Greece upgrades its BMP-1A1 OST infantry fighting vehicles

In 2017, Greek media outlets published a footage of BMP-1A1OST firing tests. The decision to bring the BMP-1P with ZU-23-2 twin-barrel automatic anti-aircraft gun into service with the Hellenic Army is believed to be taken soon.

Greece upgrades its BMP 1A1 OST infantry fighting vehicles
BMP-1P OST re-armed with ZU-23-2 twin automatic autiomatic AA guns (Picture source: Defence-Point)

In 1991, Athens ordered over 500 BMP-1P of the former Nationale Volksarmee (NVA) from Germany, and the vehicles were delivered in 1992-1994. The IFVs were slightly upgraded: they received smoke dischargers of the Marder IFV, a roof-mounted Browning M2HB 12.7 mm heavy machinegun (the weapon replaced the BMP-1's organic launcher for the 9M14 Malyutka (NATO name: AT-3 Sagger) anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM), new protected headlamps, and rear viewers. The spare fuel tanks of the basic vehicle located in the back doors were filled with fireproof foam in order to increase the survivability of the IFV on the battlefield. The basic specifications and features of the BMP-1 remained the same.

The slightly updated IFV of the Hellenic Army was designated BMP-1A1 OST. This is noteworthy that the Greek military highly estimated the vehicles' reliability, maneuverability, and tactical flexibility. According to the Military Balance 2018 analytical book published by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the Hellenic Army operates 398 BMP-1A1 OST combat vehicles.

At the same time, the issue of a deeper modernization of the BMP-1A1 OST platform appeared in the 2010s. In particular, the Greek military said that the organic turret of the vehicle armed with a 2A28 Grom 73 mm semi-automatic cannon and a Kalashnikov PKT 7.62 mm coaxial machinegun did not meet modern requirements. The Hellenic Army wanted to have its armor fleet refitted; however, harsh financial environment cut any modernization program of the Greek Ministry of Defense (MoD).

Having faced the lack of funds, the military turned to modernization of the BMP-1A1 OST vehicles. In late 2014, the Hellenic Army conducted the initial trials of the BMP-1P IFV armed with a ZU-23-2 twin-barrel automatic anti-aircraft gun. The ZU-23-2 replaced the organic turret of the vehicle and received additional armor shield protecting against bullets and small fragments. The gun was integrated with an open mount. It should be mentioned that Greece was reported to have received about 500 ZU-23-2s from Germany in the 1990s. The integration of the anti-aircraft gun was aimed at the increase of the platform's effectiveness against dismounted troops, soft-skin vehicles, low-flying aerial targets (such as helicopters or unmanned aerial vehicles), and fast attack/landing craft (FAC/FLC).

The modernization works were conducted by the 308th Depot of the Hellenic Army, while the IFV's trials were conducted under the auspices of the 96th National Guard Command on the island of Chios. The upgraded BMP-1P was reported to have successfully passed its trials. In 2017, several local media outlets published a footage of the vehicle's firing tests. The decision to bring the BMP-1P with ZU-23-2 into service with the Hellenic Army is believed to be taken at an early date.

Despite its age, the BMP-1P still remains an effective transporting and support platform. Compared to the baseline BMP-1, the BMP-1P features an upgraded anti-tank weapon (namely, a roof-mounted single-rail launcher of the 9M113 Konkurs (AT-5 Spandrel) ATGM) and Tucha 902V smoke dischargers. According to the open sources, the BMP-1P infantry fighting vehicle has a combat weight of 13.4 t. The IFV is powered by a UTD-20 diesel engine with a power output of 300 hp, which produces a maximum road speed of 65 km/h, a maximum swimming speed of 7-8 km/h, and a power-to-weight ratio of 22.4 hp/t. The vehicle has a cruising range of 550-600 km. The baseline BMP-1P is armed with a 2A28 Grom 73 mm semi-automatic cannon, a Konkurs ATGM, a PKT 7.62 mm coaxial machinegun, and two Strela-2M (SA-7 Grail) man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS).