The history of the BMP-3 is short and straightforward. The Army was aware of the multitudes of shortcomings of the BMP-2, as revealed in Afghanistan. As such, the Army requested for a new IFV design with improved characteristics. Two drafts were submitted, one by Kurganmashzavod. The BMP-3 chassis was adapted from the Obyekt 688 light tank's, which resulted in less than optimal troop dismounting provisions, but otherwise gave a very good armouring and arming potential. It was necessary to raise the hull, thicken the glacis and front armour plate, change the turret ring construction and create a passenger space, among other things. This design was accepted, but on the condition that a new armament suite was developed for it.
|Obyekt 688. This light tank had a 30mm 2A42 autocannon, an AGS-17 automatic grenade launcher and two 9M113 Konkurs missiles, combined with an unmanned turret and very modern hull design|
The Obyekt 688 itself, no matter how revolutionary, remains consigned to the Kubinka tank museum:
The BMP-3 had improved upon its predecessors in many ways. First and foremost, the improvement lay in passenger comfort, which the earlier BMPs had a shortage of, to put it mildly. Everything else was improved in general.
|BMP-3 size comparison to BMP-1|
In January 1985, the state tests of the BMP-3 was initiated with a total number of four vehicles involved in the tests. The tests were conducted in Kubinka, Smoline, Kelayta and Alageze, which the vehicles passed, but on which became known a number of defects.
A final cycle of tests which were conducted from March 1988 to May 1989 where a BMP-3 unit of 10 vehicles from the Belorussian Military District participated in an "experimental field operation" as part of an organic mechanised rifle company. These tests were aimed at determining how quick soldiers could master the new vehicle, estimating the effectiveness of the recently improved BMP-3 (multiple malfunctions recorded during tests of early BMP-3 models) and determining the quality of the series-produced examples involved in the test. The experimental field operation demonstrated the superiority of the BMP-3 over the BMP-1 and BMP-2 in terms of tactical and firepower characteristics.
In 1990, the BMP-3 was formally adopted by the Russian military.
The commander is seated on the right side of the turret, adjacent to the gunner. He is responsible for observing the battlefield and designating targets for the gunner to subsequently engaged. To do this, he is equipped with a TKN-type pseudo-binocular periscope and an array of simple periscopes for general vision.
On most variants of the BMP-3, the commander is provided with the TKN-3MB. It can operate in two modes - active infrared imaging, or passive light intensification. When operating at night in the active mode, the OU-3GA2 IR spotlight must be used. The TKN-3MB sight has fixed 5x magnification in the day channel, and an angular field of view of 10° in that setting. In the night channel, the sight has 3x magnification, and an angular field of view of 8°. In the daytime, the nominal maximum identification distance for a tank is around 3000 m, though this depends on meteorological conditions more than anything else. On the passive light intensification mode, the sight enables the commander to identify a tank-type target at a nominal maximum distance of 400 m, given that the ambient light is no darker than 0.005 lux, which is equivalent to a typical starless and moonless night. The viewing distance increases as ambient light levels increase, allowing the commander to potentially see and identify a tank at up to 1000 m at the dark end of twilight.
The TKN-3MB has a stadiametric rangefinding scale intended for approximate manual range estimation of tank-sized targets 2.7m tall at up to a distance of up to 3.2km, although this might be a little optimistic for most situations. The ability to accurately determine the real distance depends on whether both the BMP-3 and the target are moving, and on the commander's visual acuity. But without perfect 20/20 vision, huge ranging errors in the order of hundreds of meters are to be expected, especially as the distance increases.
In later production models of the BMP-3 (these would also be equipped with the SOZh gunner's sight) will be instead equipped with the advanced TKN-AI binocular day/night passive-active observation device, which replaces the TKN-3MB. It enables day and night observation using natural light and also using a IR laser pulse-spotlight. With the spotlight in strobe mode, he can use the sight as a rangefinder up to 1000m, with an error margin of 20m. The target identification range for a tank-sized target is 600m in the passive mode under lighting conditions of no less than 0.005 lux, and 1000m in the active mode. The sight has a fixed magnification of 4.75x in the passive mode and 5x in the active mode. The sight permits an angular field of view is 8° in the passive mode, and slightly less than that in the active mode. This is because the IR laser beamer, being a laser beamer, is more directional than previous lamp-type illuminators.
At night, the commander can detect enemy optronics (IR radiation emitters) at distances up to 3km.
The commander is also provided with a P-174 intercom device. Both the radio and intercom systems are directly routed to the commander's headset and throat mike, which are both integrated elements of the iconic Russian tanker's helmet. The throat mike system is highly beneficial for audio clarity.
The navigation suite of the BMP-3 appears to be an inertial one. It is quite likely that the installation of a GPS/GLONASS navigation suite is either underway or will be in the near future.
The BMP-3's 2K23 armament system is housed in a fully traversable turret, consisting of a single 100mm 2A70 low-pressure rifled gun, a 30mm 2A72 autocannon, and a 7.62x54mm PKT co-axial machine gun, and their associated aiming and firing devices. All three weapon systems are located on the same breechblock, which provides +60 degrees maximum elevation and -6 degrees maximum depression when the turret is facing the front, and +64 degrees elevation and -2 degrees depression when facing the rear.
In the baseline BMP-3, the gunner is provided with the 1K13-2 weapons sight/guidance unit which acts both as his primary gunsight and as the means for him to guide ATGMs. It can be used for observation both in daylight and night, with independent stabilization of the visual field in two planes.
The 1K13-2 weapons sight with passive-active night channel has a 5000m sighting range, and can identify tank-sized targets at that distance in daylight hours. It has day/night channels with a digital heads-up display that reads out the range to the target after lasing. It has an 8x maximum magnification in the day channel, and 5.5x in the night channel. The field of view is 5 degrees at 8x magnification with the day channel, and 6 degrees and 10 minutes in the 5.5x magnification with the night channel. Nighttime viewing is limited to an 800m sighting range in the passive mode (light intensification), which requires a minimum of 0.005 lux (a typical moonless, starlit night) to achieve. The sighting distance increases as ambient light increases in brightness, so a viewing distance of up to 1500m is possible in dusk or dawn. The viewing distance is expanded in the active mode to 1100m with the use of the OU-5-1 IR spotlight. The sight's active setting captures shortwave infrared light, the same sort of light used by nightvision video cameras, which means that it works independently of visible lighting conditions. Thermal imagers cannot pick up this type of light, so they will be unable to see the beam emitted by the spotlight, but the spotlight, which operates on 800W, does put out a lot of heat, which thermal imagers can see.
|Actually a view through the 1K13-49 sight, but it's close enough|
An inherent shortcoming to the usage of IR spotlights is that other vehicles can see the light as well, along with its source. The inverse also applies, which means that the BMP-3 can easily see and engage enemy tanks maneuvering in the dark without switching on its own spotlight. Like turning on a flashlight in the dark, you may not be able to see very far, but anyone can spot you from miles away.
Infrared imaging sights will not be able to pick up the infrared light emitted by the spotlight. Thermal imaging sights operate in the 8-15 micrometer wavelength while the IR light emitted and used is in the 0.75-1.4 micrometer wavelength (Contrary to what was previously claimed by the author).
|1K13-2 weapons sight|
|Gunner's workstation, with 1K13-2 weapons sight|
The baseline BMP-3's fire control system includes the 1V539 ballistic computer, a crosswind sensor, ambient air temperature sensor and a 1D16-3 laser rangefinder. Roll, speed and vehicle course angle sensors are included to register and compensate for any changes in the movement of the vehicle. The nominal range of the 1D16-3 rangefinder is between 500m to 4000m with a margin of error of 10m. If necessary, the gunner can manually enter range data calculated through the stadiametric ranging scales on the 1K13-2 sight into the ballistic computer in the event of rangefinder malfunction. The PL-088 fire control switch for the 2A72 autocannon is at the disposal of the gunner.
The 1D16-3 laser rangefinder was initially unreliable. Reportedly, it began to refuse to operate past 2000 cycles, but this was soon rectified, and the TBF (time before failure) increased to 15000 cycles. The 1K13-2 sight, like the 1D16-3, originally had low reliability as well. In initial tests, it began experienced failures past just 500 cycles of operation. This was later resolved, and time before failure (TBF) was raised to 5600 cycles. The operating time limit of the sight was originally a measly 60.9 hours, but it was raised to 210 hours.
|The 1D16-3 laser rangefinder and the OU-5-1 IR searchlight can be seen in good detail here.|
|The 1D16-3 laser rangefinder, which is mounted over the 100mm barrel.|
|Here are two of the gunner's sights. The 1K13-2 main weapons sight is the larger of the two, and the PPB-2 is the smaller one.|
|The spotlight immediately in front of the viewer is the OU3-GA2. The one in the foreground is the OU-5-1.|
In later models of the BMP-3, the gunner is be equipped with the SOZh day/night gunner's sight with a PPN-D integrated laser rangefinder. The new sight has automatic target tracking, improved day and night channels, a heads-up display, and stabilization in two planes. The daytime channel has 1x, 4x and 14x magnification settings. The field of view is 20° for the 1x setting, 12° for the 4x setting, and 3.5° for the 14x setting. The greatly increased magnification gives the sight a very significant advantage over previously used sighting complexes in terms of target identification clarity at longer distances. It has a nominal maximum distance of 7000m for identification of tank-sized targets in daytime, but this is rather impossible in actual use. With that in mind, it should be noted that despite the extended identification range as compared to FLIR sights, non-FLIR sights like the SOZh are far more seriously affected by weather conditions. Foggy conditions, snow storms, heavy rain, all serve to reduce the effectiveness of these sights. The accuracy of the stabilization of the field of view is 0.1 mrad when the vehicle is static.
Nighttime identification range for a tank-sized target is 800m in the passive mode, and 1100m in the active mode, whereby the PL-1-01 IR laser pulse beamer mounted coaxially to the guns (see above) is used. The PL-1-01 is a programmable IR laser pulse beamer that can emit coded laser signals, giving it the additional utility as a laser rangefinder. However, it is not used in that capacity as SOZh has an integrated rangefinder of greater accuracy than is attainable using the PL-1-01. The PPN-D integrated laser rangefinder has a ranging error margin of around 10 m. PL-1 is only used as a source of infrared light for active infrared imaging night vision.
As usual, the passive mode requires lighting conditions of at least 0.005 lux in order to achieve the aforementioned identification range, like the earlier 1K13-2.
|PL-1 IR laser beamer|
|SOZh sight picture under 1x magnification|
|Sight picture under 14x magnification|
|Gunner's workstation with SOZh. You can also see the PPB-2 sight to the right, and the two periscopes to the left.|
At some point in history, the BMP-3 was equipped with 1V539 digital ballistic computer. 1V539 can process six programmable ballistic factors, such as wind, ambient temperature, distance, humidity, etc. SOZh and 1V539 are never seen without each other.
The Vesna-K is a newer main sight, first seen in the 90's. It features thermal imaging, an integrated laser rangefiner, and an AST-B automatic target tracking device. The nominal maximum detection range of a target is 6500m, and the identification range of a tank-shaped target is 4500m. The FLIR sight has a temperature sensitivity of 0.1 degrees Celsius, and can switch between either wide or narrow field of view settings. The field of view in the wide setting is 9 x 6 degrees, and 3 x 2 degrees in the narrow setting. Under maximum electronic magnification, the field of view is 1.5x1 degrees.
The AST-B tracking device has a tracking accuracy of 0.17 mrad. It can track anything from people to low flying aircraft, though the anti-aircraft sight will have to be used to engage high flying aircraft.
|Azerbaijani BMP-3s do not use IR searchlights, because the Vesna-K doesn't need any.|
It must be noted that Vesna-K is not a fire control system. It is a sight. A BMP-3 equipped with Vesna-K will still have the 1K537 ballistic computer. Comparisons of fire accuracy between Vesna-K-equipped BMP-3s and SOZh-equipped BMP-3s are valid, though perhaps not when firing on the move.
To identify what sighting system a BMP-3 is equipped with, look whether the indicated (<---) device is a single-window or double-windowed one. Single-windowed ones are invariably either 1K13-2 sights or SOZh sights. BMP-3s with 1K13-2 sights invariably come with the 1D16-3 laser rangefinder. Double-windowed ones have Vesna-K sights.
The Russian Army has been refitting their BMP-3s with SOZh sights since at least 2008, but the Vesna-K has not proliferated due to budgetary reasons.
The PPB-2 weapons sight is a monocular dual-purpose sight, meaning that it can both target aircraft and ground targets. To facilitate aiming at high altitude targets, it can look upwards by 81 degrees, and down by 10 degrees. It has a field of view of 49 degrees with 1.2x magnification, and 14 degrees with 4x magnification. It has a 4000m maximum sighting range and a crude leading system for leading aerial targets travelling at speeds not more than 250m/s is provided. This leading system may also be applied on ground targets. Like the main weapons sight, it has sighting settings for all turret weapons.
The 1PZ-10 sight has 1.2x to 4x magnification. In the 1.2x magnification setting, the field of view is 49 degrees, and 14 degrees in the 4x magnification setting. Like the gunner's PPB-2 sight, the 1PZ-10 is very flexible. It has 81 degrees elevation and -10 degrees depression, enabling it to target both aircraft and ground targets. It cannot, however, track either. The commander cannot fire ATGMs through the 1PZ-10 sight as it has no guidance channel.
On a side note, i have noticed a certain "BZS1 gunner's sight" being mentioned. More specifically, it is mentioned in Steven Zaloga's book: "BMP Infantry Fighting Vehicle 1967-94". However, I cannot find mention of it in any catalogs nor in any official listings. The impression is that this sight is either fictional, a different name for either the SOZH or 1K13-2, or a modification.
The BMP-3's turret uses the 2E52 electro-mechanical stabilizer. This stabilizer enables very high accuracy firing through the use of two EDM-20M electric motors, which control the orientation of the turret horizontally and also control the elevation of the guns. A huge advantage to the all-electric nature of the stabilization system is that a bulky hydraulic pump and dangerously flammable, high pressure hydraulic fluid is omitted, so that if the armour is perforated, the chances of the vehicle catching fire is greatly reduced. Power consumption is also slashed, meaning slightly better fuel economy, but more importantly, the ability for the BMP-3 to lay in ambush with engines off is better, though obviously still limited.
The probable error when the vehicle is in motion at a speed of 25km/h is not more than 0.05 mrad (milliradians), meaning that the BMP-3 can engage targets while on the move with essentially the same effectiveness as when it is immobile at distances of 1 km and more. The quality of the stabilizer can be considered on par with contemporary analogues in this regard (and by contemporary, I am referring to the Bradley M2A1 and the Warrior, and not the very latest developments like the Puma).
As usual, the gunner's handgrips follow the traditional "Cheburashka" configuration. In fact, the handgrips are the same ones used in the BMP-2. The commander gets his own pair to take control of the weapons when in commander override mode. Turret slewing is done by turning the handgrips turntable style, as opposed to a steering wheel style as is common on NATO analogues.
The BMP-3 has found internet fame due to its heavy armament, consisting of a 2A72 autocannon mounted co-axially with a 2A70 cannon, and another PKT machine gun mounted co-axially. The 2K23 co-axial armament suite mounts all three in a common cradle and trunnion assembly which facilitates +62 degrees of elevation and -6 degrees of depression. The cradle is in turn installed in the 5-ton turret (when combat loaded), which is fitted into a 1980mm diameter turret ring.
The 2A72 long-recoil, dual-feed autocannon is mounted beside the 2A70. The 2A72 has a rate of fire of 350 to 400 rounds per minute - far lower than the 550 to 800 rounds per minute of the 2A42 but still double that of its immediate competitors'. This was the result of a deliberate compromise to reduce the weight of the cannon assembly, reduce recoil and simplify the action for maximum reliability and minimum upkeep while still maintaining a relatively high rate of fire.
Not very incredible, but it has the excuse of having obsolete ammunition being a debilitating factor. The BMP-3 in the video used used old, lower velocity full caliber APBC rounds and not APDS rounds.
The comparatively low rate of fire and extensive recoil dampening system of the 2A72 eliminates one of the known issues of the BMP-2, which is related to the eccentric mounting of the cannon. Because the cannon was mounted off-center in the BMP-2's turret, recoil forces would torque the turret, causing it to inadvertently rotate slightly and push the autocannon off target. This was even worse in the BMD-2, whose turret was so light that if the 2A42 cannon was fired on full auto, the turret would literally slew several degrees off to the right from the sheer force of recoil. This phenomenon was much less serious with the BMP-2 due to its heavier turret, and a burst long enough to shift the turret enough to affect accuracy would be a burst that was long enough to put so many rounds downrange that accuracy became less of an issue, anyway. But back to the 2A72;
Since the gunner can use trigger discipline to fire slower at will, the 2A72 possesses a significant advantage to other slow-firing autocannons of the same caliber - If pin-point accuracy is needed, all that is necessary is to fire fewer rounds with more time in between each shot. A quick trigger finger on semi-auto guarantees workable accuracy if firing on full-auto is not appropriate for the task.
Loading the first round, or clearing a misfired round from the breech of the 2A72 can be done manually or with a pyrotechnic charge in the case of a misfire.
The ammunition storage comprises of two separate compartments, each dedicated to a specific type of shell. The right compartment, which is located under the commander's seat, houses AP shells, whereas the left compartment, which is located under the gunner's seat, houses HE shells.
The autocannon is provided with 500 ready-to-use rounds, split between 305 HE-I and HEF-T rounds and 195 AP rounds in separate belts. It fires 3UOF8 HE-I or 3UOR6 HEF-T rounds, and 3UBR6 AP or 3UBR8 APDS. Maximum range of effective range of fire is 4000m against aerial targets, 2000m against area targets or personnel, and 1500m against light armour, but actual practicality is somewhat different, as you would expect. An interesting fact is that 3UOF8 and 3UOR6 rounds are loaded in a ratio of 4:1 respectively.
BMP-3 gunners are primarily trained to engage light armour with the autocannon, and bunkers and fortifications with the 100mm cannon, and personnel in open spaces with the autocannon. In practice, aerial targets are always engaged with the autocannon. With this in mind, the roles of both weapons are quite ambiguous, as there are exercises where the gunner must engage area targets (representing groups of soldiers) and light armour with the 100mm cannon. Ultimately, which weapon and which type of munition is used against what target is determined by the commander. If certain targets are too tough to crack with the autocannon, the ever-present 100mm cannon may offer a pleasing alternative option.
|From left to right; HEF-I, HEF-T, AP-T, APDS|
During a "free range" firing accuracy test for the UAE trials in 1991, the 2A72 autocannon (firing an unknown round, but probably AP or HE) displayed a high efficiency (or so they say). Out of 18 oil barrels acting as targets, 15 were hit. It is not known at what range these shots occurred, and how many rounds were needed per barrel, but it is assumed that it was more than a few hundred meters' distance, or else the test would be a rather unproductive one. In a consecutive test, the autocannon displayed a high degree of accuracy at a range of 2600m, probably against area targets, on the same day. Again, the criteria for what is considered "high" should be understood first, but I do not know what the criteria was.
The 2A72 autocannon uses 30x165mm cartridges. The propellant charge used for all shell types is designated as the 6/7P-5BPfl, a type of high-energy stick powder.
High-explosive incendiary shell intended for the destruction and neutralization of enemy combatants, helicopters, thin-skinned utility vehicles, light fortifications, and main battle tanks. In some cases, these shells may prove more potent than armour-piercing shells against heavily armoured targets since they are able to effectively able to damage and destroy sighting systems and other important components including periscopes, guns, tracks and fuel tanks. The destruction of these may already affirm the end of whatever mission the vehicle in question was on, without destroying the vehicle in question.
The A-670M nose fuze is used. It will self-destruct after the shell has travelled approximately 4000m or so, depending on the strength of head and tail winds.
Cartridge weight: 842 g
Projectile weight: 390 g
Muzzle velocity: 960m/s
Guaranteed Kill area: 5.95sq.m (Blast and fragmentation)
Lethal radius: ~5m (Fragmentation)
Casualty radius: ~12m
Explosive mass: 49 g
Explosive filling: A-IX-2 (Phlegmatized RDX + Aluminium filings) (Aluminium is pyrophoric. Detonation produces incendiary effects, increasing the chance of igniting or burning objects in its proximity)
Compared to the 3UOR6, this shell is more useful when dealing with obstructions like walls and sandbag fortifications due to its much higher explosive power. It is also far more effective against personnel, thanks to the mass of the projectile and the number of splinters it produces. If compared to the American 25mm M792, the 3OF8 projectile weighs 2.1 times more, and it contains 1.53 times more explosives, despite a seemingly small increase of only 5mm, or 20% in diameter. 3UOF8 is in fact nominally more powerful than both the British 30x170mm HEI-SD, which weighs in at 360g with a 40g explosive charge, and the American 30x173mm Mk266, which weighs 362g.
Without a doubt, 3UOF8 can reliably guarantee the destruction of armoured attack helicopters thanks to its large explosive punch, which 20mm, 23mm and 25mm shells lack. In addition to that fact, although each shell has a relatively small lethal radius, their effect is massively amplified by multiple consecutive shells detonating in the same general area. The intersection and reflection of these blast waves can create a cumulative "kill zone" where internal cavities like the lungs, ear drums, intestines and stomach will be reduced to hemorrhaging masses, thereby killing someone that is outside of the nominal lethal radius of a shell, but standing between two or more of them. It's worth noting that this phenomenon can only be achieved with quick follow-up detonations, which the 2A72 is perfectly capable of with its relatively high rate of fire - an accomplishment that the British RARDEN and the American Mk44 simply cannot challenge.
This shell is always loaded in tandem with the 3UOR6, since it lacks a tracer element.
The A-670M nose fuze is used. It will self-destruct after the shell has travelled approximately 4000m or so, depending on the strength of head and tail winds.
Cartridge weight: 835 g
Projectile weight: 388 g
Muzzle velocity: 960m/s
Guaranteed Kill area: 1.4sq.m (Blast and fragmentation)
Explosive mass: 11.5 g
Explosive filling: A-IX-2 (Phlegmatized RDX + Aluminium filings) (Aluminium is pyrophoric. Detonation produces incendiary effects, increasing the chance of igniting or burning objects in its proximity)
Tracer burn time: >9 seconds
Although this shell has a mere 23% the amount of explosives contained in the 3OF8, it is encased with around the same mass of steel, which adequately compensates for that fact as far as fragmentation effects go. Since a sizeable portion of the shell's mass is composed of the tracer element, the 3UOR6 shell tends to undershoot the constant-mass 3OF8. This is especially noticeable at longer distances.
Cartridge mass: 856 g
Projectile mass: 400 g
Muzzle velocity: 970 m/s
Core: High-hardness tool steel (60KhNM ?), blunt tip
Penetration, RHA (60 degrees):
700m = 20mm
1500m = 16mm
Penetration, RHA (0 degrees)
0m = 48mm (Calculated)
700m = 43mm (Calculated)
1500m = 39mm (Calculated)
Tracer burn time: >3.5 seconds
Due to its mediocre properties, its performance on light armour is rather modest, although it is certain that it is fully capable of perforating the armour of lightly armoured APCs such as the American M113, German Luchs, French VAB, or perhaps the generally light armour of scout cars and other armoured cars, while some modern vehicles like the Stryker and LAV III still prove totally vulnerable, being no better armoured than their tracked peers from the 60's and 70's. It is capable of defeating older IFVs like the Marder 1A2 and M2A1 Bradley from the front at ranges in excess of 1500m, but against the latest IFVs or IFVs specifically uparmoured afainst it like the M2A3 Bradley and Puma, the 3UBR6 shell is, for the most part, less useful than HEI shells.
It quite interesting to note that this shell should be able to perforate the side armour of some tanks of its time, particularly at close ranges. The AMX 30, Leopard 1 and Chieftain are three such unfortunate examples. Legacy tanks like the Centurion are highly vulnerable as well.
Another interesting fact is that this shell is not insignificantly affected by steeply angled armour due to its full-bore steel construction. This is demonstrably proven by their tendency to ricochet when striking armour at low angles of attack, despite the blunt-but-vaguely-pointy nose, and despite overmatching thinner plates due to its large diameter. As such, it is inferred that their performance on flat targets is significantly higher than on angled ones. This was duly expressed in the penetration listings above.
Cartridge weight: 765 g
Projectile weight: 304 g
Core weight: 222g
Muzzle velocity: 1120m/s
Core: Tungsten alloy
Penetration, RHA (60 degrees):
1000m = 35mm
1500m = 25mm
2000m = 22mm
(Official values from Rosoboronexport and Kurganmashzavod)
Penetration, RHA (0 degrees):
Muzzle = 85mm (?)
500m = 80mm (?)
1000m = >70mm
1500m = >50mm
2000m = >44mm
Tracer burn time: >1.5 seconds
Generally speaking, the 3BR8 shell is capable of doing whatever the 3BR6 shell was capable of, but to a greater degree. The increased penetration potential allows gunners to confidently engage a larger collection of main battle tanks from the rear or even the side in some cases. Examples of these may include the Chieftain, Challenger 1, earlier Leopard 2s and the M60 series. Although repeat shots could again still be necessary, the practical threshold is clearly much higher if compared to the 3BR6. Unsurprisingly, being a great deal more accurate and powerful, it has been gradually replacing the obsolete 3UBR6 since the late 80's, although the latter is still being widely used in training and live fire exercises due to lower cost.
The combat value of the 2A72 autocannon has come into question with the implementation of the 100mm 2A70 gun, which is able to supplant the the autocannon in literally all of its roles, though the 2A72 still proves useful in engaging helicopters and light armour. On the other hand, the FCS of the BMP-3 is advanced enough to allow the 2A70 cannon to engage helicopters and fast-moving ground vehicles as well, which has sparked a debate as to the autocannon's usefulness.
The 2A72 was obviously not intended purely for anti-armour purposes, unlike the 30mm RARDEN, which, according to Jane's, was designed with an anti-armour philosophy with the emphasis on high accuracy as opposed to high rates of fire. The 2A72 is accurate enough on short bursts, but its main attraction is its light weight and high rate of fire. Therefore, it can be considered a lighter version of the 2A42, intended for light vehicles. The 2A42 is heavier, more accurate and faster firing, and is still the go-to autocannon for the Russian ground forces, as proven by its inclusion in the Bumerang, Kurganets and T-15 Armata platforms.
In any case, it is probably not incorrect to assume that gunners like the added firepower anyway.
It is loaded automatically from an electromechanical autoloader (which loads HEF shells only) which is fed from a conveyor on the turret floor. It may be operated manually by the gunner, but only in emergency situations. A normal loading cycle takes 4 to 5 seconds to complete, putting the maximum rate of fire for HEF shells at 12 to 15 rounds per minute. However, the practical rate of fire, as dictated by the gunner, is around 10 rounds per minute depending on the number of available targets. ATGMs need to be loaded manually by the gunner, which is a rather clumsy procedure due to the length of each missile. To help the gunner, the mechanical rammer of the autoloader will assist. Only one ATGM may be airborne at any one time, and the ATGM that is in-flight must reach its target before a fresh missile can be fired. As such, the maximum rate of fire depends on the gunner, but on average is never more than 4 shots per minute. The practical rate of fire is 2 to 3 shots per minute.
Either the 3UOF17 and 3UOF19 or 3UOF19-1 HEF rounds can be used in the baseline BMP-3, but they significantly differ from each other. The 3UOF17 round is heavier, and has a larger explosive filling but with a less dense fragmentation lining.This round has a maximum effective range of 4000m. The 3UOF19 improved fragmentation round, on the other hand, weighs less but generates 1.7 times more fragments and has a stated casualty area 2.53 times that of the 3UOF17. The newer shells have a maximum effective range of 6500m to 7000m. Both these rounds use 3B35 impact fuses.
The 3UOF19-1 shell is a proximity-fused variant of the 3UOF19. It is an airbursting shell, exploding 3m, give or take 1.5m, above ground level, producing a casualty area 1.7 times that of the 3UOF19. Creatively using proximity fuses instead of lasing and programming electronic fuses as with other air-burst shells significantly reduces the time needed to acquire and engage a target and is a wise choice as the BMP-3 may fire at targets with the same firing procedure as normally fused shells but with the effect of air-burst shells. Both the improved shells also have a 25% higher accuracy when compared to the 3UOF17, due to the increased velocity (250m/s to 355m/s). The 3UOF19-1 shell uses the 9E154 proximity fuse.
The 3UOF17 shell has a 15.6kg warhead, the 3UOF19 and 3UOF19-1 have 13.41kg and 13.31kg warheads respectively. The casualty areas (50% chance of injury or death) are 160sq.m, 360sq.m, and 600sq.m for each respective shell, in that order. Depending on the angle of incidence with the ground, the all three shells may either produce fragments in a butterfly pattern (in direct fire), or radially (in indirect fire). In the direct fire mode, most of the fragments are wasted because they launched into the ground and into the sky, and not into targets on ground level. Indirect fire is more efficient, because all fragments will be sprayed sideways and into targets on ground level.
Although all the HEF shells are primarily intended for the anti-personnel role, they are also extremely efficient in dealing with lightly-armoured vehicles:
|The explosion was powerful enough to lift up the BTR-70 husk|
100mm shells may also be used in the anti-aircraft role, but only opportunistically. The target leading system is compatible with 100mm shells, so they may be used to engage even moving targets, but the inherent inaccuracy of these shells mean that they are only useful at impractically close ranges in the vicinity of 1000 meters. The use of 3OF19-1 proximity fused ammunition totally reverses this situation, making the BMP-3 exceptionally lethal to low flying aircraft.
The 2A70 is provided with 22 ready-to-use HEF rounds stowed on the turret floor conveyor, and an additional 18 rounds stowed in an ammunition rack behind the turret just under the 3 rearmost passenger seats, which can be folded up.
Spent shell casings are ejected through a small rectangular hatch on the rear of the turret. The propellant is quite smoky, discarding the casing immediately after firing significantly reduces the volume of fumes that stay in the turret, both because the residue inside the casing is a minor source of the fumes and because the opening of the ejection port momentarily helps to evacuate the fumes.
The first 100mm round available to the original BMP-3. The cartridge includes a 3OF32 HE-Frag shell directly transplanted from the 100mm 3UOF11 cartridge, which was used in the D-10T cannon on the T-54 series of tanks beginning from 1970's. As such, the BMP-3 can be said to possess "the firepower of a tank", in some ways.
Firing range: 4000m (Direct)
Maximum firing distance: 8000m (Indirect)
At 15 degrees Ambient Temperature: 1870 kgf/sq.cm
At 50 degrees Ambient Temperature: 2200 kgf/sq.cm
Fuze: 3B35 Impact Fuze
Complete round mass: 18.1kg
Shell mass: 15.6kg
Explosive mass: 1.7kg
Number of Preformed Fragments and Their Mass:
With a mass of not less than 0.5 g: 1993
With a mass of 0.5 g to 2 g: 814
With a mass of 2 g to 15 g: 928
With a mass exceeding 15 g: 251
Statistical Average Mass of Fragmentation: 6.2 g
Velocity of Fragments and Ratio of Fragment Velocities:
100% - 1040 m/s
90% - 1060 m/s
80% - 1080 m/s
Lethal area: 160m.sq
Lethal pressure: 10kgf/cm.sq
This is the most effective shell "punch-wise", due to its substantial mass, making it most effective against light armour. However, the design of the shell body, especially the tail, does not produce an optimal fragmentation pattern, and the ratio of explosive charge to steel body mass (0.11) is not perfect. This is because of its heritage. As this shell was originally designed to be launched at velocities of over 800 m/s, they were probably not very worried about low velocity characteristics.
Muzzle velocity: 355m/s
This shell flies faster than its predecessor (supersonic, too) and has a greatly improved design, enabling it to produce more fragments. It is also more accurate, thanks to its higher velocity and improved tail.
|Butterfly fragmentation pattern. N=number of fragments, S=area|
This shell has an proximity fuse with side-looking optical sensors. The shell is designed to detonate within 3 meters above the ground, greatly increasing its effectiveness against area targets. Thanks to the large casualty area produced by the airbursting effect, it is particularly useful when engaging well-hidden and highly problematic targets such as ATGM teams, whose exact positions may not be known at all. It becomes somewhat useless against IFVs and fully fortified bunkers, however, as the fragments are not nearly heavy enough to defeat even the thinnest (within reason) roof armour. The proximity fuse gives this shell the ability to engage moving aerial targets with exceptionally high lethality.
Muzzle velocity: 355m/s
Firing range: 6500m (Direct)
Maximum firing distance: 8000m (Indirect)
Fuze: 9E154 Proximity Fuze
Complete round mass: 15.7kg
Shell mass: 13.31kg
Detonation altitude: 3m ± 1.5m
Number of preformed fragments (mass of not less than 0.5g): 3393
Average velocity of fragments: 1420m/s
Average mass of fragments: 2.73g
Lethal area: 600m.sq
Lethal pressure: 10kgf/cm.sq
Depending on the exact angle of firing, the shell doesn't always detonate 3 meters from the ground. It depends on the angle of incidence, which changes if the target is nearby or far away. At long distances, the shell may detonate 1.5 meters above the ground, since the side-looking optical sensors cannot see the ground because of the high angle of attack. A short distances, when the shell is essentially flying parallel to the ground, it may detonate at an altitude of 4.5 meters.
According to results from the BMP-3 trial in Turkmenistan for the UAE, the 3UOF17 shell has an average CEP (circular error probability) of 25m at a range of 4000m, meaning that 50% of fired shells will hit in an area with a circular diameter of 50m at that range. Therefore, 3UOF19/-1 shells should have a CEP of 22.36m at 4000m, though this is probably lower than the real values, as 3OF19 has slightly different aerodynamic characteristics and a higher velocity.
For a low-velocity cannon, the 2A70 can achieve reasonably good results at long distances. Unfortunately, the low velocity nature of the 100mm shells means that they are quite susceptible to being blown off course by crosswinds or blown too far forward or too far back by head and tail winds. This invalidates any attempts to extrapolate the firing accuracy at 4 kilometers' distance to ascertain the firing accuracy at closer distances. Try it. You will find that it should be impossible for the 2A70 to hit a tank-sized target at even a few hundred meters' distance, when all of the evidence points to the opposite. Without much wind, or without prolonged exposure to wind, the accuracy of the 2A70 gun is much better than stated.
An important thing to note is that although the 3UOF19/-1 shells can be shot to an absolute maximum of 8000m, the practical range will be limited to 4000m due to target identification range and ballistic computer limitations unless the newer SOZh gunner's sight (replacing the 1K13-2) and 1V539M ballistic computer is installed. Shooting at ranges more than 4000m requires switching to indirect fire mode. Unlike a true gun-mortar system like the Nona-S, the 2A70 cannon does not have access to mortar shells, making it impossible to hit targets at a high angle of attack at short distances. This is because conventional ogived shells like the 3OF32 lack the special shape and fins that enable mortar shells to consistently land always almost vertically like a shuttlecock. This means that the BMP-3 cannot attack the weaker top armour of enemy tanks and IFVs at short distances. It could do that at long range, but the low chance of scoring a hit makes this impractical.
With the 2A70 gun, the BMP-3 is able to engage soft targets more effectively than its autocannon, and engage both soft targets and light armour at greater ranges than possible with a 30mm cannon. The gun may also prove useful against lightly armoured targets that the autocannon cannot destroy, such as the German Puma and uparmoured CV90 IFVs, both of which are heavily armoured and are able to reliably resist 30mm APDS shells. Additionally, the 2A70 gun is much more effective at destroying structures and earth-and-log bunkers, and is much more efficient in dealing with ATGM teams.
Furthermore, as a result of the 2A70's indirect fire capability, the BMP-3 has unique opportunities to engage soft targets as well as lightly armoured vehicles at a variety of ranges, and in situations where air power and artillery support is not available. For instance, a tank could easily hit a target at two kilometers using its high power and high velocity HE-Frag ammunition, but it cannot do this over a tall hill, or over tall buildings. The high velocity of tank gun ammunition and the limited elevation of tank guns means that while it is possible to land a shell on top of a target at long distances, it is not possible at shorter distances. The low velocity of the ammunition fired from the 2A70 enables it to lob payloads across villages, small towns, hills, and other natural obstacles at short ranges to provide fire support for nearby troops, as opposed to troops from the neighbouring division. This feature substantially increases a mechanized division's overall combat effectiveness, and enables the BMP-3 to perform many of the same duties as the Nona-S, but not as extensively, as the Nona-S is inherently more powerful due to its larger caliber and it has access to a much wider variety of munitions. The development of the 2S31 Vena (which uses the BMP-3 hull, no less) aims to endow the ground forces with a Nona-S-like weapon system. Another outstanding feature is the excellent gun elevation, which enables targets in high-rise buildings to be blasted with a level of effectiveness that an autocannon simply cannot match.
It is evident that the popularity of large caliber autocannons in the 40mm to 57mm range is due to the need to accomplish the same tasks. All design choices have to compromise something, and in the case of the 30-100 combination, the compromise is that the anti-armour capabilities of the 30mm autocannon are very limited compared to a 57mm one. In the case of 57mm autocannons, the compromise lays in the limited explosive power of the shell compared to a 100mm solution. However, one could argue that this quandary has already been solved by the use of advanced technology. A programmable fuse can make a 40mm to 57mm HE-Frag shell highly effective against soft targets in the open and in field fortifications by employing an airburst mode, and even give it valuable bunker-busting capabilities by employing a delayed fuse. Another issue is that direct fire is more rapid and responsive than indirect fire, but the lack of indirect fire capability means that an autocannon-only IFV is perpetually at risk of return fire, usually from hidden ATGM teams. At least the BMP-3 has the option of engaging such dangerous targets at equally long range from the safety of terrain features.
The 2K23 armament system includes the 9M116-3 Bastion 100mm ATGM launching system. It employs laser beam-riding guidance, which is essentially unjammable. The two ATGMs available for the BMP-3 are the 3UBK10M-3 Basnya cartridge with the 9M117-3 Basnya missile and the 3UBK23-3 Arkan cartridge with the 9M117M1 Arkan missile.
The 3UBK10M-3 is the designation for the complete Basnya missile cartridge, and it is the older of the two available missiles. It has a single warhead and a maximum range of 4000m. It was essentially outdated the moment it was introduced, as the special armour employed on NATO tanks at the time practically ensured their immunity to single shaped charge warheads of this caliber. Based on recent data on the performance of Abrams and Leopard 2 tanks in Syria, it can be surmised that Basnya would have been effective against earlier models (M1 to M1A1, and 2A0 to 2A4) of the aforementioned tanks in side engagements, but only in side engagements. Proliferation of this missile is unknown, but it has probably already been completely phased out in favour of Arkan due to its complete obsolescence.
The BMP-3 can accurately fire and guide missiles while on the move at speeds of up to 25km/h. The missiles are soft-launched out of the gun barrel, whereby the rocket motor activates and sustains a transonic speed (~330 m/s) until detonation. All missiles have a guaranteed hit rate of 80% at their maximum ranges.
Both the Basnya and the Arkan missiles have a laser beam receiver at the rear. It is not known if both of them use the same model, but it is probable.
|Laser beam receiver "window"|
The Basyna missile has a single-charge warhead. It employs a hemispherical wave-shaper, which improves the integrity of the cumulative jet by focusing the main charge's explosive power more efficiently.
The missile uses the 9E256 point-detonating, graze-sensitive fuse.
Explosive Charge: OKFOL
Warhead Cone material: Copper
Warhead Cone diameter: 96mm
Standoff: 250mm (2.6CD)
Penetration: 550mm RHA
The 9M117M1 Arkan missile has a tandem warhead and is better suited for defeating composite armour. It might be possible for Arkan to defeat the front hull armour of the M1 and M1A1 Abrams and the Leopard 2 and Leopard 2A4, but it is very doubtful that it can effect the same result with a hit on the front turret cheeks of the same tanks. Nowadays, Arkan is useful against IFVs protected by ERA, such as the BUSK package for the Bradley M2A2/A3.
Primary Warhead Penetration (without precurser/after reactive armour): 650mm RHA (?)
Primary Charge Penetration (after precurser/without reactive armour):750mm RHA
Precurser charge penetration: ~100mm RHA
Penetration (primary warhead only/behind reactive armour): 650mm RHA
Penetration (after precurser detonation/without reactive armour?): 750mm RHA
|9M117M1 Arkan missile (top) and 3UBK23-3 cartridge with Arkan missile plus propelling charge (bottom)|
Both Basnya and Arkan will fly at least 3.5 m over the ground, give or take 0.35 m, and descend to target level immediately before contact. This is primarily to keep the gunner's line of sight to the target clear, but it also helps minimize the possibility of the missile being affected by bushes or other terrain features, which may disturb the missile's flight or even prematurely detonate it. It also gives the ability to reliably engage targets in hull defilade, since the missile is guaranteed to fly over whatever cover the target is hiding behind.
In vanilla BMP-3s, ATGMs must be manually loaded by the gunner. Three missiles are stored in a rack on the turret's rear, easily accessible to the gunner. Five more are stored in a storage rack on the port side of the vehicle hull. In practice, the turret racks are replenished from these hull racks by a passenger, although the gunner can reach them as well. Needless to say, the abundance of ammunition stowed in the open is troubling, though it is by no means unique to the BMP-3.
|Here, the five ATGM storage racks are visible, and one of the side firing ports.|
An autoloader is available for retrofitting. It pulls ATGMs directly from the rack of three and rams them into the cannon, which is automatically elevated beforehand. Because the sight is independently stabilized, this leaves the gunner free to search for targets. Loading takes around 9 seconds, according to a demonstration video from the Kurganmashzavod website. It is possible that the rammer was deliberately slowed down for demonstration, which was also done in a separate video for the autoloader on the Bakcha-U turret.
The periscope has a field of vision of 17.5 degrees in the horizontal plane and 10 degrees in the vertical plane. It has a magnification of 1x.
|Bow machine gun with manipulator arm and thumb trigger in view. Notice the fiber optic cable (sheathed in flexible black rubber tube) connecting the machine gun trunnion to the rear part of the periscope|
|In this video still, we see the driver from the port bow machine gunner's perspective. The bow machine gun's large 2000-round ammo box is clearly visible.|
|Bow machine gun without rubber slip-on|
The machine guns are mounted in ball mounts and can be elevated by 15 degrees and depressed by 5 degrees. They can be swiveled 5 degrees inwards and 30 degrees outward, horizontally. The bow machine guns have an average maximum practical range of 600m, but much, much less if the vehicle is on the move over rough terrain. As far as bow machine guns go, this is as good as it gets. The TNPZVE01-01 periscope combines the good visibility of a periscope with the higher accuracy of an aiming device. Here, I would like to use the Sherman and T-34 as examples. The Sherman's bow machine gunner had an adjustable periscope to see the outside world, but no way to aim his machine gun. What he must do is fire in the general direction of the enemy, and adjust according to the tracers. In the T-34, the bow machine gunner has no periscope, but there is a small hole in the bow machine gun turret for him to look through the sights of his DT machine gun. This meant that he had an incredibly bad case of tunnel vision, but if he could see his target, he could make his shots count. The bow machine gunner concept in the BMP-3 takes the best of both and leaves all of the negatives behind. However, this does not mean that having bow machine guns are still viable in this day and age. But if you wanted bow machine guns, this is the way to do it.
Interestingly, the driver can remotely fire the two bow machine guns. He has two button-triggers in thumb's reach on the steering bar, but he cannot aim the machine guns. This feature enables the driver to suppress enemy troops in front of him without the assistance of the crew in the fighting compartment, though the bow machine guns are still of questionable value. In fact, this is probably far more practical for self-defence, rather than to have dismounts operating them. Dismounted infantry can give more protection to a vehicle when outside it, rather than inside it. It's more a case of not letting the machine guns go to waste once the bow machine gunners have vacated the vehicle.
Aside from the bow machine guns, there are firing ports on either side of the vehicle - two on the port side and one on the starboard side, with a maximum 30 degrees horizontal swivel each. The ports may fit either AKs or PK machine guns, through the installation of adaptors which conform to the barrels to fit them in a universal slot in the ball turret. The occupants are provided with a TNPZVE01-01 periscope-aiming device just like the bow machine gunners.
|One of two portside firing ports, interior view|
|Firing port lid, opened. Notice that the recess is facing forward.|
|Firing port lid, closed|
There is an aft firing port as well, located on the left rear hatch. A soldier must lie down over the engine deck cover to operate his rifle for this firing port. This firing port does not use a periscope for aiming. The soldier must aim through a transparent window.
|Rear firing port|
The firing ports are intended to allow the passengers to suppress or neutralize threats like ATGM teams or scattered infantry while on the move, which will almost certainly be encountered if a breakthrough is achieved. The firing ports also help maximize the BMP's combat potential if the environment outside the vehicle is simply too hazardous, which was a perfectly possible scenario taking into account the commonness of tactical nuclear artillery shells. With the firing ports, the passengers can still contribute to the fight.
Regardless, the practicality of firing ports has been called into question in the modern age. Without the serious threat of nuclear war looming over us, it may seem to some that they are no longer necessary. Despite being primarily rooted in offensive tactics, the implementation of the firing ports gives the BMP-3 the critical ability to defend itself from deadly rocket grenade attacks from all directions, even at the rear. This is in contrast to "modern" designs which leave the flanks and rear completely vulnerable to ambushing RPG-wielding agents, leaving the burden of mutual protection to accompanying assets. The firing ports will, without a doubt, prove useful in the hairiest of situations. But then again, the likelyhood of being in a situation where the firing ports become useful are so slim that in many cases, it's not worth compromising the protection scheme.
Loading all ammunition in the BMP-3, including 100mm, 30mm, and 7.62mm ammunition, takes an average of 45 minutes with the participation of only the entire 3-man crew. The 100mm ammunition is loaded by reversing the gun loading procedure, the 30mm ammunition is loaded by inserting belts of it into a small hatch at the front of the vehicle, the missiles are secured on storage racks manually, and the co-axial machine gun ammunition is loaded manually in the turret.
|30mm ammunition loading procedure (note the weld lines indicating the thickness of the turret; at least a good two inches)|
In the course of the early testing phases of the BMP-3, several components were found to be particularly unreliable, among them were the main weapons. Nevertheless, these issues were solved soon (before March 1988). Of particular interest is the 2A70 gun, which had a failure rate of 1.5 malfunctions per 1000 rounds fired, which was reduced to 1.3, then to 1.12. The 2A72 gun, with a failure rate of 1 failure per 1000 rounds fired, was reduced to 0.62, then to 0.5. The issues were entirely related to the loading mechanisms. The cannons themselves were extremely reliable.
During seaworthiness testing of the BMP-3 in 1985 off the coast of Sevastopol, the BMP-3 demonstrated the ability to fire accurately while afloat. With a T-55 (which was pulled out of storage) as a target, the 30mm autocannon, firing HE shells, managed to completely destroy all exterior sighting systems from a distance of 1500m. When fired at with the 100mm HEF shells (unknown number of shots), close inspection revealed that the 100mm gun of the T-55 was broken in four places, and the hull front plate had visible external fractures, with cracks appearing in several places.
Such a demonstration provides a good justification for the belief that a 100mm HEF round would be absolutely lethal even to most of the late Cold War era IFVs, which have far less protection than a tank. KBP of Tula (the manufacturers of the 2A70 gun and its ammunition) seems to think so too. In a promo video showcasing the BMP-3M, they state that the 100mm HEF shell fired from a BMP-3 could destroy a lightly armoured vehicle with great certainty with the first shot, or with an absolute guarantee on the second shot.
Live-fire exercises confirmed the high precision characteristics of the BMP-3's armament system with regards to long range area targets. For instance, it was proven that 70% of shells will land in an area of 60x30 meters, simulating an imaginary enemy platoon, from a distance of 3500m. It was revealed in such exercises that the training of BMP-3 gunners did not correspond to the true potential of the armament of the BMP-3. For the full realization of the potential of the IFV during target practice, it was proposed to increase the range at which gunners had to hit targets by an additional 1800m-2500m during 2A70 gun practice, and 1500m-2000m during 2A72 autocannon practice. A new platoon firing exercise was also formulated whereby BMP-3 gunners had to fire at targets from 3000-3500m. The decision to do so was probably taken in the mid 90's.
This is a good indication that the potential of the 2K23 armament system is not being ignored. With the ammunition improvement in the form of new 100mm HEF shells with increased range, it is more likely than not that BMP-3 gunners are now thoroughly trained to engage targets at very long distances. In fact, it is probably safe to say that the engagement envelope in which BMP-3 gunners are trained for is larger than that of any other IFV crew in the world.
Purpose of 100mm gun
There is some confusion as to the intended purpose of the 100mm gun, as it occupies the same niche that the 30mm autocannon already does, which is the anti-personnel role. This is further evidenced by the fact that the BMP-3 still carries more 30mm HE shells than 30mm APDS shells, despite having much more effective 100mm HEF shells in its inventory. However, it should not be forgotten that 30mm shells have a far higher velocity than the 100mm ones, so they are more suitable for engaging moving targets, and aerial targets. It is worthy to note that the ballistic characteristics of the 100mm shells do not prevent them from being used for anti-aircraft purposes. Its ballistics are fully accounted for by the PPB-2 and 1PZ-10 sights when engaging aerial targets. They are not used thusly in gunnery training, as far as I know, but it is possible.
In the end, it is evident that the designers never intended the 30mm autocannon to be used as the BMP-3's primary anti-personnel weapon, as the 2A72 autocannon does not have the option for the same 550 rounds-per-minute rate of fire which the 2A42 autocannon has. The higher rate of fire of the 2A42 allows it to saturate an area target, while the 2A72 cannot do so quite as effectively, relegating that task to the heavy hitting 2A70 gun.
The armour of the BMP-3 is arguably the best out of all IFVs in its weight class and perhaps even beyond it. It should be noted that during the selection process for the successor to the BMP-2, the existence of highly effective American 25mm APDS ammunition was acknowledged as a crucial factor. In fact, it directly led to Kurganmashzavod suggesting to base the new IFV on the light tank chassis of Obyekt 685. Overall, the argon-welded aluminium hull of the vehicle provides guaranteed protection from ground-level 155mm shell splinters and small arms fire, which is a definitive trait of nearly all IFVs, but frontally, the BMP-3 is well above the rest. Early BMP-3s are often observed with a smooth hull roof. Later on, bolt-on hard steel overlays are attached to the roof to augment protection from overhead artillery splinters and other airburst munitions.
The aluminium used for the BMP-3 is ABT-102 alloy. According to several research papers written on the subject, the effectiveness of aluminium armour may reach up to 50% of steel. Previously, ABT-101 was used for light IFVs like the BMD-1 and BMD-2. A research paper by NII Stali has indicated that the thickness efficiency of this alloy can reach up to 45% of steel. The improved ABT-102 alloy should have a better thickness efficiency.
The steel used in the spaced and applique armour over the front of the vehicle is BT-70Sh. It is a high hardness steel with a hardness of 573 BHN and a maximum strength of around 1900 to 2000 MPa. This is not ordinary RHA. It is harder than mythical AR550 steel plates, which can be seen breaking up .50 cal AP rounds here (yes, it is unscientific, I know). Regular armour piercing 7.62mm ammunition will fail to even dent plates of BT-70Sh.
|A BMP-3 hull on the Kurganmashzavod production line|
The BMP-3 employs aluminium armour in the hull, augmented with a spaced hard steel wave breaker, backed by a specially designed fuel tank which also acts as armour. Baseline BMP-3s are stated to have sufficient armour to resist 30mm shells frontally from a distance of 200m. It is assumed that these "30mm shells" are 3UBR6 steel APBC shells, but APDS rounds can be defeated as well, as will be explained later. Overall, the aluminium construction of the BMP-3 gives it 1.7 times better weight-protection efficiency compared to the BMP-2 and BMP-1. The armour thicknesses used in this analysis are taken from Andrei Tarasenko's site (link).
1. Upper glacis, 18mm of ABT-102
2. Side cheeks, 60mm of ABT-102
3. Turret shields, 16mm BT-70Sh, 70mm air space, 50mm ABT-102
4. Turret roof, 18mm of ABT-102
5. Turret rear, 43mm of ABT-102
6. Rear hatch, 15mm of ABT-102
7. Rear sponsons, 13mm of ABT-102
8. Hull belly, 10mm of AMG-6
9. Upper hull sides, 43mm of ABT-102
10. Underside of sponsons, 15mm of ABT-102
11. Lower hull sides, 43mm of ABT-102
12. Lower hull plate, 10mm BT-70Sh, 70mm air space, 60mm ABT-102
13. Upper hull plate, 10mm BT-70Sh, 70mm air space, 12mm BT-70Sh, 60mm ABT-102
The upper plate armour profile can be described as a 60mm aluminium plate, with a 12mm bolt-on hard steel plate, with a 10mm hard steel wave breaker spaced 70mm away from the main armour. All of this is sloped at 30 degrees from the vertical, making this part of the armour very potent against everything except long rod APFSDS rounds. The 12mm bolt-on plate can be seen in the photo below:
The lower plate is the same 60mm of aluminium, except that now, it is sloped at a slightly steeper 43 degrees. There is no wave breaker here, but there is a dozer blade made from the same high hardness, high strength BT-70Sh steel. The dozer blade is spaced from the main armour by 70mm. The additional slope gives further protection from ballistic threats by increasing the likelihood of shattering uncapped penetrators, thus compensating for the lack of a 12mm bolt-on plate.
The turret is also fabricated from welded ABT-102 aluminium alloy, rolled into curved plates. The steel shield on the turret's frontal arc is also BT-70Sh, but it is thicker than the wave breaker and dozer blade for extra protection. The turret's steel shield renders the turret completely invulnerable against 25mm APDS shells, though without any additional armour beneath the main armour, the turret is still decidedly less well-armoured than the hull. The photo above shows the naked turret, without any steel shields or bolt-on steel sheets on the roof. The photo below shows the steel shields.
The base turret has 50mm of aluminium across its front half, stepping down to 43mm across its rear half. Spaced 70mm away from the base armour is a 16mm hard steel plate. The entire front is sloped at 60 degrees. Altogether, the array should be totally proof against 25mm and 30mm APDS, and it should have no difficulties resisting 25mm APFSDS from much, much shorter distances than 2 km. Like the front hull, a 30mm cannon with APFSDS ammunition is needed to defeat it.
As you can see in the photo above, the roof is not flat. The forward half is angled at 3 degrees and the rear half is canted back at 5 degrees. This is to increase room for gun depression and also to allow 100mm shell casings to be ejected rearwards.
The rear doors are 43mm thick, as you can see in the photo below. The sponsons on either side of the doors hold the accumulator batteries and coolant for the engine. The rear armour for this is only 13mm thick.
The side armour is a uniform 43mm across the entire length of the vehicle. The side armour is able to resist armour piercing 7.62mm machine gun fire at all distances from any angle, or 12.7mm ball ammunition head-on at any range, or 12.7mm armour piercing ammunition at ranges of 500m and above - a very reasonable offer. Angled at up to 70 degrees from the front, the side armour is capable of resisting 25mm APDS and APFSDS shells at 1000m, but not less. This means that the BMP-3 does not have very much maneuvering freedom if engaged by an autocannon since only 40 degrees of its frontal arc is immune, and only at extended distances. The side armour of the BMP-3 is not better than the BMP-2 in its protective qualities. It improves on the BMP-2 only by weight efficiency.
However, the BMP-3 can provide complete protection from armour piercing machine gun fire from any direction, and armour piercing heavy machine gun fire across the side profile from 500m and above. The rear of the turret is as thick as the sides of the hull, but it gains additional protection from its curvature.
ABT-102 heat-treated aluminium alloy was originally formulated in the 70's for higher performance against ballistic threats compared to structural aluminium like 5083 alloy (used in the M113) and existing armour-grade aluminium like ABT-101, which is used in the BMD-1 airborne IFV and the BMP-1 in certain parts of the vehicle. ABT-102 is superior to ABT-101, which in turn is slightly superior to 7039 alloy, which is used in some areas of the M2 Bradley IFV. The belly of the BMP-3 is made from AMG-6, which is a structural aluminium alloy similar to 5083 alloy. A comparative graph of 5083 alloy, AMG-6 alloy, 7039 alloy, ABT-101 and ABT-102 can be seen here:
As mentioned before, the wave breaker is made of BT-70Sh high strength steel. Exhaustive armour research has asserted that hard steel works best as applique or spaced armour with softer armour underneath. Such a configuration is known as spaced DHS (Dual Hardness Steel) armour, though in this case, the underlying layer is not a softer steel but aluminium, which is not optimal, but works acceptably. DHS armour is also present in designs such as the uparmoured turret of the Leopard 1 tank. The wave breaker and aluminium hull armour combo is more than enough to completely stop 25mm APDS. As explained before in the section on the 3BR8, M791 APDS has an uncapped tungsten alloy penetrator. Without an armour piercing cap, the penetrator will shatter against the wave breaker, leaving either large fragments or a penetrator of reduced mass and irregular (non-optimum) tip to pass through and impact the main armour, which, in this case, is a 12mm bolt-on hard steel plate. A 30mm APBR shell like the 3BR6 will probably be shattered by the wave breaker and catastrophically fail on the hard steel plate of the main armour, while the tungsten alloy penetrator of an APDS round may still create a dent.
However, it won't be enough to outright stop 25mm APFSDS or similar ammunition of higher calibers - that task is deferred to the fuel tank underneath the hull armour.
But what proof is there for such claims?
See here for penetration capabilities of the relatively new M935A2 25mm APFSDS, developed by MECAR: Link. The tungsten alloy penetrator of the M935A2 has a V50 rating of >30mm RHA at 60 degrees at 2 km. This means that at 2 km, shells will have a 50% chance of achieving full penetration against a 30mm RHA plate sloped at 60 degrees. Long rod penetrators are more effective against sloped plate than against unsloped plate, which means that the penetrator should be able to penetrate slightly less than the LOS thickness of 30mm at 60 degrees at the same distance, if the plate were less sloped. This means that at 2 km, the V50 rating should be slightly less than <60mm RHA.
The depleted uranium M919 APFSDS, standard for modern M2A2 and M2A3 Bradley IFVs, is widely stated to have a penetration of 75mm RHA at 0 degrees at 1 km, 40mm RHA at 60 degrees at 1km and about 31mm RHA at 60 degrees at 2 km.
It is clear, then, that at distances of 2 km and above, a 25mm cannon is simply insufficient for the upper plate, which is why the Strykers deployed in Europe have new 30mm cannons. 25mm APFSDS still can defeat the hull armour at distances of below 2 km, but only by a small margin, and after it passes through the front armour, it must still contend with the self-sealing fuel tank. Therefore, we can assume that the frontal hull is immune to 25mm APFSDS from out to at least 1 km.
Interestingly, the front hull protection may be increased further by simply extending the wave breaker, creating even more spaced distance. Knowing how people often want to live, it is quite likely that this ability will be taken advantage of by the crews in real combat situations.
Since the wave breaker is made of hard steel, it is possible to bolt light reactive armour onto it. The modification is extremely simple, and it may be carried out in the field by technicians.
Additional slat armour and applique spaced side armour may also be installed, as seen here:
The addition of the hard steel spaced panel is most probably intended to immunize the sides against .50 caliber SLAP ammunition. .50 caliber SLAP has very high nominal penetration, but it is not very sophisticated. It is merely a tungsten carbide slug driven at high velocity. It does not have an armour piercing cap or any other buffers. This makes it very easy to defeat by spaced armour, as the strong but brittle tungsten carbide slug will shatter against the spaced plate, leaving only fragments to harmlessly impact the main armour.
New production BMP-3s will probably have this armour installed as standard. Thanks to the high buoyancy characteristics of the BMP-3, the additional weight had only a negligible effect on its swimming abilities. It is still able to travel at around 10 km/h in the water, and the vehicle's top speed remains unchanged to boot, though the change in weight should be somewhat noticeable for the driver. All BMP-3s will be retrofitted with the new armour as part of a low-cost modernization program to maintain fighting capabilities while waiting for sufficient numbers of new generation IFVs to accumulate.
It's worth noting that the slat armour and thin spaced steel panel combination isn't particularly high-tech, and that the BMP-3 could have been given them as an ad-hoc modification by technicians in the field anyway.
FUEL TANK AS ARMOUR
The picture above also shows us the hinges for the glacis, which can be swung open to expose the fuel tanks underneath it. More interesting, however, is that the picture shows us how thick the frontal plate and fuel cell is. We have an excellent view of the placement of bolt-on steel overlays. It is also interesting to see how large the fuel tank is. The fuel tank cap is at the top left corner of the glacis.
The fuel tank is slightly angled from the driver's perspective. This is to allow the steering column, pedals and instrument panels to be fitted properly. The fuel tank is foamed and can store 700 liters of diesel, and is completely self-sealing. The placement of the fuel tanks to the front means that hydrodynamic effects due to the fuel stores will dissipate the energy of cumulative jets from shaped charge warheads as well as defeat kinetic penetrators. As such, even if the main armour is compromised, the penetrating element may not enter the interior compartments. Such configuration allows the frontal armour of the BMP-3 to far exceed that of 25-ton+ foreign counterparts while weighing only 18.7 tons itself (not including 567kg of fuel).
An additional note is that the main armour has no anti-radiation liner, but the rear backing of the fuel tank does, and the backing is not partitioned from the driver. The driver would see the fuel tank if he peers behind his instrument panels. This is a good indication that the designers intended the fuel tank to be used specifically as additional armour, if further proof is required at all.
Having mentioned that AGM-6 aluminium alloy is the equivalent of 5083 aluminium alloy, take a look at what happened to this Australian M113 that ran over something big:
According to the excellent afvdb.50megs website hosted by Chris Conners, the M113 has 28.6 mm of hull belly armour. The BMP-3 has better front hull belly armour than that, but the rear doesn't.
All the seats, both for the crew and passengers, are not attached to the floor. Rather, they are mounted to the sides of the hull, in an effort to improve survivability in the event of an underbelly IED blast. One notable exception is the driver's seat, which is still mounted to the floor. This is somewhat countered by the inclusion of integrated shock absorbers and layered foam padding.
However, these measures were still insufficient, as experience in Chechnya showed.
EXPERIENCE IN CHECHNYA
The first combat deployment of the BMP-3 was on the 1st and 2nd of January 1995 in Grozy, on the assault for the Grozny hospital complex. On a column heading for said hospital complex and around the complex itself, a total of 11 BMP-3s were destroyed (ammo detonated) by mines, buried explosive caches and mortar fire. Those same mines also knocked out several tanks. The total figure in the first six months of fighting is quite likely in the range of 20 to 30 vehicles, on the basis of the fact that the vast majority of the 163 destroyed IFVs were undoubtedly BMP-1/2s and BMD-1/2s. Generally, most BMP-3s were destroyed either by mines or by RPG fire. Against such threats, the BMP-3 has no advantages over its predecessors.
The BMP-3 did experience somewhat higher survival rates thanks to the placement of the fuel tank. Even if the armour was perforated by an RPG, it could not set fire to the vehicle, which meant that ammunition could not be detonated without a direct hit to the ammunition, unlike the BMP-1 and BMP-2.
Chechnya proves that the BMP-3 is as backwards as all Soviet era equipment when it comes to asymmetrical warfare. Large mines and IEDs are the largest threat, a threat which the BMP-3 is not designed to handle. The BMP-3 was designed for a European conflict, and if such a conflict were to ignite, it would have been unbeatable, but alas, those days are over.
ARMOUR UPGRADE KIT
There is a composite armour enhancement kit available for the BMP-3, which is mounted over the upper sides of the hull. The degree of protection offered by the kit is unknown, but it should boost the effectiveness of the side profile from 25mm APDS shells at closer ranges. The kit compensates for its own weight by including air pockets in the design, acting both as spacing and as floatation aids. The amphibious qualities of the vehicle are therefore completely unaffected.
Notice the three holes in the armour. Those are not firing ports. Rather, they are just footholds The kit prevents the firing ports from being used.
|This BMP-3 is fitted with a Bakhcha-U turret, and more importantly, the side armour kit. (This BMP-3 belonging to Russian Marines)|
This kit has been seen in use by UAE BMP-3s, and Russian forces are fielding these in increasing numbers.
The Bakhcha-U turret was originally intended to be equipped on the BMD-3, but has become an option for the BMP-3 as well. The new turret complex includes a new vertical-storage conveyor, new autoloader, and a new sighting system. The new turret is claimed to have superior armour protection, though its exact qualities are unknown. It is composed of a thin sheet steel placed over the main aluminium armour, the thickness of which is unknown. It is at least able to reliably resist .50 Cal SLAP ammunition to the frontal arc, if not more.
The Bakhcha-U turret also includes a new dual-channel gunner's sight and a new commander's panoramic thermal imaging device.
The gunner's new FLIR sight can acquire targets at day or night at ranges of up to 4000m. The automatic target tracking system is sophisticated enough to automatically engage low-flying aircraft without gunner input save for the need for him to press the trigger.
The commander's panoramic sight:
The new 2A70 autoloader carries 34 HE-Frag rounds stored vertically in a carousel. To load, the gun is automatically elevated beforehand, due to a revised ramming system whereby the round is tilted slightly and rammed upwards up a guide channel into the breech.
A total of 500 rounds of autocannon ammunition is carried in steel bins, like with the original turret; 255 rounds of armour-piercing-type ammunition, including AP-T, APDS-T or APFSDS-T. 245 rounds of high-explosive ammunition is carried.
The new autoloader stores 4 ATGMs in a vertical rack behind the commander. To load, a mechanical arm places a missile onto the independent ammunition carousel, which spins a short distance to line up the missile with the cannon breech, whereby it is rammed in. Like with normal HE-Frag shells, the gun must be elevated to load. The amount of time per loading cycle is not known. Although KBP released a promotional video showing the process, the autoloader was deliberately paused multiple times for the demonstration. Without the pauses, it takes just over 3 seconds to load each missile.
There are at least two known ERA kits available for the BMP-3, which were developed as a direct response to the vehicle's vulnerability to RPGs in Chechnya.
Unknown ERA Kit (4S20)
This ERA-protected BMP-3 was developed during the First Chechen conflict where the vehicle proved vulnerable to not only HEAT warhead but also to heavy-caliber machine gun fire to the sides. This ERA package ensures greatly increased protection from single-charge warheads on all sides except the immediate rear, although it cannot by any means provide absolute protection from these shaped-charges.
They will be completely destroyed if struck and activated by a shaped charge warhead.
50 sets of these ERA box-sets were procured by the UAE for testing and evaluation. No details on further acquisition have been reported. Recent videos of UAE operations in Yemen with BMP-3s show that they are not outfitted with ERA.
Despite the gain in weight, the BMP-3 is still completely amphibious. This is thanks to the large air spaces within the ERA boxes, which become flotation aids and balance out their own weight.
There is not much information about the distribution of ERA kits for the BMP-3, but it is assumed that at least a small number is available for Army groups in more dangerous regions. The Southern military district, for example.
UNKNOWN ERA KIT
There is another ERA kit variant with an unknown designation and unknown composition. It does not seem to be listed in NII Stali's catalogues, which gives some plausibility to the theory that the kit was developed by the UAE. Note that the kit does not cover up the passengers' firing ports.
Arena can intercept anything in a collision course with its host vehicle that is traveling at anywhere between 70m/s to 700m/s. Its reaction time is no more than 0.05 seconds and no less than 0.03 seconds. Its integrated computer can differentiate between rocket grenades with trajectories that will result in an imminent miss with actual threats. Tracking begins as the target flies within 50m of the vehicle. Arena only protects the vehicle from grenades and missiles coming from within 15 degrees of elevation and 5 degrees of depression relative to the vehicle, so Arena cannot protect the BMP-3 from diving top-attack weapons nor rocket attacks from above. It can, however, protect from non-diving top attack weapons like the TOW 2B or the BILL-2. Arena only protects within a frontal arc of 110 degrees relative to the orientation of the turret, so it cannot protect the vehicle from the rear.
The radar mast has 6 individual arrays that can function independently, but coordinate and share data to provide a seamless picture for the ballistic computer.
One of the more obvious drawbacks is the highly exposed multi-faceted radar mast. Although it is modestly protected from fragmentation and shell splinters, it is very vulnerable to machine gun fire and large caliber snipers. Disabling this radar will prove costly for the operator, while the BMP-3 itself then becomes as vulnerable as before. Statistically speaking, mounting Arena may be very costly in the long run.
The entire Arena complex weighs 900kg.
We should note that armour is not the only protective element of an armoured fighting vehicle, and that concealment plays a critical role. The BMP-3 is also provided with six 81mm 3D17 "Tucha" smoke launchers armed exclusively with 3D, the smoke from which can conceal the vehicle in the visual and IR ranges. The grenades are fired ahead of the vehicle, where ever the turret is pointing. The bloom time for these grenades is 3 seconds, with an average lingering time of 20 seconds, but it may be shorter or longer, depending on environmental conditions such as heat, wind, humidity, altitude, and the like.
These launchers may be integrated into the Shtora-1 protection system, which links the launchers to laser detectors. When the vehicle is painted with a laser, smoke grenades will be launched immediately.
|Bank of three smoke grenades, three on each side of the turret.|
Alternatively, the BMP-3 can produce its own smokescreen, just like most of the Soviet armoured vehicles preceding it.
This is done by injecting a fine mist of diesel fuel into the exhaust manifold, or make use of its smoke grenade mortars. The former option is an an ingenious, inexpensive, extremely useful and near-inexhaustible source of anti-IR smoke cover - A little-known fact is that the smoke generated from this method is at the same temperature as the exhaust, thereby completely masking the tank's thermal signature. The only shortcoming of this system is the time taken to envelop the tank. A large number of battlefield maneuvers revolve around the use of this method of smoke generation for concealment.
The BMP-3 has an NBC protection suite, which hermetically seals the entire vehicle, and supplies clean air to the occupants. All interior surfaces are lined with borated polyethylene, whose function is to absorb neutrons and gamma radiation. It also works quite well as a spall liner.
The nuclear protection system incorporates the GO-27 radiation sensor, which detects harmful particles and immediately seals the vehicle to prevent the ingress of contaminants or radioactive particles, but certain ports must be closed manually. For example - the bow machine gun seals. The NBC system generates a slight overpressure. The occupants are supplied with fresh air, which may be heated by the system. The ventilation system is fully filtered and includes an intake blower with a simple metal grid in the first stage, the SFT-200 cassette-type pre-filter for the second stage, and the FTS-200K filter-absorber for the third stage, ensuring that air distribution is constant and radioactive-dust-free.
|The smaller one is OU-2.|
The ergonomic qualities of the BMP-3 are far superior to its predecessors, and even quite favourable to some foreign designs in seating comfort and cargo capacity. It is similathe seating arrangement of the BMD-1, but greatly expanded and far more spacious. The unusual layout of the vehicle is extremely efficient in its use of space, allowing up to 9 seated dismounts and an additional 2 passengers. In the diagram below, you can see the seating configuration.
Despite the unorthodox layout hampering the traditional method of transporting wounded infantry on stretchers, the BMP-3 can still do so. Instead of lying in the middle of the passenger compartment like with the Bradley or CV90, a stretcher-ed person would instead lie down over the engine deck. Two troopers may be transported this way. Obviously, this wasn't the most comfortable place to be, but this meant that a lot of people could be ferried per run, and best of all, the amount of personal space allocated to the passengers riding in the passenger compartment proper is unaffected.
When exiting the vehicle, the two extra seats are folded to allow dismounts to step over them and onto the engine deck. Due to the height of the engine deck, dismounting soldiers are at a risk of ankle injury if they jump off while the vehicle is in motion. To solve this problem, fold-out steps are placed just beneath the rear hatches.
The BMP-3 provides far more space for personal storage when compared to its predecessors. The layout provides ample space for passengers to place their kits, while their belongings may be lashed onto the side of the hull.
Riding in the BMP-3 is very comfortable. This is in part due to the good suspension, but also due to the superb weight distribution of the vehicle. Placing the engine and transmission at the rear, all of the fuel in the front to counterbalance it, and all the passengers and crew in the middle along with the turret ensures that the weight is optimally distributed, and this in turn results in a very smooth ride and very quick recuperation from dips and dives with minimal oscillations.
Besides seating space, the BMP-3 can carry an ungodly quantity of supplies and ammunition for its dismounts. See the diagram below.
There are spaces for a plurality of AK-74 and AKM magazines, "spam cans" of ammo and wooden crates of grenades (hand grenades and underbarrel grenades) to be stowed, as well as dedicated racks for two MANPADS launchers, and a variety of disposable rocket launchers. At least five RPG-7 rocket grenades can be stowed, but there is space for much more. There is plenty of space on the sponson shelves for any additional supplies, which may be secured by straps attached to the walls. A 56-H-574 26mm flare gun with twenty flares is also stored for emergency use. This storage is not inclusive of whatever weapons and gear the dismounts carry personally, or any supplies which may be added. The 2000-round boxes for the bow machine guns are better used by the dismounts, so one might consider that an additional source of ammunition.
|Seating arrangements, looking from the interior starboard side. All seats except the far side side seat are unfolded. You can also see a folded periscope on the ceiling.|
The dismounts using the side firing ports may aim their rifles through the TNP3VE01-01 periscopes provided for them. They have moving reticles, pre-sighted for 600m for PKM machine guns, and are connected to the ball turrets by a fiber optic cable. The ball turrets are greatly recessed inward, to the point where the muzzle of a firing port weapon will not protrude from the hull side. There is a lid which closes on the exterior of the firing port, which is to seal the vehicle from radioactive and chemical contaminants.
The three OU-2 manual fire extinguishers placed around the hull interior may be remotely activated by one of three buttons. One available to the driver, one for the commander and one for passengers in the passengers' section.
|You can see the firing port extensions, which are now half open (split-hinged). It is quite obvious from this picture that there is no other way to aim his rifle in the firing port except through the TNP3VE01-01 periscope-aiming device provided.|
In the photo below, you can see the autoloader elevator, which picks up rounds from the conveyor on the turret floor. You can also see that the middle seat in the row of three is folded. If unfolded, the BMP-3 can seat up to a true maximum of 7 passengers, although they will have to squeeze very uncomfortably if they are fully geared.
Provisions include a compressed air canister for starting the engine if the starter fails, compressed oxygen canisters for passengers in case the vehicle sinks, medical kits, and various other odds and ends.
There are two more man-sized elliptical top hatches on top of the rectangular top hatches.
|Two elliptical hatches. Note the rear-facing periscope.|
These hatches are intended for passengers to aim their MANPADS from. Presumably, a soldier would sit on the engine deck, and stick himself out, exposing his body only from the waist up, granting the vehicle some aerial protection while on the move, without needing its passengers to dismount.
On the topic of troops' opinion on it, it is true that the unusual method of exiting the vehicle is a source of regular bemoanings. The effort required to exit the vehicle is much more than that required for IFVs with large, powered rear hatches such as the M2 Bradley, Marder IFV, Warrior, etc. This video shows that very clearly. The dismounts must heave the top hatches open, then swing the rear hatches open before finally jumping out, and that is in addition to the fact that stepping onto the engine deck from the passenger compartment is not an easy task already for fully geared troops. However, this issue is not serious enough to warrant a completely negative assessment from troops, although inconveniences in the heat of combat does give a trooper grievances and poor impressions on the vehicle. Fortunately, the lack of comfort when exiting the vehicle seems to be the only negative comment on the BMP-3 by the troops. There have been no other complaints mentioned so far, and the BMP-3 is definitely not regarded as a poor design overall.
To improve crew comfort, a KBM-3M2 air conditioning system may be installed, with or without a TBE auxiliary power unit. The time of continuous operation is not less than 8 hours. The air conditioner operates at 7 kW without the APU, or 8 kW with the APU. The air conditioner maintains a comfortable temperature of 25 to 29 degrees Celsius (adjustable), and can operate in ambient temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius, and with 45% relative humidity (to interior humidity). Cool air outlets are located at head level of each and every occupant in the vehicle, blowing cool, refreshing air in their faces. Ahhh.
The air conditioner occupies the empty dorsal space along the engine deck. It scarcely affects the ease of dismounting, and is more of a nuisance to anybody on a stretcher lying beside it more than anything.
The TBE auxiliary power unit is a miniature diesel engine, with an output of 2.5 kW.
The driver is provided with a motorcycle-style steering bar. The steering gear is of a differential type, with hydrostatic drives, providing good driving comfort.
|(Old driver's instrument panel) On the steering bar , you can see two white buttons to control firing of the two bow machine guns. Left button for left gun and right button for right gun. The circular middle button is a horn.|
|Driver's hatch, with four periscopes. The front-facing periscope is replaceable with a night-vision one.|
Driving visibility is provided by four TNPO-170A periscopes, three located right in front of him for forward viewing, and another one pointing left. For night driving, the forward periscope can be replaced with TNPE-1B night vision periscope. The TVNE-1B nightvision viewer may be installed in lieu of the standard ones for nighttime driving. The driver's seat is adjustable for height, but taller drivers must still stoop slightly to peer into the driving periscopes - a universal peculiarity of all Russian AFVs, which is why Russian AFV drivers universally prefer to drive with the hatch open and the seat adjusted to maximum height in non-combat situations.
The new TSE-1 universal day-night driving periscope increases the viewing range of the driver at night. Plus, it does not use IR lamps, so that there are no longer any unmasking factors. Installation of the TSE-1 requires the newer driver's panel to be installed beforehand. It is a binocular passive sight with a 42x9 degrees field of view, and a 250m vision range during nighttime.
|Original driver's workstation.|
|New driver's instrument panel|
|Latest driver's instrument panel, possibly Larisa|
An IUSSH-688 "Larisa" electronic chassis control system may be installed. "Larisa" serves to observe chassis conditions and inform the driver of abnormalities through displays and voice messages. It is unknown if this system has been implemented on any BMP-3s in service, although apparently it is a component of the BMP-3M. It is highly unlikely that "Larisa" is present in significant numbers in currently serving BMP-3s of the Russian armed forces.
|UTD-29M Diesel. This engine has a fuel consumption not exceeding 250g/kWh|
Ground pressure with standard tracks is 0.61kg/sq.cm, which is lower than the BMP-2's 0.63kg/sq.cm despite the huge gain in weight. The 380 mm-wide tracks are of a dual-pin type, with rubberized insoles and the option for asphalt-friendly rubber pads available. The rubberized insoles reduce wear and tear and also reduce noise and vibrations, giving a more comfortable driving experience.
The BMP-3 weighs 18.7 tons empty (non-combat configuration), and nearly 20 tons fully loaded.
With the UTD-29M engine, the BMP-3 can reach a top speed of 70km/h (43.4 mph) on paved roads, and travel at an average speed of 45km/h (28 mph) cross country. Reverse speed is 20 km/h on paved roads. The BMP-3 can climb a 0.8 m-high vertical wall, and cross a trench 2.5 m wide, or even wider if the driver decides to jump it, which isn't very difficult given how quick the BMP-3 is. The power-to-weight ratio with this engine is 26.7 hp/ton empty, or around 22.5 hp/ton when fully combat laden, which is superior to most modern contemporaries. With 700 liters of fuel carried in the frontal internal fuel tank, the BMP-3 has an autonomous range of 600 km on paved roads, or about half that if travelling cross country.
The BMP-3 can climb slopes of 60% gradient, and drive along a 30 degree side slope. Good traction allows the vehicle to stop halfway up a dry dirt slope of an aforementioned gradient and remain still without slipping. This video of Greek military exercises perfectly illustrates the great agility of the BMP-3. Also, the driver is putting the smokescreen-generator to good use in this particular clip.
It is interesting to note that the original UTD-29 engine was only installed on the very first batch of BMP-3s, then in testing. As of 1986, all serial BMP-3s have the slightly improved UTD-29M installed. Alternatively, the BMP-3 may instead have a UTD-32 installed, which has an output of 660 hp. The latest BMP-3 modification might also include the installation of a newer UTD-32T diesel engine, slightly improved over the UTD-32 from 1999. Specific improvements are not known.
Both the exhaust and radiator are located on the starboard side of the vehicle, one on top of the other. Exhaust gases are probably cooled by introducing air from the radiator before being expelled from the exhaust exit manifold. Both have internal louvers that must be closed before entering swimming.
|Exhaust exit manifold, which is perforated.|
|In this photo, you can see the rearmost roadwheel with its hydraulic shock absorber, the drive sprocket and its mud scraper.|
Coolant is stored to the right-hand side, in the plum-coloured tank as seen in the photo above. Two 12ST-85R1 accumulators are located behind it. To the left-hand side is the exhaust and radiator. The exhaust outlet is at the starboard side of the hull while the radiator grille is on top.
|Batteries, and coolant tank.|
An especially seaworthy variant of the BMP-3, the BMP-3F, is pictured below.
The BMP-3 sails very well in the water. It can endure conditions up to sea state 3, and fire accurately in sea state 2 - an admirable achievement. It is worth noting that unlike the previous BMPs, the BMP-3 driver does not need to swap his periscope for a special extendable one, which would be used to peek over the trim vane. With the BMP-3, the wave breaker works on a different principle, never extending above the glacis. Needless to say, this is entirely beneficial to the driver, and he does not need to rely on the commander to navigate while swimming.
An electric bilge pump is installed. Standard procedure calls for the driver to activate it before the vehicle enters water. This is insurance against accidental flooding of the hull, or flooding due to the hull being compromised from enemy fire. The bilge pump allows the BMP-3 to return to dry land safely without sinking, and at least give the occupants a fighting chance to survive catastrophic hull damage while in the water (hit by tank shell, for example).
|Water jet propeller.|
Before entering the water, the vehicle must first erect a telescopic ventilation tube, which serves supply air to the engine. Since the tube opens up a new airway, it has its own air filter, substituting the ones on the hull top. The tube rises about 400mm above water level.
|The circular lid is the ventilation tube, which would protrude upon the driver's command.|
|Swimming BMP-3. The ventilation tube is raised.|
|Notice the much taller ventilation tube, as compared to a basic BMP-3's.|
This variant is touted as being capable of staying afloat for greatly extended period of time. The only exclusive difference between the BMP-3F and the BMP-3 is the ventilation tube, which is extended on the BMP-3F.
Due to the BMP-3's significantly increased weight compared to the earlier BMPs, it could not be evacuated from awkward positions by a BREM-2 Armoured Recovery Vehicle. As a result, the BREM-L was developed. Because the BMP-3 uses aluminium alloy armour in addition to steel contrary to the purely steel construction of its predecessors, argon arc welding equipment is needed, which is carried on the BREM-L, among other things. It is crewed by 3 persons, with additional space for 2 auxiliary personnel.
The BREM-L's crane is of a hydromechanical type with a maximum load capacity of 5 tons, or 11 tons if a double pulley block is used. It also has a hydraulic rescue winch with a pulling force of 140 to 160 kN. The winch cable is 150m long.
The BREM-L has a single PKTM mounted in a swivel hatch for self defence, for which 1000 rounds are provided in a single belt. Mobility characteristics are identical to that of the parent BMP-3, and also weighs about the same at 18.7 tons dry, or 19 tons fully loaded. Surprisingly, the BREM-L is also amphibious, which is very neat, because it means that it will be able to follow the BMP-3 anywhere it goes. It rather endearingly uses its built-in engineering dozer blade as a trim vane.
Service history, operators, future service
It is an undeniable fact that the BMP-3 saw combat in Grozny, while the possibility that they were used in the second campaign and in Georgia during the South Ossetian war is only conjecture at this point.
|The text states that the BMP-3 in the picture provided fire support due to the lack of tanks. The three people are not sitting on the vehicle. Rather, they are sticking out of their hatches.|
|A BMP-3 turret husk being dragged. It had been blown off due to the detonation of interior munitions.|
According to a Kurganmashzavod spokesperson, "more than 1500" BMP-3s have been produced as of 2015. On May 12, Russian news agency TASS reported that the Russian Ministry of Defence has signed a contract for the delivery of "hundreds" of additional BMP-3s to the Russian Army, despite the availability of new Kurganets-25 IFVs. If anymore proof of the BMP-3's exceptional qualities was ever needed, this would be it. These new units will very likely be of the highest standard.
Credit to: http://militaryrussia.ru/blog/topic-174.html (Read this article for a good listing of operators and timelines of deals, up until 2010 or so)
As of 2011, BMP-3s are organized into companies. 10 BMP-3s are part of one company. Three companies are part of a battalion. A regular infantry brigade consists of Three battalions. Therefore, a total of 90 BMP-3s equip a brigade.
An approximated list of BMP-3s in the Russian army as of 2010-2011:
|Military unit||Military District||Qty||Note|
|9th Motorized Rifle Brigade (Nizhny Novgorod)||Moscow||120|
|4th Separate Guards Tank Brigade (Narofominsk)||Moscow||49|
|19-th separate Voronezh-Shumlinskaya Red Banner Orders of Suvorov and the Labor Red Banner Motor Rifle Brigade (n. Sputnik, Vladikavkaz)||The North Caucasus||0||in 2009 announced plans to re-teams on the BMP-3. 90 BMP-3 in 2011 (3 Battalion 3rd Company on 10 BMP-3)|
|20th Separate Guards Carpathian-Berlin Red Banner Order of Suvorov Motorized Rifle Brigade (Volgograd)||The North Caucasus||120||90 BMP-3 in 2011 (3 Battalion 3rd Company on 10 BMP-3)|
|36th Separate Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade (n. Borzya)||Siberian||120||ex. 131st gv.msd|
|74th Separate Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade (n. Jurga, Kemerovo region)||Siberian||120|
|155th Marine Brigade||Pacific Fleet||50?||05.05.2010 announced plans to re during 2010|
|TOTAL in the Russian Armed Forces||529||The data may not be accurate. In our opinion - overrated.|
The Russian Army is only modestly stocked with BMP-3s, with none in storage. The total number of figures could range from 400 to 600 as of 2014, and quite frankly speaking, the very notion of replacing the BMP-1 and BMP-2 with the BMP-3 is pure fantasy at this point.
In the April of 2007, the order to supply and overhaul BMP-3s in the Russian Army to BMP-3M standard was signed. Thus, we can be sure that the vast majority of Russian BMP-3s have SOZH sights and are capable of firing the latest ammunition. Various other improvements may manifest in various degrees.
The BMP-3 is a very successful export item. A famous example was the UAE open IFV tender, in which the BMP-3 soundly defeated the British MCV80 and American M2A1 Bradley and went on to sell in large quantities. However, it should be noted that the BMP-3s participating in this tender had Namut FLIR sights installed, due to the lack of suitable indigenous ones of such type available for the BMP-3 at the time (1993). Up until sometime around 2005, the UAE has been operating with 1K13-2 sights, which have now been replaced with SOZH sights. The BMP-3s that the UAE uses were superior to Russian BMP-3s at the time, and still are, in some ways, due to them having FLIR, allowing them a significant advantage in night fighting. And the BMP-3Ms that were more recently delivered (2005) are clearly superior to the current standard of Russian ones chiefly due to the presence of thermal sights.
|BMP-3 belonging to the UAE|
The UAE has a total of 652 BMP-3s, and is the operator of the largest fleet of them.
In the Asian arena, the South Korean marines evidently value the BMP-3 (along with T-80Us) for their amphibious qualities. In 2005, they updated their BMP-3s to the standard of the Russian Army's. That is, they refitted their BMP-3s with SOZH sighting systems. Previously, the examples in their ownership had the 1K13-2 sight, which was the standard at the time when Russia traded 33 BMP-3s along with other military equipment as part of a debt reduction deal. Previously, South Korea had been unable to recreate the waterborne abilities of the BMP-3 their in their K21 IFVs (two of them sank, killing one crew member), thus securing the place of the BMP-3 in their supply chains.
Contrary to what some believe, South Korea does employ the BMP-3 in active service, and not in the OPFOR (Opposing Force) role. This is because North Korea doesn't have any BMP-3s.
South Korea has a total of 70 BMP-3s, 33 of them were supplied under the debt reduction agreement and 37 with Vesna-K sighting systems of them were purchased under their own initiative . All South Korean BMP-3s are NATO-compliant.
|South Korean BMP-3. Notice the radio antenna, which is similar to an American Bradley IFV's|
|South Korean BMP-3s during a river crossing exercise|
|Indonesian BMP-3F, with Russian ambassador in plain clothes.|
The price for an individual BMP-3 is stated to be $800,000 to $950,000 during the late 90's. The price in the present day is not known, though there's no reason to believe that it exceeds $2,500,000 per unit.