Russia might struggle to robotize its BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle – Technology Org

The BMP-3 is an infantry fighting vehicle, which entered service in the Soviet Union in 1987. It is still in production and is one of the main Russian armored weapons in their war against Ukraine. For some time now Russia has wanted to robotize the BMP-3, making it into an unmanned ground fighting vehicle.

A standard BMP-3 with a 100 mm gun.

A standard BMP-3 with a 100 mm gun. Image credit: Dmitriy Fomin via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)

The standard BMP-3, made in the Kurganmashzavod company in Kugan, has a crew of 3 and can carry up to 7 (9 with extra seats) soldiers as passengers. It is often armed with a 100 mm gun, which can also fire anti-tank missiles, but 30 mm autocannon variants are also common.

The BMP-3 has aluminum and steel armor, which makes this vehicle relatively light – it usually weighs less than 19 tons. This and its ongoing production make the BMP-3 a relatively attractive option for robotization.

There are two unmanned versions of the BMP-3 being developed. The 2S38 ZAK-57 Derivatsiya-PVO is a self-propelled air defense weapon with a 57 mm autocannon and target tracking equipment. It is mostly meant to shoot down cruise missiles and drones, but the optical and electronic target acquisition system can spot an aircraft 6.4 km away.

This version was supposed to complete its testing in 2022, but it is likely that Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine pressed the brakes on this project.

Meanwhile, the UDAR UGV is an unmanned infantry fighting vehicle. It has a turret with a 2A42 30 mm autocannon, a 7.62 mm machine gun, and a Kornet-M anti-tank missile launcher. The project to create such a vehicle was first announced in 2021.

At first, the use of a 57 mm autocannon was planned, but the ideas changed over time and the BMP-3 UDAR hasn’t been completed yet. Of course, the idea of ​​such an unmanned fighting vehicle is simple – it could fight without endangering the crews. It would be particularly useful in urban terrain.

However, Ukrainians believe that the closest Russia will come to a robotized BMP-3 will be a version of the regular fighting vehicle with an unmanned turret – this would reduce the crew from 3 to 2.

The BMP-3 might still be in production, but it is hardly a scary force. According to the estimates by an open-source intelligence website Oryx, the Russian army has already lost at least 240 BMP-3 vehicles in Ukraine.

Robotizing such an easy target is just too expensive of an endeavor for Russia. Of course, it is possible and would help reduce the number of crew members, but avoiding losses in effectiveness would be very tricky, which means that unmanned BTR-3s would fall at least as easily.

Furthermore, robotic machines take longer to make. As the defenders of Ukraine are destroying Russian armor so quickly, Russia needs to increase its production. Developing new technology is just impossible at this point in time.

Sources: , Wikipedia

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