Given Ukraine’s and Russia’s close ties during the Soviet era, it’s no surprise that the two nations use much of the same equipment — Western support notwithstanding.
But a relative oddity has shown up on the Ukrainian battlefield on both sides: the 46-ton Czech VT-72B Armored Recovery Vehicle (ARV).
Built on the Russian T-72 tank chassis, the VT-72B was manufactured by former Czechoslovakia in 1989 and delivered to the Czechoslovak People’s Army and other Warsaw Pact members.
Production quickly ended just a few years later when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 making these ARVs quite rare.
East Germany and India both ended up with a handful of the ARVs, as well as the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
And apparently, both Ukraine and Russia got their hands on some also because the ARV has now appeared in Ukraine.
Ukraine likely received theirs directly from the Czech Republic sometime after 2014. As for Russia, their VT-72B’s are a little more of a mystery. According to Ukraine War analyst David Axe, it wasn’t widely known that the Russian army had VT-72Bs until one of the aging ARVs appeared alongside some other old combat vehicles on a Russian train, bound for Ukraine, in a video that circulated online on Wednesday.
Russia has lost nearly 300 engineering vehicles since the war began; perhaps that’s why they are resorting to this rare oddity.
One of the common themes in the Ukraine War is the wholesale destruction of Russian armor, and more recently Western armor as Ukraine continues its counteroffensive.
Once a tank is disabled on the battlefield, it needs to be removed and recovered if it’s to be repaired and sent back to the fight.
The ARV is custom-made to do just that.
It has a 19-ton crane and a bull-dozer-style blade that can help recover and tow disabled armor similar to the German Bergepanzer, British Challenger ARV, or the American M-88 ARV.
In this video, an American M88 recovery vehicle tries to tow an Abrams tank until the chain snaps and sends the Abrams rolling uncontrollably down a hill.
Indeed, Ukrainian Bergepanzers have been instrumental in recovering more than two dozen of Ukraine’s best vehicles that were abandoned when Ukraine’s 47th Brigade tried to cross a Russian minefield in southern Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Oblast on June 8.
Now, you can own your very own VT-72B through Prague-based Mortar Investments — a licensed international dealer of military equipment that specializes in selling tanks.
They also sell Russian military aircraft like the MiG-21 and Mil Mi-2 (and ship to the U.S. and Canada).
The description on the VT-72B listing reads:
“Recovery tank from the Czech Republic Army stock, nice condition, minimally used, fully functional. Spare parts for this item are available. Please contact us.”
Unfortunately, you must call for the price, but I suspect it’s expensive given how rare these ARVs are.
I would imagine that Mortar Investments, and other European used-weapons dealers, are supplying spare parts for many of Ukraine’s older, eclectic military vehicles.
Ukraine is the only place in the world at the moment where you can see a modern, third-generation German main battle tank like the Leopard II fighting alongside an obscure, extremely rare VT-72B from the Czechoslovak People’s Army.