In the late 20th century, Russia embarked on an ambitious project to develop an innovative high-mobility multi-purpose military vehicle specifically designed to endure the unforgiving conditions of Russia’s high latitudes. In the early 2000s, the remarkable 4×4 armored vehicle known as the GAZ-3937 Vodnik was introduced, marking a significant milestone in military vehicle engineering.
Russian GAZ-3937, a multi-purpose military vehicle, draws its essence from the concept of a van, but it surpasses the typical van in both appearance and performance. Its versatility and adaptability make it a perfect match for the diverse Russian geography, allowing it to navigate through various terrains effortlessly.
With a combat weight of approximately 7.5 tons, the GAZ-3937 is equipped with a formidable YaMZ-460, HINO JO7C, or GAZ-562 diesel engine, providing impressive power outputs of 160, 165, and 175 horsepower, respectively. This remarkable machine boasts a top road speed of about 120 kilometers per hour and an impressive cruising range of nearly 1,000 kilometers. Thanks to its independent suspension and well-engineered wheel system, it possesses exceptional off-road capabilities. Furthermore, it can traverse bodies of water at a relatively slower speed of about 5 kilometers per hour.
The GAZ-3937 offers comprehensive protection to its occupants, featuring armor plating and bulletproof windows capable of withstanding conventional 7.62mm ammunition and grenade fragments. The crew consists of only two members, the captain and the driver, who occupy the front cab side by side.
Notably, the vehicle is equipped with hatches on both sides and boasts a rear troop compartment with 8 seats that can be adjusted or removed to accommodate cargo transportation. Access doors are conveniently situated on the troop compartment’s sides, rear, and top, ensuring versatility in various operational scenarios.
The self-defense capability of the GAZ-3937 is facilitated by a single-person turret located in the troop compartment, operated by soldiers within the vehicle. Armed with a formidable 14.5mm KPV heavy machine gun and a 7.62mm PKT coaxial machine gun, this compact turret provides firepower to the vehicle. Although the weapons’ stability and mobile shooting accuracy are limited, the turret movement is manually operated, and the gunner is equipped with a daytime sight for optimal target acquisition.
Moreover, the rear of the turret is fitted with six 81mm smoke grenade launchers, providing additional tactical options. It is worth noting that the KPV heavy machine gun can be replaced with a 30mm Automatic grenade launcher, depending on mission requirements. Additionally, certain variants of the GAZ-3937 may not be equipped with turrets, representing the basic version, while the turreted version is designated as GAZ-39371.
From the provided data alone, it may be easy to overlook the exceptional qualities of the GAZ-3937, deeming it a simple vehicle. However, its greatest strength lies in its ability to excel in harsh environments. Capable of operating at altitudes of up to 4,500 meters and withstanding extreme temperatures ranging from -45°C to 50°C, the GAZ-3937 ensures optimal performance in the most challenging conditions. To provide a relatively comfortable environment for the crew, the vehicle is equipped with an air conditioning system and features specially designed telephones suitable for mountainous regions. These essential features align perfectly with the practical requirements of operations in Russia.
The GAZ-3937, predominantly seen today in its slightly enhanced variant, the GAZ-39371, features a wider cab that can comfortably accommodate three occupants. While other aspects remain largely unchanged, it is worth mentioning that Russia later developed an armored version of the GAZ-3937, potentially drawing lessons from the experiences of the Chechen War.
The enhanced armor version involves the addition of new armor plates riveted onto the original vehicle, offering supplementary protection around the car body. However, the turret remains unaffected by these modifications. While the specific thickness of the additional armor remains undisclosed, it is reasonable to assume that it provides substantial protection without excessively increasing the vehicle’s weight, as it needs to maintain its mobility. The increased weight prevents the armored GAZ-3937 from retaining its amphibious capabilities.
Overall, the GAZ-3937 stands as an exceptional light armored vehicle, ideally suited for long-distance patrols and search and rescue missions in mountainous environments. Although currently in limited supply within the Russian army, this scarcity is primarily due to budgetary constraints and an abundance of existing equipment that still fulfills operational needs.
Notably, Uruguay acquired 48 GAZ-39371 vehicles from Russia in 2006 as a form of debt settlement from the Soviet era, suggesting that these impressive machines continue to serve their purpose diligently.