Armor: November 10, 1999


: Russia has developed its own copy of the XM8 armored gun system, known as the 2S25 Airborne Self-Propelled Anti-Tank Gun. Built by the Volgagrad Tractor Factory, the 2S25 is "ready for production" and awaits only enough cash (from the Russian Army or an export customer) to start. The 2S25 uses a stretched BMD-3 hull with seven road wheels. It carries a 125mm smoothbore 2A75 gun, stabilized in two axes and able to fire the same ammunition as the T-72 and T-80. It carries 22 rounds in the autoloader and 18 reserve rounds in the hull. The vehicle weighs only 18 tons, making it the lightest vehicle ever to carry a full-sized third-generation modern tank cannon. The previous holder of this record was the 24-ton Swedish Udes-20, which had a NATO 120mm smoothbore cannon. The 2S25 can be fired in a 360 arc, although this is limited to 70 when the vehicle is swimming across a river. The PKT coaxial 7.62mm machinegun has 2,000 rounds. Armor is proof against 7.62mm bullets (12.7mm across the front arc.) The suspension can be lowered to 4 inch ground clearance (or raised to 19 inches) in six seconds, allowing the vehicle to "duck" behind a barrier between shots. The vehicle's power and suspension could handle up to 22 tons, indicating plans for a progressive series of add-on armor packages. Power is provided by a 510hp diesel. There is a crew of three (driver, commander, gunner). --Stephen V Cole

The US Army has ordered another 15 M88A2 Hercules tank recovery vehicles, bringing the total number ordered to 102.--Stephen V Cole

BMP-3: NOTHING LIKE IT: With the exception of the BMP-3, every infantry fighting vehicle in the world follows the same pattern: driver and engine in front, turret in the center, troops (usually too few of them) in the rear. The BMP-3 is different in that it has the engine at the rear, with five troops behind the turret and two more (firing machineguns during the assault) forward of it. The layout of the BMP-3 is similar to that of the BMD-1, which was built 20 years earlier by a separate design bureau in a different factory. Dismounting of the troops is extremely awkward. The five troops in the rear can either crawl through a tunnel 550mm (21 inches) high to reach the rear doors, or open the top hatches allowing them to walk through the tunnel (exposed to enemy fire). In either case, troops reaching the back of the vehicle must then jump down 1m to the ground. The two troops in the front must open their hatches, climb up on top of the vehicle, and then jump off the front. Curiously, the rear troop compartment is extremely cramped, but has seven seats for the five riflemen. This rear compartment has three periscopes allowing the troops there to observe the surrounding terrain. The BMP-3 has an aluminum hull, a first in Russian armored vehicles. Spaced steel armor plates on the front give the BMP-3 protection from 30mm shells fired as close as 300m. The BMP-3 is about the same size as the Bradley, but weighs 11 tons less (18 tons versus 29). This accounts for the fact that the BMP-3 is proof against no more than 7.62mm bullets from the side and rear. This relatively light weight allows the BMP-3 to swim without floatation screens (other than a forward trim vane). Speed in the water is 10 kilometers an hour, pushed by two water jets. The BMP-3 is propelled by a 500hp diesel engine. It has ten cylinders in two banks, mounted in a 144 V. This makes the engine unusually low (598mm), allowing the troops to climb over the engine compartment when dismounting to the rear. The rear-mounted engine and drive sprockets give the vehicle more traction in soft ground. The armament of the BMP-3 is a unique two-barreled cannon including the 30mm 2A72 autocannon and the 100mm 2A70 rifled low-pressure gun-launcher, used to launch explosive shells against softer targets and laser-guided missiles against tanks. While the arrangement appears unusual, it is really not much different in principle from the combination of a 25mm chaingun and a TOW launcher on the US Bradley. Indeed, it may be more effective, since the "missile launcher" can be reloaded under armor and can launch useful high-explosive shells. The anti-tank missile fired from the 2A70 is the same as that fired from the 100mm cannon on T-55 tanks, but has a different propellant in the booster charge. The gun has 22 high explosive shells in a carousel loader, plus 18 more in reserve and eight 9M117 missiles. --Stephen V Cole

Russia's KBP Instrument Design Bureau is seeking export customers for its Germes (Hermes) anti-tank vehicle. Based on a BMP-3 chassis, Germes has an unusual turret mounted 12 anti-tank missiles along with radar and optical guidance systems. The missiles are the Vikhr (AT-16) originally designed to arm helicopters and ground attack aircraft. The laser-guided Vikhr-A missile weighs 45kg and reaches 6,000m in 14 seconds; it has a maximum range of 10,000km (half of that at night). Vikhr-A mounts a single shaped-charge warhead. The newer Vikhr-S has a range of 15,000m (7,000m at night). It can be fitted with two warheads, a tandem shaped-charge warhead and a thermobaric (fuel-air explosive) warhead. Vikhr-S can be guided by radar, infrared, and semi-active laser. Published Russian doctrine calls for two missiles to be fired at each target to virtually guarantee one of them hits and destroys it.--Stephen V Cole




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