BMP-1 Fighting Vehicle

The Bronevaya Maschina Piekhota (BMP-1) was first built in the early 1960s and seen in public in November 1967 at a Red Square parade. It was called the M-1967 and BMP by NATO before its correct designation was known. The BMP represented an important shift from the concept of an armored personnel carrier to an armored infantry combat vehicle, combining high mobility, effective anti-tank weapons, and armored protection for carrying troops. The BMP is significantly smaller than Western APCs and has considerably greater firepower. The BMP-1 was innovative in that it allowed the infantry being carried to fire their personal weapons from within the vehicle whilst remaining protected by armour. To do this firing ports and vision devices were provided for each infantry soldier. Thus the BMP became the first Infantry Combat Vehicle. The BMP-1 carrys a crew of three to eight. The BMP replaced the BTR-50P and complements the BTR-60PB in first-line motorized rifle units. It should be emphasized that the Soviets replaced the PT-76 with the BMP in front line divisions.

The BMP found increasing usage in a reconnaissance role. The firepower of its 73-mm main gun made it an ideal vehicle for conducting raids, for reconnaissance when a meeting engagement is expected, or as a basic scout vehicle which can carry sophistacated equipment. In a meeting engagement, BMP equipped units could play a primary role both by timely detecti6n of the enemy and by preventing enemy deployment. Taking advantage of the great maneuverability, heavier armor protection and sufficient firepower, BMP units were considered to be particularly effective.

A combination of effective antitank firepower, high mobility, and adequate protection made the BMP a formidable addition to the inventory of Soviet motorized rifle units. Designed to suit the demands of high-speed offensive in a nuclear war, it carries a 73mm, 2A20 gun with maximum rounds of 40 and maximum range of over 7,000 ft. Its 73-mm main gun fires a rocket-assisted, fin- stabilized HEAT projectile with an effective range of 800 meters medium (capable of successfully engaging tanks at ranges up to 1,300 meters) and is equipped with an automatic loader. The main armament of the BMP1 is unusual, in that it fires the same ammunition as the RPG-7 infantry rocket propelled grenade launcher. A launching rail for the AT-3 Sagger antitank guided missile is located above the gun for longer range antitank capability (up to 3,000 meters).

The BMP is a fully armored amphibious infantry combat vehicle (AICV). Its low silhouette hull has a sharp sloping front with a conspicuously ridged surface. A centrally located, extremely flat, truncated cone turret mounts a 73-mm smoothbore gun and a 7.62-mm coaxial machine gun. A launching rail for SAGGER missiles is attached above the gun. The 290 hp, water-cooled, 6- cylinder diesel engine is located at the right front, while the driver's hatch is at the left front, directly in front of the commander's hatch which mounts an IR searchlight. The gunner's hatch is on the left side of the low turret roof. To the rear of the turret there are four large hatches in the roof of the troop compartment, as well as two large exit doors in the rear. There are four firing ports in each side of the troop compartment and one in the left rear door. The suspension has six unevenly spaced road wheels of the PT-76 type, with three track support rollers and a front drive sprocket.

The BMP is amphibious, propelled through water by its tracks rather than using the waterjet propulsion of the PT-76, and has the range and speed necessary to keep up with the fast-moving tanks it normally follows in offensive formations.

The BMP has a three-man crew, including the vehicle commander, who becomes the squad leader when the infantry passengers dismount through the rear exit doors. However, vision blocks and firing ports in the sides and rear of the troop compartment allow the infantrymen to fire assault rifles (AKM or AK-74) and light machine guns (PKM or RPK-74) from inside the vehicle on the move. The troops also carry the RPG-7 or RPG-16 AT grenade launcher and the SA-7/ GRAIL or SA-14 SAM, either of which can be fired by a passenger standing in a rear hatch. When buttoned up, crew and passengers have NBC protection in the pressurized and filtered hull, which allows them to operate regardless of the outside environment.

The BMP is equipped with an infrared searchlight, periscopes, and sights for night operations and has a capability to make its own smoke screen by injecting diesel fuel into the exhaust manifold.

Because of the extreme vulnerability demonstrated by the BMP in the 1973 Middle East war, there has been extensive debate in the Soviet Army as to how this vehicle should be used in battle. The BMP has relatively thin armor (maximum thickness 19 mm in the hull, 23 mm in the turret) which provides protection against .50 caliber armor-piercing rounds only over the 60° frontal arc, and the vehicle is extremely vulnerable to ATGM and tank fire. Due to the compactness of the vehicle, critical areas such as the engine compartment and ammunition storage area (on the right side), fuel cells (in the rear doors), and the troop compartment are located in such a manner that penetration anywhere on the vehicle normally will result in a mobility, firepower, or personnel kill.

Because of limited capability to depress the main gun, the BMP is unable to engage tanks and APCs from good hull-down positions, and so is very vulnerable to enemy fire when it exposes itself to engage targets.

Although the turret can traverse 360 degrees, the main gun and coaxial machine gun must be elevated to clear the IR searchlight on the commander's cupola, creating a dead space for both weapons between 10:00 and 11:00 o'clock. This limitation could be a serious problem during an engagement since an automatic cutoff on the electrically operated turret halts movement until the gun is elevated.

The BMP can maintain its top speed (70 km/h) for only short periods of time because of the high amount of vibration and the possibility of transmission failure. Due to the complicated loading mechanism and the lack of stabilization, it is not possible to accurately fire the 73-mm gun or the coaxial machine gun while on the move over rough terrain. The BMP must be stationary when firing and tracking the SAGGER ATGM. The SAGGER is difficult to reload and cannot be reloaded at all under NBC conditions. The land navigation system must be zeroed every 30 minutes.


The BMP infantry combat vehicle also has become the basis for a family of variants which perform other roles. Each variant bears a designation corresponding to the year in which it was first observed. Many BMPs now mount either the improved, semiautomatic AT-3c/SAGGER or the new AT -4/SPIGOT or AT-5/SPANDREL ATGM.

  • BMP Model 1966 - The original version of the BMP (also called BMP-A) with a shorter bow than its successor, the BMP-1.
  • BMP-1 (BMP M1976) - The most common variant of the infantry combat vehicle is the BMP-1 which appeared in 1970. Its most noticeable modifications, the lengthening of the bow and the extension of the deflector shroud to the rear, were designed to improved the vehicle's swimming capability which was inhibited by the forward placement of the engine. Other changes include an enlarged and squared firing port for the PKM machine gun below the turret and repositioned vision blocks above the crew compartment.
  • BMP-1K [BMP Ml974] -- Command variant of the BMP-1, which differs from the BMP-1 mainly by having additional radio equipment and antennas and having the machine gun ports welded shut.
  • BMP-1P [BMP M1981] -- BMP-1 with the replacement of the AT-3 SAGGER launch rail by a pintel-mounted AT-4 SPIGOT ATGM launcher. This variant has a two-man turret mounting a 30-mm automatic cannon. An AT-4/SPIGOT or AT-5/SPANDREL tube-launched ATGM is mounted atop the turret (rather than above the gun tube as with the AT-3/SAGGER launch rail on the BMP-1). Compared to the BMP-1, there is one less firing port on each side of the rear fighting compartment, as well as an additional machine gun firing port on the left side of the hull, forward of the turret. The track covers of the BMP M1981 also have been modified.
  • BMP-1PK -- Command variant of the BMP-1P
  • BMP KShM [BMP 1978] -- mounts a large telescopic antenna and more radio equipment than the BMP M 1974. No armament is mounted in the turret. This variant is reported to be used by regimental and division staffs.
  • PRP-3 (BMP-SON - previously known as BMP M1975) has an enlarged two-man turret, which has been moved toward the rear. The turret armament consists of only a 7.62-mm machine gun (rather than the 73-mm gun and SAGGER rail of the BMP-1). A rectangular folding antenna for the SMALL FRED battlefield surveillance radar is mounted on the rear of the turret. The effective range of the radar is 20 km. The PRP-3 carries a five- man crew and extensive radio and optical equipment. One of these vehicles is assigned to a howitzer battalion (towed or self-propelled), and one is found in the target acquisition battery of an artillery regiment.
  • PRP-4 -- Successor to the PRP-3, with an additional fairing on the right side of the turret.
  • IRM - Amphibious Engineer Reconnaissance Vehicle
  • BWP: Polish version of BMP-1
  • M-80 - While sometimes reported as a Yugoslav copy of the Russian BMP-1 AFV, this is evidently not the case.
  • BVP-1: Czech production BMP-1 - The BVP-1 Infantry Fighting Vehicle (Bojové vozidlo pechoty) is a light combat tracked vehicle, highly mobile, and fitted with efficient weapons and armouring. It increases the firepower and manoeuvrability of mechanized units in the theatre of operations, including in cases of a WMD attack. The vehicle is equipped with a 73mm gun (model 71), a coaxial 7.62mm PKT tank machine gun, and a launching rail for anti-tank guided missiles. The BVP-1 with its armouring and pressurized and filtered hull provides a reliable protection of the crew against pressure wave and penetrating radiation in case of a nuclear attack, against chemical and bacteriological weapons, and against radioactive dust when the vehicle is operating in contaminated terrain.
  • BPzV; This Czech combat reconnaissance vehicle (APC) is an amphibious reconnaissance vehicle on BVP-1 chassis, intended for independent reconnaissance or combat activities, as a rule in enemy rear area. It is characterised by an increased firepower, more reliable protection, higher mobility and more purposeful equipment compared to the OT-65 armoured personnel carrier which was formerly used for similar purposes. The BPzV consists of an engine/gear compartment at the front, troop compartment at the middle, and operators´ compartment in the rear part of the vehicle. The equipment of the former two compartments is similar to that of the BVP-1; the only difference is an additional 902S eight-barrel smoke grenade launcher mounted in the rear part of the turret (from the outside). Like the BVP-1, the vehicle is equipped with a semi-automatic 73mm gun (model 71), a coaxial 7.62 PKT tank machine-gun, and an ATGM launching rail. Due to its original construction and equipment, the BPzV provides the crew with a reliable protection from pressure wave and penetrating radiation in case of a nuclear attack, from radioactive dust when the vehicle is operating in contaminated area, and from chemical and bacteriological weapons. Besides classical surveillance instruments and range finders to track stationary and moving targets, the vehicle is also equipped with a PSNR-5 radar.

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