Russian experts assess BMPT tank support vehicle - Part 2

Combat capabilities of a vehicle determine its place in a formation and the missions on the battlefield. As for BMPT, the Defense Ministry plans to use it for reinforcing tank and motorized rifle platoons, companies and battalions.
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BMPT-72 tank support vehicle (Picture source: Army Recognition)

BMPT is to operate with general units. It will destroy antitank missile complexes, handheld grenade launchers, and recoilless guns. BMPT can also fight light armor. All the weapons are dangerous for tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers. However, such BMPT engagement concept causes questions. Its weapons are not superior to APC or IFV. The vehicles are also armed with antitank missiles and 30mm automatic guns. Like BMPT, APC and IFV can effectively fight antitank complexes and handheld grenade launchers at a distance of 1.5-3 km. Therefore, BMPT is not superior to IFV and even BTR-82. The situation for BMPT is even worse in close combat when fighting goes on in fortified adversary positions. Formally, the vehicle is fit for the situation, as it has to protect tanks against infantry attacks in close combat.

BMPT is armed with 30mm automatic grenade launchers and is properly protected by dynamic armor. However the launchers are built into the body and have restricted movement. The crew has to maneuver and rotate to aim the gun. The 30mm grenades cannot destroy targets in field fortifications.

The 30mm automatic guns and Ataka supersonic missiles are senseless in close combat. In a major concentration of antitank weapons the dynamic armor of BMPT will prolong its life on the battlefield for several minutes. BMPT will be an easy target in close combat without protection of motorized rifles.

BMPT has no edge in fighting adversary armor at a distance of 3 km. The Ataka missile has a range of eight kilometers. However, the European theater of warfare does not provide such a fighting distance. The landscape will rarely help exceed a 3-kilometer distance. Thus, BMPT can theoretically implement its advantages only in a desert.

BMPT was initially designed to support tanks in towns. The Syrian experience showed that 30mm guns and grenade launchers are insufficient to fight the adversary in buildings. Therefore, the Syrian troops engaged T-90 tanks, as their armor repelled grenades and antitank missiles, while 125mm guns effectively destroyed buildings.

BMPT is necessary when motorized rifles have no tank support or tanks are fighting without infantry. BMPT has no edge against classical and tested tank-infantry-IFV link.

Another BMPT engagement option is to destroy small fortified adversary areas and positions in settlements in conditions of a weak antitank defense. In this case BMPT can maneuver at a safe distance and destroy the adversary by antitank missiles and 30mm guns.

BMPT can be used as antitank reserve. A company can rapidly advance towards intruding adversary armor and destroy tanks with Ataka missiles and light armor with 30mm guns, and then quickly retreat.

Kazakh experience is of interest. BMPT operate there together with heavy flamethrowers. The symbiosis looks strange, at first glance. However, a heavy flamethrower is an assault tank which destroys bunkers, fortifications and other facilities by thermobaric missiles. The flamethrowers operate in tank and motorized rifle units and are mounted on tank undercarriage therefore.

Heavy flamethrowers and tank support vehicles can be used to reinforce general troops to break through fortified areas. BMPT will clear positions for flamethrowers and keep adversary infantry and antitank weapons away. Tanks and motorized rifles will advance when the adversary defense is suppressed.

The Defense Ministry likely understands that the engagement concept of tank support vehicles is dubious. The vehicles have been procured, but not delivered to the troops. It is still unclear which units will operate them. Will they be BMPT companies and battalions in regiments, brigades and divisions or will the vehicles reinforce ordinary motorized rifle and tank companies as separate platoons? The Defense Ministry has been testing BMPT since 2017 and only now the vehicles participated in a large-scale exercise which is likely to determine their place and role in armored units of the Russian army.

BMPT has now received a prospective competitor. It is T-15 heavy infantry fighting vehicle with 57mm gun. T-15 has a better balanced set of armaments and exceeds BMPT in protection. T-15 can carry a detachment of motorized rifles who provide reliable protection to the vehicle and tanks in close combat, the Independent Military Review said.

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