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The invasion of Ukraine is going much worse than the Russian military expected. In the face of fierce resistance, it experienced heavy losses of both personnel and equipment, including many trucks. Out of possible desperation, the Russian military resorted to unusual measures. Earlier, we detailed how it used wood logs for armor on convoy trucks. And more recently, footage in Ukraine shows the Russian military using “ISIS-style” Toyota and Mitsubishi pickup trucks.

Caravan of ‘ISIS-style’ Toyota and Mitsubishi pickup trucks with mounted machine guns and the letter ‘Z’

Convoy of ISIS-style Toyota and Mitsubishi pickup trucks used by the Russian military in Ukraine driving on a street
Russian machine gun-mounted Toyota and Mitsubishi pickup trucks in Ukraine | Visegrád 24 via Twitter

As reported by the Washington Examiner, a video shared on social media on March 28 shows a caravan of six Toyota and Mitsubishi pickup trucks driving around Mariupol, Ukraine. The trucks have the letter “Z” painted on them. Many other Russian military vehicles have the letter “Z.” According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, “Z” is an abbreviation for “victory.” Other vehicles have the letter “V.” The Russian Ministry of Defense states that “V” stands for “Our strength is in truth” and “The task will be completed.”

Similar to the pickup trucks used by ISIS, the trucks in the video have mounted machine guns. The machine guns are possibly .50-caliber, which are typically used on tanks. 

Machine-gun pickup trucks used by jihadi terrorist groups in the Middle East

As described by the Washington Examiner, “machine-gun pickup trucks are closely associated with jihadi terrorist groups fighting in the Middle East and not often with the armies of developed nations.” In the battles in Iraq and Syria, ISIS frequently used machine gun-mounted Toyota Hilux pickup trucks. The Toyota Hilux is similar to the Toyota Tacoma sold in the United States. ISIS also frequently featured these pickup trucks in its propaganda videos.

When the Taliban overtook Kabul, Afghanistan, in August 2021, many of its fighters drove pickup trucks “modified with machine guns.” Also, there are reports of Al Qaeda groups in Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan using similarly modified trucks. Additionally, photos show the Hezbollah terrorist group in Lebanon using “pickup trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns, much larger than the weapons seen on the pickups in Ukraine.”

Heavy losses for Russian armored vehicles

Since the invasion began on February 24, Russian armored vehicles experienced heavy losses. Many photos shared on social media show “Russian tanks and armored vehicles broken down on the side of the road or stuck in the mud.” Ukrainian armed forces claim that as of March 28, they “destroyed 586 Russian tanks and 1,694 armored personnel vehicles.” 

Why does the Russian military (and jihadi terrorists) use mainstream pickup trucks?


SUVs of the Ukraine Military: Humvee, Land Cruiser, and More

Video of the Russian military and jihadi terrorists using pickup trucks is not the type of publicity that Toyota and Mitsubishi crave. However, there are reasons why a pickup truck like the Toyota Hilux is suitable for warfare. 

As reported by Insider, Alastair Finlan, who specializes in strategic studies, described the advantages of the Toyota Hilux for warfare. He stated, “The truck [Toyota Hilux] is fast, maneuverable, and packs a big punch [when it’s mounted with] a 50-caliber [machine gun] that easily defeats body armor on soldiers and penetrates lightly armored vehicles as well.”

Also, like other Toyota trucks, the Hilux has a reputation for reliability and durability. Considering reports of Russian vehicles breaking down in Ukraine, it’s understandable why the Russian military might use the Hilux.