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Apr 10, 2013

Czechoslovak armored recon

Hello everyone,

now, I doubt this will ever have anything to do with World of Tanks, as the vehicles this article is about are way too modern, but they are interesting nonetheless.

Armored recon of the Czechoslovak People's Army (ČSLA)

As any military expert will tell you, on-spot recon is very important for the modern army's operations. It was hower a Czechoslovak army's weakspot well until the early 80's. The reason for that was the fact that the Czechoslovak army didn't have a proper tracked (and reasonably armored) recon vehicle. Combat recoinnaissance was generally conducted by the OT-65 armored transporter (in its recon configuration). This vehicle was far from perfect and had a number of weakspots. For one, it's a wheeled vehicle, which by itself causes lower terrain passability. Its maneuverability was also low and even the heavier versions were insufficiently armed for the task. During the army divisional training in 1977 and 1981, this has become even more apparent.

Czechoslovak OT-65A

 The stopgap measure taken was the use of the BVP-1 IFV ("bojové vozidlo pěchoty" - the Czechoslovak copy of BMP-1) as a recon vehicle, but given the lack of the sophisticated optics and sensors, it was judged as inadequate and a decision was made in April 1983 by the Ministry of Industry to task Konštrukta Trenčín (a Slovak engineering company) to develop a specialized tracked recon vehicle, based on BVP-1. The basic project was ready by the end of 1984 and the project was given a code name "Svatava" (a Czech archaic female name, also a river in northern Bohemia) and designated as a "BPzV" - "Bojové Průzkumné Vozidlo" (English: Combat recon vehicle)

BPzV Svatava

The prototype (the work on which started in February 1985) was built on a modified BVP-1K platform. BVP-1K (the designation "K" - taken from Russian means "komandirskij", a commander vehicle). The difference between the standard BVP-1 and the command version includes:

  • additional radio station R-123M
  • additional radio station R-107T
  • additional UHF infantry company/platoon radio system RF-10 (for communicating with infantry), plus additional powersources for all these devices
  • improved intercoms and remote controls for the additional radio equipment
  • 2 pieces of field telephone plus cables
  • TNA-3 navigation system
There were however further modifications to the design. The commander's copula with a specialised laser rangefinder of Czech origin was developed at VÚ Doksy, while the SDIO laser rangefinder itself was of Czech origin too (made by VÚ-060 Prague).

The prototype was ready in July 1985. The vehicle was armed with the 73mm 2A28 smoothbore gun and the PKT machinegun. It however also had an ATGM launcher for the 9M14M "Malyutka" missiles (NATO designation: AT-3 Sagger). The vehicle also had an 81mm smoke grenade launcher, NNP-21 night vision device, PSNR-5 ground radar, MRP-4 seeker radiolocator and a TNA-3 navigation device. For its time and for the possibilities of the Czechoslovak army, the vehicle was pretty sophisticated.

The first tests were held later in July and continued till September. The parameters were:

Weight: 13,9 tons
Armor: 6-23mm (similiar to the BVP-1)
Engine: UTD-20 16 liter V6,  295hp (980 Nm torque)
Transmission: mechanical 5+1
Road speed: 65 km/h
Terrain speed: 45 km/h
Floating speed (the vehicle is amphibious): 5 km/h
Armament: 73mm smoothbore 2A28 (400 m/s muzzle velocity PG-15V HEAT shell, 300mm penetration), PKT machinegun, AT-3 Sagger
Extra equipment:

  • PSNR-5 radar
  • MRP-4 seeker radiolocator
  • NNP-21 night vision device
  • TNA-3 navigation device
  • PAB-2A compass
  • laser rangefinder
  • laser detection and indication system
  • ÚV-20 water purifier
  • OS-3 decontamination unit for operations in NBC-polluted areas
The test showed that by adding hydraulic shock absorbers on 2nd roadwheel pair, the handling properties and ride smoothness have been significantly improved compared to the original BVP-1. Additional fuel tanks were added to the design, increasing its operational range by 150km (to cca 700km). Some problems with watertight compartments and the laser rangefinder were uncovered during the tests - those were fixed until October 1987. In further tests the vehicle succeeded and it was accepted into ČSLA service as "BPzV Svatava".

Between 1988-1990, 200 pieces were made. 16 were bought by the Polish army, which called them BWP-1S (Bojowy wóz rozpoznawczy-1 Swatawa). In the Czechoslovak army, the vehicle was used in tank and motorized infantry regiment recon companies. It is possible (although speculative) that the East-German army was testing the vehicle also, but never bought any.

Slovak army Svatava

After the Czech Republic/Slovak Republic split, Czech army was using the Svatava vehicle until 2009, when it was declared obsolete and the last surviving 12 Svatavas were decommissioned. It was replaced by BVP-2 (licensed BMP-2) vehicles (without any recon equipment).

Svatava's successor

In 1988, the development of the replacement vehicle was started. It was decided to use the BVP-2 (BMP-2) platform. The project was developed between 1988 and 1990, when it was cancelled under the name of BPzV Sněžka (Sněžka, in German "Schneekoppe", is the tallest mountain of Czech Republic). The AT-4 Spigot (9M113 Konkurs rocket) launcher was removed, the only weapons to stay were the 2A42 30mm autocannon and the PKT machinegun. The vehicle was equipped with television and thermovision sets and an independent electric source for the recon systems. Only a prototype was made, the vehicle was never accepted to service. This is how it looked:

Further specifications are unknown. There was apparently a second project of a BVP-2-based recon vehicle, designated "Vyšehrad". It is not clear in fact, whether it's the same vehicle or a different project, not much is known apart from the fact it existed.

Epilogue - OT Zubr and Pandur vehicles

Have you ever heard of the OT Zubr by PSP (not to be mistaken by the Polish Zubr armored vehicle, that's something else)? No? Well, no wonder. It was an independent wheeled APC/IFV project from the early 90's by a Czech company PSP Přerov - and a good one too. Its fate however was a sad one. Last year, I have been in personal contact with a representative of the current company, PSP Engineering, which is PSP Přerov's leal successor, in order to find  the original ZUBR blueprints. What I found out was the history: PSP was a relatively successful company and in the early 90's, when the communists were "thrown down" in the so-called "Velvet revolution" (read: they gave power to Vaclav Havel's cronies in exchange for economic power in the country, many of the old communists and secret service agents are the current Czechoslovak billionaires, for example Andrej Babiš and others), Václav Havel, who was paid by the Americans, completely destroyed Czechoslovak military industry. One of his victims was the PSP Přerov's "Zubr" project. Only a promo leaflet scan now remains public. This is how it would have looked:

After PSP went bankrupt and was bought by American investors, the original plans were not considered interesting and they were destroyed. A copy most likely remains in the Czech military archives, but I believe it is still classified, haven't looked into it yet.

A decade later, instead of supporting local military development, the politicians decided to buy the Austrian Pandur II wheeled for Czech army (72 pieces) - to be fair, certain Czech companies participate on its manufacture. One of the roles it fulfills is combat recon. It's not a bad vehicle, but the whole thing ended up as a huge scandal, as the vehicles were purchased for several times the price given to other customers - it turned out to be a huge corruption case and it is being investigated till now.

my own research


  1. And i thought Slovenia is only country with problems buying military vehicles - Patria

    1. Definitely not. Defense industry is very lucrative in general (after all, how many civillians can say "that's too expensive" and argue about military matters), but what happens here is just extreme. Czech Gripen fighters and CASA military transport aircraft - the same thing.

    2. Dont forget all nonfunctional parachutes. Obsolete poland helicopters... it is way to long list

    3. Romania got 2 refurbished frigates from the UK for 3,4 times what they were worth. This happens all over the place.

      Except in the very BIG weapon manufacturing countries where the contractors just stretch the deadlines for delivery and go 3,4 times over budget.


    4. This may come as something of a shock to many Eastern Europeans but in the 1980s one of the things that drove American armor designers and us tankers nuts was how to deal with the light armored recon vehicles of the day. The U.S. had nothing to compare with them (still does not) and their mobility and armorment was a constant headache for us. I, despite serving on the M-60series as well as the first model M-1s, always felt we had gone too far in the "heavy" direction even with the M2/M3 Bradley vehicles. But then I was only an enlisted puke and no one asked or cared to hear my opinions on armor and armor deployment much less design.

  2. That moment when you read about Czech armors in english And you are a native Czech :)
    Btw: nice to see someone writing truth about the greatest dramatics of all times. Truth, love and sun for everyone

    1. Oh, I hate him. The worst kind of traitor is the kind that gets to be celebrated as a hero. But this blog is not about politics, so let's stay away from that :)

    2. As i see lot of people still believe that president have authority to stop military production..

      Pls do not return to political theme. You will just piss off lot of ppl. Like me now the "truth-love lover".

  3. So similar to polish transformation after the communism fall.

    And now if you like Franz Kafka "Castle" you would get the good picture of public procedures for weapon buying.


  4. you maybe dont know, but half of the pandurs was completed, but other half were stored in cargo-containers decomposed into parts - like a big puzzle =)...and so-called experts from Steyr came here (for ours-army money of course) and just put them together =)

  5. i liked you and your blog.

    but after that bullshit about Vaclav Havel u can go to hell.

    and yes, i know that u dont care about other peoples opinion.

  6. ah, the Czech Pandur deal... :D

    had a good discussion on a forum with someone from the Czech Republic about who was more screwed over by Steyr, if it was you guys, or us. BTW I'm Portuguese, the other Pandur "customer", and yes, you guys got the worst deal. not for lack of trying on our end though.

  7. Didn't Czech follow Soviet (well, Russian,) military practices?

    Apparently Russians found BRDM variants (similar to the OT-65 here) fit for their purpose - route recon and long range infiltration recon - since most of the Soviet equivalent of "recon in force" was done by Forward Detachments of various size, not by dedicated armored recon formations.

    However, Russians did have tracked, dedicated recon variant based on BMP (similar to this Svatana) called BRM under regimental recon assets as early as 70s.

    That said, why didn't Czech simply ask Russia for BRM purchases if they felt the need for such a vehicle?
    Even if they couldn't, the concept was right there, with same BMP-1 as base, why wait until mid 80s to even get the project rolling?

    - CompanionCav, NA

    1. Honestly, I don't know. I was never really interested in ČSLA tactics or politics. Just the tech.


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