Pneumatic Airways for the Russian Army: Responding to Arctic Challenges

Pneumatic drive Krechet Z320-91. Not in the army yet. One of the reasons is the HYUNDAI D4BH turbodiesel. Source: tehnoimpuls.com

“Arctic” from MSTU

In the previous part of the story about cars on ultra-low pressure wheels, it was about post-war developments in the USSR and the USA. The second final part of the material will be devoted to modern domestic developments, most of which can be used in the army.


KamAZ-Arctic. Source: wroom.ru

One of the most successful Russian developers of equipment for the conditions of the Far North is the Student Design Bureau, founded in 2004 and eventually transformed into a modern scientific and technical center. Works STC at the department SM-10 “Wheeled vehicles” MGTU im. N.E. Bauman.

The topic of cars with ultra-low pressure wheels has been dealt with at MSTU for a long time – since 2002. The main standard size for such equipment from “Bauman” became tires with a diameter of more than 1.7 m and a width of 0.75-1.0 m. The portfolio of the “company” includes all-terrain vehicles “KamAZ-Polarnik” designed for operation at temperatures down to -40 ºC and Ural-Polyarnik.


Ural-Polyarnik comes from SM-10 MGTU. Source: autowp.ru

The vehicles were originally developed for civilian needs and were not prepared for military service.

At the same time, SM-10 specialists are actively working with defense products. On the official website of the department, you can find references to participation in the development of a special wheeled chassis “Platform-O”, an assault armored vehicle “Ansyr” and an armored vehicle BTR-VV. In the application to the conditions of the Arctic, the latest development of the department is the KamAZ-Arctic project.

The machine on low-pressure wheels (pneumatic tubes) was created by order of the Moscow State Machine-Building University (MAMI). And from the very beginning it was presented with two standard sizes of tires – “oversized” and “oversized”. There are also two variants of execution – 6×6 and 8×8. The work on the machines was organized jointly with the KAMAZ Scientific and Technical Center.

The official goal of the Arctic project is the creation of a high-tech production of environmentally friendly all-terrain vehicles on low-pressure tires for the development of the Arctic zones of the Russian Federation, Siberia and the Far East. Taking into account the intensive development of this region by the Russian army, there is every chance to see such mega KamAZ trucks in protective paint.


“KamAZ-Arctic” in a heavy eight-wheeled version. Source: wroom.ru

The youngest three-axle KamAZ-Arctic in the line uses serial drive axles from KamAZ-6522, springs from the rear suspension KamAZ-5460, shock absorbers and stabilizers from the KamAZ-65225 suspension.

The customer can choose between two engines – a V-shaped eight-cylinder 11-liter KamAZ-740.37-400 and an in-line six-cylinder 12-liter KamAZ-910.12. The authors indicate for the machine a carrying capacity of about 13 tons (dead weight – 16 tons), as well as the potential for autonomous movement.


“KamAZ-Arktika” 6×6 with “overall” wheels. Source: zil-130-431410.ru


“KamAZ-Arctic” 8×8 with “overall” wheels. Source: gruzovikpress.ru

The Moscow Poly has developed a living module for the Arctic, designed to accommodate three crew members at temperatures down to -50 ºС. Under the harsh requirements of the Far North, the composition of the rubber had to be reworked – now, according to engineers, tires do not tan even in the most severe frost.

In the “overall” version, “KamAZ-Arctic” can be operated on public roads. To do this, the standard meter-wide wheels are replaced by “narrow” 700-mm wheels. And the width of the car in this version does not exceed the permitted 2.5 meters.

When no roads are foreseen on the way, all-terrain wheels are mounted, with which the width of the “Arctic” reaches more than 3.3 meters. Not the most convenient solution, frankly, but it was impossible to release such a heavy car on public roads in any other way.

Huge wheels, of course, are very difficult to turn according to the classical scheme. An increase in the outer diameter of the tire leads to a decrease in the maximum steering angles of the steering wheels – as a result, the turning radius of an SUV becomes simply cosmic.

Therefore, it was decided to organize the turn using a hinged folding frame. The joint assembly consists of two box structures connected by a pair of ball joints. The movement of the sections around the vertical axis is performed by hydraulic cylinders located inside the frame.

This made it possible to protect the hydraulic cylinder rods from dirt and mechanical damage, to use a standard frame crossbar as a back stop, to make unified mounting points for hydraulic cylinders for three- and four-axle models. The “breaking” frame provided the 11-meter three-axle vehicle with a minimum turning radius (along the outer front wheel) of 12 or 14 meters, depending on the type of tires installed.


Source: gruzovikpress.ru

The eight-wheeled version of the KamAZ-Arctic is capable of carrying up to 15 tons on board, with a total weight of up to 40 tons. Such a hero requires rather big tires to ensure low specific pressure on the ground. The width of the “oversized” version is 3.85 meters, the length is just over 12 meters.

Despite the fact that the developer declares an exclusively peaceful use of the “Arctic”, the use of mainly domestic components, potentially prepares the snow and swamp-going vehicle for a military path.

Ultra-low pressure machines

The development of heavy snow and swamp-going vehicles can only be afforded by large enterprises with relevant work experience.

These include the St. Petersburg Machine-Building Plant, which for many years has specialized in equipment for the gas and oil industry in Russia. The most recent development, created by order of LLC Yamalspetsmash, is the Yamal V-6M all-terrain vehicle, designed for transporting long vehicles in the Far North.

The machine is equipped with imported Cummins ISLe-C340 or Cummins ISBe-C285 diesel engines, as well as the Zahnradfabrik gearbox. As in the case of KamAZ-Arktika, the front wheels, together with the cab, turn with the help of an articulated joint. The Yamal V-6M is in many ways similar in its transmission design to the legendary ZIL-157, although it is built on some KamAZ-5387 units.

The car has seven driveshafts at once on three intermediate supports. The absence of a passable middle bridge, obviously, is explained by the requirement for greater survivability of the structure, as well as the ability to selectively disconnect the drive to separate bridges.

Yamal V-6M was tested in January 2021. And already in February, two cars went to the place of “service” on the Gydan Peninsula.

It is noteworthy that the machines are equipped with IRWAY MP-005/21 “Comfort PRO” infrared vision systems. In addition to heavy equipment under the Yamal brand, light air ducts have been created on the basis of UAZ vehicles, which in 2011 took part in the Center-2011 army exercises. However, the decision to enter service was never made.


Yamal V-6M. Source: tehnopoligon.ru

The growing interest in off-road vehicles on ultra-low pressure wheels on the part of the Ministry of Defense is illustrated by the demonstration of such vehicles on the Army forums.

So, at the last exhibition in 2020, the three-axle “Trekol Husky” was demonstrated to potential customers. This vehicle is a modernized version of the Trekola-39295, which took part in the expedition of the 21st Research Testing Institute of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation to the Far North in February 2016.

During the expedition, specialists from Bronnitsy near Moscow put forward a number of very difficult requirements for military equipment for Arctic conditions.

Firstly, ensuring a reliable start-up of the power plant at an outside air temperature of up to –45 ºС.

Secondly, the sufficiency of the energy reserve in the car in order to create a microclimate in the inhabited compartments at low outdoor temperatures down to -60 ºС and the possibility of autonomous stay of the crew in standby mode for up to three days, as well as simultaneously maintaining the car in one minute readiness for intended use …

Thirdly, military equipment for the Far North must be adapted for military repairs in conditions of low temperatures and strong gusty winds – up to 35 m / s.

Fourthly, all-terrain vehicles must effectively illuminate the terrain when driving at night and in a blizzard with a visibility of 1–2 m. In addition, it provides for the possibility of driving at night using night vision devices only.

And as a result – “Husky” from “Trekol” at “Army-2020” declares its ability to work at temperatures down to -65 ºС.

To fully comply with the requirements of the Ministry of Defense, a domestic ZMZ-40905 motor is installed on the pneumatic duct.


“Trekol Husky”. Source: vitalykuzmin.net


“Trekol-39294”. Source: vitalykuzmin.net


One of the earliest versions of the Rusak pneumatic conduit. Source: autowp.ru

A potential supplier for the Russian military could be the Avtoros company, which specializes in the production of the Shaman four-axle snow and swamp-going vehicles.

The machine is unique in its own way – eight wheels with ultra-low pressure tires with independent suspensions and a boat body allow you to swim over water obstacles. The small steering angles due to the large diameter are compensated by the unique all-wheel steering system.

“Shaman” can turn like a crab, with the wheels turned to one side, and also turn the rear pair in the opposite direction of the front, reducing the turning radius. For the time being, the entrance to the troops of the “Shaman” is hindered, among other things, by the imported Iveco F1C engine.


Floating snow and swamp-going vehicle “Shaman”. Source: vitalykuzmin.net


Floating snow and swamp-going vehicle “Burlak”. Source: autoreview.ru


Floating snow and swamp-going vehicle “Rusak” with a hybrid drive. Source: autoreview.ru

The Rusak K-8/39941 snow and swamp vehicle with a hybrid transmission is equipped with a similar control system for the wheels of the four-axle chassis.

Developer – “Russian Automobile Company” from the city of Bogorodsk, Nizhny Novgorod region. And the customer is the Ministry of Education and Science within the framework of the target program “Research and Development in Priority Areas of the Scientific and Technological Complex of Russia for 2014–2020.”

The car is equipped with two hybrid power plants with 1.2-liter Nissan engines and traction electric motors of 75 kW each. It is not entirely clear how such a structure will withstand the 65-degree frosts of the Far North. In the portfolio of the Russian Automobile Company there are several more Rusaks with wheel configurations 4×4, 6×6, 8×8 and traditional drives.


Rusak and Burlak. Source: vitalykuzmin.net

The Kurgan company Techno Trans presented the Burlak snow and swamp-going vehicles for extreme conditions at the Army-2020.

Why extreme?

The fact is that the developers claim that the machines are operated in Antarctica, where the temperature is lower than in our Far North. Perhaps that is why the design of two- and three-axle vehicles is uncomplicated – Gazel’s Cummins ISF diesel engine with a capacity of 150 liters. from. and a manual transmission.

The machine is distinguished from the rest of the pneumatic hoses by a huge ground clearance of 750 mm. For comparison, the “Shaman” – 450 mm, “Rusakov”, depending on the version – 520-560 mm and, finally, the “Trekol Husky” has a 550 mm ground clearance.

The market for domestic snow and swamp-going vehicles is gradually saturating.

New manufacturers appear, proven firms expand the range. And this means that a serious struggle will unfold for the customer.

In this regard, the Ministry of Defense is in a privileged position – financial opportunities allow you to choose.

It remains only to solve the problems with imported components.

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