The 2T7M is a transloader vehicle to resupply the launcher of the Soviet era 2K12 Kub surface to air missile system, known in NATO parlance as the SA-6 Gainful system. The 6×6 truck it is based on is the ZIL 131. AEgis built this model for one of our customers under contract, along with the SA-6 tracked transporter/launcher, and the NATO codenamed ‘Straight Flush’ fire control radar.
Doing a bit of online research looking for an interesting sideline twist upon which to base a fun story for this month’s bloggery, I originally hit upon the idea of expanding on the probability of Soviet designers having reverse-engineered much of the tech used to build this truck from those supplied to them by the US in WW2 under the Lend-Lease program. One such truck is the Studebaker US6, which was supplied in the tens of thousands, and bore a passing resemblance to the ZIL, gave me the idea.
Digging a bit deeper though, I began to uncover a disturbing story I had somehow missed in all the history I have read about WW2 and the cold war era. It’s the story of how for more than 50 years, American politicians and industrialists built the factories and provided the machinery that was used to build the Soviet military industrial complex. There is a quote supposedly attributed to Vladimir Lenin: “If we were to announce today that we intend to hang all capitalists tomorrow, they would trip over each other trying to sell us the rope.”
Nuts you say?
Consider the factory where the 2T7M ZIL truck was made.
From the 1986 book, The Best Enemy Money Can Buy
“A technical assistance agreement was concluded in 1929 with the Arthur J. Brandt Company of Detroit for the reorganization and expansion of the tsarist AMO truck plant, previously equipped in 1917 with new U.S. equipment. Design work for this expansion was handled in Brandt’s Detroit office and plant and American engineers were sent to Russia.
The AMO plant was again expanded in 1936 by the Budd Company and Hamilton Foundry and its name was changed to ZIS (now ZIL). During World War II the original equipment was removed to establish the URALS plant and the ZIS plant was re-established with Lend-Lease equipment.”
In 1929, Detroit’s own Ford motor company agreed to help the Soviets build the Gorki plant in Nizhny Novgorod, which until 1968 was the largest Soviet auto plant, building up to 200,000 vehicles per year, including military trucks such as the GAZ-66.
An even larger plant was constructed during the Vietnam War. This was the ‘Kama River’, AKA ‘Volograd’ automobile plant, capable of producing up to 600,000 vehicles a year! The plant, which occupied 36 square miles, and supplied completely by machine tools and transfer lines from the US, built as many as 100,000 military trucks a year.
What make of trucks do you think these were on the Ho chi minh trail supplying war materials from North to South Vietnam?
And it was not just trucks. The book spells out how the US and our allies supplied the Soviets with key industrial capabilities to build much of their military and strategic transportation assets.
“By using data of Russian origin it is possible to make an accurate analysis of the origins of this equipment. It was found that all the main diesel and steam-turbine propulsion systems of the ninety-six Soviet ships on the Haiphong supply run that could be identified (i.e., eighty-four out of the ninety-six) originated in design or construction outside the USSR. We can conclude, therefore, that if the State and Commerce Departments, in the 1950s and 1960s, had consistently enforced the legislation passed by Congress in 1949, the Soviets would not have had the ability to supply the Vietnamese War – and 50,000 more Americans and countless Vietnamese would be alive today.”
“The (American) businessmen who built the Soviet Kama River truck plant should be shot as traitors.” — Avraham Shifrin, former Soviet Defense Ministry official
Full book: THE BEST ENEMY MONEY CAN BUY By Antony C. Sutton
2T7M transloader truck
A typical battery comprises one tracked 1S91 Straight Flush engagement radar vehicle, four tracked 2P25 SPU TELs, and four ZIL-131 T7M transloader vehicles, each with a large hydraulic crane centrally located on the tailboard and three reserve missiles. Resupply rounds are typically carried by up to 15 ZIL-131V or ZIL-157V 9T227 semi-trailers, with six missile rounds each, supported by two Ural-375 9T31 crane trucks.
Reload missiles are carried on modified ZIL-131 (6 x 6) trucks and are loaded manually onto the launcher by a crane carried on the rear of the loader vehicle. Reloading a TEL takes approximately 10 minutes.
The ZIL-131 is a general purpose 3.5 tons 6×6 army truck designed in the Soviet Union by ZIL. The basic model is a general cargo truck. Variants include a tractor-trailer truck, a dump truck, a fuel truck, and a 6×6 for towing a 4-wheeled powered trailer. The ZIL-131 also serves as a platform for the 9P138 rocket launcher, a 30-tube variant of the BM-21 “Grad”. The ZIL-131 has a civilian version the ZIL-130; both were introduced in 1967 as a family of two trucks sharing identical components. The ZIL-131 6×6 has the same equipment as the GAZ-66 and Ural-375D. The ZIL-130/131 was in production at the “AMUR” truck plant (as the AMUR 531340), with both gasoline and diesel engines, until 2012 when Anur shut down and filed for bankruptcy.
Russian truck history/ Lend Lease
At the end of WW2 the US car makers Ford and GM had supplied the Soviet union with trucks under a lend lease agreement and the US designs were taken and modified to produce purely Russian trucks like the Zil 157 and Gaz 33. From then on the USSR started to design their own vehicles based on the US principals but designed for the harsh environments found in their own continent. Toughness, off-road ability, simplicity, reliability and ease of maintenance were all major design factors.
(197,678) US6 / M16A 2-1/2 ton trucks – Most of the production went to Russia which desperately needed good reliable heavy duty trucks and in appreciation for the supply of trucks, Joseph Stalin sent Studebaker an official letter of thanks. The trucks came in either a 148 in. or 162 in. wheelbase. There was also a 6×4 version that was rated at 5 tons but this was for over the road use only. The 6×6 was rated 2 1/2 tons for off road travel and five tons for on road travel. Around 10,000 trucks were manufactured as open cab starting in December of 1942 but production reverted back to the covered cab in March of 1943 after the Russian Army expressed its dissatisfaction with the change. It gets cold in Russia in the winter! Studebaker US6 trucks were not only manufactured as cargo trucks but as 750 gallon water tankers, semi-tractors (6×4) and dump trucks.
Studebaker built 105,917 six-wheel drive versions and 87,742 four-wheel drive versions of the US6 between 1941 and 1945, in 13 variations. Reo Motors built an additional 22,204 of the 6×6 U3. Of that total the United States shipped 152,000 trucks to the Soviet Union, mainly through the Persian Corridor. The Russians found the “Studer,” as they affectionately nicknamed it, robust and reliable, and its logistic contribution made it arguably the most significant American-supplied piece of hardware the Soviets used. Studebaker trucks also saw wartime service along the Burma Road and the Alcan Highway.
At the end of WW2 the US car makers Ford and GM had supplied the Soviet union with trucks under a lend lease agreement and the US designs were taken and modified to produce purely Russian trucks like the Zil 157 and Gaz 33. From then on the USSR started to design their own vehicles based on the US principals but designed for the harsh environments found in their own continent.
The Soviet Military Truck Industry
Many major American companies have been prominent in building up the Soviet truck industry. The Ford Motor Company, the A. J. Brandt Company, the Austin Company, General Electric, Swindell-Dressier, and others supplied the technical assistance, design work, and equipment of the original giant plants.
This Soviet military-civilian truck industry originally comprised two main groups of plants, plus five newer giant plants. The first group used models, technical assistance, and parts and components from the Ford-built Gorki automobile plant (GAZ is the model designation). The second group of production plants used models, parts, and components from the A. J. Brandt-rebuilt ZIL plant in Moscow (Zavod imeni Likhachev, formerly the AMO and later the Stalin plant). Consequently this plant was called the BBH-ZIL plant after the three companies involved in its reconstruction and expansion in the 1930s: A. J. Brandt, Budd, and Hamilton Foundry.
There is a fundamental difference between the Ford and Brandt companies. Brandt had only one contract in the USSR, to rebuild the old AMO plant in 1929. AMO in 1930 had a production of 30,000 trucks per year, compared to the Gorki plant, designed from scratch by Ford for an output of 140,000 vehicles per year. Ford is still interested in Russian business. Brandt is not interested and has not been since 1930.
The Ford Gorki “Automobile” Plant
In May 1929 the Soviets signed an agreement with the Ford Motor Company of Detroit. The Soviets agreed to purchase $13 million worth of automobiles and parts and Ford agreed to give technical assistance until 1938 to construct an integrated automobile-manufacturing plant at Nizhni-Novgorod. Construction was completed in 1933 by the Austin Company for production of the Ford Model-A passenger car and light truck. Today this plant is known as Gorki. With its original equipment supplemented by imports and domestic copies of imported equipment, Gorki produces the GAZ range of automobiles, trucks, and military vehicles. All Soviet vehicles with the model prefix GAZ (Gorki Avtomobilnyi Zavod) are from Gorki, and models with prefixes UAX, OdAZ, and PAZ are made from Gorki components.
In 1930 Gorki produced the Ford Model-A (known as GAZ-A) and the Ford light truck (called GAZ-AA). Both these Ford models were immediately adopted for military use. By the late 1930s production at Gorki was 80,000-90,000 “Russian Ford” vehicles per year.
The engine production facilities at Gorki were designed under a technical assistance agreement with the Brown Lipe Gear Company for gear-cutting technology and Timken-Detroit Axle Company for rear and front axles.
Furthermore, U.S. equipment has been shipped in substantial quantifies to Gorki and subsidiary plants since the 1930s — indeed some shipments were made from the United States in 1968 during the Vietnamese War.
As soon as Ford’s engineers left Gorki in 1930 the Soviets began production of military vehicles. The Soviet BA armored car of the 1930s was the GAZ-A (Ford Model-A) chassis, intended for passenger cars, but converted to an armored car with the addition of a DT machine gun. The BA was followed by the BA-10 — the Ford Model-A truck chassis with a mount containing either a 37-millimeter gun or a 12.7-millimeter heavy machine gun. A Red Army staff car was also based on the Ford Model-A in the pre-war period.
During World War II Gorki produced the GAZ-60 — a hybrid half-track personnel carrier that combined the GAZ-63 chassis. In the late 1940s the plant switched to production of an amphibious carrier — The GAZ-46. This was a standard GAZ-69 chassis with a U.S. quarter-ton amphibious body.
In the mid-1950s Gorki produced the GAZ-47 armored amphibious cargo carrier with space for nine men. Its engine was the GAZ-61, a 74-horsepower Ford-type 6-cylinder in-line gasoline engine — the basic Gorki engine.
In the 1960s and 1970s production continued with an improved version of the BAZ-47 armored cargo carrier, using a GAZ-53 V-8 type engine developing 115 horsepower.
In brief, the Ford-Gorki plant has a continuous history of production of armored cars and wheeled vehicles for Soviet army use: those used against the United States in Korea and Vietnam.
In addition to armored cars, the Ford-Gorki factory manufactures a range of truck-mounted weapons.
Rocket launcher trucks
After World War II Gorki production of rocket-launchers continued with the BM-31, which had twelve 300-millimeter tubes mounted on a GAZ-63 truck chassis. In the late 1950s another model was produced with twelve 140-millimeter tubes on a GAZ-63 truck chassis. In the 1960s yet another model with eight 140-millimeter tube was produced on a GAZ-63 chassis.
Finally, in 1964 Gorki produced the first Soviet wire-guided missile antitank system. This consisted of four rocket-launchers mounted on a GAZ-69 chassis. These weapons turned up in Israel in the late 1960s. The GAZ-69 chassis produced at Gorki is also widely used in the Soviet Army as a command vehicle and scout car. Soviet airborne troops use it as a tow for the 57-millimeter antitank gun and the 14.5-millimeter double-barrelled antiaircraft gun. Other Gorki vehicles used by the Soviet military include the GAZ-69 truck, used for towing the 107-millimeter recoilless rifle (RP-107), the GAZ-46, or Soviet jeep, and the GAZ-54, a 1 1/2-ton military cargo truck.
In brief, the Gorki plant, built by the Ford Motor Company the Austin Company and modernized by numerous other U.S. companies under the policy of “peaceful trade,” is today a major producer of Soviet army vehicles and weapons carriers.
Scott Booth Bio: Often found mucking about with 3D content development for visual simulations, or occasionally small UAS simulation. Usually found in the company of: salty NCOs, (yeah, you Tony), pilots- all types, gun nuts, manned space flight advocates, old car/truck/jeep fans, Sci-Fi readers, military historians, genius software programmers who like corny jokes, rocket scientists, dark beer drinkers, type-A sales guys, and other related near-do-wells.
Experience – 30 years visual simulation content development, company co-owner-founder – CG2 1995-2004, Small UAS simulation, AEgis-Vampire, Raven operator license, class 11-008, 2011.
Visual recognition expert, aircraft, armor, ships, subs, small arms, amateur military historian and shade tree auto mechanic.