Russian Ground Forces: The Return of Tachanka

Russian Ground Forces: The Return of Tachanka

One of the iconic weapons of the Russian Civil War was the tachanka–a light wheeled carriage pulled by a team of horses and mounting a Maxim heavy machine-gun, which was a weapon system ideally suited to the wide open spaces and low troop densities of that conflict. Tachankas were used by virtually every combatant in that conflict to provide mobile direct fire support to infantry and cavalry formations.

After the war, with the Red Army ultimately becoming a regular force well equipped with modern weapons, the tachanka vanished from its arsenal. However, decades later, it was reincarnated as the “technical”–a 4-wheel drive pick-up truck mounting a heavy machine gun, automatic cannon, or even a multiple rocket launcher–for use in the brushfire wars of Africa where once again the conditions of the Russian Civil War obtained.

Once the wave of regime change had swept over the Middle East, it was inevitable that the “technical” would see extensive use in those wars. Indeed, the fleets of brand-new, customized Toyota Hillux trucks became indelibly associated with ISIS during its triumphant advances across Iraq and Syria.

Their usefulness in that conflict was, again, due to the conditions prevalent in the theater of war: low troop densities and open terrain favoring mobile operations. Even airpower was not an effective countermeasure against this veritable desert light cavalry. ISIS mastery of this method of warfare became particularly evident in its recapture of Palmyra in 2016, when it was able to hit the extended salient from several directions and at many points, thus collapsing the Syrian defenses. The light truck-mounted ISIS units also proved effective at thwarting offensive operations by harassing the vulnerable lines of communications of heavy mechanized forces.

Russian Ground Forces: The Return of Tachanka

With time, however, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its Russian advisory forces have developed effective measures against ISIS tactics, in part by creating similar forces themselves. The Russian military has gone so far as to organize one battalion of the newly formed Samara-based 30th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 2nd Guards Army in the Central Military District as a force equipped mainly with the 21st century version of the tachanka, the UAZ-3163 Patriot.

The Patriot is an extended-cab 4-wheel drive light truck with a cargo bed optimized for mounting heavy crew-served weapons such as the Kord 12.7mm machine-guns, AGS-30 automatic grenade launchers, and Kornet ATGMs. In addition, the “tachanka” battalion is equipped with man-portable 82mm mortars. While the rest of the brigade has the standard equipment of BTR-82A APCs and T-72B3 tanks, its artillery is limited to towed 122mm D-30 howitzers, which suggests the entire brigade is intended to be trained for low troop density desert warfare mission. Reports from exercises indicate the brigade artillery is working out techniques for dealing with highly mobile enemy light truck forces.

Russian Ground Forces: The Return of Tachanka

The reliance on light trucks, wheeled APCs, and truck-towed medium howitzers also gives the unit the combination of strategic and operational mobility. Other than the tanks, all of its weapon systems could be rapidly airlifted into a conflict zone in a manner only the VDV could match. However, the predominantly wheeled mobile platforms of the brigade mean that, unlike the BMD-mounted VDV units, the 30th Brigade would have considerable operational mobility once in the conflict zone. The tracked vehicles’ advantage in tactical mobility was not felt nearly as strongly in the Syrian theater of war due to the terrain favoring wheeled vehicles even when moving off-road.

The permanent establishment of a force which appears to be custom-designed for the conditions of modern desert, and possibly also steppe, warfare, suggests the Russian military is not viewing the Syrian conflict as a unique experience that is unlikely to repeat itself. There are other ongoing conflicts in which Russian forces may yet be called upon to influence, including Iraq and Libya. Moreover, the uncertain future of Afghanistan and ISIS emergence in that region means that the states of Central Asia are in danger of becoming theaters of war themselves. There are enough citizens of those states fighting in the ranks of ISIS and other Islamist forces in Syria to make that threat quite plausible. Having a force that is capable of switfly and decisively intervening in that kind of environment is the best guarantee of nipping any 21st century version of the “basmachi” in the bud.

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jan Tjarks

With the advent of drone warfare, it is only logical to step away from the heavy and big machines, which can be spotted easily and are not suited for a quick moving war like this, becoming ever faster. However, the drones themselves are the solution of spotting and taking out these light vehicles too, but that is not yet being apparent in Syria, where barely any sophisticated drones are used. Nevertheless, they are already used to bomb targets anyway, even though its like on the level of the very early WWI planes, throwing down small bombs manually with the hand so far.

A small rocket, guided via cable, attached to a relatively light drone, using its sensor to home the rocket in, will be more than enough to take out technicals. Again, this will be countered by the technicals, adding anti drone weaponry, like jamming devices, or smaller EMPs, which are enough to take out even hardened electronics of a combat drone.

It’s a complete new development in warfare, that only partly becomes apparent in Syria so far. One might compare to the american civil war, in which several new technologies were introduced, but their effect only being seen and understood during the two world wars.

In the end, this will most likely result in the development of a new form of wheeled APC, which is strong enough to withstand heavy machine gun fire, and is able to locate, track and knock out drones in its vicinity, while employing swarms of drones itself.

The amount of drones used will go up, as they won’t be remote controlled anymore, but will be semi independent, being part of a drone network of many relatively cheap drones. Thus, operators will have to deal with decision making which areas to check, who is an opponent or not (friendly fire prevention, etc.) and which vehicles to take out, but wont have to control the drones themselves.

In the future, drones will be very skilled sharpshooters. The required technology is already existent for this.


The weak link with drones are their com links to the ground. The drone is only as effective as link to the ground. Russians and Iran have both shown the ability to hack and take control of US drones going back to the 2012 when the Iranians with Russian help took down an RQ-170 Reaper and landed it in the desert.

I’m sure the potential of drones is not lost on either of them so what do you suppose they’ve been up to the last 5 years with their hijacked drone and all the elint they’ve been collecting in Syria?

Gary Sellars

I can’t image Western drones being able to operate anywhere near a krashua-4 ECM system.


During the cold war the Russians did a lot of research in the EM spectrum independent of the rest of the world. this was real mad scientist shit.

Over the years Russia has produced some of the worlds best mathematicians, physicists and strategists as well as some of the weirdest science and theories the world has known. Rumour has it that Tesla’s research ended up in Russia’s hands after his death.

I wouldn’t be surprised if they they know things about the EM spectrum that we know nothing about in the west.

Solomon Krupacek

be sure, there is no class dufference between russia and west

Solomon Krupacek

The drone is only as effective as link to the ground.

to the sattelite

Jan Tjarks

Indeed, the raw electricity is always stronger than the electronics, this is why I mentioned the EMP. However, there is a multitude of options how to prevent hostile influence or even take over of drones, as well as there is a multitude of options to deal or prevent drones from performing their tasks.

The easiest thing is, to create drones so cheap, that the loss of a single drone doesn’t matter. A “new APC”, utilizing drone technology, usually will be able to deal with enemy drones by themselves, but that would only be the basics, like jamming or EMPs. There surely will be more sophisticated methods and specialized vehicles to deal with drones, be it hacking into an opponents drone network and gathering information, or even taking over drones, turning the drones against their masters.

To prevent losses is impossible, as such it is about minimizing losses.

Many smaller drones, which are acting in a swarm like unit, are easier to take out by EMP or jamming, but it is difficult to catch all of them, something similar like the Krasukha EW System, but as a smaller scale application and easier to handle.

Bigger drones will be more hardened against such attacks, there the more sophisticated take over would play its role, as you mentioned the RQ-170 incident in Iran, which probably fell to an attack similar like the Krasukha EW System. However, such takeovers require more in the future. The current com links are not suited for this yet.

To prevent takeovers for bigger drones, there is a multitude of possibilities. Complete independence from the operator if the operator can’t be reached anymore (performing a regular link check, if contact is still existing). Be it that a drone simply returns if they are attacked like this, or have a hard coded task, which is immun to outside influence, which they perform then. Nevertheless, sending the drone false data can still take it of task, sending it fake targets. However, this can be countered in different ways too, like optical or heat check, if targets are really existing or faked. Most likely the bigger drones would return to prevent losses. For smaller drones this surely will be a different story, as it is more difficult to target them and a loss wouldn’t matter that much.

To minimize the effect of losses, there will be “front line” drones, which task will mainly be reconnaissance and providing target data, as well as rear units, carrying the weapons load or mission equipment. Losing one or some of the front line drones won’t affect a whole swarm. Furthermore, losses within the swarm will lead to counter actions, as the losses will not be going unnoticed.

It’s the usual cat & dog game, one feature will lead to the next. I highly doubt that the RQ-170 loss didn’t lead to countermeasures, question will be, how effective those are. Today, is it still possible to take out a drone this way? It’s difficult to say.

But the sheer amount of drones, easy to produce on a massive scale, will make it impossible to get rid of them, no matter how much they are taken care of. Wasting drones has less impact than wasting soldiers.


The Russians are testing a 57mm gun on a BMD3 chassis as an air defence gun, suited for drones especially. It has optical sighting, IR and other sensors, and is expected into service for next year.
It was shown at the ArmyForum expo in August 2018.

Justin Ryan


Solomon Krupacek

went the flag for spamming

Justin Ryan

Good for u!
I wonder how well that will work when I am literally attacking a PRO- HTS / ISIS comment!
But by all means, flag away!

Solomon Krupacek

why? also the SF team wrote, you should stop.

Justin Ryan

I did all i wanted to do! Job done! Everyone knows.
Sure that even SF has a smile on their face.

Gary Sellars

yep, we all know that douchenational is a fucking terror sympathiser…. thanks for the proof (even if its not needed),

Alex Black

Dutch national i a known kurdish fan boy, in a few month, when isis, dead and gone from syrian lands, he will be crying about the kurdish corpses that little syrian country side.


I totally agree with u!

Sean Glennie

The better option would be to either use light vehicles like the Tigr-M and similar types of universal armored cars, or better yet infantry fighting vehicles like the BMP-3M. With tracked armor they could tear ISIS to shreds without much difficulty, why degrade your fighting effectiveness by moving down to their level?

I suppose this has more to do with reducing operating costs when deployed abroad with cheap and easy to maintain pickup trucks to be used as ‘Tachanka’ mobile platforms for machine guns, grenade launchers, infantry mortar carriers, and anti-tank guided missiles. Still though they would perform much more effectively with tracked infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers, or alternatively less effective wheeled infantry carriers for their lower operational costs and longer life span.

Alex Black

The real value of these vehicles is the ability to move several spetznaz like groups, rapidly, through most terrain, while also allowing them to transport Kornets, portable AA, and light firepower like machine guns and mortars. They also blend in better with civilian vehicles and are easier to transport and hide.