Volunteer combat medics in Ukraine can deploy an absolute beast of a machine nicknamed the Ark as a mobile support station to aid in the country’s ongoing offensives against Russian forces. The vehicle, which reportedly uses chassis components from old Soviet-era BTR-series armored personnel carriers, looks like it was one on set crazy max Movie or other post-apocalyptic sci-fi film or television series.
Already in September Informant Dnipro, which bills itself as an independent news portal focused on Ukraine’s Dnipro region, published an interview in Ukrainian with the Ark’s creator, constructor Vyacheslav Lyashenko, and others who are now linked to the project in various ways. Dnipro, located in eastern Ukraine, has been at the center of heavy fighting for weeks as the country’s forces continue their push to drive out invading Russian forces.
Lyashenko, the Informant Dnipro says is better known locally for high-performance custom cars, including a Dodge Stealth with a 2,000-horsepower engine that the Ark reportedly first built in 2012. Back then the idea was to develop a bespoke luxury tour bus for charter rentals.
At the heart of the design, Lyashenko says, are chassis components from at least one Cold War-era BTR-60 infantry fighting vehicle. The Ark certainly has eight wheels, but they’re more of a commercial type than the military ones found on BTR-60. If a standard BTR-60 chassis is below it at any point, it’s definitely been lengthened, at least to some extent, with a noticeable gap between the four wheels in front and the four in the back, which isn’t present on the original Soviet APC. This is similar to what you might see in a sedan conversion of a more traditional car or truck.
Of course, the huge angular body of the ark with its slat-covered windows is completely new. As originally designed, it had various amenities including a kitchenette with a stove and fridge, a bathroom with a shower, and air conditioning throughout. From a video – seen earlier in this story – and pictures Informant Dnipro Contained in her story, the interior looks relatively plush overall, lined with leather-like material and with wood or faux wood cabinets and other trimmings.
Overall, Ark weighs around 13 tons, about two tons more than a standard BTR-60, according to the information Informant Dnipro. Powered by two turbocharged diesel engines, it can reach speeds of around 50 mph (80 km/h) on improved roads, but is apparently “more comfortable” to drive between 40 and 45 mph (65-70 km/h). The story didn’t provide any details on the vehicle’s off-road capabilities, but it does have three protruding prong-like bumpers/skid plates at the front that look like they could help traverse obstacles or climb steeper inclines without damaging the front end .
After Russia occupied the Crimean region of Ukraine in 2014 and began actively supporting allegedly local separatists in eastern Ukraine who were fighting the Kyiv government, Lyashenko pitched the design as a mobile medical vehicle to the country’s armed forces, but apparently showed no interest. Lyashenko told Informant Dnipro that the Ark has had much of its exterior coated with a three millimeter thick titanium coating, as well as rubber insulation in certain places that offers at least some protection from shrapnel and small arms fire, as part of the work to make it more suitable for military use.
It is interesting to remember that the Saudi Arabian armed forces also have very real field hospitals with semi-trucks and very angular cab and body designs. When The War Zone When these trucks first caught our eye in 2018, we realized they were largely reminiscent of the mobile command center and tractor-trailer laboratory from the 1992 action film Universal soldierwhose cab also had metal slats over the windows.
As for Lyashenko’s Ark, it’s not entirely clear how much work has actually been done on the vehicle since 2014 and what its current condition is. The video of the informer Dnipro shows that he is mobile, at least over short distances. From the pictures Informant Dnipro and other images circulating online, it appears to have sported at least two different camouflage patterns over the years, including one with red crosses as part of its potential medical role.
As for the Ark’s use as an ambulance, it’s unclear if it’s currently configured for that role. There was a crowd-sourcing campaign to raise 10 million Ukrainian hryvnia to really get the vehicle ready for medical use. At the exchange rate at the time of writing, 10 million hryvnia is equal to just under $272,100. Many of the Ark’s original features, such as the onboard 5-kilowatt power generator and the ability to hold up to 500 liters of drinking water, could definitely aid in a real conversion into a real medical vehicle.
If the Ark eventually undergoes a complete medical overhaul, Gennady Druzenko’s Pirogov First Volunteer Mobile Hospital (PFVMH), a volunteer medical unit active since 2014, would be the likely recipient of the vehicle. Druzenko is apparently the one who gave him the nickname Ark in the first place, and PVMMH is part of the current crowdsourcing effort.
“Medics on the front line urgently need armored evacuation vehicles. We’ve been looking for them since the beginning of the great war. We’re glad we needed 15 year olds or more [Land Rover] Defenders and Pinzgauers… And here it turns out that Ukrainian mechanics have long since built a fantastic vehicle that is so needed today in the hottest places and call it ‘Ark’,” reads a post on PVMMH’s official website , which includes a link to craft “The And on the Land Renewed Foundation and PVMMH have decided it is time for Ark to step in and bring our victory closer.”
“You have to understand that doctors say that up to 20 percent of men die because they don’t have time to stabilize fighters on the battlefield,” says Yevgeny Myronenko, a representative of the charitable foundation And on the Land Renewed. also involved in this effort had told Informant Dnipro. Myronenko explained to the outlet that Druzenko’s plan was to use the Ark to set up an intermediate aid station if needed, about 10 to 15 kilometers from the front line, where wounded could be stabilized before being taken to more robust medical facilities.
The vehicle could, of course, be used to actually transport victims over longer distances and could potentially be configured to transport a significant number of them at once. If it has any armor at all, even just against shrapnel, that could also be very valuable considering artillery is a major threat on both sides of the battlefield in Ukraine.
Druzenko, a lawyer by training, drew widespread criticism in March for comments he made in an interview with a Ukrainian TV channel about a month after Russia launched his all-out invasion. He said he told his medics to castrate any wounded Russian soldiers who were assigned to treat them, which would be a war crime. He was quick to apologize for the remarks in a post on Facebook, saying he was overcome with emotion that no one was being neutered and that “we are saving lives.” Point.”
The Ark is, of course, a one-off, bespoke vehicle with unique maintenance and logistics requirements, and it’s far from clear how good it could be in actual combat support from miles away. At the same time, the Ukrainian Armed Forces as well as volunteer units have deployed a diverse mix of improvised, obscure, obsolete and unique vehicle types already out of necessity.
All in all, it remains to be seen whether the Ark will actually take part in the current conflict in Ukraine, but there is at least some level of genuine interest from actual volunteers providing vital medical skills near the front lines in Dnipro.
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