I saw this piece in VZGLIAD this morning. The headline reads:
RUSSIA’S ANSWER TO SYRIAN JIHADI-MOBILES IS THE MODERN CHARIOT
As I started to read, I came upon a Russian word I didn’t know and had never seen before: пикап. But as I pronounced it aloud (“pik-ap”) I realized what it was: the English word pickup. And sure enough, it is hard to keep track of all the English words flooding into the Russian vocabulary with accelerating tempo, seems like there is a new one every day. I have been told there is a new joke making the rounds of Russian language majors in American colleges: You don’t actually need to learn Russian any more, just speak English with a Russian accent!
Unlike some people, this phenomenon doesn’t bother me. Since ancient times, Russians have always borrowed tons of words from other languages, in recent centuries German, French, and now English. The accretion of new words just adds stylistic possibilities and does not affect the core of the language itself, nor its grammatical expressiveness. A language that never changes and never borrows, is a dying language. And the great Russian Language is definitely not dying, any time soon.
But enough about that, I am not writing a linguistic essay here, so back to the meat of the article; oh, and by the way, I just added a new category to my category list: “Military and War”. I should have done this before, instead of categorizing every war story as “The Great Game”. But better late than never.
Speaking of which, I translated the word from the headline, тачанка (“tachanka”) as “chariot”. Not sure what else to call it, Google translate doesn’t have an equivalent word; they used these things during the Russian Civil War, basically a horse and buggy with a machine-gun attached to the rear.
So, apparently the Russian “tachanka” has made a come-back in the Syria war. The Russian army pimps them up with a large-calibre machine-gun called the “Kord”. This gun is a Russian design introduced into service in 1998. One of its unique features is that it can be fired from a bipod. The gun is designed specifically to be used in mobile warfare. It is light in weight and can be either carried by hand, or mounted on a vehicle.
In the Syria war, the Russian army has started to equip their UAZ-3163 “Patriot” jeeps with these Kords and also a grenade launcher called the AGS-17. This type of vehicle, thusly equipped, is perfect for quick raids and urban fighting, and also useful for patrolling vast distances in the desert. The Russian army began to deploy these “Patriots” just recently, towards the end of the summer. They are used for humanitarian aid convoys as well as fighting raids. A single vehicle can also function as a mobile checkpoint.
Yes, you ask, but how do these babies operate in the desert? Quite well, actually, because they have been retrofitted (by the Russian army engineers) with extra features, such as air filtration systems. The electronic components are provided with extra protection against that annoying desert dust. Climate control features can handle temperature fluctuations ranging from -10 to 50 (Centigrade, of course; for American readers: The Fahrenheit equivs would be 14 – 122 degrees F.)
Now, it is not known if the Russian army engineers have tried to sell the government that extra wax undercoat on the Patriots. But there are certain other features which are simply indispensable, especially in conditions of urban warfare. For example, the placement of the machine gun in the autobody; and also making an area between the seats for various entrenching tools such as shovels, etc. Space is also needed for all the ancillary equipment such as night-vision goggles. And the engineers did not forget to add spare tires and tire-patching equipment. For those annoying occasions when your wheels are pierced by enemy bullets.
Lest people think that Russia is introducing a new type of warfare into the Middle East … nope, they’re just trying to catch up. For many years now the U.S. has been supplying its jihadist clients (in Libya and Syria) with thousands of Toyota HiLux and LandRover Defender pickup trucks. Their popularity gave rise to the word “jihadimobile”, which has become an iconic image of modern desert warfare. Even dim-bulb Americans started to ask the question: “Why do the ISIS headchoppers have so many Toyotas?” Like, was this some kind of promotional gimmick on the part of Toyota, to show just how rugged their trucks are?
Headchopper use of Toyota pickup trucks dates back as least as far as the Soviet-Afghan war. The 22nd Brigade of Soviet Special Forces was known to capture some Toyota pickups from the mujahedeen. (The pickups no doubt donated by an American charitable organization called the CIA.) The Soviets adapted and began to used these trophey vehicles in their own operations.
The Lybia-Chad War of 1987 became known as the “Toyota War”. A Libyan expeditionary force consisting of 8,000 men and 300 tanks was completely crushed by the Chadians, a ragtag army using Toyota off-road vehicles equipped with anti-tank weaponry. During the later Libya events, the ragtag jihadis who overthrew Colonel Gaddafi also made extensive use of these mobile chariots; most likely also at the expense of U.S. taxpayers.
Why Buy A Toyota?
I will end this piece with a quote from Russian military analyst Oleg Zheltonozhko who explains why pickup truck technology will not soon replace the tank, and yet remains a promising addition to the modern military arsenal:
“The armed pickup is the contemporary version of the [Russian] tachanka. These autos are superior in several ways to the standard factory output of military technology. They are superior to regular army transport in terms of speed, they use less fuel, and are easier to repair, especially in urban conditions. And these automobiles can be equipped with a wide range of weapons, from large-calibre machine guns to salvo firing systems. These vehicles are more vulnerable in comparison with standard military technology, but this deficiency is offset by their speed and ability to get from one place to another in a short amount of time; they can fire off quickly and then withdraw quickly before the answering fire. In this respect they are superior to standard military vehicles, which take much longer to turn around and withdraw.”