The 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.
BTR-70: Basic APC version, as described.
- BTR-70 obr. 1978: Initial version, publicly displayed in 1980.
- BTR-70 obr. 1982: Improved model with 120 hp ZMZ-49-05 V-8 engines, instead of the original GAZ-49B 115 hp 6-cylinder engines.
- BTR-70 obr. 1984: Slightly modified model with an additional TNPT-1 periscope on the turret roof.
- BTR-70 obr. 1986: Improved version with a periscope on the left side of the turret and four firing ports in the hull roof.
- BTR-70V: Late-production model fitted with the BPU-1 turret of the BTR-80, with an 1PZ-2 sight, but without the “Tucha” smoke grenade launchers.
- BTR-70M: Modernized version with turret, diesel engine and rear hull section of the BTR-80. Users include Nicaragua, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia and Syria.
- BTR-70D: Diesel version, developed by Muromteplovoz and powered by a YaMZ-236D 180 hp diesel engine. Prototype only.
SPR-2 “Rtut-B” (stantsiya pomekh radiovzryvatelyam): Electronic warfare variant, designed to detonate artillery shells with proximity fuze detonators.
- SPR-2M: Modified version with more compact equipment.
BTR-70K (komandnyj): Command vehicle with additional radios, several whip antennas, navigation device and a portable generator. BTR-70KShM (komandno-shtabnaya mashina): Command and control variant, designed to be used as a mobile command post. 2S14 Zhalo-S: tank hunter, armed with a 2A62 85 mm gun. Prototype only. SA-22 (spetsapparatnaya mashina): command vehicle. 15Ya56M MBP (mashina boyevogo posta): base security vehicle for Strategic Rocket units. The original turret has been replaced by a new type with an 1PN22M1 improved sight, loudspeakers, OU-3GA-2 IR search lights, additional TNPO-170 periscopes and an NSVT 12.7 mm machine gun.
Cold War BMP or BTR equipped Soviet Battalions
In 1970’s Soviets started to mount BTRs and BMPs in large numbers. Original TOE for both unit types was roughly same:
Battalion HQ -3 MR Companies -AT Platoon* -Mortar Battery
*AT Platoon has been mentioned as part of both BTR and BMP Battalion type but in most cases it has been mentioned as part of ONLY in BTR Battalion.
Each MR Company had 10 BMP/BTR. Each squad had one APC with three men in Company trained as Close-Range SAM gunners (and thus company had 3 SA-7 systems).
The AGS-17 grenade machinegun came into service in 1970’s and BTR equipped company should thus have two such systems carried amongst other men of company. Number of APCs is still supposedly ten although it should be VERY tight fit and thus I’d suggest changing it to 11 BTRs like in Early 1980’s TOEs. and/or playing it this way to depict life in Soviet army right when AGS-17 was introduced (and supposedly new vehicles had not yet been introduced).
The AT Platoon should have: -1 ATGW Squad (with 2 AT-3 systems).* -1 RCL Squad (with 2 SPG-9 systems).** *This could be replaced with AT-4 system when it becomes available. **Although it has not been mentioned, I personally believe that this can be replaced with 57mm AT Gun to depict very old equipment.
Mortar Battery has six 120mm Mortars that are towed with Gaz-66. Some sources say that in some Battalions (supposedly in BMP equipped Bns -while BTR battalions keep their Gaz-66- these are replaced with MT-LB. however, 1980’s TOEs I’ve seen do not support this change. Thus you should probably keep Gaz-66 truck as transport system and forget MT-LB.
In early 1980’s following changes were made: Number of soldiers in dismounted Squad dropped from 8 to 7.
BTR Battalion TOE was slightly tweaked into following: -Bn HQ -3 MR Companies -Mortar Battery -AT Platoon
BMP Battalion had now following TOE: -Bn HQ -3 MR Companies -Mortar Battery -AA Platoon -AGL Platoon
The differences are due following: BTR Company had 11 vehicles (with 1 new vehicle carrying two AGS-17 system). Company also kept the Close range SAM systems (3 SAM systems in company).
AT Platoon of BTR Battalion was reinforced as following: -2 ATGW Squad (each with 2 ATGW systems)* -1 RCL Squad (with 2 SPG-9 system) *ATGW was either AT-3 or AT-4. Platoon had 4 APCs to carry troops.
BMP Company kept 10 BMP structure and moved (or added?) SAM systems to AA Platoon and AGLs to AGL Platoon. Their organization was following:
AA Platoon 3xBMP 9xClose Range SAM System
AGL Platoon 3xBMP 6xAGS-17 AGL system.
Sources state that Mortar battery in both Battalions had 120mm Mortar (either old or the new one) and used Gaz-66 to move them. Thus I am rather skeptical of using MT-LB to move these mortars around.
Late 1980’s saw reorganization of BTR Battalions to roughly similar as BMP Battalions and some firepower increases in BMP Battalions:
BTR Battalion: -Bn HQ -3 MR Company -Mortar Battery -AT Platoon -AA Platoon -AGL Platoon
BMP Battalion was similar but it had no AT Platoon.
AT platoons retained fairly similar organization as their early 1980’s brethren with the difference that some high readiness units had now increased strength: AT Platoon: -2 ATGW Squads (each with 2 ATGW systems) -1 RCL Squad (with 2 SPG-9 system) Platoon had supposedly now 5 BTRs. Some high readiness units could have 6 AT-4 ATGW systems and three SPG-9 systems.
Mortar Battery for both battalion types had now 8 mortars. This could be either 120mm mortar or 82mm 2B9 automatic mortar.
Biggest change in BTR Battalion was introduction of two new support unit types: AA Platoon and AGL Platoon. These were created by removing these systems from companies. Following TOEs were in use:
AA Platoon -3 BTRs -9 Close range SAM systems
AGL Platoon -3 BTRs -6 AGS-17 AGL systems
MR Companies lost these assets that were replaced with more anti tank firepower and infantry support. Number of BTRs was increased to 12 (from 11) and new platoon (1+16) was built as Machinegun/AT Platoon. It had three ATGW teams (that used new AT-7 ATGW system) and three GPMG teams (that used the old PKM system). Russians do not seem to have issued tripods to these GPMG weapons and they appear to be employed in bipod role or as attached to APCs for added firepower on them.
BMP equipped MR companies had similar addition of infantry firepower. Machinegun Platoon (1+16) was added to TOE rising company’s MICV strength from 10 to 12. MG Platoon had 6 PKM GPMG teams to bolster firepower of company. They had no ATGWs added.
Both units started to field variety of LADs to individual soldiers during 1980’s. These are issued as rounds of ammo and do not appear on TOEs.
One interesting development in the Soviet units is that there does not appear to be single source of how they issued their small arms. Generally it appears that infantry squad had always one RPG as light AT weapon and either one or two light SAWs or one GPMG or one LMG. I have seen source touting PK as squad level support weapon and replacing old RPD in this role but this does not appear to be the final truth when considering popularity of SAWs like AKM-47 and AKM-74 too. 1970’s TOEs indicate they used PK as squad level support weapon replacing old RPD but 1980’s TOEs suggest they used either 1 or 2 of AKM series SAWs and delegated PKM to support role or kept on vehicle. I’d avoid using PKM as squad level weapon and keep RPD as squad weapon until replaced by AKM-47 and AKM-74 (in late 1970’s.
Regarding the BTRs:
In the late 1970s, the Soviet Ground Forces issued the BMP to the motorized rifle regiment of the tank divisions and to one motorized rifle regiment of the motorized rifle divisions. The other 2 motor rifle regiments in these divisions had BTRs. Here are the proportions of APCs/IFVs in European Russia in 1990 (earlier totals not available):
MTLB — 1300
BTR-50 — 7
BTR-60 — 4191
BTR-70 — 3936
BTR-80 — 1130
Total — 10,564
BMP-1 — 8146
BMP-2 — 5996
BMP-3 — 33
BRM-1K* — 1363
Total — 15,538
*Recon variant of BMP-1 with no missile.
In the mid-1980s, I think a reasonable interpolation of this data would mean that 60% of APCs were BTR-60s; 40% were BTR-70s. And perhaps 80% BMP-1 and 20% BMP-2 (I’d guess that these would be in tank divisions).