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Russia Is Now Selling A French APC

May 11, 2014
Full-sized model of Atom prototype.

Atom on display at the 2013 Russia ArmS Expo in Nizhny Tagil

Uralvagonzavod is the first Russian manufacturer to be license-producing a Western European armored vehicle. Dubbed the Atom, the 8×8 personnel carrier is a rare collaboration between Russia and France to assist the former’s military rearmament. The result is the Atom currently listed in the product page of Uralvagonzavod several months after its public debut at the 2013 Russia Arms Expo. A close inspection of its appearance and capabilities reveal it’s the French VBCI APC mounted with a new turret.

The VBCI is the French military’s answer to General Dynamics’ popular Stryker, a fast and modular transport ideal for moving troops in any terrain. The VBCI is a joint venture between Nexter and Renault and uses a computerized fire-control system manufactured by another European defense contractor, EADS.

According to specifications published by Uralvagonzavod, the Atom is armed with a 57mm main gun fed by either a 70 or 100 round magazine.

The 57mm gun is a rare choice, given how current APCs in the Russian military like the BTR-82 and the BMP-2 both use 30mm cannons.

The 57mm caliber traces its origins to the former Soviet Union where it was used for the Red Army’s S-60 anti-aircraft gun.

Aside from the turret and the headlights, the Atom is exactly the same as the VBCI. Comparing the details of either vehicle proves this.

via Nexter

Rear view of the VBCI in French use. (Via Nexter)

Both the Atom and the VBCI carry eight passengers and two crewmen, a driver and the gunner. They are both powered by a 550 horsepower Renault engine with a maximum speed of 100 km/h on smooth roads and a maximum range of 750 km/h.

The Atom/VBCI is protected by a welded aluminum hull designed with STANAG 4569 or NATO level 5 ballistic protection; this means it can resist large caliber small arms and fragments.

It has six entry points: The driver’s hatch, four additional hatches behind the turret, and a ramp behind the vehicle. On paper, its combat weight is fixed at 32 tons without additional armor plating or slats to absorb shaped charges.

The reason behind Russia’s choice to produce a French APC is hard to explain. Unless Russia’s own APCs have a critical flaw–unlikely–the Atom won’t be in service with the ground forces any time soon. The Renault engine it uses is owned by the Swedish firm Volvo, which has decided to scrap its involvement in the Atom project over the ongoing Ukrainian crisis.

For the curious, inquiries are best directed to either Uralvagonzavod or Rosoboronexport. (The government arms broker doesn’t list the Atom in its export catalog.)