During the early part of the Cold War (1947-1991), Poland and Czechoslovakia had the choice to invest in the Soviet BTR-60 8x8 series wheeled Armored Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) for the Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) role or go the indigenous route and produce a fighting machine more in line with local requirements. The latter was chosen and this became the joint-venture OT-64 SKOT ("Stredni Kolovy Obrneny Transporter"). Thousands were produced and exported to Soviet-aligned customers all over the globe and many are still in operational service today (2017).
The OT-64 was developed as a successor to the World War 2-era half-tracks influenced by the Nazi German SdKfz 251 series which remained in production in Czechoslovakia after the war (as the OT-810). Design work on the new vehicle was had in the late 1950s which yielded a working pilot vehicle in 1959. Pre-series vehicles then followed in 1961 with production-quality forms arriving in 1963 and service entry had in 1964. From 1963 until the early 1970s, some 4,500 of the type were completed and delivered. The Czech commitment saw their local industry provide the critical drive components of the new APC while final assembly took place in Lublin, Poland.
The OT-64 weighs 14.5 tons and has a length of 7.45 meters with a width of 2.55 meters and a height of 2.7. The operating crew numbers two and passenger seating is from ten to eighteen depending on production form. Armor (all-welded steel) protection reaches up to 13mm which is appropriate for small arms fire and artillery splinters. Primary armament is a single 14.5mm KPV heavy machine gun coupled with a 7.62mm PKT medium machine gun set in a turret that overlooks the hull. Drive power is from a Tatra T-928014 series V8 diesel-fueled engine of 177 horsepower allowing for road speeds of 95 kmh to be reached out to ranges of 710 kilometers.
The OT-64 has some design similarities to the BTR series of Soviet design. An 8x8 wheeled arrangement is used and the bow has a short, nearly horizontal glacis plate. The sides of the hull are angled for basic ballistics protection and the hull also features a in-built amphibious quality for traversing water sources (at 9 kmh by way of two propellers in the lower hull). Unlike the BTR-60, the OT-64 is powered by just a single diesel engine unit as opposed to a pair of gasoline-fueled systems which reduces complexity of maintenance and repair without reducing overall performance. The driver and commander take positions at the front of the vehicle with the powerpack immediately aft of them. The rear of the hull is made up of the passenger cabin which seats combat-equipped infantry. Firing ports are provided for personal weapons.
Standard equipment includes a powered winch, night vision and a full Nuclear, Biological, Chemical (NBS) suite.
The Polish Army has taken on many variants of the OT-64 which it designated SKOT-1. The line has been progressively modernized throughout the decades. Similarly the Czechs evolved the OT-64 to become many required battlefield forms including missile carriers, command vehicles and armored ambulances.
Global operators have ranged from Algeria and Angola to Uganda and Uruguay.
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