Additional protection for light armored vehicles: from BTR-82 to Kurganets

BTR-82AM armored personnel carrier without additional protection. Photo of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

In a real battle, any armored vehicle can become a target for powerful anti-tank weapons, incl. cars of light classes. Due to the limited durability of standard protection, such machines are exposed to special risks and therefore need additional means. In recent years, the Russian defense industry has offered several options for additional protection of existing and future light armored vehicles.

Screens and grilles

The development of additional means of protection can be considered on the example of recent projects for the modernization of the BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle. Its frontal protection is built according to the spaced scheme using aluminum and steel sheets, which provides resistance to 30-mm automatic cannon projectiles. Aluminum armor on other projections protects against large-caliber bullets. At the same time, protection against large-caliber projectiles, as well as cumulative ammunition, is not provided.

In the past, exhibitions have demonstrated various options for additional protection of the BMP-3. In particular, the dynamic protection “Cactus” and the active “Arena” were used. However, such modernization options were not without drawbacks. For example, DZ increased the size and weight of the car, and also did not allow swimming.

Additional protection for light armored vehicles: from BTR-82 to Kurganets

Experimental BMP-2 with dynamic protection “Cactus”. Photo

The development of hinged booking modules and additional screens was carried out. So, “Kurganmashzavod” offers customers a set of hinged armor screens for installation on the side of the BMP-3. The shield provides protection against a 12.7 mm bullet, but does not interfere with swimming and does not make maintenance difficult.

An interesting variant of additional protection was shown at the Army-2015 forum. This upgrade option provides for the installation of side armor hull screens. At the same time, lattice screens are installed on the wave-reflecting shield, on the screens and on the tower. Such equipment significantly increases the weight of the car, but almost does not deteriorate the running characteristics and allows you to swim. At the same time, resistance to ballistic threats is increased and protection against the most common cumulative ammunition appears.

In the future, a similar version of the BMP-3 was demonstrated several times at exhibitions. In addition, the upgraded machines became the subject of serial production contracts. So, in 2018, BMP-3 with armored screens and grilles were seen in the Iraqi army. At the Army-2019 forum, it was reported about the imminent signing of a contract for equipment for the Russian army – infantry fighting vehicles with screens. It soon became known that the Ministry of Defense had ordered 168 of these new vehicles. Also in the media it was reported about the beginning of equipping the existing equipment with screens in the units.

Modern version of modernization with the installation of screens of different types. Photo Wikimedia Commons

At the last “Army-2020” showed an interesting version of the deep modernization of the BMP-3 called “Manul”. One of the innovations of this project is the armored side screens covering the entire side projection of the hull. In this case, the grates are not used.

Modernization on wheels

Domestic wheeled armored personnel carriers have long been justly criticized due to the relatively low level of protection. Rolled armor no more than 10 mm thick (for BTR-80) can only withstand bullets of normal calibers; large-caliber small arms, as well as anti-tank grenades and missiles, are guaranteed to penetrate such protection. In the last serial project of the BTR-82, measures were taken to increase durability in the form of additional armor plates and anti-splinter lining, but the hull was not radically altered.

Last year, the Military Industrial Company presented a new version of strengthening the protection of an armored personnel carrier, such a vehicle was called the BTR-82AT. Armor plates of various shapes and sizes are fixed on the inspection hatches of the frontal sheet, on the lower frontal part and cheekbones. There is an air gap between the standard armor and additional plates, which gives the effect of spaced protection. The upper part of the sides is supplemented with new box-shaped blocks, the lower part is covered with curly sheets. Grilles of various shapes and sizes are placed on top of the additional screens of the case.

BTR-82AT with additional screens. Photo “VPK”

The developer claims that the BTR-82AT is now protected from large-caliber small arms. In addition, lattice screens drastically reduce the effectiveness of any cumulative anti-tank weapons. As a result of the modernization, the combat weight exceeded 17.2 tons – the screens made the main contribution to this.

At the “Army-2020” showed a new version of the BTR-82AT, equipped with a different combat module. At the same time, the additional protection has practically not changed and still includes armor plates and lattice screens.

The advantages of the BTR-82AT project or other similar developments are obvious. Domestic armored personnel carriers need increased protection, and such projects allow increasing survivability by relatively simple methods. However, the AT project has not advanced further than exhibitions so far. Perhaps in the near future it will be accepted for the modernization of existing equipment.

Promising projects

To replace the light armored vehicles of the existing models, several new models are now being created. These projects are being developed according to modern tactical and technical requirements and must initially correspond to actual challenges and threats. Among other things, this affects the protection in general and its individual components.

Armored vehicle “Boomerang”. The outer surface of the body is formed by overhead armor modules. Photo

According to available data, promising armored vehicles “Boomerang” and “Kurganets-25” receive hulls with combined protection in priority areas. Additional modular-type panels or other attachments are also provided. This is about integrating parts into the overall structure. Thus, the outer parts of the armor on the wheeled Boomerang look like a natural part of the vehicle. On “Kurganets” other large-size hinged blocks are used – they provide increased protection and increase buoyancy.

It is curious that both machines, unlike other developments, do not have lattice screens. An additional increase in survivability and stability is provided by a complex of active protection. There are reports on the possibility of using compatible types of remote sensing data.

Thus, promising armored vehicles for infantry of the “light” class receive advanced ballistic, anti-cumulative and mine protection, but in its architecture it differs markedly from that used in other projects. Kurganets-25 and Boomerang are being developed from scratch, and their creators are able to initially incorporate the necessary technologies into the design, rather than supplementing the finished product with new components. The advantages of this approach are obvious.

BMP “Kurganets-25” – the vehicle initially carries mounted blocks. Photo of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

Old and new

The Russian army and a number of foreign armed forces continue to operate the BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles of a number of modifications and various armored personnel carriers of the BTR-80/82 family. The production of such equipment also does not stop, and as it continues, new solutions and components are introduced. In addition, development work is being completed on two new platforms, which will then go into series.

All these circumstances suggest how the protection of combat armored vehicles, its crews and landing forces will be ensured in the foreseeable future. BMP-3 and BTR-80/82 will remain in service for a long time. Since they no longer fully meet modern requirements, one should expect the widespread introduction of new protection components – armor and lattice screens. Also, the long-awaited appearance of a massive KAZ cannot be ruled out.

The newer “Kurganets-25” and “Boomerang” initially receive a fairly powerful standard protection, supplemented by hinged modules, and can also carry other means. Thus, they already in the original configuration compare favorably with their predecessors, and further upgrades will only increase this gap.

Additional means of protection, increasing the overall level of resistance to various threats, are gradually being consolidated in the field of light armored vehicles for motorized riflemen. They are introduced in the modernization of old samples, and are also used in the development of new ones. Such processes are gaining momentum and obviously affect the survivability and combat effectiveness of equipment.

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