Russian/Soviet Wheeled APCs I

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RussianSoviet Wheeled APCs I

The Object 19 is a Russian prototype wheel-cum-track IFV. The Object 19, Object 764, Object 911, Object 914, and Object 1200, were all tested for the position for BMP-1. Object 19 did not surpass the competition, whereas the Object 764 was selected and improved upon, to become the Object 765 – the BMP-1.

Russian APC/IFV Design Overview

Armored Personnel Carriers became common during World War
II, originally introduced by the German army to rapidly transport troops along
the battlefield front. Capable of transport under conditions that regular
trucks could not traverse, this provided tactical mobility to support the
Blitzkrieg (lighting war) form of war. The Infantry Fighting Vehicle,
essentially an APC styled vehicle with enhanced armor and armaments, was
introduced during the 1960s by the Soviet Union. Its role was to provide fire
support to dismounts and to engage lighted armored vehicles.

A weakness of APCs and IFVs is that they could not be
armored sufficiently to protect against RPGs and ATGMs. Therefore modern
warfare techniques rely heavily upon mobility, with tanks, IFVs and APCs advancing
quickly upon enemy units. Supported by artillery and infantry to suppress the
deployment of shaped-charged warhead equipped weapons, the armored vehicle are
expected to overwhelm the enemy before they can effectively deploy their RPGs
and ATGMs. This method of rapid mobile combat, known as maneuver warfare, was
designed to engage in a successful full-scale conventional confrontation, as
combat in Europe might unfold.

Modern warfare however has tended toward descending into
asymmetric warfare and urban combat, with Armored Fighting Vehicles (AFVs)
often operating from isolated or stationary positions. This once again left
them vulnerable to attack by infantry armed with RPGs and man-portable ATGMs.
As Russians incurred heavy losses in the insurgent warfare experienced in their
Afghanistan War and in Grozny during the 1st and 2nd Chechen Wars, they
painfully came to recognize these vulnerabilities. Many Russian IFVs and APCs
were destroyed by poorly trained but well-motivated infantry armed with relatively
simple and inexpensive RPGs, ironically typically of Russian origin.

Multiple approaches were devised to overcome these
vulnerabilities. These included having infantry outside the vehicle as it moved
through cities to provide it protection, positioning troops at the vehicle
front to operate defensive weapons, increasing the firepower available to the
vehicle crew to destroy hostile enemy before they could deploy their weapons,
installing lighter versions of ERA on these vehicles (the heavy tank versions
of ERA damage the thin skinned IFVs and APCs) and to develop softkill and
hardkill APS systems. The other approach is simply to provide APCs and IFVs
with the same level of protection provided to MBTs (i.e., use tank chassis as
APC/IFV chassis). Though the light-weight aspect of these vehicles is
sacrificed by this approach, their survivability in insurgent and urban warfare
is significantly improved. This has resulted for example in the development of
the T-15 from the T-14. The Israelis are also taking this approach, developing
the heavily armored Namer from the Merkava (discussed in detail later).

Soviet and Russian IFVs and APCs share regularities in their
design approach, reflective of their military encounters, with designs evolving
to meet the challenges presented by emerging technologies and tactics. Much
like their Western counterparts, the Soviets field both wheeled and tracked
APCs and IFVs that can be produced as a ‘Family of Vehicles’. Similar to the
West, Soviet/Russian IFVs tend to be more heavily armored than their APCs. The
IFVs ALSO tend to be tracked, permitting them the ability to maintain pace with
MBTs, which their principal role is to support. For APCs however the Russians
has long shown a preference for wheeled vehicles, with the West only absorbing
the long established Russian approach in the 1990s. The Russians also have a
strong preference for building APCs and IFVs that can ‘swim’, able to traverse
rivers they encounter during an advance. While Western vehicles tend to stress
higher armor levels, and therefore greater weight, the Russians keep their
vehicle light enough to permit swim capabilities.

Until recently the Soviets in general have shown less
interest in protecting their crews and providing for their comfort than their
Western counterparts, focusing more on keeping their vehicles small, mobile and
fast. Where Western vehicles tend to be taller and larger, providing more space
for the occupants, Russian APCs and IFVs tend to be very low and flat by
comparison, minimizing both the silhouette and vehicle weight. They also tend
to be wider, and have wider tracks or wheels. Combining these features provides
for optimized vehicle mobility, making them fast, able to traverse steep banks
(low Center of Gravity) and able to navigate mud and snow.

The disadvantage of this approach is that the vehicle crew
and dismounts (transported troops) have to operate is very cramped conditions.
Therefore crews become exhausted more quickly, have more difficulty operating
equipment and suffer higher casualties when the vehicle armor is breached due
to slow and difficult vehicle egress. To counter these restrictions the Soviets
have actually devised some rather novel innovations to improve the conditions
for the crew and dismounts, and to improve overall vehicle performance.

Where older models of Russian APCs and IFVs have the
transported troops enter and exit the vehicle from highly constrictive side
doors, newer designs provide troops access through large doors and folding
roofs at the vehicle rear. And where the loading rate of the main weapon was
often only a quarter of that achievable on the more open spaced Western
vehicles, integrated autoloaders has provided Soviets vehicles reload rates
equal to or better than those achieved by their Western counterparts.

Another novel feature devised by the Soviets was to place
the engine of their IFVs in the rear of the vehicle, providing it greater
protection, similar to MBTs (IFVs and APCs more often place the engine at the
vehicle front, to the right of the driver). By placing the engine low in the
vehicle, troops are able to enter the vehicle over the rear mounted engine.
This also permits the driver to be positioned in the center of the front of the
vehicle, also similar to typical MBT design. The Soviets then place a soldier
on either side of the driver, each operating as a machine gunner or grenade
launcher operator. Similar to some WWII tanks, in which a weapons operator sat
alongside the vehicle driver, this approach provides substantially greater
firepower that can be directed at infantry to protect the vehicle from attack
by RPGs and ATGMs.

Much like Western vehicles the Soviets fabricate their
vehicle hulls from welded ballistic aluminum and/or ballistic steel, providing
all around 360 degree protection to lower calibre threats. The vehicles possess
highly sloped frontal glacis plates as well as sloped sidewalls, the oblique
surfaces more effectively deflecting incoming rounds. While this reduces space
availability for crew and troops, it does enhance vehicle overall
survivability. With their low vehicle profile, Soviet APCs and IFVs are also
more challenging to hit than their higher standing Western counterparts.

The Soviet approach to increasing the protection on their
vehicles beyond the inherent capabilities of the hull have historically been
more progressive than Western thinking. In many ways the Soviets have led the
way in innovative armor developments, with the West later duplicating their
advancements. Having led the way in developing ATGMs, the Soviets foresaw a
need to counter such weapons, and so were first to develop ceramic armor
solutions. As well the Soviets led the way in the development of ERA,
electronic countermeasures (soft kill dazzlers and jammers) and hardkill Active
Protection Systems. They also remain the only military to have integrated ERA
directly into hull designs, and have APS as a standard system on their AFVs.

The Soviets also tend to more heavily arm their IFVs than
equivalent Western vehicles. This includes deployment of multiple guns
installed on a single turret, such as the dual 100 mm gun / 30 mm autocannon on
the BMP-3 and BMD-4. Their main weapons also tend to be more multi-functional
in terms of ammunition that can be fired than Western vehicles, often able to
fire ATGMs as well as the standard KE and/or HE-I rounds. This provides them
greater firepower and an extended maximum effective combat range. Additionally
most modern Russian IFVs can be armed with various turret mounted ATGM systems.
Vehicle protection is enhanced by offering firing ports to troops and
positioning soldiers at the front of the vehicle to operate machine guns and
grenade launchers. This set-up is particularly effective in suppressing
infantry units trying to engage the vehicle.

Perhaps the most defining aspect of Soviet/Russian APC and
IFV design, similar to their MBTs, is low cost and simple design. Soviet
experiences in World War II convinced them that to defend their nation and to
overwhelm and invader, they must be able to produce huge numbers of armored
vehicles. This necessitates that the vehicles be inexpensive and fast to build.
Where Western vehicles are built to a high quality standard and utilizes
expensive components and advanced technologies, Soviet experience recognizes that
armed forces are expended rapidly once conflicts erupt and must be able to be
rapidly replaced. Therefore the fabrication quality of Soviet armored vehicles
tends to be poor compared to Western vehicles and the use of sophisticated
technologies is generally restricted.

A negative result of this approach has been that the Soviets
fell behind significantly in the advancement of integrated computerised systems
and sensor technologies. While this lack of sophistication was not
disadvantageous is the early cold-war period, computerised capabilities and
advanced sensors have become critical in modern AFVs, as they are essential for
operating the Fire Control Systems that permit cannon to accurate fire on the
move, for providing night fighting capabilities through use of thermal imaging,
and for the guidance of advanced munitions.

Recognizing that in a modern ultra high-tech environment
that an overly simplified AFV will not survive for long, and that replacing
lost vehicle with more low quality units won’t suffice to win a battle anymore,
the most recent generation of Russian designed vehicles, the T-14 and T-15, are
making a clean break with traditional Soviet design. A new emphasis is being
placed on crew and troop survivability, and inclusion of high tech equipment
and capabilities. However, due to the relative distance that the Soviets have
fallen behind in these aspects, they are actually reliant on Chinese and French
computers and sensors to equip their latest generation of vehicles until they
are able to catch up and develop these components within Russia.


The BTR-80 is a Russian 8×8 wheeled armored personnel
carrier (APC) that is a continued development of the BTR legacy vehicles, the
BTR-60 and the BTR-70. Introduced into Soviet inventories in 1986 and with over
5000 built the vehicle has become the backbone of Soviet rapid tactical
mobility efforts and has been involved in extensive combat situations, with the
Soviet war in Afghanistan being its initial baptism by fire. The vehicle is
used by almost 40 countries including Afghanistan, Colombia, Hungary, India,
Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Pakistan, Romania, Turkey and

The BTR-80 is a 30,000 pound (13.6 tonne) 8×8 wheeled APC
which is approximately 25 feet (7.7 meters) long, 9.5 feet (2.9 meters) wide
and 8 feet (2.4 meters) high. Operated by a crew of three with a driver,
commander and gunner the vehicle also transport 7 infantry troops. The driver
and commander are situated to the forward of the vehicle while the gunner is
positioned in a roof mounted seat beneath the main weapon. Two of the troops
are located forward of the driver and commander, while the other five sit on
bench style seats in the back of the vehicle. The troops are provided with
firing ports. The rear positioned troops enter and exit the vehicle through
side doors that are split. The upper door swings to the side and the lower half
descends downward, thereby acting as a stepping surface. This approach is
supposed to let troops exit the vehicle while it is in motion, with the side of
the vehicle having the doorway oriented away from enemy fire.

The BTR-80 is powered by a 260 hp V-8 turbocharged diesel
engine which provides a power-to-weight ratio of 17 hp/ton. This is a
significant improvement over the dual gasoline engines that powered the earlier
BTR-60 and BTR-70. Able to attain road speeds of up to 55 mph (90 km/hr) and
having an operational range of 370 miles (600 kms) with on-board fuel the
vehicle is also fully amphibious with a water speed of 6.2 mph (10 km/hr). The
vehicle is powered through the water through hydrojets. The vehicle is able to
navigate a gradient of 60% and climb a vertical step of 1.6 feet (0.5 meters).

A large number of variants of the BTR-80 have been produced
to meet various operational needs and customer requirements. The more common of
these are noted below:

• BTR-80 – standard Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) produced
in 1986.

• BTR-80M – enhanced version available in 1993 with improved
engine and tires.

• BTR-82 – further enhanced version available in 2009 with
increased armor, addition of spall liner, improved night vision equipment and a
300 hp engine.

• 2S23 – a fire support version of the vehicle, mounting a
120 mm mortar rifled gun.

• BTR-80A – An Infantry Fighting Vehicle version introduced
in 1994 and equipped with the remotely operated 2A72 30 mm auto-cannon in the
turret and provided with 300 rounds of ammunition.

• BTR-82AM – A Naval Infantry (Marines) version of the

• BTR-82A – Further enhanced IFV introduced in 2009 that has
been well received by Russian troops battling in Ukraine. Weapon system has a
FCS and improved night vision optics. Includes increased armor, addition of
spall liner to the vehicle interior, GLONASS navigation system and a 300 hp
engine. The vehicle is also able to accommodate 8 dismounts.

The basic APC version of the BTR-80 is fitted with a turret
that accommodates a 14.5 mm KPVT heavy machine gun and a 7.62 mm PKT co-axial
machine gun. It is also equipped with a number of firing ports located along
the front and sides of the vehicle that permit the dismounts to fire their
personal weapons from inside the vehicle. The BTR-80 main weapon system is of a
relatively simple design, in many ways antiquated for a current front-line
vehicles. The main weapon is not stabilized and therefore can only be fired
accurately while the vehicle is stationary. And the mechanism for rotating the
turret is manually operated. The gunner sits under the turret in a roof mounted
chair that provides reasonable space claim, which is not typical for Russian
vehicles. The gunner is provided a daytime optical sight and an infrared night
sight. The weapon can be elevated up to 60 degrees, providing the ability to
engage low flying aircraft and targets situated on top of hills or located in
high buildings (i.e., urban warfare).

The BTR-80 is of a welded ballistic steel construction which
provides 14.5 mm ballistic protection along the front arc and small arms fire
along the vehicle sides, rear and roofline. The dismounts sit in simple bench
style seats which do not provide any Energy Attenuation in the event of a mine
blast. The vehicle is equipped with six 81 mm smoke grenade launchers.

The BTR-80 has seen extensive combat in a number of theatres
of war. These include the Soviet War in Afghanistan, the Nagorno-Karabakh War,
the Georgian Civil War, the Turkish-Kurdish conflict, the Transnistria War, the
Tajikistan Civil War, the First and Second Chechen Wars, the War of Dagestan,
the 2008 South Ossetian War, the Iraqi insurgency and the War in Donbass.

During these conflicts the BTR-80 performed reasonably well
considering its relatively light protection levels and lack of armor specific
to protecting the vehicle from IEDs, RPGs, EFPs, heavy calibre ammunition, and
underbelly blast events.

Forschungsmitarbeiter Mitch Williamson is a technical writer with an interest in military and naval affairs. He has published articles in Cross & Cockade International and Wartime magazines. He was research associate for the Bio-history Cross in the Sky, a book about Charles ‘Moth’ Eaton’s career, in collaboration with the flier’s son, Dr Charles S. Eaton. He also assisted in picture research for John Burton’s Fortnight of Infamy. Mitch is now publishing on the WWW various specialist websites combined with custom website design work. He enjoys working and supporting his local C3 Church. “Curate and Compile“
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