Russia to abandon Queen of Arabian Desert?

Recently, information appeared on the Internet that the Russian army will abandon the "Queen of the Arabian Desert," BMP-3 armored vehicle. But what will replace it? There have been rumors on the development and adoption of a radically new light armored combat vehicle "Kurganets-25", whose prototype will be ready by the end of 2012.

BMP-S got this name because, allegedly, rich Arabs who always had plenty to choose from bought the Russian vehicle in large quantities. Indeed, currently, according to different data from public sources, the army of the United Arab Emirates has from 415 to 652 combat vehicles of this brand. In 2011 a contract was signed for the modernization of 135 BMP-3 units for over $75 million. 

It should be noted that before that the vehicle was purchased by South Korea, so it could be called the "Queen of rice fields," although it does not sound that impressive. Hundreds of these vehicles are in service in the armies of Algeria, Venezuela, Kuwait, and Syria. Saudi Arabia intends to purchase over 100 of these military vehicles.
Indonesia in the next two years will buy from Russia 60 BMP-3F (modification for the Marine Corps) for a total amount of over $100 million. Armies of several other countries also have it, although in the CIS countries there are only a few of them, for example, there is one in Azerbaijan and four in Ukraine. The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation today, according to various reports, have no more than 500 BMP-3 of various modifications.

One can find many good reviews on the BMP-3 and its characteristics on the Internet. Its modernized version has even better reviews. Based on this information, BMP-3M is a more highly maneuverable military vehicle that might well have been called BMP-4. It uses the sighting system "Spring" from the imager that greatly improves the efficiency of arms use and consists of 100-mm and 30-mm guns, and a new missile. Its mobility is enhanced by installation of a new turbo engine of 660 liters, a universal device driver TCE-1 and automatic gear shifting mechanism APP-688. UTD-32T engine significantly increases the rate of specific capacity of the vehicle and the average speed on dirt roads.

Level of protection of the crew and marines is also increased significantly due to installation of an optical-electronic suppression "Blind-1." It provides protection against anti-tank guided missiles with semi-automatic command-control system that uses   laser target illumination as well as artillery that has a fire control system with a laser rangefinder.

Additional armor screens can be installed on BMP-3M to improve its ballistic protection against armor piercing bullets of 12.7 mm at a distance of 150m in attacks from all angles. Despite the great specifications of the vehicle, today we are talking about development and adoption of a radically new light armored combat vehicle "Kurganets-25", whose prototype will be available by the end of 2012.

Information about the new development was released by Special Design Bureau of Machine Building (SKBM), part of the division of special products and dual-use Concern "Tractor plants". It is reported that the future innovation is a brand new vehicle that should become the basis for a wide range of light armored tracked vehicles. At the same time, at the request of the Ministry of Defense it should take into account all the positive characteristics of previous vehicles.

Protection of the crew should be significantly improved. In addition, it will have to overcome water obstacles without stopping. The main intrigue is what the new vehicle will look like, because so far only its fighting weight is known. The new product is expected to be in service after 2015.

The Russian Army will not purchase any more BMP-3 units. Back in 2010, Deputy Defense Minister for Armaments, Army General Vladimir Popovkin (now - Head of Russian Space Agency), spoke of the old car very negatively. "We really need to take care of our soldiers. Today they sit atop BMP because inside it's like a "coffin" Nobody wants to be inside. We should develop another vehicle." These words broke a contract for the supply of the BMP-3 to Greece for $1.5 billion.

He is mostly right. Being inside of BMP-3 is dangerous, the layout of the crew compartment is poorly designed, and getting out of the vehicle is difficult. Designers cannot strengthen the level of protection of the crew and at the same time increase its firepower. As a result, Russian BMP-3 has perhaps the world's lowest level of security. This is totally unacceptable for the army consisting of contract professionals.

The designers of the new "heavy infantry fighting vehicles" should bear in mind that one of the ways to increase the security of any war machine is to reduce its internal volume. In this case it will either require less heavy armor, or at the same weight it can be made thicker. But people breathe inside the tank. A person inhales about eight liters of air per minute, and exhales the same amount containing a great deal of carbon dioxide.

Meanwhile, only 1% of CO2 in the air would lead to a loss of efficiency of the crew, and the concentration of 10% is fatal to humans. Hence, the requirement of frequent exchange of air in the tank and the BMP is in conflict with its flow rate applied to a workspace. A draft in may cause pneumonia and other colds and allergies. Products of combustion from spent ammunition also get there, which is why their timely exhaustion is very important, otherwise it will be impossible to breathe inside.

Sufficient internal volume is also necessary, even at the cost of certain reduction in security. It may be worthwhile to think about the option where the crew is not placed inside of BMP. The experience of local conflicts shows that infantry is often located on top of BTR and BMP.

The vehicle will be constructed as follows: only three people will be located inside - a driver, a commander and weapons operator. The front and rear space of the machine will be filled with polyurethane foam and fuel tanks.

A climbing ramp will be installed above the engine, like on J. Thapa "Mantis", with a small, fully automated module with weapons on it that can be moved up and down. The equipment can be rather traditional: guns of 30 - 35 mm and two containers for missiles. Thanks to a new set of weapons BMP will be able to conduct effective fire from behind shelters, ravines, thickets and fences, while it will be impossible to hit the vehicle.

The main component in the BMP is still its crew. It will be located on both sides of the engine and ramp tower in armored individual seats at the fenders. Each such seat will resemble a rotating "nest" with a door made of solid armor, protecting the soldier from all types of small fire arms. Shooters will fire over the top of this armored door so that only their helmets are visible. These seats do not require any ventilation, optical tools limiting the view, special embrasures for firing and fans to remove powder gases.

This is a simple and natural solution. In addition, each soldier will be able to see other fighters, which will support the team spirit and, if necessary, can help his team mate. Four of these fighters from each side will be able to bring down the enemy, while the fire against them will be virtually pointless.

All four seats on both sides will be joined together on one beam, and the fighters will be able to leave the vehicle with the help of a hydraulic manipulator that will lower them to the ground all at once.

This design allows for nearly 100% protection against mines. It will be impossible to bring it down, while it can not only fight in the field, but also in the city, firing at the upper floors of buildings, and shooting over fences and barricades.

The only question is whether military designers would appreciate this innovation. Would they be able to technically implement it and overcome the traditional approach inherent in the military?

Vyacheslav Shpakovsky


Read the orignial in Russian

Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov