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Russia Is Selling A Dangerous New IFV

July 18, 2021
Via ARMY 2020/Kurganmashzavod.

A decade of reform that began under President Dmitry Medvedev has transformed the Russian military and given it some overmatch versus NATO. When assessing its land forces the Russian Army enjoys a rare numerical and quantitative advantage thanks to a diverse and vastly upgraded tank fleet that includes the T-90M Proryv, the T-80BVM, and the T-72B3–there are still thousands of T-72B and T-64B tanks kept in storage. Russian artillery together with information and electronic warfare have proven their effectiveness in Ukraine and Syria. As if these capabilities weren’t daunting enough Russia’s manufacturers are tailoring new combat vehicles superior to the competition in the West.

During ARMY 2020, an annual show for exhibiting Russian military products, Kurganmashzavod unveiled its new infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) named Manul.

Kurganmashzavod is a state-owned enterprise responsible for mass-producing tracked armored vehicles. Its catalog spans the well-known BMP-series of IFVs and the BMD-series of airborne vehicles designed for Russia’s elite paratroopers the VDV. Russia’s army operates an estimated 3,000 BMP-2’s along with a growing number of the BMP-2M variant that mounts the Berezhok turret–a weapon station combining a 30mm cannon, a coaxial PKT light machine gun, four missile launchers, and a 30mm automatic grenade launcher. It’s claimed the Russian army have up to several thousand more BMP-2’s are in storage along with a few thousand leftover BMP-1’s.

The Manul is based on the successful BMP-3, whose reputation was established by strong exports to Arab countries, albeit with a different layout. The BMP-3 is unique for being designed like a tank where the crew and the passengers are at the front of the hull; the latter climb out of the vehicle via roof hatches located behind the heavily armed turret. At an earlier iteration of the ARMY show Kurganmashzavod introduced the BMP-3 Dragun that altered the layout of the BMP-3 with the engine installed at the front–like most NATO IFVs–and the troop compartment occupying the back, which now had extra space.

The Manul takes the same hull as the Dragun but replaces the formidable turret with another weapon suite. Instead of the familiar tandem armament of a 100mm gun and 30mm cannon–there’s still a coaxial PKT machine gun–the Manul boasts the same armaments as the Kurganets-25 and T-15 heavy IFV that have the Epokha turret. These are a 30mm 2A42 cannon, its coaxial machine gun, and four Kornet-E missile launchers arranged in tandem modules. The turret is operated by the crew who are ensconced in the hull rather than seated inside the weapon station.

The Kornet-E is recognized as the world’s deadliest portable anti-tank missile that employs beam-riding or laser-guided fire control. Russia has of course aggressively exported Kornets to at least a dozen countries by now and its extreme range has won it a superb combat record. With optimal clear weather the Kornet-E reaches targets as far as 5.5 kilometers away and can do nearly the same in low light or nighttime conditions. The Kornet-EM meant for vehicle-based launchers is even deadlier having a maximum range of 10 km. While the new generation of NATO wheeled and tracked IFVs favor the Israeli-German Spike-LR top attack missile the Kornet-E/EM is a worthy rival that’s just as potent.

The Kornet-E’s other rivals are from China and Ukraine’s state-owned manufacturers that offer similar missiles. The Norinco HJ-11 is a close enough analog of the Kornet-E by having a tandem high explosive warhead. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian manufacturer Luch has the Bar’er or Barier missile in 152mm caliber for both dismounted troops and vehicles. The Bar’er’s characteristics are similar to the Kornet’s. Iran is a bit of an outlier with its successful proliferation of its licensed Kornet ATGMs known as the “Dehlavieh.”

At just 20.8 tons fully loaded, operated by three crew and seating eight dismounts, the Manul is able to travel through any terrain and swim across shallow bodies of water with little preparation. This gives it a marginal edge over heavier NATO IFVs. Neither Kurganmashzavod nor Rosoboronexport have divulged the prospects of the Manul outside Russia (the army is an unlikely customer) although it’s not surprising the Middle East is its strongest potential market. Because of its remarkable characteristics the Manul stands shoulder-to-shoulder with other Asian IFVs that are heavily armed and superbly protected.

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