The new PRP-4A Argus armored artillery reconnaissance vehicle (ARV), or a scout vehicle, has been deployed in Syria for battle testing. It is designed to provide reconnaissance and observation for artillery units. The vehicle is often called the all-seeing eye of artillery. It enables to determine the coordinates of enemy tanks and artillery, as well as isolated groups of enemy fighters once they have opened fire. Reconnaissance of enemy positions can involve firing upon the enemy in hopes of receiving return fire that gives away the enemy's position.
Argus has an overall length of 6.7m, width of 2.9m, height of 2.1m and combat weight of 13.8t. It is manned by a crew of four, including a driver, a commander and two operators.
The vehicle can attain a maximum speed of 65km/h on road and more than 7km/h on water, while on road it can reach a maximum distance of 500km. It can conduct operations in areas at an altitude of 3,000m above sea level and can operate at adverse temperatures of up to -40°C. Argus can negotiate a gradient of 60% and a side slope of 30%. It can cross a vertical step with a height of 0.7m and a trench with a width of 2.2m. The fully amphibious vehicle is propelled in water by its tracks.
The armament suite includes a 7.62mm PKTM machine gun, which has a maximum rate of fire of 800 rounds a minute and can fire conventional, tracer and AP-incendiary rounds and rounds with high degree of penetrability. The gun can engage targets within the range of 1500m. The vehicle is also fitted with a countermeasures system to notify the crew when incoming laser beam is detected. The laser threat is countered by an aerosol screen created by smoke grenade dischargers. This system is effective against anti-tank guided missiles with laser guidance. Argus can also lay its own smoke screen by injecting diesel fuel into the exhaust.
The welded steel armored hull of the reconnaissance vehicle offers all-round protection against 12.7mm rounds. The frontal arc of the vehicle can partly withstand 20mm rounds. Argus is fitted with automatic fire suppression and NBC protection systems. It carries a camouflage net and a set of heat shields for stealth operation on the frontline. The PRP-4A also integrates automatic fire suppression and nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) protection systems.
Argus features a radio detector, night vision, thermal vision and modern optoelectronic suppression systems for reconnaissance, survey, navigation and communication and transmission of information. The sensors allow it to detect camouflaged targets. The automatic equipment complex aboard the vehicle is equipped with two workstations and state-of-the-art equipment. Some of the equipment can also be used while dismounted. In this case a dismounted observation post can be set up to 6 km from the vehicle.
The ARV integrates the mast-mounted IL120-1 battlefield surveillance radar that is capable of detecting the targets in any weather conditions, directing the gathered information towards the vehicles' artillery and missile launchers. The radar can detect a single person at a distance up to 7km and a tank within a maximum distance of 16km. IL120-1 can be retracted into the mast while travelling. The vehicle is also installed with a 1D14-1 periscopic laser rangefinder capable of determining a range of large objects at a distance of 10km, and structures such as buildings or hills at a range of 25km. Upon identification of the targets, the data pertaining to the same with co-ordinates is transmitted to an artillery battery command post vehicle.
The vehicle adopts the BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle's combat-proven chassis, which offers high maneuverability, speed, cross-country mobility and amphibious capability. Argus is powered by a UTD-20S1 turbocharged diesel engine, which develops a rated power output of 300hp. The auxiliary power unit on the vehicle supplies power to all systems and sensors aboard when the main engine is turned off.
It should be noted that the very concept of armored artillery reconnaissance vehicle is unique. NATO countries don’t possess such weapons. Instead they prefer to rely on unmanned aerial vehicles and reconnaissance aircraft. This approach has its flaws. Intensive electronic counter-measures can greatly reduce the effectiveness of aerial reconnaissance vehicles’ operations to make artillery pieces blind. That’s when “I can see everything while no one can see me” caterpillar-tracked armored vehicles become irreplaceable to enable artillery-delivered high-precision strikes. No surprise Uralvagonzavod design engineers have received state decoration for the development of Argus.