BMP Infantry Fighting Vehicle: A Cold War–Era Contaminant-Proof Conveyance | HistoryNet MENU

BMP Infantry Fighting Vehicle: A Cold War–Era Contaminant-Proof Conveyance

By Jon Guttman
8/28/2014 • Gear, MH Tools

A latecomer to the field, the BMP was among the first infantry fighting vehicles used both to transport troops and provide direct fire support. (Image from New Vanguard #12 BMP Infantry Fighting Vehicle, 1967–94, by Steven Zaloga, © Osprey Publishing, Ltd.; illustration by Peter Sarson)
A latecomer to the field, the BMP was among the first infantry fighting vehicles used both to transport troops and provide direct fire support. (Image from New Vanguard #12 BMP Infantry Fighting Vehicle, 1967–94, by Steven Zaloga, © Osprey Publishing, Ltd.; illustration by Peter Sarson)

BMP-1
Length: 22 feet, 1 inch
Height: 6 feet, 4 inches to turret roof
Weight: 14.6 tons
Crew: Commander, driver, gunner and eight troops
Max. speed (road): 50 mph
Max. range (road): 370 miles
Fording depth: Amphibious

The Soviet Union produced no armored personnel carriers during World War II, unlike its Western allies and German opponents. But under the Cold War–era threat of nuclear conflict Soviet designers worked on a variety of vehicles—wheeled, tracked and hybrids—that would offer troops protection from airborne contaminants. What ultimately emerged was the Boyevaya Mashina Pyekhota, or BMP, which entered production in 1966 and saw progressive improvement with each new issue.

The BMP was among the first infantry fighting vehicles (IFV), used both to transport troops and provide direct fire support. Its front-mounted engine allows for a rear compartment accommodating eight soldiers, who can access the vehicle from two rear doors and fire their weapons through ports in the hull. The BMP’s one-man turret mounts a coaxial 7.62mm PKT machine gun and a 73mm 2A28 Grom (“Thunder”) rocket-firing gun, with fittings for a rail-mounted 9M14M Malyutka anti-tank missile. Boasting tracks and suspension similar to those of the T-64 tank, the vehicle is able to span trenches more than 6 feet across and climb obstacles more than 2 feet high. Fitted with a snorkel, it is also amphibious. With a top speed approaching 50 mph, the BMP is more than capable of keeping up with the action.

The Soviets closely studied the BMP-1’s combat debut in the October 1973 Yom Kippur War. While the Egyptians appreciated its mobility crossing the Suez Canal and negotiating the Kantara salt marshes, both they and the Syrians found the Grom projectile lacking in range, the Malyutka missile hard to guide from inside the moving vehicle and the armor protection inadequate. Upgraded variants have since seen considerable use in the Middle East and Russia’s wars in Chechnya.

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