The Russian Ministry of Defense in November 2021 decided the fate of the unique tank support combat vehicle (BMPT) “Terminator”. After lengthy tests, BMPT units are set to appear in two tank regiments of the 90th Panzer Division (TD). And in the future, BMPTs may also appear in the motorised rifle regiment of this formation. Previously, BMPT Terminators were tested and showed themselves well in battle in the city, mountains, and anti-tank combat vehicles.
The BMPT is a “partner” of the tank and is designed primarily for destroying enemy soldiers and weapons so that the tank can focus on destroying armoured targets.
In the 1980s, Soviet designers began creating special tanks with radically different weapons to defeat soldiers and lightly armoured vehicles, including at close range. The long-barreled cannon was replaced by automatic cannons, grenade launchers, machine guns and rocket systems for various purposes.
The Russian forces were not ready to revise the structure of tank units and the tactics of using just one type of military equipment. Therefore, the development of this class of machines was sluggish in Soviet times and even more so in the 90s.
But the experience of local wars, especially in Chechnya where the tanks had to enter the settlement, engage in a fierce battle, during which sometimes one successful hit from an RPG-7 is enough to lose an expensive and valuable vehicle. It is impossible to predict such a shot and challenging to prevent it.
BMPT was back in favour in the 2010s as a “breakthrough development. The development of exotic technology was slow – the new “half-tank” looked menacing, but there were no intelligible thoughts about what to do with it.
In 2017, the Terminator went to war in Syria. The results remained classified, but it is easy to guess as the BMPT was adopted. By 2018, three generations of these vehicles had been built, and finally, in 2021, the 9 BMPTs of the latest design entered the service.
Uralvagonzavod corporation (UVZ, Rostec) BMPT is built on T-72 or T-90 tank chassis. The latest Terminator-2 is built on the T-90 chassis. The turret contains the combat module, including two 30 mm 2A42 automatic cannons (with 850 rounds), a 7.62 mm PKTM machine gun (a modernised Kalashnikov machine gun with 2,100 rounds of ammunition), and the Ataka-T guided weapon system. The Ataka includes anti-tank guided missiles with a tandem HEAT warhead (9M120-1) and an ATGM with a high-explosive volumetric detonating warhead (9M120-1F).
The turret is also equipped with a laser rangefinder, a television channel and a thermal imaging channel in the commander’s panorama.
Probably in future, it can have a 57-mm 2A91 cannon – AU220M Baikal, integration with UAV and Armata chassis. The armour penetration by the 57-mm 2A91 gun makes it possible to destroy most of the existing combat vehicles on the battlefield. A wide range of other ammunition for this gun makes it possible to successfully eliminate any other enemy targets.
The crew of the BMPT consists of five people: a commander, a driver, a gunner operator and two operators. Accordingly, the vehicle has more “eyes” to monitor the situation than the tank. In addition, the Terminator’s gun has a high elevation angle, and it can fire, for example, at the upper floors of buildings, which tanks cannot do. Therefore, BMPTs are indispensable in combat operations in the city and on rough terrain.
A Uralvagonzavod press release stated, “In terms of its combat effectiveness, one BMPT will replace 2 BMPs and a motorised rifle platoon.”
Unsure of BMPT usefulness
BMPT is more expensive than a tank, requires more manpower, has no credible armour and lacks the 125 mm barrel gun compared to a tank. Experts are divided over its use in the future.
At the same time, in the future, the Armata platform may solve the existing problems of the BMPT.
With the Armata concept, the Russian Army is moving away from full-time units like the motorised rifle and tank companies and moving on to combat modules with a combination of combat and support vehicles.
As per some Russian experts, the composition of a minimum tactical module could be as follows: one or two T-14 Armata tanks, two or three heavy T-15 infantry fighting vehicles, a fire support vehicle with a combat module equipped with a 57-mm gun, combat vehicle equipped with a 152-mm cannon, a combat control vehicle and a support vehicle.
Such a unit will have a higher potential than the regular motorised rifle and tank units and, most importantly, have equal mobility and protection on the battlefield.
Kazakhstan became the first foreign buyer of Terminators.