Russian Weapons (and Georgian)

For some of the folks who have been stopping by to see the news on the war in Georgia, I thought I might give a little background on the main weapons being used there.

Tanks: Both sides are using various versions of the T-72 series tanks. The T-72 is a 30 year old design that still has some life left in it. You will notice that it is much smaller than a US M-1 tank. The design philosophy behind this tank stressed small size to make hitting it less likely. It also has a three man crew, with a driver, gunner and a tank commander. US tanks have a fourth crewmember, a loader. In the T-72, there is a mechanical autoloader instead. I’ve been inside a T-72 and it is SMALL. I’m not that big a guy, but I couldn’t even get the hatch closed over my head. Once inside, most of the controls are actaully pretty similar to what American tankers are used to. I’m not a tanker and I could figure most of them out pretty quickly.

The T-72 has an impressive 125mm main gun that fires both HEAT and kinetic energy rounds. For more information on HEAT and KE rounds, go here.

The boxes you see mounted on the outside of these tanks are Explosive Reactive Armor or ERA. These boxes contain explosives that detonate outwards when the tank is struck by a HEAT round. The explosion deform the jet of hot gasses that the HEAT round forms and prevent it from penetrating the tanks main armor. We don’t use it much because the M-1 doesn’t need it. Bradley’s can be equipped with it. Strykers use “slat” armor instead. There’s a picture of a Stryker with slat armor at the link above.

In addition to the main gun, the T-72 has a coaxially mounted 7.62mm machine gun and is usually seen with a 12.7mm machine gun at the commanders position.

BMPs: Both sides are using the BMP-2. The original BMP debuted in 1967. After the US fielded the Bradley Fighting Vehicle in response, the Soviets updated the BMP with a 30mm autocannon designed to destroy Bradleys and provide suppressive fires against antitank missile teams and helicopters. It also carries a 7.62mm coaxially mounted machine gun and carries an AT-4 Spigot antitank missile on the roof.

As you can see in the youtube below, this is a fairly sprightly vehicle. Again, it is much more cramped than its US counterpart.


You’ll notice four heads sticking up from the vehicle. That’s the driver, gunner, BMP commander and the guy right behind the driver is the squad leader for the dismount soldiers in back. The second half of the video shows a proposed improvement to the BMP-2 that neither side appears to be using in this conflict.

BTRs: Under the Soviet organizational model, only about a third of infantry units are equipped with BMPs. The other 2/3 are equipped with BTRs, the most common being the BTR-80.

The BTR-80 is roughly analogous to the US M113 armored personnel carrier. It is simply a way of transporting a rifle squad to the battle with some armor protection. The small turret on the roof carries a 14.5mm machine gun that can be used to suppress infantry, antitank missile teams or provide limited antiaircraft fire. Again, they are incredibly cramped compared to US vehicles.

Most of these vehicles are simple and rugged. They do their job quite well and can be operated with minimal training. In the hands of a well trained force, they can be formidable opponents. Just because the US has made short work of enemies equipped with Soviet made equipment, don’t scoff at the quality¬† of their work. Remeber, these are the same folks who brought us the most popular rifle of all time: the AK-47.

19 thoughts on “Russian Weapons (and Georgian)”

  1. Did you see he latest video reports? Gerogian soldiers are fleeing the russian advance and leaving vehicles and equipment behind.

    OMG I saw a U.S. made e-tool and kevlar they left behind during one report.

  2. I get conflicting reports, some say they are routed, others say they are withdrawing in good order (even at the best of times, that’s a relative term).

  3. Vmax, I’ve seen M-1A1s bogged down just about the same. It is a cast iron bitch to get them out. It wouldn’t surprise me to see three vehicles doing the recovery.

    Bradleys rarely sink that bad. They just don’t weigh as much.

  4. I’ve seen pictures of T-80s as well, I don’t know if they were using stock footage but I thought it was interesting.

    I can say it was weird over in Iraq supporting the IA who were driving around BMPs and T-62s…all those years of training to take on the hoard, that reflex dies kind of hard.

  5. You should see how weird it feels DRIVING soviet vehicles. The weird thing is that translating from Russian to Arabic was too hard, so all the instructions were in English. Heh.

  6. I saw some footage of an infantry carrier that I didn’t recognize; it looks sort of like an MT-LB, but it seemed taller. Has anyone seen this?

  7. It may have been one of the many variants of an MT-LB. IIRC, there’s a HQ variant and a variant for battery commanders that are taller than MT-LBs. Got a pic? email it and I’ll work to get you an answer. email is in the contact page.

  8. I was kind of surprised I hadn’t seen any of them. I’ll keep an eye out. Saw some oddball stuff over at CNN that looked like a T-55 turret on a PT-76 hull. Saw something else that looked about the size of a BMD but wasn’t. I’ve been out of the loop a bit and the Russians keep adding new weird stuff.

  9. I was gonna say I am suprised the Russians were using T-72’s and BMP-2’s. I’d have thought they’d have thrown what used to be called A Class troops at the Georgians. T-80’s and BMP-3’s, if not some of their even newer toys.

    In my copy of FM 100-2-3 (going from memory here), the 72’s and 2’s were in the B Class troops that were deployed in the Warsaw Pact countries to absorb initial casualties and make initial advances. The A Class troops were to come from the Soviet Border (or at least the second echelon) and exploit any openings the first eschelon developed. The C Class troops in the T-60’s and 55’s were to be manned by old reservists in the event we pulled anything sneaky and actually were attacking the Rodina (and the B’s and A’s were dead) or to hold off the Chinese until such time as the A’s could get sent East.

  10. I’m not surprised to see BMP-2s, as I understand the majority of the force is still mounted on them.

    As to the T-72/T-80 question, I’ll admit that I didn’t look that close. There may well have been some in there. The difference between them isn’t that great. I can only tell them apart by the size of the turret and the T-72 seems to “slope back” a little more when you look at the tracks.

    Hell, I’m having a heck of a time telling which side is which…

  11. The T-80 doesn’t have that side exhaust on the left side. The road wheels on the T-80 are spaced 2 X 2 X 2, where as the T-72 is more evenly spaced. The T-72 has a V shaped splash guard on the front slope when there isn’t reactive armor present, where as the T-80 doesn’t.

    That’s just off the top of my head…I just taught a vehicle ID class.

  12. I suspect the reason that the majoraty of Russian MBT’s used in the conflict were T-72B’s is that I am fairly sure most of the T-90 force (and probably the BMP-3 force) was deployed in the Russian far East. Considering that it would probably take several days to transport the entire force to South Ossetia at no notice, the war proper was probably over by the time they would have been ready to move over the border.
    Its also possable that they didn’t want to risk loosing T-90’s when the T-72B’s with reactive armour would do the job.

  13. Russia still remains a superpower after the global recession crisis, there’s a lot more to what Russia has been doing in 2009 and how they still hold superpower status. The T-90 is a great tank.

    CNN Russia is a Superpower 2 US Senators telling the truth

    Washington Acknowledges Russia as Superpower 2007

    The outlook on a triple-superpower world 2007

    Superpower swoop 2008

    Russia in the 21st Century The Prodigal Superpower

  14. Georgia used T-55 AM2 too, it’s an uparmored version, but i think they didn’t took part to battles near gori, tchinkvali and other places in ossetia.

    Georgians T72 were of several type : T-72M and T-72M1 donated by Tchecoslovaquia (local built), and most recent T-72A (soviet made) bought from ukraine. The first ones are poorly armored/equiped export version “monkey models” (same as used by iraqi in 1991 and 2003). Contrary to iraq, georgia improved a little those tanks, adding K-1 russian era (gave by ukraine), and some more optronics/night vision.

    The same was done on T-72A’s, resulting a tandem of T72MV and T72AV “sim” in georgian inventory. Good tanks, but far inferior to russian T-72BV and T-72BM (one generation ahead), and tactics. The result was clear : No russian tank lost, and georgia lost about 40 T72 (about 10 destroyed, 30 endomaged then captured) Moreover, russian had a total air supperiority (some tanks destroyed by su25).

    In this war, T72 proved to be the weak shit like in iraq, and the dominant MBT in the same time, resulting of quality of machines first, and good or bad tactical use.

    Sure you can doubt of ABRAMS winning against REAL russian tanks.

    End, Regards.

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