Thursday 2 December 2021

Serbian Lazar 3 IFVs In Service With Turkmenistan

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
Turkmenistan has accumulated a highly diverse arsenal of arms and equipment acquired from a plethora of countries worldwide. Intriguingly, many of those acquisitions appear to stem from an intention to increase ties with a particular country rather than actually fulfilling a genuine military requirement. This 'friendship through arms' policy comes at the cost of an increasingly complicated logistic system that by now has to source spare parts from nine countries for Turkmenistan's fleet of infantry mobility vehicles (IMVs) alone!

One recent source of AFVs is Serbia, which supplied an undisclosed number of 8x8 Lazar 3 infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) to Turkmenistan in 2021. Similar to Turkmenistan's exorbitant fleet of IMVs, the acquisition of Lazar 3s too could be an attempt at increasing political ties with Serbia, with the country already operating several vehicle designs in the same class. This includes BTR-80A IFVs and large numbers of BTR-70s and BTR-80s APCs, a number of which have recently been upgraded by Ukraine and Turkey. [1] [2]

Rather than being fitted with a 12.7mm remote weapon station (RWS) or one of Serbia's indigenous turret designs, Turkmenistan's Lazar 3s come equipped with a Russian 30mm MB2 turret that is normally found on BTR-80A IFVs. When equipped with this turret, the Lazar 3 in practice becomes an IFV rather than an APC. Instead of entering service with the Turkmenistan Army as one might expect, the vehicles entered service with the Ministry for National Security as indicated by the emblems on the vehicles and the colour of their digital camouflage pattern.
The acquisition of Lazar 3s by Turkmenistan was first reported on in early 2021. [3] Yet it would take several more months before the first evidence of a purchase surfaced, when two vehicles took part in Turkmenistan's 30th anniversary of independence parade in September 2021. [4] The exact number acquired by Turkmenistan currently remains unknown. What is known is that the Lazar 3s are the first IFVs to enter service with the Ministry for National Security, offering space for eight soldiers along with their equipment.

Another vehicle type newly acquired for the Ministry for National Security is the Israeli Plasan StormRider IMV. [3] Additionally, 2021 saw the acquisition of Iveco LMVs (Light Multirole Vehicles) IMVs by the same government agency. [5] The Ministry also operates a number of Eurocopter EC145 and Robinson R44 helicopters, and there is no sign of its massive procurement drive slowing down any time soon. Turkmenistan's State Border Service and the Ministry of Internal Affairs similarly operate vast quantities of heavy weaponry, aircraft and even naval ships.

An Iveco LMV and Plasan StormRiders drive in front of two Lazar 3s during Turkmenistan's 30th anniversary of independence parade.

The Lazar 3 is a family of armoured fighting vehicles designed and produced by Serbia's Yugoimport SDPR. The vehicle is designed for various missions, functioning as an APC, IFV, or ambulance; even a version equipped with eight RALAS long-range multipurpose missiles exists. The only other operator of the Lazar 3 is Serbia, which purchased several batches worth of vehicles for its army infantry batallions and the Gendarmerie. These vehicles are fitted with a 30mm MB2-03 turret or 12.7mm RWS.

Serbia has also integrated its indigenously-designed 20mm Kerber RWS and the Russian 30mm 32V01 RWS on to its new Lazar 3s. [6] Other combat modules currently offered for potential customers include the Double-Headed Eagle and two 30mm cannons from the M53/59 Praga SPAAG along with four Nova anti-tank guided missiles (depicted below). When fitted with unmanned turrets, each Lazar 3 features five or six viewing and firing ports on each side as opposed to just four when fitted with a manned turret (as is the case with Turkmenistan's vehicles).

Serbia's arms industry currently has a number of advanced designs on offer. Nonetheless, its actual exports have so far mainly been limited to small arms and Nora B-52 self-propelled howitzers, with the sale of Lazar 3s to Turkmenistan being a notable exception. Whether these were acquired to increase ties with Serbia or because the Ministry of National Security actually had a requirement for them ultimately matters little, and continued development of the new Lazar 3M and Lazanski 8x8 IFV could soon attract entirely new customers, bolstered by this deal. And who knows – perhaps it will again be Turkmenistan that is first in line to acquire them.
[3] Набавка нових "Лазара 3" за Војску Србије, вредност уговора 3,7 милијарди динара
[4] Snaps From Ashgabat: Turkmenistan’s 2021 Military Parade
[6] Partner 2021: Serbia integrates Russian unmanned weapon stations on Lazar III A1 ACVs

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