In late 2017 the vehicle manufacturer Ukrainian Armor teased its latest creation, the Varta-Novator. Its name was supposed to recall the earlier MRAP made by the same company. The Novator, however, is an attempt to meet requirements for “internal troops” and special forces in lieu of a heavier BTR or a civilian SUV.
The Novator and another armored 4×4 produced in Ukraine, the Kraz Spartan, are based on an imported Ford F550 chassis. The resulting modular trucks are then tailored to perform specific roles in the customer’s motor pool. But the Novator isn’t even in production yet and there are few indications it will keep its original appearance.
Because of its newness information about the Novator is still limited. What is known, however, suggests a promising vehicle that meets the basic criteria it’s meant to fulfill. The Novator is recognizable for its broad hood that’s latched onto its grille and the canvass covered cargo compartment on its bed, where a spare tire is carried. As a logistics transport the Novator can haul 1.5 tons of cargo.
To be clear–the Novator isn’t an MRAP. Even its ballistic protection is limited and thickest on its doors, that each carry reinforced windows, and hull. Its manufacturer claims the Novator can deflect grenade fragments and resist B7 level small arms fire, which is the classification for armor piercing NATO battle rifle calibers. This is possible because the Novator uses panels imported from Sweden.
When it comes to mobility, the 6.5 ton Novator runs effortless on paved roads and open terrain. It manages a respectable top speed of 120 kilometers per hour thanks to its unnamed 300 horsepower diesel engine. An independent suspension system matched with runflat tires allows it to navigate the countryside and even perform recce.
The Ukrainian military’s harsh lessons from the civil war against Russian-backed separatists makes the Novator more combat optimized compared to other vehicles in its class. Individual circular firing ports are found on each door. A circular roof hatch above the cab is able to support any type of light armament. Two small cameras above the windshield feed flat screen monitors on the dashboard to improve the driver’s situational awareness. The driver and co-driver also have temperature controls and air conditioning at their fingertips.
With Ukraine’s industries focused on wartime manufacturing, the Novator’s domestic prospects are pretty good. But the vehicle needs a host of improvements demanded by the armed forces. These include changes in its design, an air filtration system, a fire suppression system, the enlargement of its passenger area to fit a half dozen troops, external storage bins, and countermeasures like smoke grenade dischargers on its roof.
The Novator will continue to evolve as it faces some very stiff competition from every corner of the Eurasian landmass. From the awesome production numbers of the Oshkosh JLTV to the battlefield cred enjoyed by the Nimr Ajban or the undeniable firepower carried by the GAZ Tigr, military-grade 4×4’s are a tough crowd.
Succeeding in its niche means the Novator fulfills whatever its end users imagine. It must survive getting riddled by machine guns and be able to fire anti-tank missiles. It should fit inside a plane and swim across a river; carry entire kitchens, spare parts, and water tanks with ease. It’s supposed to give comfort to the wounded and bring food to the hungry. Its spare room needs to be sufficient for anti-aircraft weapons and automatic mortars; ditto electronic warfare jammers, thermal imaging cameras on a retractable mast, and a drone launching system.
The Novator has no choice but to have an interesting career.