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How to buy a tank: a BRDM-2 story (ntv.livejournal.com)
188 points by 8ig8 on Sept 19, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 109 comments

Here's a story from someone who actually did buy some military vehicles for the guys in the South-East:


He says he bought two BRDMs (like the one in the article) for ~$40,000 each, and a BTR-80 (a relatively new fighting vehicle) for ~80,000. The difference is that the vehicles are fresh (new from old stock/conservation) and they "come with all the accessories, if you know what I mean" (wink-wink, nudge-nudge, say no more).

Maybe the guys from the South-East really did buy their stuff at the surplus store, like Putin said.

According to the same source, a tank (with all accessories included?) would cost ~$200,000.

>Maybe the guys from the South-East really did buy their stuff at the surplus store, like Putin said.

it is surplus store not available for others :) The guy in the original article bought a vehicle which just a step from "a 7-ton piece of junk" - at least it was playing that role for many years at the military base what it was bought from. The hardware in your post's link came from a kind of "limited access surplus store" which was used at the beginning. Currently a lot of the rebels' hardware, including armored vehicles and tanks, are in very good condition and of pretty good "model year" :) - for example among the rebels' main battle tanks are pretty modern, latest version of T-72 (still, in addition to the newest T-90, used by Russia (and only by Russia, ie. it hasn't been exported) ) with all the bells and whistles (navigation/targeting hardware, reactive armor, active protection system, etc...)

Note: of course not all the hardware is that good and new. Two other main sources of the hardware are captured (and in many cases i suspect actually bought while reported as captured as many people in Ukrainian army and government are reluctant, to say the least, to fight the rebels or are just corrupt - also check out the stories about "lost" and "prepared for sale to unknown buyer" tanks at Kharkov tank factory (cool photos just to get a scale of possibilities http://thehiat.blogspot.com/2012/06/kharkov-armoured-repair-... ) :) hardware of Ukrainian army in Donetsk/Lugansk region and the hardware the Ukraine left in Crimea which was trafficked into Donetsk/Lugansk.

> for example among the rebels' main battle tanks are pretty modern, latest version of T-72 (still, in addition to the newest T-90, used by Russia (and only by Russia, ie. it hasn't been exported) )

You'd think with the hundreds and thousands of supposed Russian-only heavy equipment and tanks being reported by CNN, Ukraine, and the State Department, all maned by highly trained Spetsnaz crews, that have been rolling across the Russian boarder with dozens of Satellites orbiting above and thousands of phone cameras on the ground there would be more to the story then a few questionable pics of one or two questionable model of tanks in or or two questionable locations and times.

Two other main sources of the hardware are captured (and in many cases i suspect actually bought while reported as captured

There's a site[1] that tracks captured/destroyed tanks and other hardware based on photo and video evidence from both mainstream and social media. It's interesting to see how the hardware changes hands (sometimes more than once), but predominant flow is definitely Ukraine->Rebels.

[1]: http://lostarmour.info/spoils/

It doesn't track Russian ones? Or just doesn't show them, just Ukraine and rebel ones?

Care to explain how Ukrainian army can sold vehicles and weapons which were present only in Russian army?

I think you're wasting your time trying to convince people who don't want to see what's right in front of their nose. It's not remotely plausible that events in Crimea and Donbass could have transpired without a great deal of direct and indirect support from the Russian authorities.

It's entirely obvious by now that there are large numbers of Russian troops and military vehicles operating in Eastern Ukraine. They were fighting directly with Ukrainian forces before the ceasefire and probably still are now to a lesser extent. The other irregular forces have clearly been helped directly by Russia allowing them to operate freely on Russian territory, with manpower and training from the Russian military, and food, hardware and supplies from Russian military stocks.

Putin eventually admitted after the fact that the little green men in Crimea were Russian soldiers. Only fools would believe any claims that they're not deeply involved in what's gone on in Donbass and other parts of eastern Ukraine.

Given that Russia, Belarus and Ukraine had a joint arms industry until a few months ago, it's not surprising.

Ukraine is a large exporter of tanks, mainly to 3rd world countries - they have tanks built for export that were not available to the army until now. These export vehicles showed up over the last weeks, because the army was clearly running out off their preferred T-64, etc.

as i said, the most recent version of T-72 visible on some photos from Donetsk/Luhansk obviously came from the "exclusive surplus store" in Russia. Some, far from the all though, of the hardware from the "store" was even delivered with the Russian servicemen included :)

Belarus != Ukraine.

You do realise that Putin openly admitted that Russian troops were involved in the Crimea takeover? The "bought their uniforms in a store" explanation of the little green men wasn't remotely believable even at the time for many reasons, but even the Kremlin isn't trying to sell that any more.

For those wondering ... the (current) value of those 100M Belarus Rubles is $9492.16 US.

Thanks i was wondering too. As I clicked the comments link was just thinking I could convert this myself.

Pleasantly surprised one of the first comments answered my question in thus saving me the time to write this comment instead of first relooking up the belarusian amount in the article and then quick conversion.

xe.com is your friend

The Littlefield collection is/was probably the finest in US private hands. My understanding is the original owner died recently, and the heirs have no interest in running the museum, so they've split it up and auctioned it off.

Nicholas Moran, who is the armor history expert for the World of Tanks video game, has made several videos about interesting vehicles in the collection on his YouTube channel (TheChieftainWoT). The amusing part is watching him trying to shoehorn his height into some of them. Especially the Soviet designs, since crew comfort was far down on their list of design priorities.

40 liters per 100 KM = 10gal/60mi.

It's about 6mpg. Not great, not as bad as I would have guessed.

Surprising that a 5.5 liter engine has only 140 horsepower. Goes to show just how far modern engine design has come.

Horsepower isn't nearly as important as torque for a vehicle like this. If you look at even modern work trucks, they may have a 6-7L engine pushing only ~300hp or so but with like 700-800lb-ft of torque.

But yes, engines have come a long way. I remember being amazed at 450lb-ft of torque on diesel work truck. The new Fords push something like 860lb-ft.

Big torque from an engine sounds impressive but in reality only power matters. You can always change gear ratios to get more torque, which means more force to the ground.

Power determines how fast you will accelerate, how fast your top speed is, etc. It's all about conservation of energy.

Efficiency is really the name of the game. Do you really want to have a massive 7L engine spinning at redline just to be able to reduce that down 1:10 for some good torque? I'd much rather just an engine with the RPM held at the "crossover" of the Torque/HP lines or working within an island of efficency

The 6.2 liter, normally aspirated diesel engine that powered old Suburbans as well as the military HMMWV made about that, even with its greater displacement. Even the modern turbo diesel HMMWV doesn't break 200hp, according to Wikipedia.

Torque, reliability, serviceability and maximizing defense contractor profits probably rank as much higher priorities for the military than pure horsepower.

It's not 140 horsepower because it is designed poorly; that's a trade-off to make it react well to bullets and explosions and still run, also field serviceability.

It's actually a fairly poor design; probably a 1950s era Chrysler design.

You and OP are not necessarily disagreeing.

A pressurized cooling system is a liability on a battlefield unless its REALLY worth it. (I don't remember if a 50s chevvy has a pressurized cooling system... I'm guessing not)

Many engines from that era were air/oil cooled.

Not actually a tank. No tracks, no turret, no armor piercing gun.

EDIT: it does have a turret. Still not a tank.

EDIT2: the main armament is a machine gun. Totally not a tank.

Story is not titled "how I bought a tank" but "how to buy a tank". Rolling +20 pedantic, you are defeated.

It's not pedantic to critique misleading titles.

Imagine article "How to build website in assembler" to learn author meant writing it in javascript but it's close enough.

Ah you mean asm.js? :D

Like you could write website in it :) At some point you need strings.

(You do know that the programs compiled down to asm.js do actually have strings, right?)


the title is still misleading. when you read the title you really think the guy actually bought a tank. most people, even military amateurs, don't know what a BRDM2 is. it could have been a 70s tank.

I know what it is because it was the throwaway target in the M1-Abrams Battletank game; not heavily armed, one shot to kill.

This is my personal pet peeve.

Press will write "Poland to buy 1000 tanks". Inside the article 100 tanks and 900 support vehicles, most of them wheeled.

I was annoyed to see the same mistake in this article (and its headline) when it first went up. They've since corrected it, but you can see the note at the end.


It's not a huge stretch to conflate the category armoured vehicle with its sub-category tank. Normal people aren't into browsing Wikipedia articles about weapons.

Its the same thing as the attempt to label main battle rifles and sniper rifles and deer hunting rifles as "assault weapons"

So if you don't like what he did, its a tank.

yeah, even some armored vehicle have 20mm cannon that can pierce other APCs. I guess this one just has a big machine gun, something like a .50, but nothing really bigger.

syrians built their own armored vehicles.

> Thankfully, a nearby construction site loaned us their crane.

Hahahaaaaa, brilliant! The kind of things you would never be able to do in a western country "Think of the insurance liabilities!"

More like you can't do that in the USA because of insurance/liabilities. In most of Europe, assuming you found a friendly soul, they'd give you a hand. Liability is mostly an "american" thing. (I'm from Europe)

In England many people would say "can't do that; health amd safety."

This culture became so strong that the Health and Safety Executive started issuing rebuttals in an effort to protect the brand.


Here's one example:


More like West coast/East coast USA thing. You'd get the same kind of help in the midwest. People love to have a story to tell.

Not just the midwest, I've seen similar help happen here in Arizona.

Pop quiz - what is the most litigious (i.e. liabilities issues) country in the western world?

Hint: they speak German.


Germany is #1. Austria is #4. USA is .. #5.

I thought all you needed was to be a school district and they came free

This would have made a great episode of "Top Gear: Russia". I imagined an excited Clarkson narrating this.

They were once taped rummaging through a jet graveyard somewhere in Eastern Europe - a bunch of old (and totally cool) MiGs.

Quote from the article: "The driver had a nice sense of humour and at the first three police stops he was like: - What's this? - That's for our guys on the South-East."


Yes, most Russians support military intervention in Ukraine. This would probably be less surprising if ordinary Americans and Russians engaged in political dialogue.

the horror! don't empty the tires on a seven ton vehicle!!

That sounded alarming to me as well, but looking at the photos I don't think it's actually sitting on its rims. It is probably supported by solid run-flat wheels, like the magnesium ones used on HMMWVs.

It's sitting on its belly wheels, normally used in these vehicles for trench crossing.

Are you sure? It doesn't look that way to me, particularly in this picture: http://ic.pics.livejournal.com/ntv/14201556/1204378/1204378_...

Would it be possible to import into the US?

From the perspective of the US it would be incredibly easy. The US is very lax about what you can import in terms of military hardware. Once something is actually inside the border it can be difficult if not to remove from the country. There have been cases where non-functional mockups have been held after military trade shows.

The problem you are likely to encounter are: where the country of origin will allow it to go and what countries will allow it to transit their borders. For older military hardware like this unless you declare you are planning to import into some war-torn region of Africa there is unlikely to be any problems exiting the country with it. You might have to pay someone a small bribe if you're in a corrupt country.

As far as transiting other countries, it is basically a nightmare. You can't just carry military hardware across other countries. The only reason the US can move its hardware through other countries is because of defense agreements, etc. It'd be far easier but financially impractical to just airlift the thing out. If you could get it to a port and cram it into a shipping container that'd be ideal, but then you have to find a carrier that will carry military hardware. I can't imagine many carriers would be happy about that fact. If you could find one, you'd basically wait 2-6 months and then pick up your stuff at a port somewhere in the US.

It might be easy to get it into the US but being able to drive it on the road is a completely different story. It is not easy to import vehicles legally register them.

Yes, Jacques Littlefield did it all the time when he was building the tank collection, however there are constraints. And one of them, especially for combat vehicles is that they are 'demilitarized' which generally involves some damage that would render them unfit to use in a fight. As I recall one of their tanks had the barrel cut off and then re-welded back on with a slight offset. Any attempt to fire it with a shell would cause the barrel to explode in a backfire. However some black powder and wadding was OK which gave a satisfying 'boom!' and smoke.

I think you can own a howitzer in the USA if you want

I think that's because it's really hard to rob a bank with a howitzer.

You can own basically anything given enough forms and legal wrangling.

Two or three of the tanks in the Littlefield auction had functional main guns. You needed a special ATF license for "destructive devices"(?) to take delivery. Getting said license is probably non-trivial, but very much possible for law abiding citizens.

For those in the UK and Europe, check out http://www.russianmilitary.co.uk/for-sale.php?headers=land. You can buy similar vehicles, fully working, for a similar price infact

You can get all kinds of surplus UK kit - here is just the thing for getting a space in the school car park in the morning:


Edit: One of these "Combat Engineer Tractors" would be ideal for tasks around the garden:


Edit 2: Why is the MOD selling Corvettes???


I think Corvettes were used for some sort of on-runway operations involving planes and whatnot - maybe as a chase vehicle for some planes with landing-gear issues, or something like that.. I can't remember the details, but I do remember that there are Corvettes at some American bases for things like this.

Good point - I believe U2 pilots need to be talked down the last few feet by someone in a chase car:


Maybe U2s were operating from RAF bases and they thought it was polite to use US cars?

The US RAF bases where little piece of America in the UK vehicles drove on the right.

Well, in EU, it doesn't seem like big issue to buy tank: http://www.armytechnika.cz/nabidka/pasova-technika/tanky/tan...

It's like the APC in GTA 4. Corvette certainly is no match for the BRDM-2.

One part of me was thinking who has the time and money to go and buy a tank but another part just kept thinking about how the US supposedly has a huge amount of tanks they are not using...

This is actually not a tank. It is an Armoured Fighting Vehicle, but not a tank. It looks like an Armoured Car/Security Vehicle instead.

What is the motive for buying a tank? I just don't see how it could be useful.

That's what I like about this story! Pick a stupid idea and just follow it through to it's conclusion for no reason. You'll create all your best stories doing that.

For example - on holiday myself and a friend decided to paddle "as far round the coast as we can" in an inflatable dingy and a crate of beer. We met some naked hermits round the coast, and things just went weirder from there. We still laugh about it 15 years later.

Life is about creating experiences for yourself that you'll remember. Often those experiences aren't going to happen by making sensible choices...

> paddle "as far round the coast as we can" in an inflatable dingy and a crate of beer.

That seems incredibly dangerous to do. It is good to hear you survived.

there was a guy that drove a similar looking vehicle in my college town. His license plate said "HUM THIS"

I guess the Russians enjoy a different kind of freedom that we don't experience in highly regulated countries.

I've seen bigger armored vehicles in the US owned by private citizens. For a cool $495k you can have a perfect condition WW2 Sherman Tank.


That's amazing!

Could it be made street-legal? I'm serious.

I think the metal tracks are a deal breaker. I have seen rubber tired military vehicles owned by civilians at car shows, but generally trucks and humvees.

The weight of the vehicle would likely destroy the road and any pipes underneath it. You would have to find something light with good weight distribution. Maybe a wheeled APC or armored recon vehicle?

Unlikely. Doesn't even come close to complying with DOT regs.

Aren't historic vehicles exempt / grandfathered from certain requirements? I wonder if you could fit a tank in such a loophole.

Yes its usually trivial from a direct .gov perspective to register .mil equipment. One of my dad's friends had a used 5 ton truck (or was it a 2.5 ton?) for construction hauling, more for the impact and advertising than economics. This varies by state but virtually all states have an antique / kit / custom car registration category thats quite reasonable.

Unfortunately getting insurance on antique / kit / custom cars can be a little problematic if you intend to heavily use the vehicle. So you can get insurance for a 5 ton or an original ford model T or a modern kit car replica model T relatively cheaply and easily IF you stay under 500 miles per year on the odometer. It would be quite unaffordable to insure if you commuted 40 miles per day like my little commuter car.

Too bad he's not a US police department, he could have bought an MRAP instead.

Yes, well, I guess that allowing people buying military vehicles, and driving them on public roads is all what you need for a successful society, isn't it?

Did I mention anything about my needs, or even about what society I consider successful? I've just stated an observation.

No. You need to have the right to bear arms on the one hand and be disallowed to paint YOUR house any color you want. No wonder you are frustrated!

To be fair, very few municipalities will restrict the color you pain the house, it's primarily private organizations that do that.

Historical neighborhoods too, think brownstones.

Yes. The freedom for the government to swoop in and take your business away from you (and hand it off to some crony) if it becomes too successful!

Nobody said more freedom, just different freedom. Every place has its own advantages.

Tanks a lot for this article.

OK, sorry, it was a bad joke..

For $9k one could do a lot of amazing things...travel the world, not just tourist crap but visit amazing places...you could seed some kind of business...you could just help someone in need...or you could buy obsolete military equipment. I'm not sure I get it. ???

You obviously didn't read the article.

And the main thing. Right now I'm in the active process of polishing it up, getting my license and documents. This will take some time, but after it's all done, I will start the gnarliest road trip livejournal has ever seen...

I'll take my down votes I guess, but the road trip I would love to take wouldn't be in an antique military vehicle.

It is strange you are forced to purchase obsolete Russian military vehicles before you could take a road trip! I don't think we have to in Australia, nor in many EU countries.

Probably the coolest antique military vehicle available for $9k USD, depending upon where you live, would be one or more horses.

To each his own.

How does one get a license to drive an armored vehicle?

There are different classes of licenses in Russia (as well as many other countries). To drive a vehicle over 3500 kg but with less than 8 seats and no trailer you need a C-class license. My father got one some time ago - it's pretty much the same process as a car license (B-class) only you take driving lessons and the test on a truck.

To drive a wheeled heavy vehicle, you'd need the same category licence as for driving a heavy truck (the legal requirements are based on weight and number of seats).

To drive a tracked vehicle, there are separate licences; but quite a few farmers have them for moving their tractors through roads.

By declaring it as tractor.

For most fancy or new cars that people buy, they could get one $9k cheaper that would go places just as well.

Every day in my city I see some off road vehicle that has never been off a road, and could have been replaced by a $9k cheaper car and this BRDM, doing everything better but just in separate packages.

Buy a tank. Travel the world. Meet interesting people and ... them.

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