The Ukrainian armed forces inherited more than 2,500 BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles from the Soviet Army when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
The 13-ton, 11-person BMP-1 remains Ukraine’s second largest IFV after the better-armed BMP-2. But the BMP-1 has defects. Big some.
Not only is the BMP-1 lightly protected with steel armor only a quarter-inch thick, but its 73-millimeter low-pressure cannon lacks striking power.
To improve the firepower of some of its BMP-1s (and make surplus vehicles more valuable on the export market), the Kiev Scientific and Technical Center for Artillery and Small Arms swapped the BMP’s old turret for one. new with a much broader structure. Powerful 30 millimeter automatic cannon. The new, larger turret displaces two of the BMP-1’s eight passenger seats.
The kyiv company called this improved nine-person IFV “BMP-1U”. Following an improbable chain of events that began in the Republic of Georgia in 2008, BMP-1Us are now fighting for the Russians—and against the ukrainians. A Russian-operated BMP-1U recently appeared in a Russian propaganda video.
Georgia purchased 15 BMP-1Us from Ukraine and accepted them into service in 2007. A year later, Russia invaded Georgia and Russian troops apparently captured each Georgian BMP-1U. Tbilisi subsequently renewed its BMP-1Us with a new order in 2011.
Russian engineers reportedly spent some time inspecting the upgraded BMPs. And 15 years later, the Kremlin assigned some or all of the former Georgian IFVs to a frontline unit. The Russians also captured a pair of BMP-1Us from the Ukrainians.
It’s obvious why a Russian BMP crew would want a Ukrainian-made BMP-1U. The U model is a better IFV than an unmodified BMP-1.
But it is indisputable that a BMP-1U would complicate the logistics of a motorized rifle regiment. The Ukrainian-made Shkval turret is made from Ukrainian parts. Keep some Of the approximately 15 BMP-1Us in operation, one BMP company might have to cannibalize the rest of the BMP-1U.
The fact that the Russians were willing to accept the logistical complications speaks to their desperate need for IFV. The Russian military expanded its war in Ukraine in February 2022 with 400 active BMP-3s, 2,800 BMP-2s, and 600 BMP-1s. Since then, the Russians have lost around 2,000 BMPs of all models, including 500 BMP-1s.
Russian industry can’t produce new BMP-3s fast enough to make up for those losses, so the Kremlin has been pulling old BMP-1s and BMP-2s out of storage, replacing their seals and batteries, and sending them to the front as replacements. .
Before the war, the Kremlin had huge stocks of surplus BMP-1 and BMP-2 (7,200 and 1,400, respectively), but not all of these old IFVs are salvageable. And the losses continue unabated. Every Soviet-standard BMP the Russians have lost has made the Ukrainian-standard BMP-1Us more valuable, despite their unique logistics.
Beggars can’t choose. And when it comes to BMP, the Russians have been begging for a while.