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Armored Cars: Volat Defense MZKT 490101

June 30, 2021

As dated as the term “former Soviet republic” is it still best describes a collection of less-than-liberal countries that are awkwardly thriving despite the world’s present tumult. Belarus is one of them and as its ongoing popular revolt drags on Minsk has directed state-owned enterprises such as vehicle manufacturer Volat to keep doing business abroad. As it should, since Volat’s catalog–be it commercial or “defense”–has evolved into a remarkable selection of transports for any job. For this year’s IDEX 2021 arms show in Abu Dhabi Volat revealed its MZKT 490101 in a suitable desert tan; a clear nod to regional customers needing a new APC for their troops.

Even with a redesigned hull the MZKT 490101 still resembles the original V-1 that showed a lot of promise for its size and adaptability–the truck had a big enough interior for whatever upgrades were needed to perform a role. The MZKT 490101, however, is a transport first and only. Even the passenger compartment was reduced for just hauling cargo and the resulting double cab layout seats a total of five. The remote weapon station named “Adunok” mounted over the roof hatch is optional and it’s up to the customers if they want a primary armament of machine guns or grenade launchers.

Details about the MZKT 490101’s engine type and mobility are withheld although it’s easy to assume these are slightly better than the V-1. It doesn’t help that, as of this writing, Volat scrubbed all the military products from its website as a response to punitive EU sanctions on Minsk. Given this scarcity of data it’s best to just emphasize the vehicle’s external characteristics. The hull is fully armored and meant to withstand gunshots from assault rifles and other long firearms at medium-range. The reader will notice firing ports on each of its doors, which have bulletproof windows. Since the MZKT 490101 was pushed in the Middle East a minimum of blast protection was undoubtedly added to its layout. It can withstand grenades and other small explosives without crippling the rest of the vehicle.

The MZKT 490101 isn’t amphibious but its road clearance and size makes fording across bodies of water an easier task compared to unprotected trucks. The extent of internal safety and protective countermeasures (air purifiers, cameras, gunshot detectors, etc.) available to end users is undetermined for now. Vehicles in the same niche as the MZKT 490101 are very common throughout Europe anyway. Its closest rival is the Czech Republic’s impressive T815-7 Patriot. Other contenders are the German-made AMPV and Finland’s muscular GTP. The crowded state of European protected mobility is the strongest motivation for Volat’s attempted exports to the Middle East where demand is high at a time when the region’s own locally made armored vehicles are succeeding.

It’s strange how the flowering of Belarus’ military technology in the 2010s hasn’t been recognized by its neighbors. Indeed, a bunch of so-called “former Soviet republics” have used their financial resources to bolster homegrown military industries and begun reaping profits for doing so.This is paying off for Belarus’ at the moment. Aside from having the deadliest rocket artillery system in Europe other sectors such as robotics and unmanned systems are on an upswing. Volat in particular shattered expectations at the MILEX 2021 arms show where it unveiled its V-2 8×8 APC with minimal fanfare. The V-2 is larger and more capable than BTR-series APCs and puts other NATO wheeled APCs to shame with its well-protected troop compartment and amphibious mobility.

It’s still anyone’s guess if it sells somewhere. Likewise with the MZKT 490101.

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