Ukraine’s defense industry is offering potential customers, both on the domestic and export markets, an armored personnel carrier APC designated BTR-3E. Developed by the Morozov Machine Design Bureau in Kharkiv and being produced at Kyiv Armored Plant, BTR-3E has recently passed its baptism of fire in counterterrorist operation in the east of Ukraine. Also next generation of this infantry carrier is being successfully used in Royal Thai Army. UDR decided to describe in details the most successful Ukrainian defense industry product over the last few years.
Now the procurement programs of the world’s biggest military importers suggest that lightweight armored hardware scores a solid third place by the amount total of procurements, behind fighting aircraft and precision-guided weapons. Customers mostly demand wheeled air-deployable vehicles, armed with light turret-mounted weapons complemented by the newest powerful precision weapons suites, and well protected.
The Ukrainian defense industry is offering its potential customers the APC designated BTR-3E. In its maneuverability and combat performance, this new Ukrainian designed armored vehicle far outperforms its rivals originating in the fellow former Soviet states. It has long been assumed that the APC should be as maneuverable as the battle tank, which would not only allow it for motorized infantry troops to march alongside armored units but in some cases even lead the way. In many countries such an approach has led to caterpillar APCs ousting their wheel-typed siblings altogether. But the lessons learned from the Iraq war revealed the advantages of precisely the wheel-typed vehicle which, delivering a substantial amount of fire-power, is virtually equivalent to the infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) in its basic performance characteristics.
In that context, the projected APC, developed in 2002 by the Morozov design bureau in Kharkiv in compliance with the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense’ (MoD) requirements specification, is deserving of consideration.
BTR-3E wheel-typed armored troop carriers are being assembled by MoD’s repair factories, with 90 per cent of all the assembly units coming from domestic companies.
What make the vehicle particularly attractive to prospective buyers, are its price tag; low-cost serviceability and through life support; low weight; a great amount of firepower as compared to same-class equivalents; the capability to negotiate water obstacles of whatever width or depth; the ability to operate in environments heated up to +55°C, and air conditioning of crew and passenger compartments. The BTR-3E’s design has enough room for extra combat modules and also for an automatic transmission (Allison or Ukrainian made). The baseline design is easy to convert into configurations for auxiliary applications such as medical evacuation, policing, command and control or repair and recovery.
The BTR-3E is a highly maneuverable wheel-typed amphibious combat armored vehicle. It can carry a 3-man crew, consisting of the commander (section leader), gunner and driver, plus six troops. Compared to Russia’s BTR-80, the Ukrainian APC BTR-3E has a different body that has a greater usable space, hence heavier displacement. The Russian BTR-80 is claimed to be able to negotiate river obstacles in two point river motions, while for the BTR-3E, as proven by the testing, even three-point river motion is no obstacle.
The BTR-3E is powered by 326hp Deutz engine integrated with Allison MD 3066 automatic transmission. The BTR-3E also features an enhanced clutch; back-up (pneumatic) starting system for cold start; heating system for the coolant and oil, enabling the engine to start in temperatures as low as -55 С; new automatic equipment that discriminates cooler types (water or antifreeze), warning about critical temperatures of the cooler and shutting the engine once the oil pressure falls down to below critical levels.
Also the BTR-3E can be equipped with a computer controlled hydromechanical transmission from Allison, or a manual gearbox. The latter would reduce the overall price of the vehicle. The BTR-3E is two tons heavier than the 14 ton BTR-80. With French tires Michelin, which are ideal for operation in high-temperature environments, the Ukrainian vehicle makes 100 kph, whereas the BTR-80’s «rubber legs» only allow for 85 kph during 30 minutes at the longest.
For comfort of the crew and passengers, passenger compartment’s ceiling height has been increased by 150 mm, and air conditioning is optional. Air conditioner, as suggested by feedback from the Ukrainian military contingent in Iraq, is a prime necessity in high-temperature environments. The armored vehicle is equipped with protective facilities to shield the crew and passengers from penetrating radiation from nuclear munitions, as well as from toxic agents, germ weapons or radioactive dust.
The vehicle’s exclusive forte is a general purpose combat module called Shturm-M. The overall amount of firepower provided by a Shturm-M fitted BTR-3E is on a par with that of an IFV. The combat module include a 30-mm automatic gun ZTM-1, a 7.62-mm machine gun, an automatic grenade launcher, an anti tank missile suite and a smoke grenade dispenser. The turret also accommodates «Panorama-2В» panoramic observation system. Also combat module Shturm-M can be protected by screening mesh made by Polish company Lubawa SA. In particular, with such module’s option, the BTR-3E was presented at the international exhibition «Arms and Security 2015», which took place in late September in Kyiv.
The vehicle’s weapons, supported by an automatic fire control system and sighting devices, ensure speedy detection, identification and engagement of ground and low-flying targets with high rate and accuracy of fire. The overall price of the armored troop carrier varies with the cost of optional extras.
The price of the Ukrainian APC much depends on the terms and volume of every specific contract, and also on the customer’s buying power. The vehicle sells at prices that are on the whole higher than the BTR-80’s (due to more powerful, hence more expensive weapons), but far lower than foreign made rivals’ such as the AMV XC 360P Rosomak, Pandur II 8x8, Stryker or Piranha IIIC, which are all completed with the expensive IR imaging systems, cameras and surveillance displays non-existent in the BTR-3E. The hardware may come to buyers with an associated production license.
Develop and win: BTR-3E-1
To develop the APC BTR-3E in Ukraine has been made next generation vehicle, to be known as BTR-3E-1. Ukraine developed combat module Shkval integrated with a 30 mm gun, and anti tank missile suite Baryer with two ready to launch missile containers. State owned design organization Luch and state joint stock holding company Artem will ensure that BTR-3E-1 possess an enhanced amount of firepower by equipping this with new precision guided weapons.
The vehicle’s combat module will undergo fundamental modifications as well. In particular, the current fire control system Tandem will be replaced with new indigenously designed TREK system, for which an electronic optical module is currently under development by an instrument making factory in Kharkiv region’s Izyum. The module’s designer and integrator is Kyiv’s Kvant Radiolokatsiya research and development institute, known for its so far unique naval radar designs.
In the BTR-3E-1, the crew commander will be able to take over gunfire control if need be, unlike in the baseline configuration, where this was solely the gunner’s responsibility.
The BTR-3E1 is offered in a number of configurations to meet the varied requirements of armed forces. The major variants are BTR-3E1K command vehicle, BRM-3E1 combat reconnaissance vehicle and repair-and-recovery vehicle. The other variants include the MOP-3E1 fire support vehicle, the BTR-3E1Sh command and staff vehicle, and the BSEM-3E1 armoured ambulance.
The Royal Thai Army acquired more than 230 BTR-3E1 APCs till date, under agreement with Ukrspecexport. The first 2 of 96 BTR-3E1 have been delivered at U Tapao Airport on 17 September 2010. The second batch of 121 BTR-3E1s with a price tag of 5 billion baht have been ordered by Royal Thai Army and 14 BTR-3E1s have been ordered by Royal Thai Navy to be used by Royal Thai Marine Corps in August 2010 with the MTU Engine and Edison Gear.
Thailand placed an order for additional 15 BTR-3E1 and six BTR-3RK vehicles from Ukraine in August 2013.
Extra capabilities and opportunities
Soldiers in the battlefield can choose variety of APC BTR-3E capabilities because Ukrainian BTR has a several variants of modernization packages, depending on customer’s financial capabilities and requirement. Global weapons market players have tended to award contracts to several independent suppliers for one and the same modernization program. Combat modules, for example, can come from one supplier state, and security systems or communications facilities – from another country. Ukrainian suppliers offer an integrated modernization package, each of its components being totally autonomous and easy to integrate into an overall weapons system. The package includes the most advanced armaments and technologies, such as the Stugna laser guided tank gun and armored fighting vehicle gun rounds, explosive reactive armor (ERA) and explosive active armor (ЕАА) systems Nozh and Zaslon, electronic optical countermeasure system Varta, tank protective system Fantom 3, upgraded communication equipment, camouflage system Kontrast M and even tank simulators mounted on electric motion platforms for driving and firing training. Apart from Stugna, Ukrainian manufacturers offer potential buyers new anti-tank guided projectile Baryer for guns mounted on tanks, IFVs and APCs.
The armored vehicle modernization package offered by Ukraine also includes communications facilities with cryptographic modules to ensure that classified information remain secret. The Ukrainian technology has an advantage of being an average half of the cost of western designed alternatives. Considering that reprogrammable communication devices are on some occurrences easy to counter using modern electronic warfare technologies and radio communication jamming systems, the cost advantage may become a weighty argument in the fight for future customers.
Ukrainian weapons designers have accumulated considerable expertise in the area of simulating facilities for armored fighting vehicles. In particular, Ukraine supplies to the export market simulators supporting driving and firing training requirements for BMP-1 and BMP-2 IFVs, and also APCs. It is only natural that weapons modernization projects are not the ‘thing in itself’ but developed to suit specific customer requirements. For example, Kharkiv’s Morozov design organization several years ago developed a modified version of the BTR-80 IFV, upgrading this to the BTR-3E capability, which was being supplied to a customer in South-east Asia under a major framework contract. In addition, a new type lightweight armored vehicle BTR-3DA has been developed, marking for Ukraine the initial milestone accomplishment in this area.