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Cuban Domestic Military Production - Combat Vehicles

The Cubans are well known for their mechanical ingenuity. Cuba is famous for museum-worthy, Eisenhower-era cars that will make any car enthusiast drool. Cuba became isolated from the world when the U.S. enacted an embargo blocking companies from trading with the island. With no new American cars or parts, the Cuban population had to make do with what parts and vehicles they already had, mainly 1940s and 50s era classics.

But paying close attention to the body work and when the key is turned, it is clear these vehicles are not what they seem. Most of these "old" cars are now running diesel engines, many newer Hyundai engines, but also diesels picked from old Russian cars, trucks, boats and even generators. Cuban ingenuity has kept these old American cars on the road. Mechanics find ways to use imperfect parts and keep the things running. There are thought to be around 60,000 classic American cars in Cuba - about half date to the 1950s, while a quarter are from the 1940s and the remaining quarter from the 1930s.

During the Soviet era, Russia sent Ladas, which, despite being newer, didnít last as long as the American cars. These small, boxy cars are everywhere in Cuba. More recently, Chinese Geelys, CitroŽns, and Nissans have entered the scene.

After the collapse of the regimes of real socialism and of the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the supply of Soviet weapons and apare parts dried up, and once again Cuba had to make do.

Given the poor state of maintenance of the vehicles of the armed forces of South Africa and the inability of the South African company that achieved maintenance for 20 years, the government decided to break the contract, and made arrangements with the government of Cuba to send about 100 technicians who have arrived in the country in February 2015, with the task of providing maintenance and storage of South African military vehicles and provide training to technical members of the armed forces of South Africa. Probably the great capabilities that the Cuban technicians have shown is the ability to maintain and modernize, with few economic resources, the vehicles of the FAR. This was favorably received by the South African government, asking for help from Cuba. At the end of December 2015, the Cuban delegation stated: "450 vehicles have been repaired again through medium repairs and 469 through light repairs for a total of 919 and 2918 vehicles have been inspected and their destination decided".

More than 1,500 combat and logistics vehicles have been repaired since the Thusano Project started in 2015. Once repaired and operational after the intervention of the Cuban military mechanics, the vehicles and other equipment of the main mission are properly greased and stored in the inside until it is necessary for operational deployment. This is done through the logistics system that sees the vehicles assigned to the units that need them.

A decade or so atfer Cuba became one of the few remaining Socialist countries, the results started to emerge, and after 2005 became a regular feature of Cuban military parades.

In some strangely logical process, the Cuba military dis-assembled older model T-34 and T-55 tanks, and reused the turrets as fixed emplacement counter-invasion pill-box artillery. And in turn, various fixed emplacement weapons, such as anti-aircraft artillery and surface to air missile launchers, were afixed to the hulls of the tanks. Legacy wheeled infantry fighting vehicles, notably the Soviet BTR-60, soon sported just about everything that would shoot, ranging from 100mm guns in old T-55 tanks to every imaginable caliber of anti-aircraft artillery.

Strictly speaking, these vehicles are not "technicals" in the common usage of the term, which usually references medium caliber anti-aircraft artillery on the back of a pickup truck, preferably a Toyota, normally by a non-state actor. During World War II, similar precursor vehicles were used by the British Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) in the deserts of Egypt, Libya and Chad. The popular American TV "The Rat Patrol" of the 1960s vividly illustrated technical-style vehicles during WW II.

Starring Mel Gibson, the 1979 movie "Mad Max" tells the story of a highway patrolman cruising the squalid back roads that have become the breeding ground of criminals foraging for gasoline and scraps. In the 1982 "Mad Max 2 - The Road Warrior" Mel Gibson, now living in the post-apocalyptic Australian outback as a warrior, agrees to help a community of survivors living in a gasoline refinery to defend them and their gasoline supplies from evil barbarian warriors. And in "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" (1985), after being exiled from the most advanced town in post apocalyptic Australia, a drifter travels with a group of abandoned children to rebel against the town's queen. In "Waterworld" [1995] a future where the polar ice-caps have melted and Earth is almost entirely submerged, Kevin Costner is a mutated mariner fights starvation and outlaw "smokers," and reluctantly helps a woman and a young girl try to find dry land.

The Cuban home-brew vehicles are technically not technicals, but they are kissing cousins of technicals.

It is not clear just how many of these vehicles have been produced. In most cases a handful, upwards of a dozen, of a given type have been seen in parades, and one suspects that this may represent the entire inventory. And it it far from clear that all these various configurations are of equally high tactical quality. Some look pretty decent, some clearly suffer from well known problems [eg, the challenge of mounting a major caliber gun tank turret on a 6x6 fighting vehicls], while some seem to be little more than acts of desperation.

Possibly there is a method to this madness. Fidel did not trust the defense of the Homeland to any foreign power; considered Cuba's historical responsibility to safeguard the achievements made; which reached greater magnitude from December of 1982 when Yuri V. Andropov, then general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, said: "We can not fight in Cuba. Simply because you are twelve thousand kilometers from us". After this the Soviet decision not to participate militarily in Cuba, in case of a military aggression by the United States, Cuba went from the conception of a defense against disembarkation in charge of large regular units, to the War of the Whole People (Guerra de todo el pueblo).

This people's war construct calls for the use of regular FAR contingents to blunt any initial thrust and inflict heavy casualties, and then fall back on an irregular war of attrition in which the aggressor must confront the resistance of the majority of the population, orchestrated through unconventional tactics. It must be increasingly evident from post-Cold War combat experience that the most salient weapon of such operations are medium caliber anti-aircraft guns used as direct fire weapons to support infantry in urban operations. These are precisely the platforms Cuba has been designing in recent years in such profusion.

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Page last modified: 21-02-2019 18:43:10 ZULU