Russia's Devastating "Terminator" Tanks - The BMPT - Tank Historia

Russia’s Devastating “Terminator” Tanks – The BMPT

This is the mighty BMPT, a Russian armored fighting vehicle that is armed to the teeth and specialised for anti-infantry and urban roles.

Sprawling with missiles, autocannons and grenade launchers, the BMPT has been given the unofficial nickname “Terminator”.

They are the result of lessons learned from high losses in urban warfare in the Soviet-Afghan War and actions in Chechnya.

The BMPT was designed specifically to solve this – with plenty of gun elevation and weapons for any potential targets. The BMPT only entered service with Russia in 2018, but it has been operated by Kazakhstan since 2011.

Terminator display.
The Terminators looks more like a fictional vehicle from a Hollywood film than an actual fighting vehicle.

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Tank Escort

Ever since the creation of the tank in WWI it has been well understood that tanks without support can be picked off, even by infantry and basic anti-tank weapons.

No where is this more true than in urban areas.

These conditions are particularly dangerous for tanks as they are close quarters (some streets are too small to even rotate the turret) and contain many, many vantage points for an enemy.

Buildings add verticality to the battlefield, which provides foes with opportunities to strike the weak roof armor of tanks. And once under attack they are unable to return fire due to limited gun elevation.

Furthermore, the tightly packed buildings and streets allow the enemy to move around under cover and quickly retreat into hiding.

Grozny.
Russian forces suffered devastating losses in the Battle of Gorzny during the First Chechen War. Image by Mikhail Evstafiev CC BY-SA 3.0

The Soviets experienced similar difficulties during the Soviet-Afghan War. The mountainous terrain gave Afghan defenders an advantage against Soviet tanks.

Then in the First Chechen War Russian tanks were picked off in urban battles. In these scenarios the military was forced to use self-propelled anti-aircraft vehicles with their high gun elevation to fight off infantry in hills or buildings.

These lessons motivated them to create a heavily armored vehicle that would deal with these threats to allow tanks to do their jobs properly.

Work had started on a vehicle of this nature in the 1980s at the Chelyabinsk plant. This generated two vehicles, the Object 781 and Object 782.

They were both built from heavily modified T-72B hulls and equipped with a vast array of weaponry for the anti-infantry role. One carried two 30 mm guns and the other carried a 100 mm gun and 30 mm gun.

The Object 782.
The Object 782 had a low profile turret, a 100 mm gun, 30 mm cannon, 40mm grenade launcher and a number of machine guns in the hull. Image by ho ho CC BY-SA 4.0.

The Soviets decided to continue with only the Object 781, but the entire project came to a halt in the 1990s when the Soviet Union collapsed.

However actions in Chechnya reminded the Russians of the need for a tank escort. The Chelyabinsk plant developed an entirely new vehicle between 1995 and 1996 known as the Object 787 (sometimes referred to as Object 754). This was the hull and turret of a T-72AV hull, but without the 125 mm gun.

Instead, high-elevation 30 mm guns were fitted to each side of the turret. Object 787 was also equipped with a pair of 12.7 mm machine guns and unguided missiles.

It proved to be highly successful in trials, but due to internal politics this machine would end up cancelled and in a museum.

Still, the project would once again be revived, this time by the Uralvagonzavod plant.

BMPT “Terminator”

Uralvagonzavod continued on using hulls of T-90 MBTs. Their creation was named the BMPT (meaning Tank Support Fighting Vehicle).

It was first shown off to the public in 2000, when it was equipped with an unmanned turret containing a single 30 mm cannon and four 9M133 “Kornet” missiles.

However before long the turret received an extra 30 mm cannon and the Kornets were swapped with the more capable “Ataka” anti-tank guided missiles.

A BMPT on display.
The BMPT, with its many weapons. Image by Copyleft CC BY-SA 3.0.

The vehicle was also fitted with two 30 mm grenade launchers and a 7.62 mm PKTM machine gun.

These weapons are operated individually by the crew of five, which consists of the driver, commander, gunner and two grenade launcher operators. Reportedly the vehicle can engage up to three separate targets at once, but this is doubted.

The 130 mm Ataka missiles can engage tanks, infantry and even aircraft.

Its firepower can best be described as overwhelming, if not overkill.

BMPT turret.
The BMPT Terminator’s weapon are located on an unmanned turret (above the hull, at least). Image by Vitaly V. Kuzmin CC BY-SA 4.0

As it is based on the hull of a main battle tank the BMPT is exceptionally well armored for its class, with steel, composite and explosive reactive armor present. In fact, with all of the crew in the hull it likely has better survivability than the MBT it is based on.

The interior is lined with Kevlar to prevent spalling when hit.

In the rear is a 1,000 hp diesel engine giving it a top speed of 37 mph.

The Russians tested the BMPT in 2005, which resulted in a number of contrasting reports that went from “its great, we’ll have it” to “we have no use for it”. Around this time the machine was nicknamed “Terminator” by the press for its imposing appearance.

BMPT Ataka missiles.
The BMPT’s side mounted Ataka missiles. Image by Vitaly V. Kuzmin CC BY-SA 4.0.

In 2010 Kazakhstan placed an order for 10 BMPTs. It created a doctrinal use for the vehicle alongside TOS-1A rocket launchers systems for anti-terrorism missions. This essentially involved flattening an area with suspected terrorist activites and then sending in the BMPTs to mop up survivors.

Kazakhstan signed a deal with Russia in 2013 for them to produce BMPTs themselves, but how far this went is unknown.

BMPT-72 “Terminator 2”

The BMPT-72 “Terminator 2” was an update on the BMPT, this time using the T-72 chassis. For simplicity will refer to this vehicle as the Terminator 2.

The Terminator 2 is mostly the same as the BMPT, but has upgraded ergonomics, fire control systems (FCS) and weapons, to name a few. It was designed as an upgrade package for existing T-72s (of which there are many) in the hopes of achieving great export success to the huge amount of countries that use the T-72.

Those fielding T-72s are able to simply to convert them into the Terminator 2 standard.

Terminator 2 BMPT.
The Terminator 2 is based on the hull of the T-72, and is sold as a upgrade package rather than an entire vehicle. Image by Alexey Vasilenko CC BY-SA 2.0

Uralvagonzavod removed the two 30 mm grenade launchers which reduced the crew to three. This was perfect for countries with the T-72, as they also used three crew members.

The Terminator 2’s FCS was updated and it received panoramic sights from the T-90MS.

The last change was the addition of thin shields around the Ataka rockets to protect them from shrapnel and small projectiles.

The weaponry is the same as the BMPT (accept the removal of the grenade launchers). Its 30 mm guns can depress to -5 degrees and elevate to +45 degrees and have a maximum rate of fire of over 500 rounds a minute.

Terminator 2 BMPT turret.
The turret on the Terminator 2 has the same weapons. But has improved optics and its missiles stored in protective housings.

The Ataka launchers can depress to -5 degrees, elevate to +25 degrees and possess a range of 6,000 meters.

In 2017 Russia ordered a small batch of around 10 BMPTs hulled vehicles with Terminator 2 turrets. They still had little use for them as no doctrine had been developed involving them, so this was likely a promotional stunt to motivate export sales.

Algeria placed an order for 300 BMPTs (some reports indicate Terminator 2s) in 2016.

Are they Worth it?

The BMPT series of vehicles are truly impressive machines, with enough guns and armor to make a battleship jealous. However, they have been in development in one way or another since the 1980s, which begs the question, are they worth it?

Judging by exports and Russia’s own actions, no.

It is never good for any machine to have such a long and protracted development as a military’s needs and desires are constantly changing. For the BMPT this has meant the military no longer know what they want from the vehicle, nor how to use it.

BMPT on parade practice.
The BMPT project has been chugging for nearly 40 years. Image by Dmitriy Fomin CC BY 2.0.

Even its chief designer said he didn’t know how the BMPT should be used back in 2002. The very design of the vehicle is contradictory in some ways and completely pointless in others.

Take the crew, for example. The BMPT needs a crew of five and was marketed towards countries that use T-72s – but T-72s have a crew of three. This would force any prospective buyer to bring in another two crew members per vehicle.

Another problem is with its performance, as in, it is simply too good. Its FCS is highly advanced and complicated, and its gun platform is stabilised on two planes. However tanks in urban combat move slowly, negating the need for such systems.

The final, and perhaps biggest problem with this type of vehicle is that it may not be needed at all. Proper urban warfare tactics are already capable of reducing a force’s casualties in a city.

BMPT on parade.
This immensely powerful vehicle may be too powerful for its own good, as its expensive to purchase and operate. Image by Dmitriy Fomin CC BY 2.0

The US made excellent use of combined infantry and armor in cities in Iraq and suffered significantly less losses than the Soviets in Afghanistan and Russians in Chechnya.

The US further proves the fact BMPTs are pointless by not having anything comparable to it in their arsenal. The US military has gotten pretty good at this war stuff by now, and with their immense budget you can be sure that if they think there is a use for it they will have it.

Russia had hoped that the massive amount of T-72s all over the world would have generated great interest in the BMPT, but aside from Kazakhstan and Algiers this has not been the case. Even Russia has little doctrinal or financial means to use it.

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Still, it looks awesome and for us tank lovers that is all that matters much of the time.