04 August 2014 by Oscar Nkala - defenceWeb
The head of the Belarusian defence group Minotor-Service, contracted to upgrade 500 ageing BTR-50 tracked Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) belonging to the Egyptian Army, says the company is left with only 20 vehicles to modify before it completes refurbishment work.
Minotor-Service director-general Valery Hrabenshchykow was quoted by local media on July 12 revealing that the company was on the verge of fulfilling the terms of the $100 million upgrade contract for nearly half of the Egyptian Army's estimated 1000 Soviet-era BTR-50 APCs.
The upgrade work is believed to focused on converting the BTR-50 to the new BTR-50PKM model which comes with improved fire-power, increased combat capabilities, reduced fuel consumption, an increase in the power-to-weight ratio and new day and night sensors.
The BTR-50 PKM model has a top-speed of 100 km/h on a paved road, 70 km/h on unpaved roads and a power-to-weight ratio of 20.7 horsepower per tonne.
Hrabenshchykow also announced that his company is bidding to conduct major upgrade work on an unspecified number of the Egyptian Army's Czechoslovakian OT-62 APCs. Reports indicate that Egypt wants to upgrade at least 200 OT-62 at a cost of $50 million. In July 2012 it was reported that the Malyshev Plant in the Ukraine was to begin modernising an estimated 200 OT-62 APCs but it is not clear what the status of this contract is.
The OT-62 Topas (tracked armoured personnel carrier) was developed jointly by Poland and Czechoslovakia in the 1950s and 1960s. The amphibious vehicle has a speed of 60 km/h on land and 10 km/h in water and can carry 15-18 troops.
Egyptian OT-62 were used in the Six Day War with Israel (1967), during the War of Attrition (1968-1970) and the Yom Kippur War (1973), when they were highly effective in crossing the Suez Canal. Some were captured by the Israel Defence Forces and commissioned into service.
Both models of APCs were ordered from the former Soviet Union bloc in the 1960s and were used extensively in combat operations by the Egyptian Army during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
The Egyptian Army is re-equipping itself to deal with new anti-government Islamic militant groups which are based in the restive Sinai Peninsula and have of late spread their operations to various cities including the capital Cairo.
The new government of former coup leader General Abdel Fatah El-Sisi blames the Muslim Brotherhood party of deposed president Muhammad Morsi of sponsoring the unrest which has killed scores of army and police officers in bombings, rocket attacks and ambushes.