The BMP-1 (Boevaya Mashina Pekhota – Infantry Fighting Vehicle)
was a revolutionary design when it first appeared in the mid 1960s.
First seen by the West in the 1967 May Day parade, it was codenamed the
M1967 until its Russian designation was known. It replaced the earlier
BTR-50P and is used in conjunction with the later wheeled series of BTR
The BMP design is not just a simple `battle taxi` like the M113.
The BMP is designed to support its dismounted troops with its
innovative anti armour and antipersonnel weapon suite. It was the first
true infantry fighting vehicle. The original design carries a single
anti tank missile on the barrel, the 9M14 Malyutka (NATO designation
AT-3 Sagger). This was capable of a range of 3000m and defeating any
tank at the time of introduction. Reloading is slow, through a special
rectangular hatch in the front of the turret. Four reloads are carried.
The gunner connects the wires to the missile and leans out to place the
missile on the rack. The BMP gunner is unique because he is armed with a
stick, to fold the fins of the missile out before firing. The turret is
also armed with a 73mm low pressure gun and a coaxial PT machinegun.
The 73mm gun (the 2A28 `Grom`) fires fin stabilised HEAT (high explosive
anti tank) or high explosive rounds fed by an autoloader from a 40
round magazine. The effective range is 1000m.
Armour is minimal, to stop heavy machinegun rounds to the front
and small arms to the side and rear. The vehicle carries 8 combat troops
sitting facing outwards to the hull. They sit 4 per side and they can
use their small arms to shoot out the side as the vehicle moves along.
The first port accommodates the RPK or PK machinegun while the rest will
fit the AKM. This means that the BMP squads were intended to have two
machineguns per squad; However in practice the second machinegun is
dropped for the RPG gunner (who is always accompanied by a loader). Each
firing port is provided with a heated view port and a fume extractor.
There is room for one RPG-7 or one SA-7 Grail (usually one per platoon),
both of which can be fired from a top hatch. The vehicle is NBC
protected, relying on overpressure.
The engine is placed at the front of the vehicle, offering some
extra protection with the engine block for the crew. It provides 300
horse power and a top speed of 60kph loaded over flat ground with good
fuel. The fuel is contained in the rear doors. This may be an unusual
position, but is far away from the engine & hostile fire from the
front. In addition, the doors are designed so if the fuel does explode,
it is vented upwards not into the crew compartment. All the BMP track
components are based on the PT-76 Tank series and its offshoots (MT-LB,
SP-74, BTR-50, and ASU-85 to name but a few). The BMP is amphibious,
being propelled by its tracks in the water. IR spotlights are provided
for the driver, commander and gunner.
The BMP is designed to operate closely with Soviet armour, the
tanks would form a vanguard with the BMPs following close behind,
unloading their infantry close to the target. Each BMP has side lights
to enable the BMPs to remain in formation in dark or poor conditions.
This light on the BMP 1 is located between the first and second vision
port behind the turret. The BMP is not designed to be used as a tank and
it does not perform well when it is used as one (with combat experience
in the Middle East and Africa). However in Afghanistan, the Soviet BMPs
were known to drop off their infantry and then operate in fire support
groups (called Bronegruppe), acting as a mobile reserve.
The BMP-2 is an improved model introduced in 1980 and first
`seen` in the 1982 May Day parade. Armed with a two man turret
containing a Shipunov 2A42 30mm AA Cannon, it is also fitted with the
more modern 9M111 Fagot (AT-4 Spigot) or 9M113 Konkurs (AT-5 Spandrel)
missiles. The cannon is designed to engage lightly armoured targets and
low speed aircraft and helicopters. The number of troops carried drops
to seven. The 30mm gun was ideal for Afghanistan, as it could engage
high targets in the valleys where other Soviet tank guns did not have
Both the BMP 1 and BMP 2 have seen wide use all over the world
and still in service (in modernised forms) with the Russian
confederation. More modern versions have upgraded for newer missiles and
are designed to accommodate more modern weaponry (AK 74, RPG 16 and SA
14). A few BMPs in the field have been seen retrofitted with pintle
mounts, notably for the AGS-30 `Plasmaya` Auto Grenade Launcher in the
latter part of the Afghan war. The upgraded modernised BMP 1P is fitted
with an AT-4 or AT-5 launcher mounted on the top of the turret. Smoke
dischargers are a common addition.
The newer BMP3 (introduced in 1990) is rarely seen; most are either given to elite units or sold for export.
Models of the BMP 1 were made under licence in Romania, China
and Czechoslovakia. The vehicle was widely used by the Warsaw Pact and
is still by some former members. The BMP 1 and 2 have been exported as
far and wide and has seen service in serves Afghanistan, Afghanistan,
Bulgaria, Cuba, Egypt, Germany, Finland, Greece, Hungary, India (who
built a licensed BMP-2), Iraq, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Libya, Poland,
Slovakia, Syria, Ukraine, Vietnam and Yemen.