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The Kurganets-25 Is Fully Unemployed

May 12, 2022
Via Russian media.

As its war on Ukraine devolves into an ugly stalemate the army’s enormous fleet of mechanized transports are being laid to waste in astonishing numbers. But these are, on average, 40-year-old models such as the BMP-1 and BMP-2. For the annual May 9 victory parade held in Red Square the cream of Russia’s military technology returned for another impeccable performance even when fewer vehicles participated this year. Among the tracked cohort categorized as infantry fighting vehicles or IFVs the Kurganets-25 is by far the largest and most lethal ever presented to the ground forces. Except it’s still not in service.

Eight years since the Kurganets-25, along with a new generation of heavier combat vehicles such as the T-14 battle tank and the T-15, were unveiled amid much fanfare and viral hype none are used by their intended operators: the army. Likewise the intimidating Koalitsya-SV self-propelled howitzer and the Boomerang wheeled APC that can mount various weapon stations. Focusing on the Kurganets-25 in particular reveals a drawn out and inconclusive journey for a well-designed and cost-effective mechanized weapon system–it’s neither as heavy as the T-15 nor as cramped as the BMP-2 or BMP-3–that’s caught in an eternal schedule of improvements.

At this stage the Kurganets-25 has evolved from its original layout, armed with a humble 12.7mm machine gun on its roof, to become an extremely destructive IFV. Now that it mounts an Epokha remote controlled turret its weaponry includes a 57mm cannon paired with a standard coaxial machine gun. On either side are tandem mounts for Kornet ATGMs and on the roof is an additional rocket launcher (with nine munitions) that doubles as a countermeasure versus incoming projectiles. A hard kill active protection system (APS) are located on the front, flanks, and rear of the hull for 360 degree situational awareness. The Kurganets-25 only has two crew and fits a half dozen soldiers who enter from the back through a single hatch that has its own swing door.

The Kurganets-25 when it was first presented in 2015.

The Kurganets-25 measures and scales as the biggest tracked APC and IFV ever designed for Russia’s army and is still amphibious with two propellers. Its hull easily looms over its predecessors the BMP-2 and BMP-3 and its level of protection is modular; cameras around the hull give the vehicle’s occupants all-weather visibility and the main weapon station isn’t impaired by dodgy optics. Russia’s defense ministry intended for the Kurganets-25 to become a true platform with multiple variants the same way as the US Army envisioned its problematic FGCV program and the OMFV program that followed. The ultimate irony is Russia’s state-owned military-industrial sector assembled a vehicle on a quicker timetable but it seems to be a worse investment in the long run as Moscow’s annual military spending is unpredictable.

The sum of its characteristics ranks the Kurganets-25 in the highest tier for its class but this hasn’t smoothed its production and serviceability. Russian media claim a small batch of Kurganet-25’s are now operated by the army but there’s no evidence to support this. On the contrary, there are persistent efforts to find another IFV model the army can field in significant numbers. One of them is the B-19, which looks like a prototype for combining the proven BMP-3 with a very large weapon station, while–for the sake of revenues–the BMP-3 is getting spin offs such as the Dragun and the Manul meant for export. The Kurganets-25 is probably approved for export but not officially listed as such because “relevant paperwork” needs to be accomplished. (This explanation comes straight from the Russian government.)

The 2010s saw an uptick in new IFV development in the East and West. But with few exceptions none have enjoyed world-beating success while other efforts have stalled. The Chinese conglomerate Norinco showed off a comparable IFV to the Kurganets-25 it branded as the VN17 and years later no customers have materialized at a time when armies are stuck with antiquated mechanized transports. Meanwhile, in Europe, the General Dynamics Ajax and the Rheinmetall KF41 Lynx have each found decent niches although their production figures to date are miniscule. South Korea’s Hanwha Defense and its Redback is aspiring to the same success. The Kurganets-25, on the other hand, is fated to spend a few more years as a dream and a promise. It’s still dangerously well-armed though.

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