The Russian BMP-T, nicknamed the “Terminator,” was a design first conceived about 30 years ago after Russia’s disastrous foray into Chechnya. Now, Russia is testing eight “Terminator” vehicles. It plans on also exporting the vehicle.

On Monday, Russia rolled out the vehicle for testing during maneuvers with the 90th Tank Division.

The “Terminator” is designed to defeat anti-tank forces. It was a number of weapons: Twin 30mm guns, which can be used against infantry forces and low-flying aircraft; four (two on each side of the vehicle) supersonic Ataka anti-tank missiles, which have a range of six kilometers; two AG-17D grenade launchers; and one coaxial 7.62 mm PKTM machine gun.

The BMP-T is mounted on the T-90 tank chassis and is heavily armored with reactive armor. It is designed to engage three different targets at once with its four weapons operators; it can carry five crew members in total. 

The Russian “Terminator” was first designed in the late 1980s. Interest in the design peaked after Russia’s disastrous invasion of Chechnya in the mid-1990s. At the time, Russian forces employed Soviet-era tactics which resulted in some of their units being decimated in urban warfare.  

In a piece published earlier this week, Popular Mechanics highlighted the blunders of the Russian commanders during the Chechnya fighting.

“Russian tank and armored vehicle forces took heavy losses fighting against Chechen guerrillas. On New Year’s Eve 1994, an advance by Russian forces into the city of Grozny ended in a massacre. The 131st “Maikop” Brigade alone lost 800 men, 20 out of 26 tanks, and 102 out of 120 other armored vehicles in just two days of combat.”

Their tanks, designed for open terrain, were unable to raise or lower their main gun barrels high enough to engage Chechnyan anti-tank gunners. Without proper infantry support, they were decimated. The “Terminator” vehicles were designed to counter that deficiency by driving alongside armored forces inside urban environments. 

The United States — or any of our Western allies — doesn’t have a vehicle similar to the “Terminator.” Yet, this isn’t a gap that needs to be addressed.

That’s because the vehicle, while impressive in its design and neat (almost Hollywood-like) in its appearance is totally unnecessary. 

An earlier version of the BMP-T, the Russian “Terminator,” with exposed missiles. (Wikipedia)

In 2010, the Russian military approved the vehicle’s use but rejected the decision to fund it calling the design unnecessary. And it looked no farther than the American invasion of Iraq as proof. 

American combined arms Infantry and Armor units worked extremely effectively in Iraq’s cities and didn’t suffer near the number of casualties that the Russians did in Grozny. Thus, the Russians learned that their biggest deficiency wasn’t their lack of proper equipment, but their tactics.

The “Terminator” was designed by UralVagonZavod, the Russian military’s leading tank producer. According to reports coming out of Russia, the company is having issues with breaking even. 

As with any military-industrial complex, politics certainly come into play. So, in 2017, the Russian government flip-flopped and finally ordered 10 vehicles. Nonetheless, there were issues with the initial design. Russian reports stated that generals didn’t like the fact that the Ataka missile launchers were unprotected from enemy fire. The fire-control system wasn’t up to par and there were rumors that the vehicle could actually only engage one target at a time. Plus, since the vehicles were designed on a tank chassis, they were very expensive. 

The Russians sent one BMP-T to Syria for testing and now are calling the design combat-proven. But while the Russian military is lukewarm to the “Terminator,” it’s hoping to generate interest in other nations to purchase the vehicle. 

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Victor Litovkin, a retired Russian colonel and senior military analyst for the news agency Tass, said that, “The Terminator has proved itself a ‘universal soldier’ who can independently fight terrorists armed with small arms, grenade launchers and [anti-tank guided missiles], as well as resist tank platoons equipped with UAVs.”

But the sales pitch that one Russian Terminator can replace a motorized rifle platoon of 40 soldiers and six armored vehicles is bordering on ridiculous.

While the firepower of the vehicle is certainly impressive, it can’t possibly perform all of the functions of a 40-man platoon. Nevertheless, there are already suitors that are reportedly lining up to purchase the BMP-T, among them Algeria, Peru, and Azerbaijan. 

Neat? Yes indeed. But unnecessary.