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The Russian BTR-82A Is An Export Success

October 18, 2022
Via Kazakhstan media.

An outdated Soviet vintage wheeled combat vehicle serves as a reliable indicator for Moscow’s friendship circle. A video clip from Kazakhstan’s defense ministry showed police at a checkpoint with a Humvee donated by the US and at least one Russian-made BTR-82A. The latter is a generational improvement of the BTR-80 that saw extensive combat in the Soviet-Afghan War (1979-1989) and remains in production. The BTR-82A is recognizable for its large remote controlled turret installed behind the cab where the driver and another crew member are seated. The armament on the BTR-82A combines a 30mm 2A72 cannon and a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun.

BTR-82A Operators: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, Ukraine (captured), Venezuela,

BTR-80A Operators: Indonesia, North Korea, Sri Lanka, Yemen

According to Russian media the BTR-82A entered service with the army in 2011, a period of dramatic reforms in its equipment and organization, and it was meant as a replacement for the BTR-80 and its successor the BTR-90. Both models were kept long after they had become obsolete although foreign BTR-80 operators could acquire upgraded BTR-80A’s. The companies involved with manufacturing the BTR-82A are the Arzamas Machine-Building Plant, Kamaz, and VPK along with two other subcontractors. It helps to recall VPK is responsible for developing new wheeled armored vehicles.

Since 2011 the army received a few thousand BTR-82A’s and other specialist variants of the original BTR-80. The best characteristics of the BTR-82A are its armament–superior to the 14.5mm KPVT heavy machine guns found among its predecessors–and its water-crossing mobility for beach landings and rivers. It’s fully amphibious and has a folding trim vane in front of the hull and two small propellers at the back, where the 300 horsepower Kamaz engine is housed. To dwell on its armament a bit more, the turret itself is a universal module of sorts and is suited for many different vehicles like the BMP-1AM, the BPM-97, and the MT-LBM.

As a troop carrier its seven infantry dismounts enter and exit from a side door in the middle of the hull and are crowded in a small compartment–there are multiple circular gun ports around the vehicle. Unless, of course, they decide to sit on the roof. Portable weapons such as handheld grenade launchers, different rocket launchers, or MANPADS can be stored inside the vehicle. The BTR-82A’s protection level is only a slight improvement over its previous incarnation and there’s a lot of evidence from the war in Ukraine proving it’s extremely vulnerable to heavy caliber machine guns and portable anti-tank rockets.

Since 2015 the Russian military tried to launch the Boomerang wheeled APC, which resembled its peers from NATO such as the Patria AMV and the Iveco SuperAV, but the effort stalled for unknown reasons. Eight years later the BTR-82A remains the army’s preferred wheeled APC and exports have been very good so far compared to other more competitive models. Azerbaijan and Venezuela acquired a lot of BTR-82A’s for their ground forces. Since 2021 the armies of Belarus and then Turkmenistan fielded these vehicles. In the case of Belarus it received at least two deliveries in the same year; enough to equip an army brigade and then another batch for a battalion in another brigade. Ukraine’s military have collected a fair number of BTR-82A’s either abandoned by Russian troops or damaged in combat. In a surprising break from its self-reliance, North Korea’s army have a fleet of BTR-80A’s–upgraded BTR-80’s with the same 30mm/7.62mm weapon station–alongside their locally made wheeled APCs.

Kazakhstan’s choice of equipping its internal security apparatus with BTR-82A’s happened during the mid-2010s but the army have since explored other options such as Turkish-made APCs. Kazakhstan is in the current list of operators for the model outside Russia–Azerbaijan, Belarus, Turkmenistan, and Venezuela. When the BTR-82A is is out of reach countries have the option to buy its sibling the BTR-80A. Indonesia did equip its United Nations peacekeepers in the Middle East with BTR-80A’s. Meanwhile, the status of BTR-80A’s delivered to Yemen can no longer be verified as some have been destroyed or lost during the war years from 2015 until 2021.

Despite its age the BTR-82A looks like it will enjoy strong sales and its evolution continues–the BTR-82AT is layered with armor plate and mounts a turret with Konkurs anti-tank missiles. The most sophisticated variant so far adds the Sosna ADMS launcher (carrying 12 missiles) to the vehicle. There are as many as 25 countries* whose armies are stuck with old Soviet vintage APCs without access to Western replacements and they represent a sizable future clientele. The competition from China is lagging behind since only three foreign armies–Gabon, Thailand, Venezuela–have embraced the VN1 8×8 wheeled APC so far. Other Western APCs based on an 8×8 chassis (the Nexter VBCI and GDLS Stryker, to name a few) haven’t been sold as far and wide as the BTR-82A.

Ukraine’s KMDB armor plant once enjoyed global success with its own derivative BTR-3 “family” that was even better engineered than the BTR-82A. The specific BTR-3E1 model was exported in large numbers to Myanmar and Thailand. But the ongoing war has cast doubt on whether production will ever continue.

* Potential BTR-82A operators are: Armenia, Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, CAR, Cuba, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Laos, Libya, Mali, Mongolia, Myanmar, Peru, Nicaragua, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam

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