Russian/Soviet Wheeled APCs II


The BTR-90 is a Russian 8×8 wheeled armored personnel carrier (APC). Based on its predecessor, the BTR-80, the vehicle dimensions were enlarged, it was fitted with the turret from the BMP-2 to increase firepower and the vehicle was in general equipped with upgraded equipment as compared to the BTR-80. Likes it predecessor the BTR-90 is fully amphibious. The vehicle was unveiled in 1994 and saw limited production between 2004 and 2011.

The BTR-90 is an 8×8 wheeled APC that weighs 46,000 pounds (21 tonnes), is approximately 25 feet (7.6 meters) long, 10.5 feet (3.2 meters) wide and 10 feet (3 meters) in height. The vehicle is operated by a crew of 3 and can transport up to 7 troops. The crew consists of a driver who is located at the front of the vehicle and a gunner and commander who are located in the turret. The crew ingress and egress the vehicle through a side mounted door, typical of the Russian BTR series of APCs. The vehicle is powered by a turbocharged 510 hp diesel engine which is located at the rear of the vehicle. This provides a power to weight ratio of 22 hp per tonne. The 8×8 wheeled vehicle can attain 60 mph (100 km/h) on roads and has an operational range of 500 miles (800 kms) with internal fuel. The BTR-90 is also fully amphibious. Powered by water jets the vehicle can attain speeds up to 5 miles (9 km/hr) in water. The vehicle is able to cross 7.5 feet (2 meter) wide trenches, climb 3 foot (0.8 meter) high vertical steps and traverse 60% gradients and 30% side slopes.

While designed as a chassis that could be configured to fulfill a wide range of roles within the Russian Army and Russian Navy (Marines) by offering the superior tactical mobility implicit to wheeled vehicles, the BTR-90 has only seen low volume production runs, with Russian Ministry of Defense only incorporating limited numbers of the vehicles into its forces. This decision is in-line with current Russian procurement philosophy, which is to not incorporate any further vehicles into the Russian military forces which are based on older Soviet designs. New procurements are being based solely upon platforms based on new Russian vehicles designs such as the T-14 and T-15.

This procurement strategy has halted development and procurement of the BTR-90 as well as other Russian vehicle programs including the 2S25 Self-propelled Amphibious Tank Destroyer, the BMD-4 and the BMPT “Terminator”. The 2S25 and BMD-4 are reviewed in this volume as a number of these vehicle are in service with the Russian military, while the BMPT is not. Based on the T-72 platform and tailored specifically for asymmetric urban combat to meet needs identified during the Soviet/Russian experiences from the Soviet War in Afghanistan and the First Chechen War, the Terminator was never manufactured beyond the proto-type stage.

The BTR-90 is equipped with the BMP-2 turret which fits the 30 mm Shipunov 2A42 autocannon. 500 rounds of ammunition are carried on-board for the weapon. Secondary armaments consist of a 7.62 mm coaxial PKT machine gun with 2000 rounds of ammo and a 30 mm grenade launcher with 400 rounds of ammo. Firing ports are also provided for the crew. The vehicle can also be configured with an AT-5 Spandrel (Konkurs) ATGM launching system. The missiles appear to be able to be attached to the vehicle singularly, in dual pairs, or as a set of four. Supposedly the missiles can also be detached from the vehicle and launched by dismounts.

The turret comes equipped standard with a gunner’s day/night sight and a commander’s optical sight. A thermal imaging sight can also be installed as an option. A Fire Control System (FCS) is used to aim the main weapon and the ATGM unit when installed. The 30 mm autocannon is able to be elevated to 75 degrees, permitting it to be used against low flying aircraft. The autocannon can engage targets to a range of 2500 meters, while the ATGM can engage targets out to 4000 meters.

The BTR-90 is fabricated from welded ballistic plate. The baseline armor offers frontal arc protection against 14.5 mm rounds and all-around protection against small arms fire. The baseline vehicle armor can be upgraded with add-on armored plating and/or ERA, though this would adversely affect the swim capability of the vehicle. The vehicle has an automated fire suppression system (AFSS) and a smoke grenade system. The vehicle can be fit with a Nuclear-Biological-Chemical (NBC) detection and filter system.

BTR Wheeled Armoured Personnel Carriers


The BTR-152 6×6 was developed after the Second World War as the Soviet Union’s very first purpose-built APC. It was manufactured in large numbers from 1950 and saw service with African and Asian armies. The all-welded steel hull showed close similarities with American and German wartime designs. Notably, significant numbers of the M3A1 4×4 scout car and M2 and M5 series of American half-tracks were supplied to the Red Army under Lend-Lease arrangements. Likewise the Soviets captured large numbers of the Hanomag-built range of German half-tracks.

As with these earlier vehicles, the BTR had a front-mounted engine and an open top crew compartment for the driver and troop compartment for up to seventeen soldiers. The driver and commander had separate glass windscreens that could be protected by steel hatches with vision blocks. The infantry entered and exited the vehicle either via the open roof or through a single door in the rear plate of the hull. For defensive purposes the vehicle had six firing ports, three either side and two in the rear plate either side of the door.

Initially the ZIS-1512½-ton 6×6 chassis was used as the basis for the BTR-152, though later models utilised the ZIS-157. The six-cylinder, inline model ZIS-123 was a water-cooled petrol engine generating 110hp at 2,900rpm. The BTR-152’s transmission layout was that of a conventional 6×6 commercial truck with the drive shafts leading to differentials on ‘solid’ axles. The gearbox had five forward speeds and there was a two-speed transfer box. The tyres had a pressure system regulated by the driver to suit the ground conditions. Some BTR-152s also featured a front-mounted winch.

Some versions were fully enclosed, such as the BTR-152U command variant, which has much higher sides to allow staff officers to stand up inside. The normal armament comprised the standard 7.62mm machine gun or the heavier 12.7mm or 14.5mm mounted on the hull top. The BTR-152A-ZPU was an anti-aircraft variant armed with twin 14.5mm KPV machine guns in a rotating turret. Against aerial targets, these were only effective to 1,400m. They also carried AP rounds for use against light armoured vehicles, which could penetrate 32mm of armour at 500m, though the guns had a range of 2,000m against ground targets. Other anti-aircraft variants included the BTR-152D and the BTR-152E.

Some of those supplied to the Egyptian Army were armed with the Czech quad 12.7mm M53 anti-aircraft system. This comprised four Soviet 12.7mm DShKM machine guns on a Czech-designed two-wheel mount. A number of these ended up in service with the Afghan Army. Likewise, in 1982 the Israeli Army encountered BTR-152s being operated by the Syrian-backed Palestinian Liberation Army that were fitted with a twin 23mm automatic anti-aircraft gun in the rear of the troop compartment.


The BTR-152’s smaller cousin was the BTR-40, introduced in 1951. This was essentially a redesigned version of the American-supplied M3A scout car. It was based on the GAZ-63 truck chassis, but with a shorter wheelbase and was a conventional four-wheel drive armoured truck with a frontal engine layout. In the event of chemical warfare one variant of this vehicle was designed for a chemical decontamination role, which included placing flag markers to warn of contaminated areas. A more conventional version was the BTR-40A/ZPU; this had an anti-aircraft role mounting twin 14.5mm KPV heavy machine guns. These were mounted in a manually-operated open turret with a 360-degree traverse and an effective rate of fire of 150 rounds per minute.


The requirement to replace the non-amphibious BTR-152 was issued in the late 1950s, and the heavy eight-wheeled amphibious BTR-60P entered service with the Soviet Army in 1961. Since then it has been supplied to armies throughout the world and was built in Romania as the TAB-72. The BTR-60P was powered by two GAZ-49B six-cylinder, water-cooled, in-line petrol engines, developing a total of 180hp. These were mounted in the rear of the welded steel hull and drove all eight wheels, the front four of which were steerable. The BTR-60 series was fully amphibious, propelled through the water by a hydrojet system with a single controllable outlet at the rear. This gave a calm-water speed of 10km/h compared to 80km/h on land. During deployment in water a bilge pump was available, together with a trim vane that was normally carried flat on the nose plate.

The troop compartment (initially for fourteen men but reduced in later models) occupied the centre of the vehicle with the driver on the left and the commander on the right at the front. The troop compartment had no overhead protection but this was remedied with the BTR-60PA or BTR-60PK, which was fully-enclosed with roof hatches, installed to supplement access through two small hatches on each side.

The final model, the BTR-60PB, was fitted with a small turret on the hull roof near the front, mounting a 14.5mm machine gun and a 7.62mm machine gun. It is identical to that fitted to the Soviet BRDM-2 reconnaissance vehicle and the Czech OT-64 APC. While the BTR-60PB was built under licence in Romania as the TAB-71, the lack of easy access resulted in the Czech and Polish governments developing the SKOT (OT-64) series for their armies. Production of the BTR-60 series ended in 1976, resulting in around 25,000 vehicles.


The follow-on BTR-70 first appeared during the November 1980 military parade in Moscow. The hull was of all-welded steel armour with improved protection over its front arc compared to the BTR-60. In addition the nose was wider and the front gave added protection to the front wheels. While the BTR-70 was fitted with the same turret as its predecessor, some were fitted with the BTR-80 turret. Initial models of the BTR-70 were fitted with the same wheels and tyres as the BTR-60.

The two GAZ-49B engines were replaced by two ZMZ-4905 petrol engines, which developed 120hp each compared to just 90hp each in the BTR-60. Both engines had their own transmission with the right engine supplying power to the first and third axles, while the left powered the second and fourth axles. This meant if one engine was out of action the vehicle could still move, albeit at a slower speed. The exhausts were less boxy than on the BTR-60. Whereas the BTR-60 could carry up to sixteen men, the BTR-70’s capacity was two crew and nine passengers. Again Romania produced its own version, dubbed the TAB-77.

Although the BTR-70 was an improvement over the earlier BTR-60, it still had its problems, not least the inadequate means of entry and exit for the troops and the two petrol engines which were inefficient and could catch fire. The Soviet Army first took delivery of the improved BTR-80 in 1984.