense system will get rid of import dependence.
The KamAZ-7850 missile carrier demonstrates the capabilities of all-wheel control. Source: bastion-karpenko.ru
But let's return to the 2008 tender for research work under the code "Platform", in which ... KamAZ won.
The automobile plant in Naberezhnye Chelny has never done anything like that and suddenly became the lead developer of the most complex heavy multi-wheeled vehicles. With all due respect to the well-deserved enterprise, KamAZ has never developed a car from scratch.
A series of trucks that entered the conveyor in the 70s were developed in Moscow at ZiL along with diesel engines. All the main design activities of the plant workers were to adapt third-party units into a single whole. Often it worked very well.
This was the case with the famous Dakar team “KamAZ-Master”. And in the case of armored cars "Typhoon", "Tornado" and "Shot". There is nothing criminal in this. And this practice has proven itself well in civilian technology.
But when the state demands from scratch to create the most complex equipment for which there are no units in Russia at all, then the risks for the winner of the competition are too high.
The birth of "SuperKamAZ"
What is the main indicator of a stalled defense project in Russia?
They do not talk about him in the well-known program "Military acceptance". From the Zvezda TV channel, we learned in every detail about the remarkable advantages of the Armata platform. But there was not a word about problems with the engine, transmission and sighting complex. This is the specificity of the "Military Acceptance" propaganda program.
But there is not a single popular TV show about the machines of the "Platform" project, although the first prototypes appeared back in 2017. At Army-2018, a huge sixteen-wheeled rocket carrier KamAZ-7850 surprised the audience with its ability to move like a crab and turn around literally on a patch. During the show, it was even announced that the Yars strategic missiles would now be based exclusively on domestically produced chassis.
In the future, the machines that received the name "Platform-0" during the design work did not appear, and at the Victory Parade neither in 2019 nor in the anniversary year 2020. We only modestly rode at the parade in our native Naberezhnye Chelny in 2017.
The reason for this modesty is very simple - the developers have nothing to brag about yet.
What went wrong?
The initial concept of "Platform-O". Source: bastion-karpenko.ru
In 2008-2009, the Ministry of Defense set KamAZ the difficult task of creating a family of heavy wheeled platforms 8x8, 12x12 and 16x16 with a carrying capacity of 25, 50 and 85 tons. In addition, the plans were 8x8 truck and ballast tractors capable of towing equipment weighing up to 165 tons, as well as aircraft at airfields up to 400 tons.
The idea is great. And in case of success, "SuperKamAZ" would forever save Russia from Minsk dependence, and even enter foreign markets with unique equipment.
It is not clear only why create internal competition with domestic BAZs? In particular, with tractors BAZ-69099 (12x12) BAZ-690902 (8x8)? Another repetition of an error with off-road KamAZ and Urals similar in performance characteristics?
A prototype of the 15Т528 transport and installation unit on a 4-axle chassis of the Platform-O family. Source: gruzovikpress.ru
Modular unified electric transmission and suspension units. Source: gruzovikpress.ru
Given the lack of developments in heavy multi-axle wheeled chassis, in the 21st Research Institute of the Ministry of Defense, KAMAZ employees were offered to create machines of the sixth generation at once. (By the way, even the MZKT is only thinking about the fifth generation. The latest missile carriers MZKT-79221 are only for the fourth).
In this regard, the financing of the "Platforms" theme was very generous - according to some information, the lion's share of the money intended for the development of military vehicles for many years to come was spent on the project.
The growing lag of the multipurpose tactical trucks of the Russian army (KamAZ and Ural) from the world leaders is largely due to the generous funding of Platform-O.
In total, the costs for the development and production of cars of a promising family are estimated at 10 billion rubles (source - the publication "Military Industrial Courier", author - Alexander Privalov, editor-in-chief of the "Automobile catalog").
At the same time, there is not even a plant for assembly of such large-scale machines - the production areas of KamAZ and subsidiary Remdiesel are not suitable.
KamAZ-78509 with a wheel arrangement of 12x12. Source: vpk.name
A small lyrical digression.
In 2015, the possibility of buying a Belarusian MZKT from the government was being considered. Then Lukashenka, in his characteristic manner, said to the camera:
"If three billion dollars are deposited, we will consider the issue."
Then money was not found in Russia. Obviously, they were busy transferring BAZ under the wing of Almaz-Antey.
The amount demanded by Minsk seemed excessively overestimated, and many in the military-industrial complex considered that Russia would independently cope with such tasks for $ 2 billion.
Five years have passed. But there are no signs of successful development work yet.
Electric ship of the sixth generation
Something new was needed to match the mythical sixth generation of wheeled tractors.
“Platform-O” has chosen the concept of a heavy electric ship. At the same time, nowhere in the world has such a technique been built on the basis of such solutions. Among civilian structures, it comes to mind, first of all, mining dump trucks from the Belarusian Zhodino.
Kamaz supercars were to be equipped with a diesel engine, a generator and hub motors. In theory, this is very beneficial - there is no need for a torque converter, gearbox, transfer cases, differentials and propeller shafts. As a result, the transmission is noticeably lighter, freeing up space in the structure for additional payload.
Electric motors reach their maximum power almost instantly when voltage is applied - this is an important bonus for all electric ships. Implementation of design and production modularity has become important for Platform-O. In theory, it is possible to assemble both a two-axle all-terrain vehicle and a 20-axle centipede from motor wheels. The main thing is to choose the appropriate motor and generator.
One of the reasons for the transition to electric transmission was the absence in Russia of self-produced torque converters - the competence in the development of such technology seems to have been lost forever. The military can only buy (licensed and not so) copies of American Allison in China.
Individual motors in the "Platform-O" hubs allow you to control the rotation of each of the 16 wheels of the chassis, selectively brake or accelerate. The ability to turn all motor wheels in phase and in antiphase with the rest also looks revolutionary - this is the so-called all-wheel steering.
Giants have the ability to move like a crab, diagonally, and also turn around in cramped conditions. Similar tricks can be demonstrated by the Liebherr G-LTM four-axle army mobile crane, which was commissioned in the Bundeswehr in 2017.
A number of authors point to the ability of the chassis to brake according to the recuperation principle, that is, to generate electricity when decelerating.
This is not the most important function for a missile carrier, requiring the installation of complex motor-generators in the hubs, as well as the installation of lithium-ion batteries or capacitors to store the energy of regenerative braking. Firstly, such batteries are not produced in Russia. And secondly, these are fire-hazardous units capable of flaring up from one enemy bullet. It will be very difficult to extinguish burning lithium-ion batteries.
Rocket carrier with American heart
Among the requirements for the promising "Platform-O" open for wide publication were the average speed on the ground - 40 km / h, on the highway - 60 km / h (for MZKT-79221 - 40 km / h), as well as the greatest angle of the obstacle to be overcome - 30 degrees (versus 10 for the Minsk rocket carriers).
The power reserve of the novelty was supposed to be at least 1200 km and the total resource of work before overhaul was 200 thousand km. The depth of the ford to be overcome is at least 1,8 m. It was assumed that a wheeled vehicle with an independent suspension could change the ground clearance within 400 mm.
The electric transmission is very good for heavy civil engineering. For military needs, a lot of technological obstacles will have to be overcome.
High voltage transmission electrics require the most careful and difficult insulation to overcome the fords. Perhaps that is why the first copies of the machines of the "Platform-O" family are ready only for 1,3 meters of water.
Changes in temperature and operation in an Arctic climate will inevitably lead to the formation of condensation at the electric transmission units with all the ensuing consequences. Resistance to explosions on mines in electric transmission is nowhere worse - a blast wave and a fragmentation field interrupts high-voltage wires (up to 900 V), which threatens to stop the entire rocket carrier.
Tests of motor-wheels showed low survivability during shelling, even with small arms weapons.
Multifunctional platform and semitrailer tractor of the Platform-O family. Source: bastion-karpenko.ru
By 2013 (after five years of design work), several experimental vehicles were provided - the KamAZ-7850 (16x16) rocket carrier, the KamAZ-78509 (12x12) chassis, the KAMAZ-78504 (8x8) truck tractor and the KAMAZ-78508 (8x8) ballast tractor.
The military department did not accept this technique. And the KAMAZ employees had to recycle prototypes for another 4–5 years.
The result is a paradoxical family of cars.
Installed an American Detroit Diesel engine with a capacity of 918 liters. from. - to implement the required technical characteristics in Russia, a suitable diesel engine was not found.
Perhaps, 15% of KamAZ shares owned by the German concern Daimler AG, which, in turn, owns Detroit Diesel, a state-owned company, played a role.
As an option, the installation of the German MTU R1238K40-1822 motor is considered.
NATO suppliers - partners of the domestic Strategic Missile Forces?
According to Alexander Privalov from the "Automobile catalog", an exotic valve-inductor machine with an independent excitation winding was chosen as the main generator. The result was a very noisy setup (up to 100 decibels), which under no circumstances would be consistent with the TTZ.
There was also a problem with the motor-wheels.
The military from the 21st Research Institute demanded that the mass should not exceed 60 kg. But in the end, KAMAZ employees provided 300-kilogram prototypes.
In total, an extra four tons of mass are collected for the 16-wheeled KamAZ-7850. However, on prototypes of missile carriers, the motors in the hubs turned out to be even heavier than 300 kg. And the missile carrier itself, in running order, pulls 40 tons against the planned 20 tons!
Obviously, with such an advantage, there can be no talk of any transportation of the Yars.
A similar Belarusian MZKT-16 was compared with the younger brother of the 7850-wheeled KamAZ-78509, the six-axle KamAZ-79291. The results were discouraged - the mass of the electric ship turned out to be 10 tons higher, and the carrying capacity was less by the same amount. In theory, again, everything should have been the other way around.
Since 2019, the Russian army has been in service (more precisely, in trial operation) now with 5 Kamaz-7950 missile carriers. It is not planned to buy more, since the cars are complex, unreliable, equipped with foreign units and extremely expensive. Vehicles with Yars missiles do not go on combat duty, but play an insignificant role as auxiliary chassis.
Two years ago, KamAZ decided to restart the stillborn "Platform-O". And in cooperation with other automakers (in particular, with BAZ), finally, create a workable Russian missile carrier.
According to some reports, it was decided to abandon the motor-wheels in favor of the motor-axle scheme, in which it is much easier to isolate the electric motors from moisture, fragments and bullets.
The new machines are planned to be put into production no earlier than by the middle of this decade.
Given the volume of work, it is hard to believe in this.