Wednesday, 22 October 2014


The BMP-3 is a modern IFV currently serving in the Russian Army and in a number of foreign militaries. It is the successor to the BMP-2 and has found great popularity outside of its native country due to its outstanding tactical-technical characteristics which include exceptional firepower, excellent frontal armour protection, high mobility, comfortable accommodations and a large upgrade potential. Throughout the years, the BMP-3 has proven to be an exemplary vehicle of its class while in the service of several nations across the globe. During its brief service life in the Soviet Army, it was only mass produced from 1988 to 1991 and only 250 vehicles were delivered to the Soviet Army. The production of the new BMP was carried out in parallel with the BMP-2.

Compared to the Soviet tank-building projects that were launched in the immediate postwar era, the history of the BMP-3 is short and straightforward. The Soviet Army was aware of the multitudes of shortcomings of the BMP-2, as revealed in the hot climate of Afghanistan. As such, the request was made for a new IFV design with improved characteristics. Two drafts were submitted, one of them by Kurganmashzavod. The Object 688 prototype created in Kurganmashzavod used a hull adapted from the Object 685 amphibious light tank, which resulted in less than optimal provisions for passenger dismounting, but otherwise had excellent potential as an amphibious troop carrier. It was necessary to raise the hull, change the shape of the front hull armour, change the turret ring construction and create a passenger space, among other things. Interestingly, the weapons of the Object 688 were placed in a low profile turret with a remotely controlled external weapons mount similar to the Object 680 prototype of the BMP-2. The photo on the left below, taken by Nick "The Chieftain" Moran, shows the Object 688 prototype housed at the Kubinka Tank Museum from its left quadrant and the photo on the right below shows it from the right quadrant.

Armed with a powerful 2A42 cannon (600 rounds), a coaxial 30mm AGS-17 grenade launcher (500 rounds), three PKTM machine guns (6,000 rounds) and a pair of ready-to-fire Konkurs anti-tank missiles in an external armoured pod similar to the M2 Bradley, the Object 688 could already be considered as the most well-armed IFV in the world had it entered service in the mid-1980's. However, the new low profile turret and its armament was deemed to be an insufficient upgrade over the BMP-2 to warrant the adoption of a completely new IFV with no commonality with the earlier BMP designs, and indeed, the BMP-1 and BMP-2 could also have an AGS-17 grenade launcher added to augment their primary weapons, and it had been done for a number of vehicles in Afghanistan where a low-velocity grenade launcher was ideal against light infantry protected by the terrain.

As such, the new turret had no significant advantages over the BMP-2 so the rationale for this rejection was clear and quite justified. The requirement for a new IFV to replace the existing BMP-2 was because the possibility of modernization had been almost entirely exhausted, and it had become impossible to deeply modernize the armament without using novel technologies or sacrificing the other tactical-technical characteristics of the vehicle such as its amphibious capability or its armour protection. The BMP-2 itself already represented the limit of the BMP-1 design from which it was derived, as it had to switch to a new armour steel grade with a lower thickness in order to control the weight gain from the new two-man turret to an acceptable level while retaining the same protection as the BMP-1.

To enhance the firepower of the prospective new IFV to a satisfactory level, the 2K23 armament complex was developed by Chief Designer Arkady Shipunov of the KBP design bureau. The new 2A72 and 2A70 cannons were designed specifically for the new IFV and the two weapons were combined into a single common gun cradle together with a PKTM coaxial machine gun. Both of the new weapons were designed to be highly compact with a very low weight in order to fit in such an arrangement. This combination of weapons gave the new IFV a unique set of capabilities with several advantages over previous models, and the 2K23 armament complex proved to be enough of a justification to adopt the new combat vehicle as a replacement for the BMP-1 and BMP-2.

In January 1985, the state tests of the BMP-3 began with four participating vehicles. The tests were conducted in Kubinka, Smoline, Kelayta and Alageze, which the vehicles passed, but as expected for any vehicle in this stage of development, a number of defects were revealed. Because the state tests were passed, the BMP-3 was accepted for service on the 1st of September, 1987, and put into low rate serial production by the Kurganmashzavod factory for refinement and future trials at the end of 1987.

A final cycle of tests took place 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 with the new vehicles integrated into a mechanized 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 and determining the quality of the serial production samples for further refinement. 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. It was first shown to the world at the Moscow parade in honor of the 45th Victory Day celebration on May 9, 1990. Shortly thereafter, the Soviet Union collapsed, leaving the BMP-3 in the hands of the newly formed Russian Army.

Due to its age, this article is currently undergoing renovations. It is regularly updated and may be taken down temporarily for revisions.


The commander is seated on the right side of the turret, just like in a BMP-2 turret. He is responsible for observing the battlefield and designating targets for the gunner to subsequently engage, while also communicating with other vehicles in his unit via radio. The commander's seat is thickly padded and is adjustable in height. A dome light is installed on the turret well behind the commander's right shoulder. The 1V539 ballistic computer for the BMP-3's fire control system is installed on a partition between the seats of the commander and gunner.

The commander's cupola follows the same layout as the cupola of his counterpart in the earlier BMP-2, but differs in a number of details. Interestingly enough, the cupola was made from steel rather than aluminium like the rest of the vehicle. The underside of the commander's hatch had an anti-radiation lining that also acted as padding for the commander's head.

For battlefield surveillance and target designation, the commander was equipped with a TKN-3MB periscope and an array of general vision periscopes.

There are two fixed TNPO-170A periscopes mounted into the fixed half of the cupola at his disposal, and two additional TNPA-65 periscopes were embedded in the hatch facing the sides. The TNPO-170A offers a total horizontal field of view of 94 degrees and a total vertical field of view of 11-12 degrees while the TNPA-65 periscope offers a wide total horizontal field of view of 140 degrees and a total vertical field of view of 35 degrees. These figures represent the field of view with head movement. There is also a TNPT-1 rear-viewing prism with a total field of view of 80 degrees in the vertical plane and a total field of view of 140 degrees in the horizontal plane. The TNPT-3 is primarily used by the commander to help direct the driver when reversing the vehicle if the turret is pointed straight forward, as there are few other situations where the commander must look behind the turret. Except for the TNPA-65 periscopes, all of the vision devices in the commander's cupola are heated by the RTS heating system to prevent fogging in cold weather.

Compared to the BMP-2, the addition of two side-facing periscopes in the hatch of the cupola gave the commander of the BMP-3 a much better range field of view. Based on Soviet testing, over 95% of the observations made by tank commanders in various simulated combat scenarios were done in a 200-degree frontal sector. A rear-view periscope is only used in 0.8% of all cases. The cupola of the BMP-2 would only have fulfilled approximately 70% of the observational needs of its commander, so the increased visibility from the BMP-3 cupola represents an improvement of over 25%.


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 4.2x magnification and an angular field of view of 8°. In the daytime, the nominal maximum identification distance for a tank is around 3,000 m, although this depends on meteorological conditions more than anything else. In 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. For an IFV that entered service at the very end of the Cold War, the night vision capabilities of the TKN-3MB was simply not competitive against the thermal imaging systems that had become standard for the Western counterparts of the BMP-3. Instead of being used to search for targets in a combat situation at night, the device would be most useful as a navigational tool in the passive night vision mode.

The TKN-3MB has a stadiametric rangefinding scale intended for approximate manual range estimations of tank-sized targets with a height of 2.7 meters at distances of up to 3.2 km, although this might be rather optimistic for most situations.

Like in all other Soviet tanks and IFVs prior to the BMP-3, the commander of the vehicle can designate targets by pressing the thumb button on the right handle on the TKN-3MB periscope. The cupola is equipped with a counter-rotating motor to keep the cupola facing the target as the turret spins to meet the target. The maximum error is 10 mils, which makes the target designation feature infeasible for actually laying the gun on target. Rather, this feature is only to put the gunner in visual contact with the target - the rest is entirely up to the gunner once he has the target in his sights.


Later production models of the BMP-3 (these would also be equipped with the SOZh gunner's sight) will be instead equipped with the TKN-AI pseudo-binocular day/night passive-active observation device, which replaces the TKN-3MB. The TKN-AI enables day and night observation using natural light and also using a IR laser pulse-spotlight. When the TKN-AI is used in the pulse mode, it can detect a tank-type target at a distance of 1000 m. Pulsing the laser prevents backscatter when viewing through thick fog or haze. Reduction of backscatter increases the light penetration through the atmosphere, which has the effect of improving the viewing distance under poor weather conditions.

Additionally, the laser spotlight can be used as a rangefinder with the TKN-AI at a distance of between 200 m and 3000 m. The accuracy of the rangefinding function is 20 m. Using the Gen 2+ image intensifier module, the target identification range achievable using the TKN-AI for a tank-sized target is 600 m. The sight has a fixed magnification of 4.75x in day channel and 5x in the night channel. At night, the commander can detect enemy optronics (IR radiation emitters) at distances up to 3 km.


The commander is provided with an R-173 radio for inter-vehicle communications. The R-173 radio is an FM radio that can operate in 10 preset frequency modes, with the ability to mechanically switch frequencies in 3 seconds. It is currently outdated and has been replaced with the R-168 frequency-hopping radio set with the ability to send encrypted data and switch frequencies 100 times per second. The commander is provided with a P-174 intercom device to communicate with the rest of the crew.

Like the BMP-2, the commander of the BMP-3 has a complete set of duplicated gunnery controls at his disposal. The upper right corner of the picture below (screenshot taken from the "Poligon" show aired on the Rossiya 2 channel) shows the commander's PP-088 weapons management console. The silver box to the left of it is a KR-80 relay box, and the gray box to the left of that is a power supply box.

The PP-088 console is a part of the 6ETs088 weapons control complex that is used to manage and weapons integrated into the vehicle as well as to select and fire smoke grenades from the 902B smokescreen system. The drawing below shows the PP-088 console in greater detail.

The weapons management console displays the ammunition reserve of the specified weapon type, readiness state of the weapons, and allows the commander to select the desired ammunition types for both the 30mm and 100mm cannons as well as control the operating mode of the autoloader and activate the autoloader to load the 100mm cannon. The console also enables the commander to select the rate of fire of the 2A72 30mm cannon. The PP-088 weapons management console must be switched on before the weapons can be used from the commander's station. The commander cannot fire guided missiles since his 1PZ-10 sight lacks the necessary provisions. He controls the weapons using a set of control handles identical to the gunner's. The photo below, taken from the twower livejournal blog, show's the commander's 1PZ-10 sight and his control handles. Behind it is the metal link feed chute that channels the 30mm ammunition belts from the containers underneath the crew seats up to the 2A72 autocannon.


For daytime combat, the commander is equipped with the 1PZ-10 monocular dual-purpose sight with dependent stabilization in the vertical plane. The sight is broadly similar to the 1PZ-3 sight used in the BMP-2 but features modifications to enable 100mm rounds to be used.

The 1PZ-10 sight has 1.2x to 4x magnification. In the 1.2x magnification setting, the field of view is 49 degrees, narrowing down to 14 degrees in the 4x magnification setting. Like the gunner's PPB-2 sight, the 1PZ-10 is very flexible. It can elevate by +81 degrees and depress by -10 degrees, enabling it to target both aircraft and ground targets. It cannot, however, automatically track its targets, nor can the commander fire guided missiles using the 1PZ-10 sight as it has no guidance channel.

The sight is stabilized in the vertical plane by piggybacking on the weapons stabilization via a pair of mechanical rods. Since the stabilization mechanism interfaces with lenses and prisms inside the sight housing, the housing itself remains static as the stabilizer does its work, so the commander does not need to adjust his head backwards and forwards as his face is pressed up against the eyepiece.

1PZ-10 features a simple range adjustment system that is standard for sights in the 1PZ series. A horizontal line runs center of the sight viewfinder to form a crosshair with the fixed vertical line that runs down perpendicular to it. Ladder-type range scales for both cannons are provided. 

The photo below shows the sight under 1.2x magnification. You can see the aforementioned range scales and horizontal bar.

To use this sight, the commander first estimates the range to the target by eye and then he turns the range adjustment dial to move the horizontal line until it intersects with the desired range marking for the desired ammunition type. For example, if the commander wishes to open fire with the 2A72 cannon at a congregation of enemy infantry at 1.6 kilometers, he simply twists the range adjustment dial until the horizontal line intersects with the range scale increment marked "16" for "30 OF". The horizontal and vertical lines in the viewfinder form a crosshair at the correct distance, and all the must do now is raise the weapons until the crosshair is placed directly on the target, thus giving the autocannon the correct superelevation, and open fire.


The gunner of a BMP-3 was seated on the left side of the turret and he was provided with his own oval hatch. The hatch was sprung with a torsion bar for the convenience of the gunner when it is opened. For vision, the gunner is provided with two sighting systems and two TNPO-170A general vision periscopes, one aimed forward and the other aimed to the left. These two periscopes enhance his situational awareness and allow the gunner to cover the commander's blind spot to the left of the turret from the obstructive periscopic sights on the gunner's side of the turret. Compared to the BMP-2, the number of vision devices provided to the gunner was downgraded as the BMP-2 provided its gunner with three TNPO-170A periscopes that provided him with good forward and leftward vision, and he even had a rear view TNPT-1 prism in his hatch. The BMP-1 also provided its gunner with good vision as it had four periscopes aimed to the front and both sides of the turret, but lacked a rear view device.

However, it should be understood that in the BMP-1 and BMP-2, the commander of the vehicle was also the squad leader, and he was sometimes obliged to dismount with the passengers depending on the situation. Under such circumstances, the gunner had to command the vehicle from his station and he needed good visibility to do so effectively. With the BMP-3, it was different. The commander no longer dismounted with the passengers except perhaps under special circumstances, and as such, the BMP-3 retained its commander during combat at all times so the gunner could focus entirely on his tasks.

To protect the gunner from a bouncing shell casing in case the ejection mechanism fails, there is a curved aluminium shield installed on the turret ceiling next to the ejection port.

The gunner was also provided with a clock-type turret azimuth indicator that was connected to the manual turret traverse mechanism. Unlike the gunner of a BMP-2, a BMP-3 gunner was capable of fighting air targets independently from the commander as he was provided with his own PPB-2 anti-aircraft sight. For communications, the gunner was provided with a standard P-174 intercom control box and nothing more.

The gunner was provided with a PL-088 weapons management console, which performs the same functions as the PP-088 installed on the turret wall of the commander's station. As the picture below shows (screenshot taken from the "Poligon" show aired on the Rossiya 2 channel), the console is installed on the turret wall just next to the front-facing TNPO-170A periscope and below it is the intercom control box.

The drawing below shows the purposes of the many buttons and switches on the PL-088 console. Using this single console, the gunner can control the rate of fire of the 2A72, see the amount of ammunition left for both cannons, ready the weapons to fire, control the operating mode of the autoloader, activate the autoloader, and more.

The gunner is responsible for the fire control system and the stabilizer. He is provided with a set of control handles (shown below) installed directly underneath his primary sight, with which he can control the turret and the stabilizer system and apply corrections for stabilizer drift.



In a basic BMP-3, the gunner is provided with the 1K13-2 sighting system as his primary sight. It is used for the aiming and guidance of all weapons organic to the turret. Due to its integrated night vision system, the 1K13-2 can be used for observation both in the daytime and at night, with independent stabilization of the visual field in two planes. The presence of independent two-plane stabilization instead of single-plane stabilization is the primary distinguishing factor between the 1K13-2 and 1K13 sights, used on a large number of Soviet tanks since the early 1980's. 

The sight has a digital range display in the viewfinder. In the day channel, the sight has a fixed 8x maximum magnification, and 5.5x in the night channel. The field of view is 5 degrees at the 8x magnification in the day channel, and 6 degrees and 10 minutes in the fixed 5.5x magnification in the night channel. In the passive mode, the sight enables a tank-type target to be identified at a range of 800 meters at night with with ambient light of 0.005 lux, corresponding to a typical moonless, starlit night. The viewing distance is expanded in the active mode to 1,100 m with the use of the OU-5-1 IR spotlight.

Actually a view through the 1K13-49 sight, but it's close enough

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. Cant, 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 500 m to 4,000 m with a measuring precision of ±10 meters. If necessary, the gunner can manually enter range data measured using the stadiametric ranging scales in the 1K13-2 sight viewfinder into the ballistic computer in the event of rangefinder malfunction.

The 1D16-3 laser rangefinder was initially unreliable. Reportedly, it began to refuse to operate past 2,000 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.


Beginning in 1998, the PPN-D SOZh sight designed and manufactured by the Belorussian Peleng open joint-stock company began to be installed in the BMP-3. The sight had day and night channels with either passive light intensification or active IR illumination. It was independently stabilized in two planes and had an integrated laser rangefinder as well as a coded laser emitter for missile guidance. The laser rangefinder has a measuring range of 500 meters to 7,000 meters with range filtering to eliminate false returns. The measuring precision of the rangefinder is ±10 meters. The SOZh sight also features an internal general vision vision block with a viewing window above the eyepiece and brow pad of the sight, as shown in the photos above and below.

The daytime channel has 1x, 4x and 14x magnification settings. The field of view is 20 degrees in the 1x magnification setting, 12 degrees in the 4x setting, and 3.5 degrees in for the 14x setting. The greatly increased maximum magnification gives the sight a necessary advantage over older sighting complexes in terms of target identification clarity at longer distances which was necessary to fully exploit the 5,500 meter range of the 9M117M-1 guided missile as well as the increased range of the 100mm 3UOF19 HE-Frag shells.

The viewfinder of the SOZh sight displays the ammunition type selected, the range to the target and a ready-to-fire signal. The view from the sight under 1x magnification can be seen in the two photos below:

The sight picture under 14x magnification is seen below, taken from a screenshot from the "Poligon" show aired on the Rossiya 2 channel.

The a nominal maximum range for identifying a tank-type target in daytime is 7,000 meters. The accuracy of the stabilization of the field of view is 0.1 mils.

Nighttime identification range for a tank-sized target is 800 meters in the passive mode, and 1,100 meters in the active mode, whereby the PL-1 IR laser pulse beamer mounted coaxially to the guns (see above) is used. The PL-1 is a programmable IR laser pulse beamer that can emit modulated laser signals, giving it an additional utility as a laser rangefinder. However, it is not used in that capacity on the BMP-3 since the SOZh sighting system has an integrated rangefinder with greater accuracy than the PL-1 is capable of. 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.

The PL-1 laser beamer was developed by the BelOMO optical and mechanical company. The device runs on 50 volts, and connects directly to the 27A electrical system of the vehicle. The OU-6 laser beamer is functionally equivalent to the PL-1, so the two of them can be used interchangeably. PL-1 projects a much more coherent and more intense beam of infrared light than a regular xenon IR spotlight, making it much easier to see faraway objects even in the presence of interference. The projector itself is contained inside a lightly armoured protective housing, which you can see in the photo below (a destroyed BMD-2).

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

The guidance range limit of the SOZh sight for ATGMs is 5,500 meters, matching the maximum range of the 9M117M1 "Arkan" missile. The maximum divergence of launched ATGMs from alignment to the guidance channel and sighting system is 0.5 meters. In other words, the maximum distance the missile will stray from the line of sight of the guidance channel is 0.5 meters.

Currently, the SOZh sight is the standard gunner's sight on almost all Russian BMP-3s except for the earliest ones. Since the beginning, the BMP-3 was equipped with a 1V539 digital ballistic computer. 1V539 can process five programmable ballistic factors and calculate ballistic solutions for ranges up to 5,000 meters. The ballistic computer takes 10 seconds to boot up when the power supply is connected, and it can run continuously for 6 hours. Ballistic calculations are done instantaneously.


The Vesna-K was a newer main sight, first seen in the 1990's. It features thermal imaging, an integrated laser rangefinder, and an AST-B automatic target tracking unit. The nominal maximum detection range of a target is 6500 m, and the identification range of a tank-type target is 4500 m. The Vesna-K 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 mils. 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 or aircraft flying overhead.

It must be noted that Vesna-K is not a fire control system, just a sight. It is installed next to the Sozh, and acts as the de-facto night sight. A BMP-3 equipped with Vesna-K will still have the 1K537 ballistic computer.

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, and BMP-3s with 1K13-2 sights invariably come with the 1D16-3 laser rangefinder. Double-windowed ones have a Vesna-K.

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 financial reasons.


The PPB-2 weapons sight is a monocular dual-purpose sight mounted to the right of the gunner's primary sight. The primary purpose of the sight is to provide the gunner with an anti-aircraft sighting instrument for high angle fire which is necessary for firing upon fast-moving low altitude aircraft flying at close range or even flying over the vehicle itself. The secondary purpose of the sight is to provide the gunner with a backup option in case the primary sight experiences a failure. To facilitate aiming at high altitude targets, the articulating periscopic head can look upwards by 81 degrees, and down by 10 degrees. However, because the sight is mechanically linked to the gun cradle, it is limited in its range of elevation by the vehicle's weapons. It has a field of view of 25-28 degrees at a fixed 2.47-2.6x magnification. It is marked with range scales for all onboard weapons as well as lead markers for leading aerial targets travelling at speeds not more than 250 m/s.

Due to the limited magnification and lack of an integrated range adjustment system, the gunner's target finding capabilities are severely constrained. However, this is not a significant obstacle when targeting aircraft due to the nature of the task. As it is a greatly simplified sight with only the most essential working components inside it, the combat effectiveness of the BMP-3 against ground targets would be noticeably reduced if the gunner was forced to use the PPB-2 instead of the primary sight. As the photo above shows, the sight is surrounded by exposed nuts and screws and the sight itself has no dials, buttons or switches, indicating that there are no adjustments that can be made by the gunner in the field without a tool. It is interesting to note that PPB-2 only weighs 3.42 kg, compared to the more serious 1PZ-10 which weighs 18 kg.

To conserve the service life of the primary sight, the PPB-2 was apparently used as the gunner's de facto primary sight during training as it is extremely simple and practically unbreakable in at least one case.


The BMP-3 is equipped with the 2E52-2 electro-mechanical stabilizer. The factory designation of the 2E52-2 is ITsKR.461314.001. This stabilizer enables very high accuracy firing through the use of two EDM-20M electric motors. The two motors are identical in performance and precision; one drives the gun elevation mechanism and one drives the turret traverse mechanism. A significant advantage of the all-electric nature of the stabilization system is that there is no dangerous flammable hydraulic fluid being pumped at high pressure around the turret, so that if the armour is perforated, the chances of the vehicle catching fire is greatly reduced. Not having any plumbing inside the turret also makes it easier to maintain the vehicle. Furthermore, hydraulic pumps are bulky, noisy and consume a lot of power, so omitting one from the BMP-3 gives it better fuel economy and adds comfort for the crew. Another important advantage is that the electrical endurance of the BMP-3 while laying in ambush with engines off is better, though still rather limited as the vehicle lacks an APU.


The stabilizer complex includes the 1B14 gyroscopic roll sensor. This gyroscopic sensor takes two minutes to power up to its operating speed, which is done when starting the vehicle. The warranty period is 1500 hours of operation. Besides that, there is also the PT115ks-1G angular position sensor and the TGP-5 accelerometer.

The 2E52-2 system operates in three possible modes; automatic, semi-automatic and guiding. The automatic and semi-automatic modes are similar to the modes of the same name featured in the 2E36 stabilizer complex for the BMP-2. In the automatic mode, the operation of the stabilizer is simplified and easily understood: the stabilizer keeps the weapons stable and aimed at the target with maximum precision as the vehicle moves. This is a general purpose mode meant for shooting at land targets and at hovering or slow-moving air targets. The technical manual for the BMP-3 lists these figures for the automatic mode:

Automatic Mode

Maximum Gun Elevation Speed: 6 °/s
Minimum Gun Elevation Speed: 0.02 °/s

Maximum Turret Traverse Speed: 30-35 °/s
Minimum Turret Traverse Speed: 0.02 °/s

The manual vaguely mentions that the speed of turret traverse in the "overcharge" condition is 35 °/s, but it does not mention the maximum traverse speed for the automatic mode without "overcharge". I interpret this to mean that the turret traverse speed has a hard limit of 35 °/s that can be reached by simply turning the control handles left or right to the furthest possible position.

The median stabilization error of the 2E52-2 system in the automatic mode when the vehicle is in motion at a speed of 25 km/h is not more than 0.05 mils. This means that the BMP-3 can engage point targets from a distance of more than a kilometer while moving at typical cross-country driving speeds with essentially the same effectiveness as when it is immobile. The quality of the stabilizer can be considered on par with its contemporary analogues in this regard.

The semi-automatic mode is meant only for engaging air targets flying by or over the vehicle at high speeds at closer ranges. The acceleration and top speeds of the motors for both the traverse and elevation motors are boosted, at the cost of a great reduction in aiming precision. As it operates, the stabilizer will experience drift at a rate of 25 mils/min, meaning that the stabilizer will drift off target by 1.4 MOA as each second passes when left in continuous operation maintaining its aim at a single point as the vehicle moves sideways. This is not good performance, especially since this figure is already adjusted to include periodic drift compensation by the stabilizer complex. Nevertheless, it is mostly irrelevant since this stabilizer mode is only intended for a rather niche role.

Semi-Automatic Mode

Maximum Gun Elevation Speed: 35 °/s
Minimum Gun Traverse Speed: 0.1 °/s

Maximum Turret Traverse Speed: 35 °/s
Minimum Turret Traverse Speed: 0.1 °/s

Besides the two standard operating modes, there was also the missile guidance mode. It is only used for guiding the BMP-3's gun-launched anti-tank guided missiles. The maximum speed of turret rotation in the guided mode is electronically limited to only 2.5 /s in order to prevent the gunner from accidentally breaking laser contact with the missile while tracking a target. The minimum gun laying speed is the same as in the automatic mode.

Maximum Gun Elevation Speed: 2.5 °/s
Minimum Gun Elevation Speed: 0.02 °/s

Maximum Turret Traverse Speed: 2.5 °/s
Minimum Turret Traverse Speed: 0.02 °/s

As usual, the gunner's control handles follow the traditional "Cheburashka" configuration. In fact, the control handles 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 rotation is done by twisting the control handles around its vertical axis like a turntable, as opposed to a steering wheel style as is common on NATO tanks and IFVs.

Gunner's handgrips

The stabilizer complex needs two minutes to fully activate. When not in battle, the stabilizer should be set to the standby mode in order to prevent excessive wear. Upon entering combat, the stabilizer can be switched on from the standby mode, whereby it only requires a second or two to achieve full functionality.

In order to prevent injuries to crew members and passengers and to prevent damage to the stabilizer, the 2E52-2 stabilizer is automatically locked when the hatches of the driver or any of the passenger hatches are unlocked. The stabilizer also automatically shuts down and locks the turret in place when the GO-27 radiation sensor detects a strong influx of radiation. This prevents the turret from being damaged by strong winds.


The 2K23 armament complex is housed in a fully traversable turret, consisting of a 100mm 2A70 low-pressure rifled gun, a 30mm 2A72 autocannon, and a 7.62x54mm PKTM co-axial machine gun. All three weapon systems are located on the same mount, 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. The cradle is in turn installed in the 5-ton turret (when combat loaded), which is fitted into a 1,982mm diameter turret ring. The turret has a low height of only 540mm and a width of 2,266mm, making it a relatively small target when a BMP-3 is in a hull-down position.

The weapons are managed using the 6ETs088 weapons control complex which contains the BU-088 control unit, the PP-088 and PL-088 consoles, the KZ-088 protection box, and the DNL-088 carousel tray sensor. All together, the system is able to track the ammunition left for both cannons and allows the commander and gunner to independently manage the weapons from their own stations.


A 2A72 long-recoil, dual-feed autocannon is mounted beside the 2A70. Depending on the source, the 2A72 has a maximum rate of fire of 350-400 rounds per minute (KBP Tula) or 350-390 rounds per minute (Soviet Autocannon, Christian Koll). In the BMP-3, the fire rate is electronically limited to not less than 300 rounds per minute by the fire control system, so the technical maximum fire rate can only be achieved by firing the gun manually with the backup trigger. The technical maximum fire rate of the 2A72 is far lower than the fire rate of the 2A42 (550-800 rounds per minute) but still double that of its immediate counterparts, and comparable to the rate of fire of the 2A42 when used in the 'low' setting (200-300 rounds per minute). 

The relatively high rate of fire enables this cannon to be used in an anti-aircraft role to a limited extent when paired with the anti-aircraft sight on the BMP-3, but its viability is rather questionable as it does not fire quickly enough for this task. Either the gunner or commander can use their the PL-088 or PP-088 weapons control panel to set the cannon to fire in the single shot mode (1), in the "short" mode (КОР) which produces controlled 10-round bursts, or in the "long" mode (ДЛ) which is fully automatic fire. Two to three 10-round bursts are typically needed to destroy an IFV-type target at the maximum effective range of the 2A72.

The cannon has an extremely compact and lightweight receiver, making it ideal for the BMP-3 as the 100mm 2A70 occupies a significant amount of space on its own. The forward ejection system and long-recoil operation ensures that minimal propellant fumes enter the fighting compartment. Although not all of the fumes can be eliminated, the long-recoil operating system allows the propellant to burn more completely inside the chamber before chamber is unlocked and the casing is extracted. Like the 2A42 cannon that preceded it, the forward casing ejection system of the 2A72 prevents the unburnt propellant residue inside the casings from becoming an additional source of fumes inside the fighting compartment. The entire cannon has a total weight of only 84 kg, nearly half that of the Mk44 (156 kg), and even lighter than the RARDEN (113 kg), a similar long-recoil operated 30mm cannon. Considering the fact that the 2A72 is belt-fed and has selectable feeding, it is rather remarkable that the 2A72 is smaller and lighter than the clip-fed RARDEN, although it is beyond a doubt that the 2A72 sorely lacks the accuracy of its British counterpart if it is fired without the support sleeve attached to the 2A70 cannon.

The barrel and bolt assembly is designed to be pushed back under recoil after the shell leaves the barrel. After travelling for 270mm only under the resistance of the recoil spring for the bolt, the barrel comes into contact with the shock absorber tube at the end of the receiver and is stopped within 60-65mm by the shock absorber spring. When the barrel stops, the bolt will be at the back of the receiver and the recoil spring will be fully compressed. The bolt is held in place by an automatic sear that is engaged at the instant that the bolt reaches the back of the receiver. The barrel is returned to battery by the strong  shock absorber spring, and when it is in battery, the barrel trips the auto-sear and the bolt is released. The bolt travels forward, chambers a fresh cartridge and is locked to the barrel, ending the recoil cycle and readying the gun to fire.

To prepare the 2A72 for loading and to chamber the first round or to clear misfires, the cannon can be cycled using an automatic electricmechanical system or with a manual crank. The electromechanical system works using a small electric motor coupled to a worm gear affixed to the barrel assembly in a very high gear ratio, because a very large amount of force is needed to pull the barrel and bolt against the recoil and shock absorber springs. Using the electromechanical cycling system, it takes 18-20 seconds to prepare the autocannon for combat. To use it, the gunner or commander simply presses a button on their PL-088 or PP-088 panel. If the cannon must be cycled manually, the commander will have to do it as he is seated closest to the cannon. Instead of an electric motor to retract the barrel and bolt assembly, the commander uses a crank handle and his physical strength. Of course, this takes much longer and it should only be done in emergencies.

The barrel weighs 36 kg and measures 2,416mm in length, or 80.5 calibers. The entire cannon measures 3,006mm in length. The light weight and thinness of the barrel can prove to be something of an issue if firing for prolonged periods due to barrel warping and elongation, which can interfere with the ballistic properties of fired projectiles. This is somewhat offset by the guide tube affixed to the end of the 100mm cannon, but the elongation of the cannon when sufficiently heated can lead to changes in the pattern of the rifling, resulting in deviations in projectile rotation speed, which in turn results in less-than-predictable shot patterning over very long distances. Nevertheless, the cannon configuration enables it to attain a more than reasonable standard of accuracy. The barrel of the 2A72 is considerably heavier than that of the RARDEN, which had a 24.5 kg barrel of around the same length (2.44 m). The heavier barrel of the 2A72 enables it to fire multiple bursts at a sustained rate without overheating, whereas the barrel of the RARDEN is only sufficient for the low rate of fire attainable by the cannon. Nevertheless, the service life of the 2A72 is not high compare to foreign counterparts. According to the manufacturer, the 2A72 is rated for only 6,000 shots, with the option to improve to 9,000 shots when upgraded as part of a modernization programme.

The 2A72 barrel can be replaced quickly in field conditions. It can be unscrewed and removed from the front using hand tools.

The accuracy of the 2A72 installed in the BMP-3 is significantly higher compared to an independently mounted one (such as on the BTR-82A, for example), due to a support sleeve at the muzzle end of the barrel, which is attached to the rigid barrel of the 2A70 cannon. Oversized rings on the barrel act as guides to stabilize the autocannon as it recoils within the support sleeve. Thanks to the support sleeve, barrel oscillations are kept mostly under control. This is a major contributing factor to achieving an acceptable accuracy standard despite the light weight of the barrel and the nature of the long-recoil action, which traditionally does not lend itself to good accuracy.

The 2A72 features a forward casing ejection system and can be fired in either the single shot mode or in the full automatic mode. If pin-point accuracy is needed, all that is necessary is to fire fewer rounds with more time in between each shot. Keeping the autocannon in the semi-auto mode 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. Three replaceable charges are installed in special slots in the cannon for this purpose. To load the autocannon, the ammunition containers under the crew seats are first filled to the brim by passing long belt segments or a single continuous belt through the turret hatches and then manually feeding it into the container. When passing a single continuous belt, a special rig with a hand crank to feed the belt into the turret is used for expediency. Then, the metal feed chute connecting the 2A72 autocannon feed mechanism to the ammunition containers on the floor of the turret must be disconnected. This is done from the commander's station. Then, a long belt segment is inserted into the feed chute until its tail appears from the other end. The tail of the belt segment is linked up with the rest of the belt already in the container, and then the first cartridge of the belt is inserted into the feed mechanism of the autocannon. This process is repeated for the other belt containing an alternate ammunition type, and once that is done, the metal feed chute is reconnected to the autocannon feed mechanism once again.

During live fire gunnery training, a large ammunition supply is not needed. The crew is provided with a short belt segment, only enough for several bursts of fire in the fully automatic mode, and it is only necessary to load the belt directly into the feed mechanism of the autocannon. Since there is no ammunition in the floor containers, the feed chute is redundant. The BMP-3 manual states that it takes 35 minutes to load a full complement of 30mm autocannon rounds into the vehicle.

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. Like the BMP-2, the 2A72 of the BMP-3 is supplied with 500 ready rounds, split between 305 HE-I and HEI-T rounds and 195 AP-T rounds in separate belts. This is a 3:2 ratio.

Generally speaking, the ready supply of ammunition is more than enough to last an IFV like the BMP-3 through a typical battle. When running low on ammunition, there is a reserve supply of 250 rounds held in the passenger compartment. The composition of this reserve stock of autocannon ammunition is not specified and it is assumed that the same 3:2 ratio between HE and AP rounds is maintained, so there would be 150 HE shells and 100 AP shells. However, it is interesting to note that when the BMP-3 is compared to the BMP-2, the number of armour-piercing rounds increased (195 vs 160) while the number of high explosive rounds decreased (305 vs 340). This is probably due to the addition of the 100mm 2A70 cannon which overtook the autocannon in many of the niche roles that its 30mm high explosive shells previously filled, and naturally, the increased number of armour-piercing rounds for the autocannon implies that its purpose was more focused towards combat against lightly armoured vehicles.

From left to right; HE-I, HEI-T, AP-T, APDS

The technical accuracy of the 2A72 is high, and it is equal to the 2A42 mounted in the BMP-2 turret. The dispersion of AP-T shells fired from the 2A72 is 0.4 mils in both vertical and horizontal axes. The dispersion of HE shells fired from the 2A72 is 0.5 mils in both vertical and horizontal axes.

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 2600 m, probably against area targets, on the same day. Again, the criteria for what is considered "high" should be understood first, but those details were not divulged.

There is not much information on the firing accuracy of the 2A72 mounted on the BMP-3, but there is some data on the 2A72 as part of the "Kliver" drop-in turret for the BMP-1. The four graphs below, taken from "БМП-1 (1964-2000): Боевая машина пехоты" by Sergey Malyshev, show the effectiveness of the weapons complex of the "Kliver" system on various targets compared to the armament of an original BMP-1. The 2A72 cannon mounted on the "Kliver" turret is similar to the 2A72 on the BMP-3 in that both have supported barrels and the fire control system is functionally identical, so the accuracy should be similar if not identical, so the information on the performance of the 2A72 presented in the graphs should be directly applicable to the BMP-3 as well. The first pair of graphs, shown below, detail the probability of destruction of an M1A2 using a "Kornet" missile compared to the old "Malyutka" missile of the BMP-1 and the probability of destruction of an APC-type target using the 2A72 cannon compared to the 73mm gun of the BMP-1. The effectiveness of the "Kornet" missile is not relevant for the BMP-3, so we will focus on the graph on the right instead. As you can see from the first line (30-мм АП, с места), the probability of destroying an APC-type target with 16 rounds of ammunition while firing from a static position is around 50% at around 1.75 km, going up to 80% at 1.2 km and 90% at 1.0 km. The probability of destruction decreases with increasing distance according to an inverted logistical S-curve, and the probability decreases more rapidly with distance when firing on the move, as shown by the line in the middle (30-мм АП, с ходу). When firing on the move, the probability of destroying an APC with 16 rounds is 80% at a distance of 1 km, but falls to only 20% at 2 km. At such distances, a very large portion of the ammunition supply would be required to guarantee a kill, so it may be more economical to expend an ATGM.

The second pair of graphs is interesting as well. The graph on the right shows the probability of eliminating an ATGM team, usually defined as a team of two to three people with one portable ATGM launcher. The graph on the left shows the probability of destroying an AH-64 helicopter. From the graph on the left, we can see that the probability of eliminating an ATGM team with 16 rounds of ammunition is at least 60% from a distance of 2 km, falling to around 40% at around 3.5 km. Firing on the move against an area target like this has a small negative effect on accuracy even for a stabilized gun, resulting in a slightly reduced probability of elimination, down to 50% at 2 km. The graph on the right does not differentiate between firing in a static position and firing on the move, but overall, it seems as if the chances of shooting down an AH-64 is almost trivial. With 16 rounds, the probability of destroying an AH-64 is around 60% at 2 km, falling to 40% at 3 km. Helicopters are large targets, but they are not so easy to hit when moving around at speeds of 100-200 km/h or more, so it is quite likely that the calculations for the graph only considered a static hovering AH-64 and not a moving one.


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. Zinc-plated steel cases are used. This provides a small weight saving compared to brass cases.

This page contains a detailed examination of each 30mm cartridge available to the BMP-3 during its brief service in the Soviet Army, and later, in the Russian Army.

Initially, the BMP-3 was only supplied with the standard AP-T, HE-I and HEI-T rounds that were also available to the BMP-2. The HE ammunition was very powerful and outperformed contemporary 30mm HE rounds, but the AP-T ammunition could no longer be considered potent for the late 1980's and early 1990's. During this time, existing NATO IFVs with additional armour had entered service. For example, the M2A2 Bradley entered service in 1988 and it featured heavy steel appliqué armour plating over its front and side armour that was thick enough to reliably resist 30mm AP-T rounds across a frontal arc of 60 degrees even at point blank range.

As such, there was a serious need for improved ammunition for the 2A72 autocannon to be justified in its role as an anti-vehicle weapon. This need was not fulfilled for many years until the 3UBR8 "Kerner" APDS round became available.


The 2A70 is a low-pressure rifled cannon with a caliber of 100mm. It can fire both HE-Frag shells and guided anti-tank missiles. It has a vertically sliding breech block. The 2A70 was a rather unusual choice of armament for an IFV due to its large caliber, but the capabilities offered by the weapon have apparently made it an attractive choice for the Russian military as well as the many foreign operators of the BMP-3. Its size and mass of 332 kg is excellent for a gun of its caliber.

The recoil mechanism of the 2A70 is wrapped around the base of the gun tube in the same configuration as the 2A28 "Grom" smoothbore cannon of the BMP-1. The mechanism consists of a hydraulic recoil buffer and a coiled return spring. To increase the precision of the cannon, the recoil mechanism features progressive braking with a low brake force and thus a low recoiling velocity at the initial stages of the recoil stroke, before the projectile leaves the barrel. This was due to the light weight and relatively low rigidity of the turret compared to a tank turret. By minimizing the brake force until the fired projectile leaves the barrel, the amount of force imparted to the turret is also minimized, and this reduces the influence of turret vibrations on the precision of shots. Moreover, the recoil stroke of the cannon was quite long as it was necessary to ensure that the turret could withstand the recoil of the low-pressure 100mm rounds.

Besides that, it is important to note that because the recoil mechanism is wrapped around the barrel, it is concentric to the bore axis. A symmetric or concentric recoil system greatly reduces the moment (the turning effect of a force) experienced by the cannon during the recoiling cycle as there is no pivot point upon which the barrel can oscillate. The reduction of the oscillations at the barrel muzzle while the shell is still travelling down the barrel results in a reduction in the vertical and horizontal dispersion of shots. The dispersion in the vertical axis is 0.4 mils and the dispersion in the horizontal axis is <0.5 mils. It is somewhat abnormal for the horizontal dispersion of a gun to be higher than the vertical dispersion, but in this case, it is explained by the fact that the bore axis of the 2A70 is not inline with the longitudinal axis of the turret; it is offset to the left to accommodate the coaxial 2A72 autocannon. This is shown in the drawing below.

When attacking area targets in the indirect fire mode, the direct fire dispersion characteristics are not directly applicable. While a circular or elliptical dispersion pattern is maintained, the area of the impact zone increases enormously because of the additional factor of distance, which is absent when firing at an upright target placed perpendicular to the ground. Vertical dispersion becomes dispersion in depth, and horizontal dispersion becomes dispersion in width, but the impact area is only elongated in depth and not in width because of distance. According to the KBP website and an official technical description book on the BMP-3 issued in 1988, the dispersion of HE-Frag shells fired from the 2A70 is equal to a 1/200 fraction of the firing range. For instance, at a range of 2,000 meters, the dispersion in depth will be 10 meters. The newer 3UOF19 round boasted of higher precision and had a dispersion of 1/250 in distance, or in other words, the dispersion radius was decreased by 20%.

The recoil guard of the 2A70 was affixed to the gun cradle and had a V-shaped cutout above the breech block of the cannon. Its purpose is unclear. The right side of the recoil guard was longer than the left side.

Due to the low muzzle velocity of the low-pressure 100mm shells, the rifling twist of the 2A70 had to be adjusted to ensure the proper stabilization of the 3OF32 shell which was originally designed for the D-10 gun as part of the 3UOF11 round. The original 2A70 barrel had 1 twist in 30 calibers. With the introduction of 3UOF19 rounds, the rifling twist rate was increased to 1 per 22 calibers.


The 2A70 is loaded automatically from an autoloader. The autoloader is all-electric, thereby avoiding the fire hazard of a hydraulic system, and it has a simple and robust construction. Ammunition is held in a carousel mechanism on the turret floor which has a capacity of 22 rounds. The autoloader has the same layout as the autoloader used in the T-72 series of tanks and as such, the loading procedure is largely the same as in the T-72, but it is simplified because the ammunition is unitary. Normally, the autoloader is used in the automatic mode, but a semi-automatic mode is available in case individual components fail. The loading mechanism also may be operated manually with the use of hand cranks in emergency situations.

The PL-088 console allows the BMP-3 gunner to operate the autoloader in 6 different modes. The four main modes are «АВТ», «СЕРИЯ», «ЗАГР», and «РАЗГР». These are "automatic" for normal operations, "series" for series loading, "loading", for replenishing the carousel, and "unloading", for unloading it. 

In the "automatic" mode, the autoloader begins loading the gun only after the gunner presses the "load" button on the PL-088 console after every shot. In the "series" mode, the autoloader works in the same way as in the "automatic" mode. It prompts the autoloader to automatically load the gun after every shot without gunner input until the switch is moved to a different position or until the ammunition load is depleted. 

Two additional modes, «ИСХ» and «АВАР», are only used in unusual circumstances. The «ИСХ» (Исходный - Initial) mode resets all autoloader components to their initial positions. This mode is useful in the event that the loading process is interrupted by a malfunction of some kind, as it allows immediate troubleshooting or switching to either semi-automatic or manual loading. The «АВАР» (Аварийный - Emergency) mode switches the autoloader to the semi-automatic mode, whereby each step of the loading process is only carried out if prompted by the gunner from the PL-088 console. 

The autoloader carousel enclosed from the top and bottom and each cartridge held inside the carousel rests inside individual slots, but the circumference of the carousel is uncovered so that the base of the cartridges are exposed. A spring-loaded catch at the mouth of each slot allows cartridges to be loaded into the slot from behind and prevents them from sliding out. The hub of the carousel is a hollow cylinder that fits over the rotary power distribution unit that transfers electrical power from the hull to the turret. The rotation of the carousel is driven by an electric motor installed on the carousel top cover, which also serves as the false floor for the gunner and commander.

The drawing on the left below shows the elevator mechanism that transfers cartridges from the ammunition carousel to the loading position where it is rammed into the cannon, and the drawing on the right shows a general layout of the autoloader.

To put it simply, the elevator mechanism consists of an elevator rail and a clamp mechanism that slides along the rail. The clamp mechanism is designed to pick up a cartridge from the autoloader carousel by clamping it securely so that it can be brought up to the loading position by the elevator mechanism. Besides that, there is also a rigid chain rammer installed in the rear of the turret.

The kinematic components of the autoloader mechanism are shown in the drawing below. Note that the carousel top cover has a large thickness above the ammunition while the bottom of the slots for each cartridge are much thinner. This implies that the carousel provides a noticeable amount of overhead protection from spall and fragment damage.

When the loading process starts, the cannon is automatically locked at a 0 degree elevation angle and the elevator mechanism descends to pick up a cartridge from the autoloader carousel using its clamps, raising it to a predetermined position where it is aligned with the bore axis of the cannon at the front and the rubber pad of the chain rammer at the rear. The chain rammer then rams the clamped cartridge forward until the clamp mechanism touches the breech housing of the 2A70 cannon, whereby the clamps are opened by their internal spring. This releases the cartridge, which is already partly inside the barrel, and the cartridge is rammed into battery by the chain rammer. The rammer recedes and the elevator rail is lowered back to the standby position just above the carousel. The cannon is then automatically returned to the aiming point of the gunner. Because the gunner's primary sight is independently stabilized, the gunner can freely scan for more targets or begin laying the sights on a target before the loading process is complete.

If an individual component in the autoloader system fails, it is possible to use the system in the semi-automatic mode. The gunner 

The GIF below shows most of the loading process, excluding the lowering of the elevator rail back to its standby position. The mechanism in the video clip appears to be moving rather slowly and more deliberately than in reality, most likely because it is set up for demonstration purposes and is probably running on the vehicle's batteries only.

A normal loading cycle takes 4 to 5 seconds to complete, putting the theoretical maximum rate of fire for HE-Frag shells at 12 to 15 rounds per minute. However, this figure is based entirely on the loading speed of the autoloader mechanism and not the actual achievable rate of fire. In reality, the maximum rate of fire is only 10 to 12 rounds per minute because the ejection process takes some time to complete, adding a short delay between each loading cycle. When loading the 2A70 manually, the BMP-3 manual states that it takes 15-20 seconds to load each round. The maximum rate of fire when loading the cannon manually would therefore be approximately 3-4 rounds per minute.

After the first shot is fired, the cannon must eject the casing of the previous cartridge before the loading process for the next shot can begin. After a shot is fired and the 2A70 has reached the end of its recoil stroke, it is locked in its recoiled position and it is automatically depressed to a predetermined angle while the ejection chute is lowered from the ceiling and the ejection port hatch is opened. Once all of these components are in their proper positions, the spent shell casing is ejected from the 2A70. The spent shell casing is thrown into the ejection chute and its trajectory is diverted upwards and out of the ejection port. The ejection chute is retracted and the ejection port is sealed, and then the cannon is returned to battery by the recoil mechanism. The cannon automatically returns to the previous point of aim.

The propellant is quite smoky and the 2A70 gun lacks a fume extractor, but discarding the casing of each round immediately after it is fired has the effect of reducing the volume of propellant fumes that linger in the turret. This is because the unburnt propellant residue inside the casing is a source of fumes and because the momentary opening of the ejection port provides an exit path for the fumes that flow out of the barrel when the breech block is opened. This was important as it allowed a high rate of fire to be achieved. If the 2A70 was fired at its maximum rate of 12 rounds per minute, the lack of any fume extraction measures would cause the concentration of fumes in the vehicle to build up at an unacceptable rate, forcing the rate of fire to be reduced.


Aside from the 22 rounds held in the autoloader carousel, an additional 18 rounds are stowed in a reserve ammunition rack behind the turret just under the three rear passenger seats. To retrieve the ammunition in these racks, the retaining clip resting on the base of the casing is depressed and the round is pulled straight out. The passenger seats do not have to be folded away to access them.

According to an official technical description book on the BMP-3 issued in 1988, the 18 rounds carried in the reserve ammunition rack can be substituted with 250 rounds of 30mm ammunition. As a rule, the choice between the two types of ammunition carried into combat will depend entirely on the circumstances.

The process of replenishing the autoloader is very straightforward. The unitary 100mm rounds are simply pushed into the rear opening of the autoloader carousel trays and they are held in place by a simple spring-loaded tab. To make it easier to reload, the autoloader carousel can be manually rotated so that empty trays are continually brought to face the rear for a passenger or a crew member to transfer ammunition into the carousel from the reserve racks or from outside the vehicle.

Once the ammunition held in the autoloader carousel has been fully expended, the crew can withdraw from combat to replenish the autoloader from this reserve supply. The process can be sped up by enlisting the help of the passengers. According to a BMP-3 manual, the time taken to fully replenish the autoloader carousel does not take more than 20 minutes. 


One of the firepower advantages that the BMP-3 held over its predecessors was its larger quantity of ATGMs and the increased ease of loading them. In a BMP-2, the commander or gunner had to open their hatches to manually remove an expended missile container from the external launcher and replace it with a new one. This could be done under armour protection thanks to an innovative missile mounting system, but it still forced either the gunner or commander to lose overhead protection with the opening of their hatch and also depressurize the vehicle and breach its hermetic seal, thus exposing all of the occupants to an NBC-contaminated environment. The American M2 Bradley was unique, but not more sophisticated in this regard even though it had two ATGMs ready to be fired in its launch pod rather than just one. This is because it still had to be loaded manually by a passenger and it could only be done from the roof hatch of the passenger's compartment. Still, the BMP-2 and M2 Bradley were certainly more sophisticated than the BMP-1P as the gunner had to exit his hatch in order to fire as well as to reload the ATGM launcher. This shortcoming was shared by foreign IFVs like the German Marder 1, the British FV510 Warrior and the French AMX-10P, and it was brought about by the use of the least costly and most expedient solution of simply mounting an existing man-portable launcher on the turret roof.

In the BMP-3, the use of a gun-launched ATGM system instead an external launcher gave it the ability to maintain its pressurization and thus remain sealed from an NBC-contaminated environment during the reloading process while having a larger supply of ATGMs than a comparable vehicle with external launchers. The loading of ATGMs was primarily the responsibility of the gunner but depending on the BMP-3 model, it may be done using an assisted manual loading system with the participation of the commander and a passenger, or it may be done by a full autoloader system.

All BMP-3 models with the original turret had three missiles stowed in the turret basket behind the gunner's seat backrest. Besides that, all BMP-3 models carried five additional missiles stowed in a rack on the port side of the vehicle hull as a reserve supply.

In practice, the turret ready racks are generally replenished from these hull racks by the passengers, although the gunner can do this independently of the passengers as well. Needless to say, the abundance of ammunition stowed in the open is somewhat troubling, although it is by no means unique to the BMP-3.


In the original BMP-3 model, known internally under the product code of Object 688-sb.6, the loading of ATGMs was done manually but the convenience of the process was enhanced by a special loading mechanism. It is described as such in practically all publicly available sources but with varying levels of specificity. In page 30 of the book "Боевые машины пехоты БМП-1, БМП-2 и БМП-3" (Infantry Fighting Vehicles BMP-1, BMP-2 and BMP-3), Sergey Suvorov writes that the loading of missiles was carried out manually with a ramming mechanism. Aleksandr Kurochkin simply writes in "Famous BMP-3: New Capabilities" that prior to the introduction of an autoloader, a passenger assisted the gunner to load the ATGMs quickly.

The most detailed description is given in the study "Soviet/Russian Armor and Artillery Design Practices: 1945-1995", published in September 1996, where it is written in page 111-50 that the three ready rounds stowed in the turret basket are lifted to face the gun breech by a special rammer, but this rammer does not push the round entirely into the breech and the gunner or commander must push it in the remainder of the way. The study was sponsored by the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity (MCIA) and was written using unclassified and other public domain sources available at the time.

In the report "Комплекс Вооружения БМП-3" (Weapons Complex of the BMP-3) by S. M. Berezin et al., published in the May 1991 issue of "Вестник бронетанковой техники", a manual ramming mechanism from the stowage racks is mentioned as part of the weapons complex and a mechanical ATGM rammer is listed in the weapons complex structure diagram, shown below. The ammunition rack is marked (УП) and the ramming mechanism is marked as (МДП). In the diagram, the components of electrically powered systems in the weapons complex are placed inside boxes with dotted borders, whereas unpowered systems are not. As the diagram shows, the ramming mechanism for ATGMs is not powered.

The training poster on the left contains a small graphic in a yellow box showing the loading steps of the ATGM loading mechanism. In the training poster on the right, the ramming mechanism is marked as (76) and the turret ready racks are marked as (77). This is a basic BMP-3 and not a BMP-3M model with an autoloader, as the vehicle depicted in the poster is stated to have a 1V539 ballistic computer, a UTD-29T engine, a 1K13-2 sight, and many other features that are characteristic of a basic BMP-3.

As mentioned before, there were three missiles stowed behind the gunner's seat in a special ready rack. Of the three, two of these missile were stowed with their bases fitted into cups on the turret floor and the tips were secured with tension straps at the turret ring. The first missile in sequence is not placed in a cup but on the ramming mechanism. The image below shows the missile tray of the ramming mechanism in clear view.

Before a missile is loaded, the gunner selects the ATGM loading mode on his PL-088 console. This prompts the autoloader to raise the elevator mechanism up to the turret ceiling to clear the space behind the 2A70 cannon. It also causes the cannon to elevate to a predetermined elevation angle in order to facilitate the loading process. The independent stabilization of the 1K13-2 sight allows the gunner to maintain visual contact with a target or even continue to guide a missile towards a target if one had been fired beforehand.

The loading process itself is illustrated in the diagram below. From left to right, it is shown that the first missile in the loading mechanism is held in the missile tray and when the loading process begins, the tray is swung around until it is behind the 2A70 cannon. The tray is then tilted forwards until the missile is aligned with the bore axis of the cannon, and then the tray itself is rammed forward by a passenger standing behind the turret until the front end of the tray reaches up to the breech housing of the 2A70 cannon. At this point, the base of the missile is within the reach of the turret occupants, so either the gunner or commander can take over from the passenger to ram the missile all the way into the cannon. If the gunner is busy guiding the previous ATGM, then it will be done by the commander. Once loaded, the ramming mechanism is returned to its original position by carrying out the process in reverse.

Due to the lack of powered actuators in this mechanism, all of the actions must be done manually. The GIF below shows the loading process, albeit with somewhat disjointed editing.

Once the first missile is loaded, a passenger has to manually transfer another missile from the ready rack to the tray so that it can be loaded immediately after the first missile is fired. Overall, the gunner does not need to exert himself during the loading process at all. The extent of his involvement can be easily limited to simply pressing a button to start the loading process. However, it is possible for the gunner to carry out the entire loading process independently from his seat although it is not convenient and quite fatiguing as it is quite awkward for him to reach behind his seat backrest. Nevertheless, it could be considered a point of redundancy that may prove useful if the BMP-3 must fire missiles after the passengers have dismounted. As a rule, however, the passengers should still be inside the vehicle if the missiles are being used at normal engagement ranges which can vary from anywhere between 1 km to 4 km. At such ranges, the passengers do not contribute any combat value to a battle because their weapons lack sufficient range.

It is not possible to estimate the loading speed based on video footage, but even so, it is understood that the mechanism makes it relatively easy to load the ATGMs as there was no need to manhandle each 22 kg missile. The combat rate of fire of ATGMs in the original BMP-3 is reported to be 2-3 shots per minute. Given that the ready rack holds only three missiles, it is evidently possible for the BMP-3 to empty out the ready racks within a minute.

It was possible to load a new missile into the 2A70 even while the previous missile was still airborne thanks to the laser beam-riding guidance system. Wire-guided missile systems usually have the wire spool stored inside the missile container itself, and as such, it would not be possible for these systems to have the previous container replaced before the missile reached its target. The rate of fire was therefore determined by the loading speed in addition to the time taken for the missile to reach its target. This technological handicap affected practically all wire-guided missile systems. Thanks to the ability of the BMP-3 to load a new missile before the previous missile reaches its target, the rate of fire was increased compared to other single-shot ATGM systems.


In some examples, the BMP-3 may not have a ramming mechanism installed. They can be only be identified as such from inside, where it is possible to visually determine if the mechanism is present or not. It is unclear why these vehicles lack the ramming mechanism and the loading process is not documented in any documents available in the public domain.

In such vehicles, all three missiles in the ready racks are placed on a base cup and secured by a tension strap at the turret ring. The autoloader carousel lock mechanism is installed next to the base cup closest to the autoloader elevator.

The two image below show different perspectives on the turret basket with this ready rack configuration. The image on the right gives a closer look at the base cups.

The image below, taken from this video uploaded by the TV Zvezda channel, shows a BMP-3 turret loaded with three missile mock ups in the ready racks. This particular example is a modernized BMP-3 with a Sodema thermal imaging sight undergoing factory tests at a firing range before delivery to the troops.


Suvorov writes in his article "Королева Пехоты в Аравийской Пустыне", published in the January 2001 issue of Tankomaster magazine, and in his book "Боевые машины пехоты БМП-1, БМП-2 и БМП-3", that Former Deputy Director General of Kurganmashzavod Vladimir Mikhailovich Aksentiev was developing a loading mechanism for ATGMs for the BMP-3 in 1990-1991. A prototype autoloader was made, but its shortcomings did not allow it to be implemented in serially produced vehicles. Nevertheless, it galvanized further efforts at Kurganmashzavod, leading to the implementation an ATGM autoloader for the BMP-3 in the late 1990's. According to Suvorov, the first public reveal of this system was in 1999 in the IDEX '99 arms expo at Abu Dhabi. It was advertised as part of the BMP-3M modernization package and one of the main advantages of this system was that it could be retrofitted to existing turrets as it did not occupy any additional space and required no major modifications.

Like the earlier system, the autoloader has a capacity of three missiles but they are held in the conveyor rather than in fixed racks. The loading process was fully automatic, requiring the gunner to do nothing more than to press a button.

The first missile in the conveyor is held by the loading mechanism which consists of a long tray with an integrated electric rammer. The motor for the ramming mechanism is located at the tip of the tray. The entire system is rather elegant as it functions using only two electric motors to carry out the entire loading process. The rammer uses one motor in its compact mechanism, and it pushes the missile into the breech of the 2A70 cannon in two strokes, presumably due to space constraints. The other motor is installed near the turret ceiling and it is used to pivot the loading tray into position behind the 2A70 and to lower it until it aligns with the bore axis of the cannon.

When loading, the autoloader elevator for the conventional rounds is raised to the turret roof and the 2A70 cannon is automatically elevated to a fixed angle. Then, the loading mechanism is swung into alignment with the longitudinal axis of the 2A70 by its electric motor. The mechanism lowers the loading tray into position behind the breech via a cam, and the missile is rammed into battery by the integrated rammer. The missile conveyor automatically shifts the remaining two missiles forward during this part of the process. Once the missile is loaded, the loading tray is raised to its original position by the reverse drive of the loading mechanism motor and the mechanism is swung back towards the missile conveyor, latching onto the next missile in sequence. The two videos below show the loading process from two vantage points.

As there are no official figures for the loading speed of this autoloader, it can only be determined using these two videos but only the video on the right shows the complete loading cycle. From that video, it appears that the loading cycle takes 13 seconds to complete. The official maximum rate of fire is 4 shots per minute and the practical rate of fire is 2 to 3 shots per minute.

Only one missile may be airborne at any one time as the gunner's sight only has a single guidance channel, but since there is no restriction on loading a new missile while the previous missile is still en route to the target, a new missile can be loaded as soon as the last one has been fired. Given that the flight time of a 9M117 missile to its maximum distance of 5 km is 16.8 seconds, the loading time does not exceed the flight time in long range engagements. At short to medium ranges, however, the missile can reach its target in less than 13 seconds, in which case the autoloader limits the rate of fire to no more than 4 rounds per minute, or rather, 4 rounds in the first 52 seconds. With one missile already loaded in the 2A70, it is possible to fire five missiles in one minute at medium ranges. This requires the participation of the passengers who must replenish the autoloader conveyor with missiles from the reserve rack. Because the passengers do not dismount until the enemy forces are within range of their weapons, it is quite practical for the BMP-3 to rely on the passengers for this task.

This theoretical rate of fire exceeds that of the BMP-2 and BMP-1P by a large margin as those can only fire two missiles per minute at the most. It rivals the M2 Bradley and can exceed it by a considerable margin when firing at targets from their respective maximum ranges, assuming that the BMP-3 begins with a missile already loaded in the 2A70 gun to match the Bradley having two missiles ready to fire in its launch pod. This is partly due to the wire-guided nature of the TOW missile system and partly due to the longer time of flight of all TOW missile models despite their much shorter maximum ranges. The TOW-2A, for example, has a maximum range of just 3.75 km and it reaches this distance in 20.1 seconds, so the firing of both missiles in the Bradley's launch pod against a target at this maximum range already consumes a little more than 40 seconds. Moreover, the loading drill for the TOW launch pod on the Bradley takes around 90 seconds, during which the turret must be in the proper loading position with the launcher elevated by 500 mils (28.125 degrees). The 25mm autocannon is unusable during this time as it is also fixed at the same elevation angle. Being able to achieve four shots a minute when firing at a maximum range of 5 km, the BMP-3 has more than twice the rate of fire of the Bradley in the first minute and the difference only expands as the engagement period increases. The Bradley takes 6 minutes (360 seconds) to expend its entire load of 7 missiles when firing at its maximum range, whereas the BMP-3 takes just over 2 minutes (134 seconds) to expend its load of 8 missiles when firing at its maximum range.

The sole advantage of the Bradley is when only a single target has to be engaged at short range. This is because having two ready-to-fire missiles in a launch pod gives the Bradley the capability to fire two missiles at a target in quick succession to ensure a higher probability of kill. For instance, at a range of 1 km, the flight time of an I-TOW or a TOW-2A is only 5 seconds so it is possible for two missiles to hit a tank at this distance in 10 seconds. During this time, the first missile from a BMP-3 will have hit its target as well but the second would not be ready to fire yet. After firing its two missiles, the Bradley can be reversed to a turret defilade position for the long reload that follows.

100mm Ammunition



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 to some degree.

Muzzle velocity: 250 m/s
Firing range: 4,000 m (Direct)
Maximum firing distance: 8,000 m (Indirect)

Chamber Pressure:
At 15 degrees (C) ambient Temperature: 1870 kgf/
At 50 degrees (C) ambient Temperature: 2200 kgf/

Fuze: 3B35 Impact Fuze

Complete round mass: 18.1 kg
Shell mass: 15.6 kg
Explosive mass: 1.7 kg

Number of Preformed Fragments and Their Mass:
With a mass of not less than 0.5 g: 1,993
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% - 1,040 m/s
90% - 1,060 m/s
80% - 1,080 m/s

Nominal kill zone: 200 sq.m 

3OF32 was the heaviest shell available for the BMP-3, but it was not necessarily the most effective. 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 optimal as the high thickness of the shell walls was needed to withstand launch from the high velocity D10 and BS-3 guns.


Muzzle velocity: 355 m/s
Effective firing range: 6,500 m (Direct)
Maximum firing distance: 8,000 m (Indirect)
Fuze: 3B35 Impact Fuze
Complete round mass: 15.8 kg
Shell mass: 13.41 kg

Number of preformed fragments (mass of not less than 0.5 g): 3,393
Average velocity of fragments: 1,420 m/s
Average mass of fragments: 2.73 g

Nominal kill area: 360 sq.m

This shell was launched at a higher muzzle velocity than its predecessor and has a greatly improved design, enabling it to produce more fragments.

Butterfly fragmentation pattern. N=number of fragments, S=area


3UOF19-1 replaces the conventional point-detonating fuse of the 3UOF19 with a proximity fuse. The new 9E154 fuse is designed to detonate the shell at an altitude of around 3 meters above the ground, enabling it to defeat targets located behind cover or entrenched in foxholes or reinforced trenches. Thanks to the large casualty area produced by the airbursting effect, it is particularly useful when engaging hidden problematic targets such as ATGM teams or snipers. It becomes somewhat useless against IFVs, however, as the fragments are not nearly heavy enough to defeat even the thinnest roof armour, seeing as most IFVs are designed to withstand 155mm artillery air burst fragments. The proximity fuse also gives this shell the ability to engage moving aerial targets, as a direct hit is no longer necessary to achieve the desired effect.

Muzzle velocity: 355 m/s
Firing range: 6,500m (Direct)
Maximum firing distance: 8,000 m (Indirect)
Fuze: 9E154 Proximity Fuze
Complete round mass: 15.7 kg
Shell mass: 13.31 kg
Detonation altitude: 3 m ± 1.5 m

Number of preformed fragments (mass of not less than 0.5 g): 3,393
Average velocity of fragments: 1,420 m/s
Average mass of fragments: 2.73 g

Casualty area: 600 sq.m

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.

Propellant charge (All the above shells use this charge)


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 50 m at that range. Therefore, 3UOF19/-1 shells should have a CEP of 22.36m at 4,000 m, 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 4,000 m 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.


Like all preceding BMPs of the Soviet Army, the BMP-3 had the capability to launch anti-tank guided missiles, but instead of having an external launcher with self-container missile containers, the vehicle capitalized on the 100mm caliber of the 2A70 cannon to incorporate the existing 9M117 missile that had previously been successfully used in 100mm and 115mm bore guns. The missile system works on the principle of laser beam riding guidance. This guidance principle has merits of its own, but one of the most important features is that it did not require a wire to transmit flight commands as that was incompatible with the gun-launcher concept. The three ATGMs available for the BMP-3 are:

  1. 3UBK10-3 "Basnya" cartridge with the 9M117 missile
  2. 3UBK10M-3 "Kan" cartridge with the 9M117M missile
  3. 3UBK23-3 "Arkan" cartridge with the 9M117M1 missile

The fire control system of the BMP-3 permits the gunner to fire and guide missiles while on the move at speeds of up to 25 km/h without any degradation in the probability of hit on tank-sized targets at all ranges. The BMP-3 can fire its missiles at an elevation angle of 28 degrees and a depression angle of -6 degrees when the turret is facing the front or sides, or at an elevation angle of 32 degrees to 2 degrees when the turret is over the rear of the hull. This range of elevation is sufficient to allow the vehicle to engage ground targets located at a higher elevation or even engage hovering and slow-moving aircraft such as helicopters. 

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 claimed probability of hit of 80% at their maximum ranges.
All three missiles have an optical laser beam receiver at the rear. Flight control is achieved using four canard fins.

The missile will fly at least 3.5 meters over the ground, give or take 0.35 meters, 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 colliding with bushes or other terrain features, which may disturb the missile's flight or even prematurely detonate it.

3UBK10-3 "Basnya"


The missile has an impressive maximum range of 4,000 meters and a rather high cruising speed. This enabled the BMP-3 to retain the same maximum range as the BMP-2 despite the smaller caliber of the 9M117 missile compared to the 9M113 "Konkurs".

The 9M117 missile has a single-charge warhead. It employs a hemispherical wave shaper, which improves the integrity of the cumulative jet by focusing the explosive power of the warhead charge more efficiently. The diameter of the shaped charge warhead is slightly less than 100mm. It is smaller than the 112mm shaped charge of the 9M113 missile and cannot achieve a similar penetration performance. Nevertheless, the large standoff distance built into the missile design enabled the 100mm missile to achieve a much higher penetration power than conventional high velocity HEAT shells of the same caliber like the 3BK17M fired from the D-10T.

The missile uses the 9E256 graze-sensitive fuse.

Explosive Charge: OKFOL

Penetration: 550mm RHA

With a penetration power of 550mm RHA, this missile was essentially outdated when was introduced for the BMP-3 because of the widespread adoption of composite and reactive armour on NATO tanks at the time. This practically ensured their immunity to single shaped charge warheads of this caliber in a standard frontal arc of 60 degrees. Based on recent data on the performance of Abrams and Leopard 2 tanks in Syria, it can be surmised that the 9M117 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.

3UBK10M-3 "Kan"


The 9M117M "Kan" missile was developed in response to the anticipated appearance of ERA on foreign tanks at the very end of the 1980's, at the turn of the decade. It has a tandem warhead that functions by detonating the ERA before the main charge is initiated, which also makes it more suitable for defeating composite armour. The 9M117M was developed by adding a precursor warhead to the nose of the 9M117 missile, with the accompanying modifications to the fuzing system and canard control fins to accommodate it. "Kan" successfully passed state trials and entered service only in 1993.

The missile is currently useful against the side profile of modern tanks and against modern IFVs protected by ERA, such as the BUSK package for the M2A3 Bradley.

Explosive Charge: OKFOL

Primary Charge Penetration (after ERA): 550mm RHA


The coaxial PKTM machine gun is sighted through the gunner's sights or the commander's anti-aircraft sight. The PKTM is mainly distinguished from the earlier PKT by the smooth barrel as opposed to the fluted barrel of the PKT. Internally, the PKTM and the PKT differ in the same way that the basic PK and PKM models differ. When the PKM replaced the PK on the production lines in 1969, the production of the original PKT also halted. By the time the BMP-3 entered service at the end of the Cold War, the PKTM had been established as the standard model. 7BZ-3 API (armour-piercing incendiary) rounds with the B-32 bullet and 7T2 API-T (armour-piercing incendiary tracer) rounds with the T-46 bullet are linked in a 4:1 ratio. The machine gun has a cyclic rate of fire of 700 to 800 rounds per minute. A 250-round box of 7.62x54mmR ammunition is provided in a continuous belt. The co-axial machine gun can be fired either by depressing the trigger button on the gunner's handgrips, or by pressing the emergecy manual trigger button located on the trigger unit installed at the back the receiver of the machine gun.

Aside from the main armament and the co-axial machine gun, the BMP-3 also mounts two PKTM bow machine guns, each with 2,000 rounds in a continuous belt. The machine guns are aimed through a single TNPZVE01-01 periscope-aiming device which has a collimator reticle projected on the viewing aperture through a fiber optic cable. The periscope itself thus becomes a gunsight, with a moving luminous reticle which moves as the PKT moves.

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.

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.

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


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

Passenger periscopes

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.

Photo by Sergey Suvorov

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 weapon systems. These issues were solved before March 1988. Of particular interest was the 2A70 gun loading system, which had a failure rate of 1.5 malfunctions per 1,000 rounds fired, which was reduced to 1.3, then to 1.12. The 2A72 had a failure rate of 1 failure per 1000 rounds fired, was reduced to 0.62, then to 0.5. The issues with the 2A72 were also related to the loading mechanisms.

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 1,500 m. When fired at with the 100mm HE-Frag 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 HE-Frag round would be lethal even to most of the late Cold War era IFVs, which have far less protection than a tank. In a promotional video produced by KBP of Tula (the manufacturers of the 2A70 gun and its ammunition) showcasing the BMP-3M, it is claimed that the 100mm HE-Frag shell fired from a BMP-3 can destroy a lightly armoured vehicle with a high probability on 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 enemy infantry platoon, from a distance of 3,500 meters. 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 firing range by an additional 1,800-2,500 meters during 2A70 gunnery training, and by 1,500-2,000 meters during 2A72 gunnery training. A new platoon firing exercise was also formulated whereby BMP-3 gunners had to fire at targets from 3,000-3,500m. 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 HE-Frag 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.


The BMP-3 reaches the same level of all-round protection as its predecessors but distinguishes itself with its improved protection from artillery splinters along its side and rear projections, and also by its greatly enhanced frontal protection thanks to the use of spaced armour and the inclusion of a self-sealing fuel tank at the nose of its hull as part of the protection scheme. Thanks to this combination of technical solutions, the front armour of the BMP-3 was arguably the best out of all IFVs in its weight class, achieving a level of protection that is only reached by vehicles weighing up to 30 tons. It should be noted that during the selection process for the successor to the BMP-2, the existence of 20mm and 25mm APDS ammunition was acknowledged as a crucial factor. This factor directly led to Kurganmashzavod suggesting to base the new IFV on the light tank chassis of Objekt 685 for its high protection during the development of the successor to the BMP-2 in the early 1980's.

The aluminium used for the BMP-3 hull and turret structures is ABT-102. The "ABT" (АБТ) designation is an acronym for "Алюминиевой Брони Танк", or "Aluminium Tank Armour". It was used for experimental light tanks, including the Object 685 which was used as the basis for the BMP-3 hull. ABT-102 is an Al-Zn-Mg alloy with a maximum strength of 450-500 MPa and a density of 2,850 kg/cu.m. Due to the high alloying, the density of ABT-102 exceeds the density of common alloys like the ubiquitous 5083 alloy which reaches 2,660 kg/cu.m. According to several research papers written on the subject, the thickness efficiency of aluminium armour may reach up to 50% of steel against steel-cored large caliber armour-piercing bullets such as .50 caliber M2 AP or the Soviet 12.7mm B-32, and ABT-102 was found to outperform RHA steel against APDS shells with tungsten carbide cores and APDS shells with tungsten alloy cores at high obliquity impacts.

ABT-102 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. The graph below, taken from an NII Stali booklet, shows a comparison of 5083 alloy, AMG-6 alloy, 7039 alloy, ABT-101 and ABT-102 in terms of their effectiveness at resisting armour-piercing bullets. ABT-102 is classified as not only being a bullet-resisting alloy, but also a shell-resisting alloy in reference to autocannon fire.

The creation of ABT-102 was accomplished on the basis of the ABT-101 alloy that was developed from 1962 to 1965. ABT-101 was used to construct the hulls of light IFVs like the BMD-1 and BMD-2, and it was also used for the engine access panel of the BMP-1 and BMP-2 that were otherwise entirely built from high hardness steel. A research paper by NII Stali has indicated that the thickness efficiency of the ABT-101 alloy can reach up to 45% of steel against large caliber armour-piercing bullets. The improved ABT-102 alloy should have a better thickness efficiency, but the magnitude of the improvement is still largely unknown.

The steel used in the spaced and applique armour over the front of the vehicle is BT-70Sh high hardness steel manufactured using electroslag remelting (ESR) technology. It has a hardness of 534 BHN and a maximum strength of around 1,900 to 2,000 MPa when processed to the thickness of the plates used on the BMP-3. The density of BT-70Sh is 7,850 kg/cu.m.

With a combat weight of 18.7 tons, the BMP-3 was heavier than the BMP-2 but it was considerably lighter than the M2A1 Bradley which weighed 22.8 tons combat loaded and much lighter than the Marder 1A2 which weighed 29 tons combat loaded, but it achieved a level of frontal protection similar to the M2A2 Bradley (1988) that weighed 27 tons and the Marder 1A3 (1988) that weighed 35 tons, losing out only in side protection. The Marder 1A3 was built to withstand 30mm APDS shells as a response to the appearance of the 30mm 2A42 autocannon on the BMP-2, and used spaced armour to achieve this.

However, its vastly greater weight does not necessary imply an equally vastly superior level of frontal protection. The protection scheme of the basic Marder 1 was only equivalent to the BMP-1, and in fact, its side armour was actually weaker than that of the BMP-1. However, even the basic model weighed 29 tons combat loaded. Moreover, some of the surplus weight of the Marder 1 comes not from thicker armour, but from its steel construction. The BMP-3 and Bradley were both built from aluminium rather than steel, and because of the large thicknesses of the plates used to construct the hull, it was possible to omit the structural supports that are necessary for a typical thinly armoured steel hull and instead use a monocoque design. This can reduce the weight of the hull by up to 20%. In practice, the BMP-3 managed to achieve a weight reduction of only 10% because reinforcement were still needed for the thin belly of the hull and support beams were needed to support the weight of the turret.

The front of the BMP-3 hull can be divided into three sections. There is a highly oblique upper glacis, a midsection, and a lower glacis. The upper glacis occupies a quarter of the total height of the hull, the midsection occupies another quarter, and the remaining half is occupied by the lower glacis. The upper glacis is a homogeneous aluminium plate. The midsection of the hull is composed of a thick aluminium base reinforced with a high hardness steel appliqué plate and augmented with a spaced high hardness steel wave breaker plate. The lower glacis armour consists of the same thick aluminium base armour as the midsection and is reinforced with a spaced dozer blade made from high hardness steel, but lacks the appliqué plate found on the midsection. The lower edge of the wave breaker overlaps with the upper edge of the dozer blade, so it is only possible to deploy the dozer blade after the wave breaker is extended.

Behind the entire front hull armour is the BMP-3's self-sealing fuel tank which is not only the vehicle's sole fuel container, but also acts as a spall liner or even as additional armour. Overall, the protection of the BMP-3 is 1.7 times higher compared to the BMP-2 and BMP-1 and it also achieves a higher weight efficiency.

According to the article "Особенности Корпуса и Башни БМП-3" (Features of the BMP-3 hull and turret) by O. A. Gomyrin and A. Ya. Shumilov, published in the May 1991 issue of "Вестник бронетанковой техники", the armour thickness of the BMP-3 are as follows:

1. Upper glacis, 18mm of ABT-102
2. Hull cheeks, 60mm of ABT-102
3. Turret front, 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 (actual thickness: 43mm)
8. Hull belly, 10mm of AMG-6
9. Hull sponsons, 43mm of ABT-102
10. Underside of sponsons, 15mm of ABT-102
11. Lower hull sides, 43mm of ABT-102
12. Lower glacis, 10mm BT-70Sh, 70mm air space, 60mm ABT-102
13. Front hull midsection, 10mm BT-70Sh, 70mm air space, 12mm BT-70Sh, 60mm ABT-102

The frontal armour of the BMP-3 is reportedly proofed against 30mm armour-piercing shells from a distance of 200 meters in its frontal arc. It is assumed that the 3UBR6 steel AP-T rounds was used as the reference threat, but APDS rounds of a smaller caliber can be defeated as well. Based on an examination of the armour of the BMP-3, it is clear that even though the front armour of the hull reaches a high standard of protection, the hull does not have a uniform level of protection across its frontal arc of 60 degrees due to the relatively thin side armour which is borderline vulnerable to 23mm BZT shells (API-T) from 100 meters from a side angle of 30 degrees. Only the turret can guarantee protection from not only 23mm API-T but also 30mm AP-T shells in a frontal arc of such size.

The study "Исследование Броневых Преград Для Легкой БТТ" by Yu. I. Belkin et al., published in the April 1983 issue of "Вестник бронетанковой техники", shows that the efficiency of the multilayered spaced armour of the BMP-3 greatly exceeded that of homogeneous medium hardness steel (RHA) against tungsten-cored APDS shells. The relevant passage is shown below:

"В результате совместных исследований НИИ и КБ были разработаны оптимальные структуры комбинированной брони. При разработке этих схем были учтены особенности воздействия имитаторов зарубежных бронебойных подкалиберных снарядов. Обстрел образцов такой брони показал, что в сравнении с монолитной стальной броней средней твердости они дают уменьшение массы преграды на 20…50 %."


"As a result of joint research by research institutes and design bureaus, optimal composite armour structures were developed. When developing these schemes, the characteristic effects of simulators of foreign armour-piercing subcaliber shells were taken into account. The shelling of samples of such armour showed that, in comparison with monolithic steel armor of medium hardness, they reduce the mass of the armour by 20-50%."

In other words, the mass efficiency of the spaced armour is 20-50% higher than rolled homogeneous armour against APDS shells of autocannons. This will be useful for evaluating the effectiveness of the vehicle's armour against APDS shells as it is easy to determine the areal density of the various armoured zones of the BMP-3.

Alone, ABT-102 aluminium plates have a higher mass efficiency coefficient than 2P high hardness steel at all angles against armour-piercing shells for autocannons. This is illustrated in the graph below, taken from the study "Разработка Комбинированных Титан-Алюминиевых Башен", which shows the necessary thickness to guarantee invulnerability from 23mm BZT shells (AP-I) from a distance of 100 meters. The thicknesses of the materials shown in the graph are normalized along the x-axis to have an equivalent weight. For example, 23.2mm of 2P high hardness steel has a density of 7.85 g/cc, and this thickness has an equivalent weight to 40mm of VT6 titanium alloy (density of 4.55 g/cc) and to 64mm of ABT-101 or ABT-102 aluminium alloy (density of 2.85 g/cc).

It is obvious from the curves that both VT6 titanium alloy and ABT-101/102 aluminium alloy outperform 2P high hardness steel at all angles of attack, although the difference is not shown for angles smaller than 28 degrees. When the armour obliquity increases to around 50-65 degrees, there is a minor - almost negligible - difference in mass efficiency between VT6 and ABT-101/102 in favour of VT6. At an obliquity of 30 degrees, around 29.7mm of high hardness steel is required to stop a 23mm BZT shell at a distance of 100 meters, but 73mm of ABT-101/102 aluminium alloy is required. This thickness of aluminium alloy plate is only equivalent in weight to a 26.5mm plate of steel armour, so it is able to achieve the same level of protection with only 89.2% of the mass, meaning that it has a mass efficiency coefficient of 1.12. In other words, it has 12% higher mass efficiency than 2P high hardness steel.

As the armour obliquity increases, the mass efficiency of aluminium alloy armour gradually increases as well. At 50 degrees, 24.75mm of high hardness steel is required to stop the 23mm BZT shell and 59mm of ABT-101/102 is required. This translates to a mass efficiency coefficient of 1.155, so the aluminium alloy armour has a 15.5% higher mass efficiency.

These results against 23mm BZT shells are also representative of 30mm BT (AP-T) shells as the design is very similar.


The midsection of the hull occupies a quarter of the total height of the hull structure. It is sloped at 30 degrees, which greatly enhances its protection as compared to a flat armour array, but not as much as compared to a more oblique armour array. This made it necessary to add a 12mm high hardness steel plate on top of the aluminium base armour. This appliqué armour plate is shown in the photos below:

Knowing the densities of ABT-102 and BT-70Sh and the known thicknesses of armour, calculating the areal density of this zone is very straightforward. The steel components of the armour array add up to a total thickness of 22mm and are equivalent in weight to 22mm of RHA steel, whereas the 60mm of aluminium alloy armour is equivalent to only 21.8mm of RHA steel. All together, the armour is equivalent to a 43.8mm RHA steel plate in weight. Taking into account the armour slope of 30 degrees, the effective weight of the armour is equivalent to 50.6mm of RHA steel. The areal density is 397 kg/sq.m. Given a 1.5 mass efficiency coefficient, a high end estimate of its protection value indicates that this part of the hull has an effective thickness equal to 75.9mm of RHA. Using a 1.2 mass efficiency coefficient indicates that the effective thickness is only equivalent to 60.7mm of RHA.

Interestingly, the front hull protection may be increased further by simply extending the wave breaker, creating even more spaced distance. The wave breaker is extended 480mm away and slightly raised when activated, thus increasing the air gap in front of the hull to 550mm with an effective air gap size of 635mm. Because the wave breaker is slightly taller than the midsection of the front hull, it does not leave gaps in the front armour when it is extended. The main disadvantage of leaving the wave breaker extended when not swimming is the increased overhang of the hull and the reduced driver visibility because of the large dead zone it creates.

Like the midsection plate, the lower glacis features the same base aluminium armour thickness of 60mm but it is set at a higher obliquity of 50 degrees. There is no wave breaker here, but there is a dozer blade of the same thickness made from the same high hardness, high strength BT-70Sh steel as the wave breaker. The dozer blade is spaced from the main armour by 70mm. The additional slope of the lower glacis enhances its protection from ballistic threats, so it did not require an steel appliqué armour plate on top of its aluminium base. A BMP-3 belonging to the 3rd Armor Brigade of the ROK is seen in the photo below with the dozer blade deployed and the wave breaker extended. To deploy the dozer blade, the wave breaker must first be extended.

As before, the areal density of the lower glacis is easily calculated. Adding up the aluminium base armour with the dozer blade, it turns out that the weight of the armour is equivalent to just 31.8mm of RHA steel plate. However, the greater angle of slope increases the effective weight of the armour is equivalent to 49.4mm of RHA steel. In other words, it is only negligibly lighter than the hull midsection armour. A high end estimate of its protection value using a 1.5 mass efficiency coefficient indicates that this part of the hull has an effective thickness equal to 74.1mm of RHA. Using a 1.2 mass efficiency coefficient indicates that the effective thickness is only equivalent to 59.3mm of RHA.

Alone, the 60mm plate of ABT-102 armour is already sufficient to guarantee total invulnerability from 23mm BZT shells fired from a distance of 100 meters. Moreover, the aluminium plate is equivalent to 33.9mm of armour steel by mass, but because it is 15.5% more mass efficient than high hardness steel against armour-piercing shells at its structural obliquity of 50 degrees, it is actually equivalent to a line-of-sight thickness of 39.1mm of 2P high hardness steel. This is already superior to the lower glacis of the BMP-1 which was constructed from a 19mm plate of 2P steel armour set at 57 degrees, giving an line-of-sight thickness of 34.9mm of 2P high hardness steel.

When the contribution of the high hardness steel dozer blade is taken into consideration, the gap between the BMP-3 and its predecessor in armour protection at this part of the hull expands even further.

The upper glacis is sloped at 80 degrees, and thanks to its high obliquity, practically all autocannon shells will either ricochet or fail to defeat the armour due to extreme deflection. With a physical thickness of 18mm, the obliquity of 80 degrees raises the LOS thickness of the upper glacis to 103.6mm. In terms of weight, the upper glacis is equivalent to a 6.5mm RHA steel plate sloped at 80 degrees.

Only long rod projectiles with a heavy metal penetrator can defeat this part of the hull, but even this type of ammunition may have issues on account of the high LOS thickness of armour present. Soviet studies determined that when the armour requires an obliquity of 70 degrees and above, homogeneous ABT-102 plate was more efficient than both homogeneous RHA steel plate and spaced steel armour of the same areal density.

All together, the entire front of the hull is uniformly armoured. However, due to the shape of the fuel tank behind the front hull armour, the actual protection value differs across the height of the hull, peaking at the midsection where the fuel tank reaches its maximum thickness. The contribution of the fuel tank towards the protection of the vehicle is examined later.

The turret ring is recessed into the hull and is additionally protected by thick armoured collars. The first collar surrounds the entire turret ring and the front half of the turret ring is protected by another armoured collar, as shown in the photo below. The first collar surrounds the base of the aluminium turret and the second collar is hidden behind the spaced steel turret shields. When attacking the turret ring of the BMP-3 in its frontal arc, projectiles must first pierce the spaced steel shield of the turret before contending with the double collars, and behind that is the base aluminium armour of the turret itself. As such, the possibility of the turret ring being hit and subsequently being jammed is very small as the combined thickness of the steel shield, collars, and base turret armour is extremely high.

The entire rear armour of the hull, including the doors, has a thickness of 43mm. The sponsons on either side of the doors hold the accumulator batteries and coolant for the engine.

The side armour has a uniform thickness of 43mm across the entire length of the vehicle. This is sufficient for steel-cored armour-piercing 7.62mm machine gun fire at all distances from any angle and it is resistant to artillery fragments. The 43mm side armour weighs the same as a 15.6mm plate of BT-70Sh high hardness steel. By weight, this would make the side armour identical to the BMP-2, but due to the greater thickness efficiency of ABT-102 aluminium alloy, the armour is actually more effective.

The cheeks of the front hull projection underneath the bow machine guns join the side of the hull with the front. Like the upper glacis, they are sloped at 80 degrees or 10 degrees relative to the longitudinal axis of the hull, but they are much thicker. This is because they are not only exposed to fire from the direct front and their obliquity is reduced relative to the side hull armour against attacks from a side angle. As the drawing below shows, an attack from a side angle of 30 degrees would impact the side hull armour at an angle of 60 degrees, but the same projectile would impact the cheek armour at 50 degrees.

At a side angle of 30 degrees, the side hull armour reaches a line-of-sight (LOS) thickness of 86mm and the cheek armour reaches a LOS thickness of 93mm. The increased thickness of the cheek not only compensates for the reduction in line-of-sight (LOS) thickness that comes with a reduced impact angle, but also for the improved performance of AP and APDS shells at lower obliquity.

Referring again to the study "Разработка Комбинированных Титан-Алюминиевых Башен", the side armour of the BMP-3 was not entirely sufficient to stop 23mm BZT shells from a distance of 100 meters when the side angle of hull is 30 degrees. At this side angle, the impact angle of the shell is 60 degrees and 48mm of ABT-101/102 aluminium alloy plate is required to ensure total invulnerability (prevention of conditional defeat). However, the cheek armour with its higher thickness of 60mm and lower obliquity of 50 degrees is capable of doing so. For the side armour to ensure invulnerability from 23mm BZT shells at 100 meters, the impact angle must be 63-64 degrees.

The side armour provides protection against 30mm BT shells (3UBR6) from a range 300 meters at an impact angle of 68 degrees, or a side angle of 22 degrees. Thus, the frontal arc of protection is 44 degrees. Against steel armour piercing shells, a 43mm plate of ABT-102 is equivalent to a BT-70Sh plate with a thickness of 21mm, so in other words, it has a mass efficiency coefficient of around 1.35 against this type of threat. As mentioned before, the mass efficiency advantage of ABT-102 declines as the impact angle approaches normal.

From a 20-degree side angle relative to the axis of the hull, the side armour should be capable of resisting 25mm APDS rounds owing to the high angle of the side armour and the high LOS thickness (126mm). 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 use of very thick aluminium plates (60mm and 43mm) for the hull allowed a monocoque construction to be implemented because the armour itself has sufficient rigidity to act as load bearing structures, but the large weight of the turret necessitated the use of support columns around the turret ring. These columns can be seen in the two photos below. There are five in total. They connect the hull roof to longitudinal stiffening beams on the floor.

Nevertheless, the weight savings from the omission of structural supports inside the hull reportedly amounts to 10%.


The turret is also fabricated from welded ABT-102 aluminium alloy plates. The shape of the turret is identical to the BMP-2 turret. The aluminium roof is then welded onto the walls. The steel shield on the turret's frontal arc is made from BT-70Sh steel like the wave breaker, but it is thicker than the wave breaker for extra protection, which is needed due to the lack of a self-sealing fuel tank underneath the armour like on the hull. The spaced steel and aluminium combination should effectively render the turret virtually invulnerable against 20mm and 25mm APDS shells in a frontal attack, which comes naturally from the spaced plate due to the lack of an armour piercing cap on such shells, making it vulnerable to fracturing and fragmenting after passing through a high hardness, high strength spaced plate. The photos below show the naked turret, without any steel shields or bolt-on steel sheets on the roof.

The walls of the circular turret are constructed from four plates. The front half of the turret is composed of two curved 50mm aluminium plates that form the cheeks and a flat plate of the same thickness which forms the frame of the gun mantlet. The rear half of the turret is formed by a single 43mm aluminium plate curved into a semicircle. The front of the turret is vertically sloped at 45 degrees. If the turret is fired upon from the direct front, the circular shape of the turret introduces additional horizontal slope which improves the effectiveness of the spaced armour. However, when considering the frontal arc protection of the turret rather than its protection from the direct front, the circular shape of the turret means that projectiles from a side angle towards the center of the turret will impact the frontal turret armour at a perpendicular angle, leaving only the vertical slope to contribute towards the protection value of the armour.

The areal density of the turret cheeks with the spaced steel shields can be calculated. Adding up the aluminium base armour with the shield, the weight of the armour is equivalent to just 34.1mm of RHA steel plate. Together with the 45 degree obliquity of the armour, the effective weight is equivalent to 48.3mm of RHA steel. A high end estimate of its protection value using a 1.5 mass efficiency coefficient indicates that this part of the hull has an effective thickness equal to 72.5mm of RHA. Using a 1.2 mass efficiency coefficient indicates that the effective thickness is only equivalent to 58mm of RHA. If the low end estimate is used, the armour is equivalent to a 41mm RHA plate sloped at 45 degrees, making it dangerously vulnerable to the 30mm L14A2 shell for the RARDEN cannon as the penetration of that shell reportedly reaches 40mm RHA at 45 degrees at 1,500 meters. If the high end estimate is used, the armour is equivalent to a 51.1mm plate sloped at 45 degrees, in which case the L14A2 shell would struggle against the armour even at ranges of less than 500 meters.

Besides the shielded cheeks of the turret, a large part of the front turret projection is occupied by the gun mantlet which is quite wide as it also serves as the gun cradle that accommodates the BMP-3's unique combination of three coaxial weapons. The gun mantlet lacks the spaced armour shields of the frontal turret armour. As the photo below shows, the gun mantlet is a cylindrical structure of unknown composition that is designed to allow the weapons to reach a high elevation angle without exposing gaps in the turret. As it is cylindrical, it is reasonable to assume that it offers the same amount of armour protection regardless of the elevation angle of the weapons.

The armour protection value of the gun mantlet is unknown, but it should be noted that the diameter of the gun mantlet is very large. It easily exceeds the line-of-sight thickness of the spaced turret armour neighboring it. Whether it is a solid aluminium cylinder or a hollow tube is unknown, but due to its size, it is most likely hollow as it would otherwise be rather heavy. Even so, this implies that the mantlet itself can reach the same protection level as the rest of the frontal turret armour.

Besides the front, sides and rear armour of the turret, the roof is also exposed to direct fire and must be evaluated separately as it is not flat, but actually forms a shallow cone. The forward section of the roof ending behind the crew hatches is angled at 8 degrees from the horizontal plane, peaking at the center of the roof. The rear of the roof is canted back at 13 degrees. The transition between the two sections can be seen in the photo below. This was designed to provide room for gun depression and also to allow 100mm shell casings to be ejected out of the ejection port on the roof. Because the turret roof has a thickness of 18mm, the forward section is more resilient than the upper glacis of the hull due to its greater slope of 82 degrees (from the vertical axis).

Altogether, the frontal arc of the turret should be immune to 30mm AP-T shells from a distance of 300 meters, and the armour should also be resistant to 20mm and 25mm APDS rounds of the 1980's albeit at a greater distance. Like the front hull, a 30mm cannon with APFSDS ammunition is needed to reliably defeat the armour. The rear of the turret is as thick as the sides and rear of the hull so it is ostensibly only as resilient as those zones, but the rear of the turret gains additional protection from its curvature.

Early BMP-3s are often observed with a smooth hull and turret roof. Later on, additional high hardness steel armour plates were attached to the roof to augment protection from overhead fire. This kit was derived from a comprehensive armour modernization package offered for the BMP-3 by NII Stali during the 1990's. This package included a suit of ERA for the vehicle. The package was not accepted for service, but the additional roof armour was implemented to existing vehicles and all newly produced samples. The main purpose of this additional armour was to increase the protection of the BMP-3 from air bursting artillery shells, specifically 155mm shells which produces fragments that are capable of defeating a relatively large thickness of armour. However, it is clear that this additional armour also improves the protection of the vehicle from small arms fire coming from above, and there are a number of surfaces that are exposed to direct fire from the ground as well. This includes the roof of the hull sponsons, the upper glacis of the hull, and the roof of the turret.


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.


The fuel tank located immediately behind the front hull armour not only serves as the vehicle's only fuel container but also as an integral part of the protection scheme. It gives the BMP-3 the ability to resist larger autocannon rounds even if the front armour of the hull is perforated. Spalling from the frontal hull armour also becomes a non-issue to the crew. Most importantly, these benefits comes at no penalty to the overall weight of the vehicle, making the BMP-3 one of the best protected vehicles of its class. Thanks to the self-sealing nature of the fuel tank, fuel leakage is minimized.

However, the shape of the hull itself and the need to account for the needs of the crew meant that the shape of the fuel tank was not uniform, and as such, the amount of protection it offers is also not uniform. To accommodate the driver's instruments, the fuel tank has a cutout in the middle and there is no fuel tank in front of the driver's pedals at all although there is an anti-radiation liner in front of the driver's pedals which acts as a spall liner. This gives the driver a larger amount of space to work but reduces his protection somewhat compared to the bow gunners. Moreover, there are also gaps along the sides of the fuel tanks left for the suspension adjustment mechanisms connected to the idler wheels on both sides of the hull.

Because of the shape of the front hull, the fuel tank reaches its maximum thickness directly behind the midsection of the hull. Its thickness reduces towards the bottom of the hull following the slope of the lower glacis armour.

The fuel tank is filled with open-cell polyurethane foam and can store 700 liters of diesel. 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.

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.



The hull belly plate is made from AMG-6 aluminium alloy, 10mm thick. AMG-6 is the equivalent of 5083 aluminium alloy. To maximize its rigidity, longitudinal beams were welded to the plate between the torsion bar housings, and the plate itself had stamped ribs for additional stiffness as the photo below shows. The front section of the belly between the firsts and second torsion bar pairs has a double bottom integrated integrated into its construction. This region is much more heavily reinforced against mine blasts compared to the rest of the belly. Between the two layers, there is an additional lateral beam and six longitudinal beams welded together and with the layers, forming a "waffle" pattern.

In the book "Теория И Конструкция Танка: Т. 10. Кн. 2. Комплексная защита" (Tank Theory and Construction - Vol. 10, Book 2: Comprehensive protection), a "waffle" pattern construction of this type is given as an example of BMP belly armour reinforced against mine blasts.

During the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan, the issue of mine protection in asymmetric warfare became an important topic in light of the poor performance of BMP-1 and BMP-2 when faced with IEDs and anti-tank mines due to their thin belly armour. Although a typical small track-breaker mine with a payload of 1.5 kg TNT would not be able to significantly damage the hull when detonated under the track, BMPs often ran over much more powerful explosive devices. The driver was the most vulnerable member of the crew due to his location at the front of the hull, and the person seated behind him was the next most vulnerable. To improve the survivability of these vehicles, an additional spaced armour kit was developed to increase the rigidity of the hull belly, reduce the probability of a breach in the armour, and dampen the shock effect from the blast. The driver also received a new seat suspended from the hull ceiling. The same solutions were implemented in the BMP-3.

In the BMP-3, the double bottom is only present underneath the stations of the driver and the two bow gunners so the rest of the occupants are ostensibly more vulnerable, but due to the layout of the vehicle, this is not true. The turret, which is behind the driver and bow gunners, is suspended from the ceiling at the turret ring, and only the passengers at the rear of the hull have to contend with just the single hull belly plate for protection. This was the most rational layout as the front half of the hull is the most affected by mine or IED blasts.

Furthermore, rather than having the driver and bow gunners' seats and equipment installed onto the belly, they are installed on the sides of the hull or onto special support beams. The turret itself is physically isolated from the hull belly and is only connected to a false floor via a rotary electrical power distribution hub. The support columns connecting the hull roof at the turret ring to the hull belly (to support the weight of the turret) also serve as additional reinforcement to prevent an underbelly blast from deflecting the belly plate. In total, the hull structure is strongly reinforced against mine blasts.

All the seats - both for the crew and passengers - are not directly attached to the floor. The seats for the crew in the turret are suspended from the turret. One notable exception is the driver's seat, which is connected to the double bottom armour on the floor. The seat has integrated shock absorbers and layered foam padding. The passenger seats are mounted to the sides of the hull or to the engine compartment bulkhead.


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. 


There is an add-on armour kit available for the BMP-3, which is mounted over the upper sides of the hull. Each section of the armour has a foothold on its underside and there are additional footholds between each section. The additional armour obstructs the firing ports, rendering them unusable. 

The kit reportedly provides the hull side armour with total protection from 12.7mm armour-piercing bullets. The kit compensates for its own weight by including air pockets in the design, acting both as spacing and as flotation aids. The amphibious qualities of the vehicle are therefore completely unaffected.

It appears that the Russian Naval Infantry are the only branch of the Russian military that uses this armour kit. Their BMP-3F vehicles can sometimes be seen with the kit installed. The photo on the left below shows a BMP-3F belonging to the Naval Infantry undergoing scheduled repairs and the photo on the right below shows a special BMP-3F with the "Bakhcha-U" turret and the armour kit.

This kit has also been seen in use by BMP-3s belonging to the UAE.


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 had a new armour protection scheme and features a new autoloader with a revised ammunition carousel and new sighting systems for both the commander and gunner. The new turret is claimed to have superior armour protection, though its exact qualities are unknown

The turret also includes a new dual-channel gunner's sight and a new commander's panoramic thermal imaging device.

The gunner's new thermal imaging sight can acquire targets at day or night at ranges of up to 4,000 meters. 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 autoloader carries 34 HE-Frag rounds stored vertically in a carousel. To load, the gun is automatically elevated beforehand and a round from the autoloader is dropped onto a tilted tray, where it is rammed upwards into the chamber.

A total of 500 rounds of autocannon ammunition is carried in steel bins, like the original turret. There are 255 rounds of armour-piercing ammunition and there are 245 rounds of high-explosive ammunition. The feed system for the 2A72 was not significantly modified.

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 the loading procedure for 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.

A BMP-3 with the "Bakhcha-U" turret passed all factory and state tests in 1999.


There are at least two known ERA kits available for the BMP-3, both of which were developed as a direct response to the vehicle's vulnerability to RPGs in Chechnya.

Unknown ERA Kit (4S20)

 This is one of three ERA configurations developed for the BMP-3. It was first displayed in early 2001 in Omsk. It employs ERA boxes utilizing 4S20 explosive elements, which are able to protect the host vehicle from rocket strikes of the single-charge warhead variety.

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.
Interestingly, the ERA-equipped BMP-3 formed the basis for later upgrades. For instance, the bolt-on armour overlays were  in fact first introduced as part of the "improved protection kit" which included the ERA package. The overlays then crossed over and became a standard feature of all BMP-3s. Other features were never implemented, however, such as the beefed-up road wheels (necessary for supporting the increased weight) and applique steel side armour screens, which were necessary for supporting the ERA blocks and consisted of seven sections on each side of the hull. The boxes are completely resistant to both armour piercing and incendiary of the 7.62mm and 12.7 calibres and are also unaffected by burning napalm. The steel side screens also acted as applique armour and granted the side aspect complete immunity from 12.7mm AP and SLAP fire.

 They will be completely destroyed if struck and activated by a shaped charge warhead.

 In this photo, you can see the turret armour ERA boxes' vulcanized rubber flaps lifted up. The rubber flaps are intended to detonate warheads ahead of the ERA, further increasing their potency.

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.
Each box weighs just 1.37kg, and the explosive charges contained within weigh a total of 0.28kg. There have been concerns that the thin walls of the boxes and the relatively large explosive charge will cause collateral damage to nearby personnel. The concussive effects (more than double of that of an RGD-5 grenade) can cause blast-related injuries to not only dismounted infantry, but also to soldiers within the vehicle. But then again, if an RPG is detonated outside the vehicle, this hardly matters anyway. 

The introduction of the newer 4S24 package have made the 4S20 package completely obsolete. It is not supplied to any Russian army units.

NII Stali ERA for lightly armoured vehicles

The new ERA kit is very much similar to the earlier ERA kit containing 4S20 elements, but offers a greatly increased level of protection. Visually, the distinguishing element of the new kit is by the bevel on the top edge of the side boxes. The boxes are completely resistant to armour piercing and incendiary bullets of the 7.62mm, 12.7mm and 14.5mm calibers, and are also immune to a napalm attack, like its predecessor. More specifically, the boxes can resist 14.5mm B-32 armour-piercing bullets from a distance of 50m, and resist all armour piercing bullets of calibres smaller than that, from any distance.

The ERA kit is rated to protect the vehicle from RPG attacks with PG-7V, PG-7VL, PG-9V and PG-9S grenades with a probability of 95%. Additionally, the kit is also capable of defeating tandem HEAT warheads. Video evidence has shown that it is capable of defeating the PG-29V warhead from an RPG-29. The backing plate installed over the sides of the hull not only provides a mounting point for the ERA boxes but also serves as an additional layer of protection from machine gun fire and autocannon shells. With the ERA kit installed, the side of the BMP-3 hull is protected from 23mm APDS shells at a side angle of 60 degrees from a distance of 550 meters, and from 30mm AP shells at a side angle of 60 degrees from point-blank range. 

The total mass of the package is 4,150 kg.

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.


The Arena-E hard-kill defence system may be installed on the BMP-3. There are no reports of any BMP-3s in service in this configuration. The most likely reason is that the Arena can cost up to one-third of the BMP-3's price.

Arena can intercept anything in a collision course with its host vehicle that is traveling at anywhere between 70 m/s to 700 m/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 900 kg.


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 so on.

Alternatively, the BMP-3 can produce its own smokescreen, just like most of the Soviet armoured vehicles preceding it.


The BMP-3 has an NBC protection suite that hermetically seals the entire vehicle and supplies clean air to the occupants. 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 an internal overpressure of 490 Pa. 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 free from both radioactive dust and chemical contaminants


The BMP-3 uses the "Iney" automated fire detection and extinguishing system with coverage in the engine compartment and the crew compartment. 

The engine compartment fire detection system includes four TD-1 temperature sensors, the relay/control box KR 40-2S, and two 1-liter fire extinguishers employing 114B-2 halocarbon extinguishing agents. Manual activation by the driver or the passengers is possible.

The crew compartment system is composed of eight optical thermal sensors with a high sensitivity and quick reaction time. Two 2-liter fire extinguishers are included, which have integrated pressure sensors and nozzles that limit the speed of spraying to not more than 150 m/s (for safety reasons). The activating force for these extinguishers are provided by single-use pyrotechnic charges. The sensors will react to a flame of 0.45m x 0.45m in size at 1.5 meter distance. The firefighting system is turned on automatic when someone steps into the vehicle via pressure sensors on rocker panels integrated into the hull floor. The system must be turned off manually to ensure that it is only deactivated with conscious effort. This minimizes the possibility of accidents from negligence.

Two OU-2 hand-held fire extinguishers are located in the front left section for easy access by the bow gunners and driver, and two OP-2A fire extinguishers are located in the starboard side of the passenger's section. The OP-2A fire extinguishers are intended for retarding various substances, including napalm.

The smaller one is OU-2.


The ergonomic qualities of the BMP-3 are far superior to its predecessors, and even quite favourable to many foreign designs in seating comfort and cargo capacity. The seating arrangement is conceptually similar to the BMD-1, but far more spacious. The unusual layout of the vehicle is extremely efficient in its use of space, allowing up to seven seated dismounts on four seats and a bench with the option of accommodating two additional passengers on the bench. The two bow machine gunners are considered passengers. The normal capacity of seven passengers is the size of a normal motorized infantry squad. The seating configuration is shown in the drawing below.

The bench just in front of the engine compartment has five padded seats, but normally, it is used by only three dismounts. The three bench seats have backrests. The two extra seats are usually folded down and used as a step when exiting through the rear. 

There is an integrated toilet built into the far left seat of the bench.

According to the article "Особенности Компоновки БМП-3" by S. F. Zakamaldin et al. and published in the May 1991 issue of "Вестник бронетанковой техники", the internal space for each passenger is 1.04 cubic meters. This is double that of the BMP-2, which allocated 0.52 cubic meters for each passenger. The volume allocated for each passenger in a BMP-1 was 0.54 cubic meters. The drastic increase in space was related to the standardization on the use of body armour for all infantrymen during the 1980's, coupled with the general upward trend in body weight and height of service age Soviet males since the early 1960's when the original BMP was created.

The internal space provided for each passenger is not only much larger than that of earlier Soviet IFVs, but it is also unusually large compared to the BMP-3's foreign counterparts. The M2 Bradley, for example, provides 0.85 cubic meters of space for each passenger, and the CV90 is less spacious than the Bradley.

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 or any other conventional IFV with an open passenger compartment, a stretcher-bound person would instead lie down over the engine deck. If the passenger compartment is in use, then one stretcher can be accommodated this way, as the stretcher would prevent passengers from dismounting. Otherwise, it is possible to transport two people on stretchers. The head or feet of the stretcher-bound person intrudes into the passenger compartment and overhangs the rear bench.

If the vehicle is being used to transport injured soldiers from the front lines to an established checkpoint behind friendly lines, then there is no issue with transporting a full load of passengers in the passenger compartment plus two stretchers on the engine deck. Needless to say, the engine deck is not the most comfortable place to be, but this meant that a lot of people could be ferried per run. No other IFV in the world allows a full passenger load to be carried along with two stretchers. Normally, it is not possible to have any seated passengers at all if two stretchers are placed in the passenger compartment.

The number of accommodations offered to the passengers is excellent compared to other Soviet-era Russian combat vehicles, and compares favourably to many of the modern counterparts to the BMP-3. 

When exiting the vehicle, the two extra seats are folded to allow dismounts to step over them and onto the engine deck. The roof hatches over the engine deck are tall enough to provide protection for the dismounts if they keep their heads down as they exit. With the turret providing frontal protection and the roof hatches providing side protection, the dismounts in a BMP-3 are not significantly more exposed to incoming fire compared to armoured personnel carriers with a rear hatch or ramp.

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 rear doors are sprung with torsion bars for the convenience of the passengers and are opened with a handle that is easily reached from inside the vehicle. Moreover, the doors have a special safety switch that is connected to the turret stabilizer system. When the door lock is closed, the lock handle maintains pressure on the safety switch and this allows the turret to rotate freely over the rear deck of the hull. When the door lock is opened, the switch is released and the turret is prevented from rotating over the rear deck of the hull. This ensures the safety of the passengers as they dismount.

There are two more man-sized stadium shaped personnel hatches on top of the rectangular roof hatches. These are spring-loaded with torsion bars and have the same thickness as the roof hatches. These hatches also feature a safety switch that prevents the turret from traversing over the rear deck of the hull when the lock is opened.

The personnel hatches are designed to fulfill the same purpose as the roof hatches on conventional armoured personnel carriers. That is, they serve as an alternate exit to the main doors and they allow the passengers to pop out of the hull without exposing their entire body in order to fire heavy weapons such as an anti-tank grenade launcher or a MANPADS launcher. In a BMP-3, there are two MANPADS launchers stowed on the engine compartment deck for this purpose. Two passengers can open the hatches and stick themselves out to use these weapons. This gives the BMP-3 the same fire-on-the-move air defence capability as its predecessors, which would otherwise not be possible due to the unusual layout of the BMP-3.

The personnel hatches can also be used as emergency exit points if the need arises, but they are inconvenient for quick ingress and egress as they are not directly over the passenger compartment.

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 and if needed, their belongings may also be lashed onto the side of the hull, as shown below.

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 enormous 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 standard 56-H-574 26mm flare gun with twenty flare cartridges is also stowed for emergencies and signalling purposes. This storage is not inclusive of whatever weapons and gear the dismounts carry personally, or any supplies which may be added. The 2,000-round boxes for the bow machine guns are better used by the dismounts, so one might consider that an additional source of ammunition.

In this film still, you can see the rear of the fighting compartment (turret), one of the seats beside the turret (mounted to the side, not to the floor), periscopes provided for the crews, and one of the seats arranged in a row opposing the engine compartment. Notice the "shelf" mentioned above
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.
Starboard side.

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.

In this photo, you can see an OU-2 manual fire extinguisher, the racks for storing ATGMs, the gunner's station, and a Greek man.
Notice the fact that the space between the fighting compartment (turret) and the hull side has enough space for soldiers to shimmy through.
This allows the bow machine gunners and driver to escape through the rear in an emergency.

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.

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 seated centrally at the front of the hull and is provided with a conventional lift-and-swing type overhead hatch. The hatch is covered by external anti-radiation cladding. The hatch is slightly bulged to increase the driver's headroom and as a result, its front edge was slightly weaker than the upper glacis armour. To compensate for this, an additional armour plate was added.

The driver's seat is adjustable for height. To steer, the driver is provided with a motorcycle-style steering bar like in the BMP-1 and BMP-2.

(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.

The driver has a healthy number of controls in front of him. He can control track tension, suspension height, all water-travelling related controls, driving lights, firefighting equipment, the smokescreen generator, the NBC protection suite and the bow machine guns, among the usual driving-related indicators and gauges. He is provided with a GPK-59 gyrocompass (pictured) for rudimentary directional navigation. The gyrocompass is useful when driving at night and for normal orienteering.

Driving visibility is provided by four TNPO-170A periscopes, three located right in front of him for forward viewing, and another one aimed towards the left. Unfortunately, the driver was not provided with a periscope aimed to the right because the hatch opening mechanism is in the way. For night driving, the center periscope can be replaced with TNPE-1B night vision periscope.

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

The BMP-3 is powered by a compact UTD-29M liquid-cooled diesel engine with an output of 500 hp, generating a power-to-weight ratio of 25 hp/ton. The engine is placed in the rear. The transmission is a four-speed, hydromechanical planetary type, with one reverse gear. The engine can operate up to no more than 3000 m altitude (high mountainous peaks). Above that, the air would be too thin for operation. There are 6 rubberized aluminium roadwheels with independent torsion bar suspension and 3 rubberized return rollers on either of the two tracks. The first two frontmost roadwheels and the rearmost roadwheel each have a telescopic hydraulic double-action shock absorber to improve ride smoothness. The maximum ground clearance of the vehicle is 510mm and the minimum is 190mm. The default clearance setting for normal driving sets the ground clearance to 450mm. Besides the benefits of having an adjustable suspension system, the increased ground clearance is an improvement over the BMP-2 which had a clearance of 420mm and an even bigger improvement over the BMP-1, which had just 390mm of clearance.

The nominal ground pressure with standard tracks is 0.61 kg/, which is lower than the BMP-2's ground pressure of 0.63 kg/ despite the gain in weight. The 380 mm-wide tracks are of a dual-pin type with rubber pin bushings. The tracks have rubberized insoles and the option for asphalt-friendly rubber pads is available. The rubberized insoles reduce wear and tear and also reduce noise and vibrations, giving a more comfortable driving experience.

With the UTD-29M engine, the BMP-3 can reach a top speed of 72 km/h on paved roads, and travel cross-country at an average speed of 45 km/h (28 mph). Its maximum reverse speed is 20 km/h. The BMP-3 can climb a vertical wall with a maximum height of 0.8 meters, and cross a trench with a maximum width of 2.5 meters. It can climb a slope with an angle of 35 degrees and drive along a 20-degree side slope. Good traction allows the vehicle to stop halfway up a dry dirt slope of the aforementioned gradient, stop, and then climb up without slipping. Overall, the mobility characteristics of the BMP-3 match that of the BMP-2 in all of these parameters, but it surpasses the BMP-2 in its ability to climb vertical obstacles (it climbs a 0.7 meter wall). However, the BMP-3 is not the best in this regard as the overhang of the hull over the track idler imposes a stricter limit on the maximum obstacle height compared to some other hull designs. For example, the more conservative design of the M2 Bradley front hull allows it to climb a 0.91 meter wall. 

The BMP-3 weighs 18.7 tons combat loaded. The power-to-weight ratio with this engine is 26.7 hp/ton when combat loaded, which is notably better than all modern contemporaries. Officially, the power-to-weight ratio is stated to be no less than 25 hp/ton, accounting for the variable weight of the passengers. 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. The range is reduced by 1.5 times when travelling cross country.

It is interesting to note that the original UTD-29 engine was only installed on the very first batch of prototypes, used for 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.

The engine is prone to overheating in extremely hot weather, as noted during the UAE trials. The cooling system is only adequate for its purposes in the hottest heat spells in a European climate, little else. A more efficient cooling system has existed since the trials' conclusion, and is currently installed on the BMP-3s operated by the UAE.

In this photo, you can see the rearmost roadwheel with its hydraulic shock absorber, the drive sprocket and its mud scraper.

In the photo above, you can see the exposed engine with the engine deck panels and side panels removed. Servicing the engine is incredibly simple on the BMP-3 chiefly because of how easy it is to remove the engine deck panels. Removal of the engine is also a very relaxed affair. It is only necessary to remove the frame from the spine running down the engine deck, and that isn't very difficult since there's nothing there.

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.


The vehicle is amphibious, more so than its predecessors. In the water, it is propelled by two waterjets which are powered by the engine in lieu of the tracks. Maximum speed in the water is 10 km/h. The waterjets are a single-stage, axial, auger type with guide vanes. Changing direction in the water is achieved by powered closing of either of the two flaps on the waterjet nozzles; closing the port side flap causes the vehicle to turn to the left, and closing the starboard side flap causes the vehicle to turn to the right. The minimum turning radius is 6 to 7 meters. The waterjets may be reversed, propelling the vehicle at a maximum of 2.5km/h. Turning is still possible in reverse. If the water jets malfunction while in the water, the vehicle may still propel itself using its tracks. The average speed in the water will reduced to a measly 4 km/h.

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.

A more seaworthy minor variant of the BMP-3 designated the BMP-3F is available for Naval forces.

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 hull and turret are constructed entirely of aluminium alloy with only supplementary steel shields instead of having an all-steel construction lkie its predecessors, argon arc welding equipment was needed to perform structural repairs in the field. This equipment is carried on the BREM-L, among other things. It is crewed by 3 men, 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 in a rotating cupola for self defence, for which 1,000 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 uses its built-in engineering dozer blade as a trim vane.

Servicing, maintenance

There are some allegations that the BMP-3 is unreliable and disliked by troops due to its unreliability, but those allegations are completely untrue. It is true that the BMP-3 had teething problems - a common issue for many AFVs. Mechanical failures were present in relatively high rates. The average number of failures per 1000km travelled was as follows: 17.1 in 1986, 3.6 in 1988, 2.8 in 1990, and in 1992, less than 1 per 1000km. The problems were mostly related to parts quality, which resulted in Kurganmashzavod slightly modifying some components or improving the manufacturing process. The lack of experienced mechanics, tooling and equipment played their role as well; a lack of argon welders, for example. Also, the rear placement of the engine meant that the replacement of the engine with the three crew members only and under combat condition was a staggering 20 hours. However, teething problems are common and all of them are now completely rectified, although so far there have been no resolutions for simplifying the removal of the engine. Remember that the BMP-3 was not officially adopted into the Russian Army until 1990, and that the equipping of brigades with this vehicle beforehand was purely for trialing purposes. BMP-3 failures and malfunctions have never been mentioned as an issue by any armoured units in active service for more than two decades and counting.

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 remains debated.

Regarding Chechnya:

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.

There is photographic evidence of a BMP-3 destroyed in Grozny.

A BMP-3 turret husk being dragged. It had been blown off due to the detonation of interior munitions.

There are no other significant photographic accounts of the BMP-3 being involved in any other conflicts other than the two mentioned above. It appears that only a small number was destroyed, which, in my opinion, is indicative of poor tactics more than poor engineering.


The BMP-3 is a 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
Unfortunately, there have been reports of malfunctions related to desert operation during the BMP-3's testing phase for the UAE. Apparently, the cooling system for the engine was not effective enough, causing the engine to overheat too quickly. The particulate filtration system was not good enough to provide clean air during sandstorms and could not filter finely enough, which caused the engines to clog up after a long drive. Tracks falling off due to excessive sand was a problem as well. These problems were promptly resolved by modifying the filter and installing additional exterior rings around the drive sprocket and idler wheel. All UAE BMP-3s are modified thusly.
  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, which would be illogical anyway since 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
The Indonesians possess 37 BMP-3Fs, and are in active service. The Indonesian Marines were reportedly extremely pleased with them. During an exercise shortly after the completion of the delivery, all participating BMP-3Fs hit all targets with its entire armament after landing on a coast.

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.


  1. Possibly the most in depth look at the BMP-3 that I have ever seen. I'm building a scale model of this IFV and it answered every question I had and provided plenty of good reference pictures. You have no idea how awesome this is!

  2. All of this information is wonderful, I will be following you in your quest to quell this misinformation. I wonder what the Russians have in mind as its replacement if it is good enough to warrant replacing the BMP-3M.

    1. I am cautious but am eagerly waiting to see what they are truly like. What they have for its armament is something I am especially eager to see.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Does the main gun barrel recoil? If so how far?

    1. The 100mm cannon has a recoil "stroke" of 0.4m upon firing.

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Interesting, although I was hoping to see references to the more "exotic" variants, like the Derivatsiya and the radicaly reconfigured Dragoon.

    1. I only write about the variants that are currently in service, or planned to be in service in the near future. I will not write about future projects, as I will only be repeating what other sites with actual journalists and insider sources are reporting.

  6. "The accuracy of stabilization while the vehicle is on the move at a speed of 30 km/h is 3 mrad, which translates to 0.4863 mils, which means that the sight has a maximum deviation of 0.49 m at a distance of 1000 m"

    3 mRad is 3 meters at 1000 meters distance.

    1. Just tought that you might want to reconsider the "maximum deviation of 0.49 m at a distance of 1000 m"
      Article is 5/5 otherwise.

    2. Ah, you're right. I have removed that part entirely. The 3 mrad figure came from the manufacturer's website: but it must be a typo. If true, then even TSh2B-41U, made in 1972, has a more precise stabilizer system than SOZh. Not just more precise, but more precise by two times! According to that website, the error is 3 mrad, or, as you say, 3 meters at 1000 m distance. That means that the deviation of the actual point of aim from the point of aim indicated by the reticle is 3 meters at 1000 m! This error was only 1.5 mrad for TSh2B-41U, but it wasn't even intended to be good enough to fire on the move. Its stabilizer is only used when the sight is disconnected from the cannon's "Meteor" stabilizer. It is even more strange for SOZh to be so horribly imprecise when we consider that the 2E52 weapons stabilizer is electronically slaved to SOZh. If you can read Russian, this forum post will explain:

  7. To the author:
    maybe you'd like to review the information in the article again? there's been a few new developments for the BMP-3 with one of the version having the engine moved to the front from the rear and Bakcha-U turret system mounted as well as removal of the 2 PKT machinegun on the front hull extremities.

  8. Can you find any info on reticle design of TKN-AI?

    I'm trying to make a mod for game and couldn't find a decent one.

    1. Sorry, nothing on that yet. Working on acquiring that info.

    2. Here you go: