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Terminator rhetoric may yet ring hollow for Russia

29th November 2021 - 12:29 GMT | by Alex Orlov in Riga

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BMPT pictured at Army 2021. (Photo: Alex Tarasoff)

While Russian military chiefs hail the imminent adoption into service of the first BMPT Terminator, serious questions still surround the combat capabilities and cost-effectiveness of the heavy tank support vehicle.

The first company of nine BMPT Terminator heavy tank support vehicles will be officially adopted into service with the 90th Guards Tank Division on 1 December 2021 having completed an exercise six months earlier, according to Lt Gen Alexander Lapin, Commander of the Central Military District.

According to Lapin, this will be followed by a new round of large-scale trials and the MoD in 2022 plans to conduct experimental exercises with a full BMPT battalion.

He claimed: ‘We have successfully tested new ways of employment of BMPTs, and it was a long-awaited development for all of us. We have investigated thoroughly all the characteristics of these combat vehicles and after the exercise in June [2021] I can say unequivocally that the BMPT is very effective vehicle with unmatched firepower.’

The exact structure of the planned BMPT unit remains unclear. It is possible that the battalion will retain the same three-company structure as a conventional tank battalion in the Russian Ground Forces: three companies of ten MBTs each plus the battalion commander’s tank.

In the near future, the Russian military intends to expand the CONOPS for Terminator and investigate the possibility of employing a company of BMPTs with an infantry regiment.

‘I can say unequivocally that the BMPT is very effective vehicle with unmatched firepower’ Lt Gen Alexander Lapin, Commander of the Central Military District

The BMPT is a heavily armoured platform based on a T-72 tank chassis. It was designed in the 1980s as a fire support vehicle for urban warfare as well as conventional combined-arms scenarios. Since 2010, BMPT prototypes have participated in numerous military exercises and some vehicles have been deployed in Syria.

The primary armament for the BMPT is in an unmanned turret, comprising four 9M120 Ataka-T ATGMs and two 30mm 2A42 autocannon in a twin mount. Secondary armament includes two AG-17D grenade launchers and one 7.62mm PKTM machine gun.

The MoD seems as determined as ever to push BMPTs into service, and the Russian military establishment claims that a BMPT-equipped platoon performs with 25-30% greater efficiency than a conventional MBT platoon — but there are considerable grounds for scepticism.

Weaponry is one area of concern that may give the lie to Lupin’s boast of ‘unmatched firepower’. It is possible for ATGM ammunition to run out quickly in the heat of battle and the 30mm twin autocannon have repeatedly proved to be inaccurate during live-fire tests, especially at long distance.

As a result, the BMPT may go into combat relying on a single machine-gun and grenade launchers, leaving tanks without the fire support they need.

The BMPT is also arguably manpower-intensive with five crew, resulting in a need to train more personnel despite the vehicle having the same logistical footprint as a conventional MBT.

Additionally, the BMPT has a higher price tag in comparison with a conventional main battle tank: Shephard Defence Insight describes a requirement for about 100 baseline BMPT vehicles in the next three years at an estimated cost of RUB18.5 billion ($250 million), giving a unit cost of RUB185 million.

Alex Orlov

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Alex Orlov


Alex Orlov is a freelance journalist based in Helsinki.

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