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modified: Nov 10, 2012
BA-64 (BA-64-125, Broneavtomobil-64-125) was a Soviet light armored car developed by V.A. Grachev's engineering team at GAZ. The GAZ factory was critical during the outbreak of war in June 1941 when other factories had to be relocated behind the Urals because of the Germans' rapid advances. GAZ increased its production of light armored cars as well as considering the design of a new armored car on the GAZ-64 field car chassis.

Work on the design of the BA-64 commenced under the direction of Yu.N. Sorchkin. G. M. Vasserman was the senior constructor supervising the development of the project. F.A. Lependin was tasked with design of the armored hull with the assistance of B.T. Komarevskiy. N.A. Astrov's experience in light tank design and manufacturing was also utilized. Production of mechanical components and final assembly of the BA-64 was undertaken at GAZ. Armored hulls and turrets were provided by the Vyksunskiy plant. Izdeliye 64-125 (manufacture item 64-125) was the factory designation given to the vehicle.

The original plan was to use a shortened and modified version of the BA-20 armored hull. However, Grachev and other engineers observed a captured German SdKfz 221 medium armored car at the NIIBT Polygon. They were impressed by several features of the captured vehicle including the highly faceted armor arrangement. The vehicle was sent to the GAZ factory in early September for more detailed examination. The decision was made to develop a new hull for the BA-64 which incorporated highly faceted armor. Later in April 1942, Grachev would be recognized by the state for his role in the development of the BA-64.

By the end of November 1941, the first all-welded bodies have been built at Vyksunskiy and shipped to GAZ. Three prototypes were originally built and fitted with open turrets with wire mesh grenade screens. However, it was realized that the commander repeatedly hit his head on the screens in cross-country evaluation trials. It was also noted that, if Molotov cocktail gasoline bombs were to be used against the crew, the screens would be a major obstacle to exiting the vehicle. As a result the screens were removed. Early prototypes had simple slatted armored radiator air intake louvers in the frontal armor extending above and below the glacis. Later prototypes and production versions however had modified full width armored intake louvers located only below the glacis.

BA-64 Production Timeline
July 17, 1941 Work on the design of Izdeliye 64-125 begins.
August 23, 1941 Grachev and other engineers observe the SdKfz 221.
January 9, 1942 Field trials begin.
January 10, 1942 Klimenti E. Voroshilov witnesses the first prototype undergoing trials.
January 23, 1942 The turret with its DT machine gun mount is completed.
February 17, 1942 Izdeliye 64-125 receives the Army designation BA-64-125.
March 3, 1942 The BA-64 is shown to V.M. Molotov and members of the Politburo of the CPSU alongside a T-70 light tank outside the Kremlin.
March 14, 1942 The BA-64 is accepted for Red Army service and series production begins.
April 24, 1942 The first series production BA-64 (chassis No. 69321) is completed.
April 31, 1942 Fifty BA-64s have been built.
May 13-31, 1942 Further trials are conducted on three BA-64 prototypes in the Gorkiy region.
September 1, 1943 The BA-64 is replaced by the BA-64B on production lines.

Production of the BA-64 rose steadliy such that 1,415 vehicles have been built during the first half of 1943. 636 of these were fitted with radio. The BA-64 served on the Bryansk, Voronezh, and Stalingrad fronts. Further field trials were conducted on additional prototypes to remove defects in the orignal design. The prototypes covered 1,400km on roads, 400km on unmade roads, and 150km cross-country and showed remarkable performance. A specialized driver training school (No. 46) was established after production began for the purpose of training BA-64 crews.

The BA-64 is distinct in that it is the only Russian amored car that reached the series production stage during the Second World War. The vehicle had better armor, speed, range, and all-terrain performance than its predecessors. The BA-64 was intended as a reconnaissance vehcile, a role for which it was well suited. It was additionally used to tow anti-tank guns and light artillery pieces. A total of 3,903 BA-64s were built. Most BA-64s were fitted with an RB or 12-RP radio set.

The placement of the wheels at the extreme corners of the vehicles resulted a low center of gravity. Therefore the vehicle had excellent agility and stability when going over open ground and damaged road surfaces. The track of the BA-64 however was considered narrow. The BA-64 could negotiate 30° slopes and 18° side slopes. It could ford streams up to .9m in depth. The vehicle is reported to be able to easily cross plowed fields, sand, and front line roads.

Various modifications were necessary to use the GAZ-64 field car chassis with the BA-64 hull. The rear suspension was strengthened to support the increased weight of the armored body. The cooling, fuel, and electrical systems were relocated.

The 7.62mm DT machine gun was offset to the right in the open turret making it asymmetrical. The armament was pintle-mounted to the floor of the fighting compartment and not an integral part of the turret. The machine gun is said to have an effective fighting range of 80-1,000m against ground targets and 5,000m against aircrafts. F-1 hand grenades as well as personal weapons were carried inside the vehicle.

The all-welded hull was developed by Yu.N. Sorochkin, B.T. Komarevskiy, and V.F. Samoylov. Despite its smaller size and weight, the BA-64 had better armor protection than previous Soviet designs and contemporary German vehicles because most hull armor plates were angled at 30°. Initial production of armored hulls from stamped and welded 6, 9, 12, and 15mm armor plates was undertaken at the Vyksunskiy plant. As production of the BA-64 increased, GAZ and the Novo-Kuznovo Auto Body Plant also produced hulls.

The relatively small size of the BA-64 required that the crew be seated in tandem with the commander/gunner above and behind the driver/mechanic. For the first time on a Soviet armored car, the driver was provided with a triplex vision device. Two more triplex vision devices were also located in the turret sides.

A 50hp four cylinder GAZ-MM engine was used to power the BA-64. It was suitable for wartime conditions because it operated well on low octane fuel and low grade oil and required little maintenance. Bulletproof GK tires were used which enhanced the vehicle's off-road performance and survivability in battle. However, these tires reduced the maximum road speed of the BA-64 to 40km/h. Therefore, standard GAZ-M1 (Emka) tires with civilian tread were used in non-combat situations. A spare wheel was mounted on the rear of the vehicle.

The BA-64 could be differentiated from the BA-64B by its narrower wheelbase. Furthermore, except for later production vehicles, most BA-64s lack the driver's vision port. Early BA-64s do not have the engine air intake on top of the enigne compartment as well as the driver's air intake on the hull roof above the visor. The BA-64 turret viewing devices had small rainguards which were absent on the BA-64B. Later BA-64s and all BA-64Bs have a cylindrical sheet metal exhaust guard.

During the war, a total of 8,174 BA-64s and BA-64Bs were built. 3,390 of these were equipped with radio. By the end of the war, 3,314 vehicles remained in service. Production of the series stopped in 1946 at which point 9,110 vehicles of all types had been manufactured. 3,901 of these were BA-64s while the remaining were BA-64Bs. Spare parts for the BA-64 were built until 1953 which was the last year the Soviet Army operated the vehicle. Ten BA-64 series vehicles were in service wtih Czechoslovakia.

BA-64D (DShK)
BA-64D (BA-64 Degtyarev) is a variant BA-64 mounting a 12.7mm DShK M-1940 heavy machine gun in an enlarged turret. It was developed at GAZ in 1942 due to the lack of sufficient armament on the BA-64B. Although the drawings for this model were completed in October 1942, a prototype was not built until March 1943. The prototype had a hull similar to the standard BA-64, but the modified turret required armored fillets and splash guards to be mounted on the hull roofline.

The BA-64D underwent acceptance trials in April 1943 at the Kubinka Polygon. Although the vehicle exhibited considerable firepower advantages, the 12.7mm DShK heavy machine gun was found to be bulky to be operated within the confines of the turret. In addition, there was difficulty in providing adequate ammunition stowage.

Anti-Tank Variant
A prototype anti-tank variant of the BA-64 was developed at the GAZ plant in November 1942. It was armed with a 14.5mm PTRD anti-tank rifle mounted on a specialized tubular frame. It was completed at the end of March 1942. However, the PTRD was replaced by the PTRS because a single shot anti-tank rifle on a mobile platform was thought to be impractical. An experimental batch of this variant may have been produced and may have seen combat.

Both anti-tank rifles have also been field mounted on the BA-64. In such cases, the turret of the vehicle was removed for easier operation of the weapon. Even so, the weapons were rather bulky within the hull of a BA-64. The rifles provided reasonable anti-tank capabilities against light tanks and armored vehicles.

BA-64Sh (BA-64E)
BA-64Sh (BA-64 Shtabnoi, "command") was a command variant of the BA-64. It was one of the first Soviet attempts to create a custom command vehicle. It was given the experimental designation BA-64E and reached the prototype stage in September 1942. The BA-64Sh had an extended hull roofline and was armed with a 7.62mm machine gun that was pintle-mounted in front of the raised roof. It was fitted with three seats but the vehicle was too small to carry radio equipment. The project was terminated at the testing stage. However, the designations BA-64Sh and BA-64E were also applied to another command/APC model based on the BA-64B chassis.

There was a proposal at GAZ at the beginning of 1942 to develop a semi-armored car based on the GAZ-64. This vehicle was intended for long range reconnaissance and staff vehicle roles. It would have a crew of three and only the crew's PPSh machine guns and grenades as weapons. No radio equipment would be included. The project did not go beyond the concept stage and index 126 was later applied to the SU-76M self-propelled gun.

A Staff Vehicle
A modified BA-64 serving as a Red Army officer transport vehicle was photographed in Bogashan, Romania in 1944. The upper body of the vehicle was removed and a German Schwimmwagen windshield was fitted.

References: RAC