BMD4: New Russian Airborne Armor

More Russian Airborne Armor Arrives

Strategy Page has a post on the Russian BMD4:

Weighing 13.6 tons, it has a crew of three and carries five troops as passengers. It is armed with a 100mm low velocity cannon (with a range of 7,000 meters), a 30mm autocannon (range 4,000 meters) and a twin 7.62mm machine-guns. The 100mm gun also fires the 9M117M1-3 anti-tank guided missile. Four of these missiles are normally carried, along with 34 100mm high explosive shells. The BMD4 is basically the body of the BMP3 [BMD3? -ed.], with a new turret. The vehicle includes thermal sights, is amphibious and can be dropped by parachute. Top speed on roads is 70 kilometers an hour, and 10 kilometers an hour in the water.

The numbers look good on this machine, and it’s a bit sad that the US Army has nothing comparable.

Okay…Really, really sad.


  1. The BMD4 is basically the body of the BMP3, with a new turret. Typo? Body of the BMD3. BMD is a lighter MICV than non-airportable BMP. What this sounds like is a BMP3 Turret on a BMD body.

  2. This is what I have been getting at when criticizing Strykers. Not that Strykers don’t have a role (apparently, they do) – but rather that other vehicles could be useful in different circumstances. Vehicles which would not be hard to put together from (mostly) pre-existing parts like the Russians have done. If the US land forces (Army, Marines, etc.) had air-transportable (C-130) vehicles with good mobility and firepower, that could go a long way towards creating a highly mobile, well-equiped force capable of being dropped into hostile territory and holding a position/completing objectives in a way that few other militaries would be capable of. Think of it as 3D maneuver warfare – blitzkrieg for the 21st century.

  3. One has to be careful when looking at Russian specs. Their numbers have always been great – their performance in actual combat has been suspect. Is it the equipment? or the troops? This thing carries a fair number of bells and whistles. The 100mm gun/launcher has always been a great idea that suffers in actual use. If this thing gets hit, the crew is dead. There is a whole lot of things that go bang rattling inside.

  4. True, but I think it would be possible to come up with a vehicle somewhere inbetween an M113 and a Bradley, which has better armour and armament than an M113 (possibly at the expense of troop carrying capacity) while still fitting into a C130 and ready to roll off & fight. It’s not going to be as well armoured as an M1 but if you’re airlifted into enemy territory, it’s better than not having any heavy weapons.

  5. Air mobility is dead people. No nation has the capacity to sustain the movement of an armored force via the air. None. The US doesnt need anything comparable. Use Stryker TOWs or the MGS to deal with this thing.

  6. We already developed such a vehical its the The M8 Buford.,14632,Soldiertech_Buford,,00.html Its a real shame that it got caught up in politics. It has it all over the Stryker MSG. (Which is an overweight excuse of a target – no armor, poor ammo supply, and a danger to its own troops.) Skrip00 – You are overlooking the role of 82nd airborne and the whole rational for the Styker. The army wanted an air mobile armor unit.

  7. What the Army wanted, and what Reality gave them, were two totally different things. 1. The Stryker is air-mobile. Just use C-17s. Its more efficient that way since you can use one plane and crew to deliver 2 fully armed Strykers. 2. If you own the airspace well enough, you own it so that you can use infrastructure in place, or to land infrastructure to support C-17 landing operations. This saves C-130s for troop drops and cargo hauling. But aside from that… the 82nd is a light force, designed to fight for a limited ammount of time against a small threat. Strykers and soldiers with Javelins can hold off an armored division and slow it down, but in no way can stop it on their own. I have reviewed modern Army Airborne doctrines, and I am satisfied. Its quite ingenious how it works. But as the current global situation goes… Air-mobile armor is not needed. Use the 82nd for ‘soft’ missions, then support via airstrikes and later on… heavy armor.

  8. What the Army wanted, and what Reality gave them…’ You mean what the Military-Industrial Complex a.k.a. Cash-For-Contractors scheme gave them? ‘I have reviewed modern Army Airborne doctrines, and I am satisfied.’ Well I’m not. ‘Its quite ingenious how it works.’ It works? How do you know. Nobody uses it any more because they’d just get slaughtered due to the lack of organic armour and fire support. They had better vehicles with the M551 than they do now with HMMWVs, as poor a tank as the M551 may have been.

  9. The M551 was crap. Everyone new it. It didnt offer much at all in protection or Firepower. There is no lost capaility. Even if the M8 and M113s were still used in the airborne armor capacity… do you know how many airborne assets they would use up??? Something like 10~15 C-130s, and another 10 or so C-17s. Just to move said armor, soldiers, and material to support this unit. With the way the world works these days, this capability isnt really needed. But, as I said, you can fit 2 Strykers per C-17 and deliver and handful of them to provide support for paratroop.

  10. Skrip00 – I really wonder about you. Anyway – C-17’s are not used for tactical assaults. Its too valuable. That is why there is the C-130. Next, if you were going to use a C-17, you would not want to load it with 2 Stykers.2 Bradley’s or 3 M-8 would give you much more firepower. Operations in Afganistan would be much easier if we had mid wieght ground vehical with some firepower.

  11. Look, there is no such thing as a ‘tactical assault’. Between the precision firepower of the US air forces, and what the average infantryman carries… you dont need airborne armor to be paradropped into action. Frankly, the current US strategy involves one of two things. Capture an enemy paved airstrip. Or buld your own. This usually involves airborne troops and maybe some light euipment. Once you have the airstrip, you can proceed to bring in C-17s. And, depending on its quality, C-5s as well. Move in a whole brigade rather quickly. It works, and works well. Use C-130s for troops and supplies, and C-17s and C-5s for heavier stuff. Then invade from friendly territory to bring in heavy stuff.

  12. What if we built a small armored vehicle like this and basically made it a land going version of the A-10? Power it with a small turbine and electric drive. Mount the A-10 gatling gun on it and a missile launch tube for TOWs. Armor it up enough to keep out the usual stuff and send it to the front on a pallet dropped from the back of a C-130. That would be hell on 2 tracks. The turbine power would make it cost a little bit, but you could probably easily use an existing engine from a commuter turboprop, and heck, if we can make cars run on electric drive without being too expensive, we should be able to do the same with a light tank. Well, we all know what it would cost after the defense contractors got done studying and developing it to death. As soon as they built 3 it would get cancelled.

  13. Gulf war I – Iraq invades Kuwait. The 82nd airborne goes to Saudi Arabia. Everyone is scared shitless, because if the republican guard moves south, the 82nd will be ground into mulch. Rapid deployment forces (airborne) are only useful if they have sufficent firepower. The latest conflict in Lebanon shows the limits of airpower in urban settings. The armor has to be C130 deployable because C-17’s are not generally used for tactical airlift. So you are not going to get C-17 support (and never C-5) in hot zones. Defens – what you are talking about already exists in most respects. And yes you are right. They are building 4 or 5 prototypes never to see production.

  14. Skrip, the mission of the A-10 is to kill tanks, right? Is there something magical about being airborne? Why does being hard to hit in the air mean more than being hard to hit on the ground? The main differences between the A-10 and what I’m proposing is the difference in mindset between the Army and Air Force. We could really use a tank that can fight in mountains. We see this in Afghanistan and will likely see this again soon in Iran. Of course, the other part of the equation is developing the capability to air drop such a vehicle onto a mountain road from a C-130 with troops under fire. That’s the part I’d like to work on. I’ll let someone else design the vehicle. Thanks for the link, James. That’s exactly the kind of drive system that I’m thinking of. I like the turbine engine because of the high power density. Kerosene, like diesel, isn’t as explosive as gas. With a good fuel tank inerting system, it can be very stable.

  15. Because the top armor on most tanks is the thinnest. A-10s actually have an angle to hit it. Its also the reason why vehicles with 30mm cannons cant kill MBTs. James, GW1, the 82nd had their Sheridans and were still scared shitless. Even if they had M8 Bufords, they wouldve been outgunned and outnumbered. They are only a stopgap designed to slow the enemy advance and make them think a bit.

  16. So you can’t kill a heavy battle tank with the 30mm, you’ve still got the TOW. As I understand it, they typically shoot them up and then have them dive down on the target as part of their standard operating proceedure. The 30mm gun would take out almost anything else including buildings, bunkers, anything armored short of a monster tank. It is a huge amount of firepower for an otherwise lighly armed group of infantry. I don’t see a down side.

  17. TOW-IIB is top-attack. Just keep the sight on target and the missile does the rest. Using the GAU-8 is kinda dumb. Its big and heavy. Face it: Styker family already covers all this. Got armor? Use the Stryker ATGM. Enemy hold up in building? Use Stryker ICV with .50 mount of 40mm mount. Got a bunker? Use the MGS. Got enemies hold up somewhere? Use the Stryker MCV.

  18. Skrip: You’re right about the Javelin giving infantry a powerful anti-armor capability, and you’re right about the Stryker already covering a lot of the things an airborne light tank-ish vehicle would cover. But, despite its success so far in Iraq and the fact that Murdoc is a fair fan of the machine, the Stryker is not air-droppable and is only C-130 air transportable with a light load of fuel and ammo. And the crew rides in a different plane, so you’re basically looking at one Stryker per two C-130s. On top of that you have the limited off-road capability of the wheeled Stryker (big bonus when you’re on roads, but very limiting when off). I just don’t think the Stryker fits the bill for the Airborne, at least it won’t when the Airborne really needs airborne armor. I’ve always thought a light tracked vehicle that carried a few passengers and sported a small turret with a 75-90mm cannon and a coaxial .50 cal would fit the bill very nicely. Mobile fire support beyond what the troops can carry on their backs (a limited number of Javelins excepted), carrying extra gear and ammo for the troops, and give the troops a ride when possible. To be honest, I’ve also thought that up-armored Humvees with .50 cals and TOWs could serve the same purpose. If a light tank-ish vehicle isn’t coming (and we all know that it isn’t) maybe that might be the route to go. Just the fact that the guys wouldn’t have to hump it on foot wherever they’re going would make a difference. If nothing else, they could bring a heck of a lot more Javelins. Yes, in all these cases survivability of the vehicle in a major fight would be in doubt, but face it…in a major fight the survivability of the airborne itself would be in doubt, light tanks or no. Vehicles improve the survivability while adding to the mobility and the firepower. The right vehicles, anyway. They would make the airborne better at what it currently is tasked to do, not turn it into a major offensive force. (For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Airborne buy a boat load of ATVs simply to help carry stuff. The Special Forces love ’em. Twice as much stuff could be moved at twice the speed of rucking everything on the backs of the troops…)

  19. That’s about the right size. I was thinking of something 20,000 lbs or less. That way a Herk could carry two, or one and a bunch of troops. It shouldn’t have a crew of more than 2. That 30mm gun could be used effectively against aircraft or missiles too.

  20. skrip00 – The Sheridans quite simply suck and were only kept because there was nothing else. A heavy machine gun can take them out. In GWI they simply were targets. It’s doubtful that their main gun would of been effective against the T-72. A M-8 on the other hand has sufficent armor, such that only the main gun of iraqi tanks would of killed it. Its ability to fire acurately on the move would of enabled it to do real damage. Would they of felt better with M-1’s sure, but at least the M-8 gives you a viable weapon. Dfens – This link might be what you are looking for. I love the new coast guard cutter. Page 29. Murdoc may want to do post on it. It think it may be related to his skateboard weapon.

  21. Murdoc, but look where we are fighting the majority of our combat. Typically on an enemy’s road infrastructure with access to airfields. Also, using C-130s to haul Strykers is a stupid move anyway. C-17s do the job much better. Face it: Before our ground troops land anywhere in great numbers, we will have: Air Superiority. Then using this superiority, we will either. A. Capture an enemy airfield. B. Build our own. Then: Begin airlifts of equipment and reinforcements to that airfield. Better yet, If its the big bad NKs. WE WILL HAVE A COASTLINE AND MARINES! Plus friendly territory to deploy from.

  22. James, the airmobile variant of the M8 barely had enough armor to protect it heavy machine gun fire. Even up to Level 3, it would only survive 30mm fire. So in terms of protection, the Stryker MGS and M-8 are on even terms. Firepower: again, even. While I do admit, it is a shame the Strykers are not readily paradroppable… But given today’s needs… it doesnt matter.

  23. If it doesn’t matter, then why are we sticking with a tank designed to do battle on the open plains of Russia instead of one that can maneuver through the tight city streets of urban warfare or on mountain roads like in Afghanistan? You don’t want to fight yesterday’s war, right? It seems to me we are counting on yesterday’s tank. I’m not saying get rid of the M-1 which seemed to work well in the flat desert, but augment it. If nothing else, give something new a try. We are in a war. I don’t see why a couple dozen of the vehicles like I’m talking about couldn’t be whipped up in a year and deployed just to try them out. Maybe they’d suck, but at least you’d know. Instead everything has to be such a huge deal for no other reason than to keep the defense industry monster fed.

  24. Skrip: I don’t think that anyone anywhere talking about any kind of airborne armor gives a rip about ‘where we are fighting the majority of our combat’ today. They’re talking about a serious war against a serious enemy with serious resources. As for your conditions to land ground troops: HOLY SHIT. If everything is that rosy, you are absolutely correct and we don’t need too much of anything. We’re all set, because it’s all good and everything is A-OK. I stand corrected…I was talking about needing the Airborne to do something hard against an enemy that could do something to try to stop them.

  25. Like who? Those are the only conditions to landing troops. If you dont have air superiority, than the USAF is NOT sending in C-130s or C-17s in. Thats just insane. Then again, look at our potential foes. All of them have nice coastlines to invade from, or even friendly territory. Also, the Stryker ICV is paradroppable. So the 82nd can have armored support when, and if they do a major combat drop. But to date: the US tactic is to secure airspace > airfield > then move in armor. Heliborne ops are dead. As are major airdrop campaigns. Just a lack of resources. ======================= Dfens, the M1A1/A2 is fine in urban combat. Especially with TUSK upgrades. Urban combat, however, is a different animal from tank warfare in open areas. You cant optimize to have both. Just one of the other.

  26. Heliborne ops are dead. As are major airdrop campaigns.’ I guess somebody forgot to tell the 82nd and 101st that their missions are no longer needed. As of for heloborne ops – Operation Anaconda? Operation swarmer….and so on. GWI – 101st launched the largest airborne assault in history.

  27. Skrip, I think you now see my point. We’ve got one, now we need the other. I’m thinking more about mountain warfare now days with the prospect of war with Iran looming ever nearer. Iran has lots of mountains, and a tank, even a small one, has lots of uses. It could do everything from road building to anti-aircraft defense. Sure, we might control the air space, but we certainly don’t have enough aircraft to be everywhere all the time. That’s why we still have artillery and tanks.