4-Wheeled Light Armored Car
The GAZ BA-64 LIght Armored Car proved a multi-role battlefield performer for the Soviet Army during World War 2.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
The BA-64 series was branched into several notable battlefield-useful roles. The BASh-64 was a related staff vehicle which transported VIPs under armor protection while the BA-64D became an ultimately abandoned, though similarly minded, prototype for an armored personnel carrier intended to house six combat-ready infantry. To shore up the limited effectiveness of the 7.62mm armament of the original marks, the BA-64DShK was appropriately fitted with a 12.7mm DShK heavy machine gun and appeared in number from 1944 onwards. The BA-64ZhD was a proposed railcar defense vehicle that fell to naught while the BA-64SKh became a proposed "Winter Warfare" hybrid design utilizing a half-track component coupled with front axle-mounted skis. This initiative existed in prototype form only and was never adopted on a wide scale.
Despite the inherent benefits of the economical lightweight vehicle, the BA-64 series held several key deficiencies. Early forms lacked coverage for the gunner which exposed him to all manner of battlefield dangers and inclement weather. The pintle-mounted reach of the machine gun limited engagement angles and the 7.62mm caliber machine gun was really on sufficient as an anti-infantry weapon. The vehicle managed a rather tall profile which made it an easy target to identify at range and the driver had to take special care on turns or across uneven terrain lest the vehicle topple over. The BA-64's light armor protection scheme also made it extremely susceptible to large-caliber weaponry, mines, anti-tank (AT) weapons and artillery. Punctures of any wheel could also debilitate the vehicle to extreme levels, rendering it a tactical liability in the heat of battle (a spare would be carried on the rear hull panel for replacement).
Regardless, the BA-64 could be procured in massive numbers and its speed and mobility in the field were hallmarks of its design. If properly fielded with accompanying infantry and armored units for self-preservation, a BA-64 could hold its own when called to suppress of flush out embedded enemy units. Its agility could be put to good use in the forward reconnaissance role or as a battlefield surveillance vehicle and its machine gun armament was sufficient enough to engage enemy infantry when providing suppression fire in support of advancing allies.
While production figures vary, it is largely believed that 9,110 BA-64 vehicles were ultimately produced (5,209 of these were of the improved BA-64B type). The type served beyond the Soviet Union and eventually made its way into the inventories of China, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, North Korea, Mongolia, Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia. The BA-64 was still in play at the time of the Korean War (1950-1953) where it was fielded by both China and North Korea. Amazingly, the vehicle is still in operational service with North Korean land forces (2013), well over 70 years since its adoption by Red Army elements of the Soviet Union.