Conflicts of modern times obviously demonstrate the importance of medical service for reducing losses and rendering quick medical aid to injured soldiers. It is critical to render quick medical aid and carry casualties at least to the dressing station and then to the field hospital. Medical service is also necessary during peacetime for reducing morbidity of the personnel.
Medical service of the Russian army has been reorganized twice: at the beginning of 2008-2010 during the building of “a new image…” and then in the reform of 2012–2014 when the separate shortcomings of the previous stage were eliminated. The key features of the second stage are the following. There was expedited the work on formation of 50 hospital companies by 2014, which are able of rendering any type of medical aid, from special one to the first one. Each hospital company must have an infirmary with 50-70 beds and ambulatories for 150-200 visits.
At the same time, there were defined priority actions for providing the military unit of the medical service of the Russian Armed forces with modern medical facilities and modern deployment tools on the basis of pneumo-framed structures. Until 2017, it was planned to purchase special pneumo-framed structures of PSM-6 type for 50 hospital companies, 4 medical aviation detachments and 7 special task medical detachments. Within the same period, it was planned to completely set up 35 medical hospitals and re-equip them with medical facilities. All the other hospital companies will be also accommodated in standardized buildings and operational infrastructures.
There were also taken measures increasing the mobility of military medicine. Certain special task medical detachments, capable of “redeploying to the assigned area and performing the required task in the shortest possible time”, have been further developed. The seventh detachment was added to six previously existing ones. Moreover, in base, district and central hospitals there were established mobile teams of special medical aid and 11 doctor-nurse teams related to existing heliports and airdromes. Air transport for these teams is to be equipped with special modules with stretchers and necessary medical equipment that will be able to be replaced on another carrier.
For casualty evacuation, the Russian Army is proposed to have 2 evacuation and resuscitation planes Il-76MD Skalpel MT, 6 evacuation and resuscitation small-lift planes on the base of Il-112V or An-148 planes (analogue of An-26М Spasatel) and 12 evacuation and resuscitation helicopters Mi-8МТV-5 (analogue of Mi-8МB Bissectrisa).
Many efforts have been undertaken to improve medical automotive vehicles, which actually remained at the level of late 1980s. Some questions, meanwhile, needed to be addressed for objective reasons. For example, a front line transporter was earlier produced on the base of LuAZ-967 and its production, as well as the production of the base chassis, has been stopped long ago (moreover, it was located in the Ukraine). UAZ-3962 known as “bukhanka” is actually a military ambulance and is ill-suited for evacuation of casualties from the battlefield. Not to mention an out-of-date chassis designed 60 years ago. UAZ-3972, which was developed to replace it, was not serially produced, as well as UAZ-2970. In addition, despite the new construction, both they were hardly suitable for actions in the conditions of modern combat.
Attempts to create medical vehicles on the truck chassis (for example, АС4350 on the chassis of KAMAZ-4350I and АС4350.I on the Ural-43206 chassis) provided a temporary solution to the problem, but nevertheless there still remained questions regarding comfort for an injured soldier and medical staff and the presence of armoured protection.
Back in the Soviet period, medical vehicles (BMM) on the chassis of an IFV and APC provided protection of injured personnel on the battlefield. The family of BMM on the chassis of BMP-1 IFV (BMM-1, BMM-2, BMM-3), BMD-D Travmatizm on the chassis of BTR-MD IFV for airborne forces, and also medical options for MT-LB armoured carrier. It must be noticed that all these vehicles are created on the basis of chassis which are either out-of-date or out of production. Moreover, they are tracked vehicles. The situation is worst for BMM on the obsolescent and deprecated chassis of BMP-1 and BTR-D and for a relatively small fleet of these vehicles. Overhaul of MT-LB in Russia is declared to be regulated in AO Remdizel but there is still no information about the overhaul of medical vehicles.
This situation resulted in using combat equipment for casualty evacuation during combat actions, which, on the one hand, does not allow to provide injured soldiers with quality medical care and, on the other hand, interferes with performing solution of purely combat tasks by combat equipment. For example, during two wars in Chechnya, one had to involve MT-LB towing trucks for evacuation of casualties from the battlefield. In Syria, linear BMP-1 IFVs are used for evacuation of casualties during the combat despite there are few vehicles in Syrian army.
As a result, Russia began to develop a new generation of BMM. Thus, in the mid-2010s, there were purchased some BMM-80 Symphonia vehicles on the chassis of GAZ-59039. Nevertheless, this vehicle has never become popular.
In 2016, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced two tenders to create promising BMMs. One tender was announced to implement research and development work named “The development of an armoured ambulance on the basis of BMP-3 IFV” (“Kurganets-M” key). The initial (maximum) price of the contract was 58.58653 mln rubles; the work was to be finished by no later than October 25, 2018. According to the request, the purpose of the research and development work was the development of an armoured ambulance on the basis of BMP-3 (BMM-K) IFV. BMM-K IFV had to be created on the basis of assemblies and components of BMP-3 in two configurations. The first configuration is an armoured medical carrier BMM-K1: a crew of 3 people, the number of seats for casualty evacuation – 6 on the stretcher or 8 for sitting position; the second one is an armoured vehicle of battalion aid station BMM-K2: crew for 5 people*.
Not a single application to this completion has been sent. Among others, this can indicate some difficulty in development of such equipment and the fact that not every company is able to implement the project of creating a medical vehicle.
The second tender for implementation of research and development work named “Development of a protected medical vehicle of a tactical level” (“Linza” key) for the needs of the Russian Ministry of Defense was announced in September 2016. The work was to be finished by no later than November 30, 2017. The initial (maximum) price of the contract was 46.509 mln rubles.**
According to the request, a protected medical vehicle of a tactical level (ZSA) is intended for using in two configurations. The first configuration is a medical carrier (ZSA-T) for searching, collecting and evacuating casualties from the battlefield and hot spots of mass sanitary losses. ZSA-T vehicle must have 3 seats for a crew and 6 fold-back seats for casualties and fastening devices for placing 2-4 stretchers. The second configuration is an armoured vehicle of battalion aid station (ZSA-P) for carrying medical equipment and deployment of a battalion aid station on its base. ZSA-P vehicle must have 5 seats for a crew and fastening devices for placing 2 stretchers and a frame tent as well. As a base vehicle, a 4х4-armoured vehicle must be used. The vehicle must belong to such families as Typhoon, Tiger, Scorpion etc.
There were submitted three applications to the competition from different Russian companies. After reviewing, all three applications were rejected for various reasons. However, in some months, after execution of all documents and retendering, a medical option for К-53949 vehicle has won the completion. It was AO Remdizel (JSC), which worked on manufacturing and preparation of serial production.
Operational work of AO Remdizel resulted in creation of ZSA-Т-53949 medical carrier (it was named ZA-53949А by 2019) and ZSA-П-53939 medical vehicle of battalion aid station on the К-53949 base***. The curb weight of the vehicles is 15 tons, protection level corresponds to that of a heavier К-63968 6х6 vehicle. The vehicle is equipped with the 1st or 2ndclass medical module.
Engineering samples of each option were assembled in 2017 and presented at Army 2017 international forum. In 2018, already at Army 2017 forum, they signed the first contract for the supply of 27 vehicles to the Russian Ministry of Defense in 2018-2020 that is to be executed in 2019-2020.
Since the first vehicles must be delivered to the customer as early as the current year, it can be safely said that developing a new fighting vehicle for the Russian Army was successful.
***Here, ZSA means armoured medical vehicle
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