Armored Cars: MIC GAZ Tigr
A fair assessment of the GAZ Tigr would consign it a Humvee clone, if not in form then in function. The comparison isn’t too bad as its role in the Russian military and among clients is always growing–just like its American analog. Since the Soviets never caught on to the idea of an armored utility truck in the waning years of the Cold War the Tigr’s success appears inexplicable. But it was during the turn of the century, in the so-called Putin era, when the Tigr came into its own and the story how is worth telling.
Its origins can be traced to a convoluted arrangement between Jordan and the UAE in the late 1990s. When the former country’s KADDB wanted an armored SUV-type car for its soldiers, it was the UAE’s Bin Jabr Group who provided the R&D. With help from Russia’s GAZ the resulting vehicle was debuted at an Abu Dhabi arms show in 2001 to little fanfare.
The following year GAZ remodeled the project and offered it as the “Tiger” for the Russian interior ministry. This proved a success and joint production by the MIC, who manufactures the BTR-80, and GAZ commenced in 2005. The new 4×4 entered service with the Russian armed forces and law enforcement as the GAZ 2330 Tigr the following year. Meanwhile, back in the UAE, the lessons learned form the project influenced the production of the Nimr.
The Tigr features a conventional layout with characteristic high road clearance, an imported Cummins diesel engine, a modicum of ballistic protection, and noticeable spaciousness. To recognize a Tigr one must observe the shape of its bumper and its bulging hood. The box like passenger compartment with a spare tire beside the rear swing door is also a giveaway. When it comes to performance the Tigr shares broad similarities with its peers from Europe. Wading across three feet or less of water is no problem and a full tank takes it 900 kilometers from its staring point.
At just five tons heavy the Tigr is light enough for air and ship transport. It’s equally suited for law enforcement and other security-related tasks.
What the Tigr isn’t is a mine-resistant truck. Given its dimensions and weight-class it excels as a troop transport and a recce vehicle, along with sundry rear echelon tasks thanks to a universal chassis supporting a hull that fits either comms or specialist gear. Though it was re-designed into an armored truck as the Volk, there really isn’t that great a need to overhaul the Tigr. This broad potential is a key driver in the Tigr’s ongoing success story: It can be altered to perform whatever job its operators require.
To date there are at least a dozen variants of the Tigr for military and law enforcement use. Its applications continue to expand and new ones are emerging every year.
In 2011, for example, KBP developed remote control modules for its Kornet missiles. These were installed on a Tigr, converting it to an anti-tank system. This Kornet-D variant is one of the most lethal vehicle-based ATGM missile launchers in use today. During Victory Day celebrations in 2015 the Kornet-D with its new color scheme had its moment in Red Square.
A similar variant was developed by Belarus that had a pair of Shershen anti-tank missiles instead.
During the recent Army 2016 arms show MIC displayed a single unit of its privately-funded Tigr-M. This featured the Tigr supporting an Uran-9 remote controlled turret armed with a 30mm 2A72 cannon. Although no orders have been placed on the Tigr-M it does represent the largest weapon station ever installed on a 4×4 platform, a benchmark last set by the BPM-97. Another Tigr derived weapon system at Army 2016 was the short range Gibka-S mobile SAM.
The Tigr’s usefulness at carrying people, gear, and weapons is what drives its success. Between Russia and China, both fielding the world’s largest armies, its production numbers may swell to thousands in the coming decades. No small thanks to manufacturers like the Beijing Yanjin Motor Company, whose YJ2080 could enhance the Tigr’s profile as a viable truck for all seasons. Ultimately it’s in exports where the Tigr is building a reputation as a tough and dependable armored car. Since 2006 it’s been sold to Armenia, Belarus, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Slovakia, Syria, Tajikistan, and Uruguay.