Moscow Defense Brief

Russia’s Latest Amphibious Tracked Vehicles

Sergey Abdulov

Over the years, the BMP-3 and BMP-3F infantry fighting vehicles have earned themselves a reputation with the Russian and foreign navies as excellent armor well-suited for amphibious landing operations. For example, in one unprecedented case during an exercise in the early 2000s, UAE marines conducted an amphibious landing operation in BMP-3 vehicles during a heavy storm, with waves reaching 3-4 meters high. Forty-two of the 43 vehicles made a successful landing.

But modern warfare presents ever more stringent requirements. One of them is the ability to conduct “over-the-horizon” amphibious landing operations, when landing vehicles leave the mothership 40-60km from the target and sail at maximum speed to the landing area instead of being dropped off right near the coastline. This reduces the risk of numerous vehicles being destroyed as they try to land. Also, marines must now be equipped with hardware that can provide fire support during landing rather than serve as mere transports.

Russia’s Kurganmashzavod and the Special Machinery Design Bureau (SKBM) have developed a whole family of such vehicles using the BMP-3 platform as a starting point. They used many of the standard BMP-3 parts and components, which offers clear advantages in terms of both operation and maintenance. All these vehicles can be airlifted by Il-76MD or equivalent transports. They have an autonomy of up to 7 hours once they leave the mothership, and can make a landing oin difficult and unprepared coastal terrain.


One of these latest models is the BT-3F, a versatile armored personnel carrier that meets all modern requirements. It uses a specially adapted BMP-3 chassis.

One of the priorities in the development of that vehicle was a high level of protection. A lot of thought also went into making the vehicle ergonomic and comfortable for its crew and the personnel it carries. It meets all the standard requirements in terms of mobility and interchangeability of components with the basic BMP-3 model.

The BMP-3 and the BT-3F also share excellent protection from conventional weapons as well as from the impact of nuclear explosion, which enables their combined use in combat operations.

The BT-3F is equipped with the 5ETs16U remote-controlled turret. That turret is armed with the Kord 12.7mm machine-gun, a television IR sight unit, and a laser range finder. It is indispensable for engaging lightly armored targets, weapons emplacements, and enemy personnel. Its video monitoring system offers a 360-degree field of view; the image is displayed on separate screens for the driver and for the personnel.

There are several possible configurations for the passenger compartment: in addition to the vehicle’s crew, there is enough room for up to 10 commandos in the standard configuration, with an option for extra room for another five. Importantly, the vehicle can be used to haul bulky cargoes and ammunition, or serve as a platform for various hardware and equipment. In fact, this next-generation APC is marketed as a basic platform for a variety of special vehicles.

The 500hp engine gives the BT-3F the same mobility characteristics as the BMP-3, including a 70km/h highway speed and the ability to sail in 2 to 3-meter waves.

Another clear advantage of the BT-3F is its transportability by land, air, sea, and rail. It is even light enough to be hauled by Mi-26 helicopters using external suspension.

Thanks to the use of standard parts and components that are shared with the BMP-3, which has been in service for many years, mass production of the new BT-3F model can be launched at the Kurgan Machinery Plant very quickly, with little to no preparation. Neither will it require much training for crews already trained with the BMP-3 and BMP-3F models. All of these considerations make the BT-3F an attractive proposition for the foreign armed forces that already operate the BMP-3.

BMP-3F infantry fighting vehicle

Another recent version of the BMP-3 model is the BMP- 3F. It is indispensable for rapid response units and marines operating unsupported in hostile territory, especially in coastal areas.

Changes in the BMP-3F design compared to the parent BMP-3 model give it a greater buoyancy and stability at sea. For example, it has a telescopic air inlet pipe and lighter wave deflectors on the main body and turret. Its water-jet propulsors give it a sailing speed of up to 10 km/h.

The vehicle is very stable and maneuverable at sea, capable of sailing in up to 1.25-meter waves, and can shoot accurately in up to 0.5-meter waves. It can remain at sea for up to 7 hours with the engine running.

The BMP-3F also boasts excellent fire power thanks to its 100mm guided anti-tank missile launcher, a 30mm automatic cannon, and three 7.62mm machine guns. Its automated fire control system and highly efficient ammo make it capable of firing both on land and at sea, day or night, using all its weapons systems. The fire control system includes the Sodema IR sight/range finder, which provides reliable target identification and high firing accuracy round the clock and in poor visibility. As an option, the Sodema can be equipped with the AST-B automated target tracking device. Another option for the BMP-3F fire control system is the TKN-AI 24-hour commander observation unit.

Other optional systems and components include:

  • TVK-1B driver-mechanic observation unit

  • IUSSh-688 chassis information and control system or EPVO driver and operator electronic assist device

  • KBM-3M2E air conditioner (driven by the main engine) or an autonomous air conditioner with its own power unit that enables comfortable operation at ambient temperatures of up to +50°C

  • MZ PTUR guided anti-tank missile loading mechanism

All these options can be installed without sacrificing buoyancy, thanks to the use of special equipment.

Thanks to its excellent mobility, protection, and firepower, combined with exceptional reliability, simple design, and ease of repair, the BMP-3F is one of the best amphibious fighting vehicles in the market.

2S25M self-propelled anti-tank cannon

The 2S25 is a light amphibious tank / self-propelled anti-tank cannon designed for more challenging tactical roles. These roles include reconnaissance, patrol and escort; action as part of a raid, flanking or advance units; combat in the security zone and maneuvering defense; forced water crossing; amphibious landing operations; operations in forested or mountainous terrain, swamps, or Arctic regions; and area control during peacekeeping operations and internal armed conflicts.

Military planners in countries all over the world have come to realize the need for a light tank to support main battle tanks in modern warfare. The general requirements for such vehicles are as follows:

firepower on par with, or not much inferior to main battle tanks

increased tactical mobility and maneuverability, including the ability to force water barriers at speed

a much better suitability for transportation by air, sea, rail, and road transport

a lower cost compared with the main battle tanks

The Special Machinery Design Bureau’s BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle and its various versions (such as the BMP-3F model designed for the marines, and the BRM-3K amphibious reconnaissance vehicle) are often used in roles that should normally be performed by light tanks. They often struggle in these roles since an infantry fighting vehicle, for all its advantages, is clearly not a tank.

For example, the Indonesian marines have bought a batch of BMP-3F primarily for use as direct fire support vehicles during amphibious landing and coastal operations. For actual landing, the Indonesians still use the old Soviet BTR-50 APCs and the US-made AAV-7 vehicles.

Until very recently, not a single army in the world had an armored fighting vehicle that met all the requirements for a light tank. The first country to have developed such a tank is Russia.

To a specialist, there is no doubt at all that the 2S25 is a modern light tank – in other words, a versatile fighting vehicle that can be used by all branches of the armed forces in the tactical roles for which that category of armored vehicles is the best fit. The new system’s potential users include:

  • The Army (reconnaissance and anti-tank units, commandant units, alpine units and divisions, combined-services units serving with rapid-reaction or peacekeeping forces)

  • The Marines and Navy coastal forces

  • Airborne troops (parachute units, airborne assault and commando units and divisions)

  • Units assigned to mobile ground-based ICBM

  • Territorial defense units

The 2S25M self-propelled anti-tank cannon is capable of performing all the aforementioned roles on the ground, at sea, and in the air.

There are no other amphibious vehicles in Russia or abroad that pack such firepower in a relatively small package. The 2S25M is equipped with the 2A75M 125mm cannon, which can fire modern armor-piercing subcaliber projectiles, shaped-charge shells, HE-fragmentation shells, and projectiles with remote in-flight detonation. Such ammo is especially effective against enemy personnel, portable anti-tank system crews, unarmored vehicles, and light armor.

These advantages greatly improve the system’s combat performance. In terms of its firepower, it is comparable to another new Russian system, the T-90MS main battle tank. The 2S25M can also fire guided missiles with shaped-charge or HE fragmentation warheads capable of destroying even the most heavily-protected armored vehicles at a distance of up to 5km. The new system carries a complement of 40 cannon projectiles, including 22 in the mechanized rounds rack.

The 2S25M is also equipped with a remote-controlled 7.62mm machine-gun. It enables the commander of the vehicle to engage targets with the machine gun while the main weapon is in use by the operator. The total ammo complement of the machine guns is 3,000 rounds.

Apart from the tank cannon that is just as capable as the one used in the T-90MS, the 2S25M also has an almost identical and very advanced fire control system. That system is the Sosna-U, widely regarded as one of the best in the world. It includes a visual and IR-range channels. The commander’s panoramic sight also has these two channels. Both sights support automatic target acquisition and tracking. There is also a backup sight in case the main ones go down; it is an optical-electronic instrument, with a vertically stabilized field of view and an autonomous power source.

The 2S25M has a chassis information and control system that makes it much easier to operate and alerts the crew to any malfunctions. The latest frequency-modulation communication system supports technical transmission masking and can be integrated with modern command-and control systems, including automated ones such as the Andromeda-D (developed for the Airborne Assault Troops) or the Army’s ESU TZ Sozvezdiye-M2.

The system’s undercarriage, engine, and gearbox are shared with the BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle and the BMD-4M amphibious infantry fighting vehicle. The UTD-29 multifuel, 500hp diesel engine can propel the 18-tonne vehicle with a 3-man crew at up to 70km/h on land and 10 km/h at sea.

The chassis is equipped with a highly efficient independent hydropneumatic variable-clearance suspension. Given the roles for which this vehicle is designed, its ability to press its belly to the ground or the landing platform is hard to overestimate.

Experts believe that the 2S25M self-propelled anti-tank cannon is the world’s only modern light tank. The need for such vehicles will continue to grow in the foreseeable future, especially considering the cost of upgraded third-generation main battle tanks.

The family of amphibious fighting vehicles developed by SKBM and Kurganmashzavod offer excellent protection, maneuverability, and firepower; they are also very sensibly priced. There is no doubt that the BT-3F, the BMP-3F, and the 2S25M will be a great success in this category of the global arms market, in which Russia has long enjoyed a strong presence.

Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST)
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