Since the war against Russian-backed separatists began in 2014 Ukraine’s automotive industry managed a remarkable pivot to armored vehicle production. A fine example of this effort are the Kozak trucks assembled by Practika. More than a run of the mill effort by a firm desperate to corner some business while an armed conflict is raging, the Kozaks’ merits should earn it some badly needed brand recognition.
What makes the Kozaks so promising is an impressive adaptability that’s sure to impress end users. Practika made sure the Kozak 2 and its siblings fulfill the broad needs of contemporary militaries who can’t be bothered with–or simply can’t afford–expensive tracked APCs.
Detailed information on the Kozak’s origins are hard to find. But its earliest iteration was being promoted in 2010 as an up to date multirole truck with decent off-road mobility and a bare minimum of armor. It’s surprising to learn the Kozak, whose open secret was an Iveco commercial chassis, barely made a splash at the time even if it did seem a better alternative to civilian SUVs and old GAZ jeeps used by the Ukrainian armed forces.
After the Euromaidan crisis in 2014, however, the civil war fomented by Russia in the east revealed how ill-prepared Ukrainian troops were against a determined adversary. Practika rolled out an MRAP, the 15 ton Kozak 2, the following year to fill a gap in the army’s battered motor pool. The Kozak 2 was recognizable for its large bumper and the towing cables attached to its hood. It boasted a 280 horsepower Iveco diesel engine, blast resistant seating for 10 people, and armor rated at STANAG II. The Kozak 2 isn’t amphibious but its ground clearance is high enough for driving across water almost three feet deep.
The Kozak 2’s cabin featured a high frequency radio, GPS navigation, front and rear day/night cameras for extra visibility, CBRNe filters, an internal fire suppression system, and the control panel for central tire inflation. The Kozak 2 had a circular roof hatch for mounting a cupola for a machine gun turret or a grenade launcher. Soldiers entered the vehicle from rear swing doors and have individual firing ports to unleash their weapons.
Aside from a basic “personnel carrier” Practika offered the Kozak 2 as a “tactical” transport with an enclosed passenger compartment, an ambulance, a command vehicle, an EOD truck, and a mortar carrier. In 2016 the Kozak 2M arrived with a customized monocoque steel body over an independent suspension system. Gone was the oversized bumper and a single swing door supporting a spare tire was installed at the back. Large handles were attached to the vehicle body to help passengers climb aboard–even up the roof.
Weighing just 14 tons and having less internal space, the Kozak 2M was meant as a workhorse available in different variants, from a troop transport to a flatbed pickup for hauling cargo.
The little known Kozak 4 is completely unrelated to the rest of the brand since it’s a derivative of the Land Rover Defender. Practika did attempt to fill a niche for a counter-terrorism and law enforcement armored truck with the Kozak 5 based on a Ford F550.
A few of Practika’s Kozaks, whose production numbers have reached 100 trucks, joined the Ukrainian military in late 2017 with more slated for the National Guard and border police. State patronage did compel Practika’s expansion to wheeled APCs like the Otaman–whether 6×6 or 8×8–and a modernized BTR-60. As of this writing, the Kozak 2/2M is in limited use and years might pass before it finds customers outside Europe. Problem is, it could end up slugging it out with a handful of other Ukrainian 4×4’s that are just as nice.