Russia Is Now Sending Its New 'Terminator' Tanks To Syria

Tank support vehicle BMPT at the Engineering Technologies 2012 international forum.
Photo via WIkimedia Commons

Russia has sent an armored vehicle, known as the Terminator 2, to Syria.

Russian media reports that a single BMPT-72 has been sent to Syria for testing. It was shown to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad last week when he visited the Russian base at Hmeymim.

The Terminator 2 is a tank that is designed to protect other tanks, especially in urban areas. It’s built from refurbished hulls from the venerable T-72 main battle tank. But instead of mounting a big 125-millimeter cannon, the BMPT-72 is armed a remarkably diverse suite of weapons that includes two 30 mm cannons, four Ataka-T antitank missile, and a heavy machine gun. This gives the Terminator 2 the capability to engage infantry and light armored vehicles with its cannon, and tanks and buildings with its guided antitank missiles.

The first version of the Terminator was designed in the late 1990s. It was a five-man vehicle based on the chassis of the T-90 tank, according to Russian media. It was armed with two hull-mounted thirty-millimeter automatic grenade launchers in addition to the other weapons, notes Jane’s 360. The Terminator 2, first unveiled in 2013, subtracted the grenade launchers and reduced the crew size to three.

The concept of the “tank support combat vehicle” arose after Russian experiences in Afghanistan and Chechnya, where numerous Russian tanks fell victim to insurgents armed with antitank rockets and missiles. The most notorious incident occurred in the Chechen capital of Grozny on New Year’s Eve, 1994, when large columns of Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers were ambushed and wiped out in the city streets by Chechen fighters armed with antitank rockets. That terrible night alone may have cost the Russians as many as four hundred armored vehicles and a thousand dead.

Russia’s initial response was to escort its tanks with ZSU-23-4 Shilka self-propelled antiaircraft guns, which could rapidly pump out cannon fire to suppress hostile antitank teams. However, the ZSU-23-4 was lightly armored and not equipped to detect ground targets.

Hence the BMPT was designed as a “versatile and mobile weapon for protecting tanks,” explained Sputnik News. “According to the initial conception, vehicles of this type should be used alongside tanks on the battlefield and destroy any potentially dangerous target.”

While the BMPT would seem to be an impressive vehicle, the Russian military doesn’t seem to think so. The Russian army never ordered the first version because the five-man crew was too large, the Ataka missile launchers were unprotected from enemy fire and the fire-control system was lacking.

But “the main disadvantage of the first Terminator was its high cost, since using the T-90’s chassis for an armored fighting vehicle of this type turned out to be prohibitively expensive,” Russia Beyond the Headlines notes.

Are prospects any better for the Terminator 2? This remains to be seen. While Russian media typically extols the virtues of Russian weapons, praise for the BMPT-72 is curiously guarded. RBTH cited a Russian military analyst who noted that while the Terminator 2 is “easier to operate, lighter, and cheaper” than the original, it also has “significantly less firepower. It can fire at only one target at a time, while the first Terminator could take down three targets.”

Conceptually, the Terminator 2 has merits. Much like the Israelis converting their older Merkava tanks into heavily armored troop carriers, a Russian support vehicle heavily armed with missiles and small-caliber cannon might be useful in engaging infantry while the main battle tanks like the T-90 go after big targets like enemy tanks. On the other hand, it’s a tank that isn’t a tank, which means using it will add more tactical complication on the battlefield.

No doubt the hope is that if the Terminator 2 performs well in Syria against rebels, this will induce the Russian army to place some orders.

This article originally appeared at The National Interest.

More articles from The National Interest:


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Known for acting on impulse, President Donald Trump has adopted an uncharacteristically go-slow approach to whether to hold Iran responsible for attacks on Saudi oil facilities, showing little enthusiasm for confrontation as he seeks re-election next year.

After state-owned Saudi Aramco's plants were struck on Saturday, Trump didn't wait long to fire off a tweet that the United States was "locked and loaded" to respond, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran.

But four days later, Trump has no timetable for action. Instead, he wants to wait and see the results of investigations into what happened and is sending Pompeo to consult counterparts in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates this week.

Read More Show Less

That sound you're hearing is Army senior leaders exhaling a sigh of relief, because the Army has surpassed its recruiting goal for the year.

After failing to meet recruiting goals in 2018, the Army put the pedal to the metal and "did some soul searching," said Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, to ensure that they'd meet their 2019 goal. It must have paid off — the service announced on Tuesday that more than 68,000 recruits have signed on as active-duty soldiers, and more soldiers have stuck around than they expected.

Read More Show Less

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein transformed into the Cigarette Smoking Man from "The X-Files" on Tuesday when explaining why UFO enthusiasts should avoid storming the mythical Area 51 installation in Nevada.

"All joking aside, we're taking it very seriously," Goldfein told reporters during the Air Force Association's annual Air, Space, and Cyber Conference. "Our nation has secrets, and those secrets deserve to be protected. The people deserve to have our nation's secrets protected."

Read More Show Less
Paul Szoldra/Task & Purpose

SAN DIEGO — A San Diego-based Navy SEAL acquitted of murder in a closely watched war crimes trial this summer has filed a lawsuit against two of his former attorneys and a military legal defense nonprofit, according to a complaint filed in federal court in Texas on Friday.

Read More Show Less

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — The Air Force is reviewing whether some airmen's valor awards deserve to be upgraded to the Medal of Honor, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said on Tuesday.

Goldfein revealed that several airmen are being considered for the nation's highest military award during a press conference at the Air Force Association's annual Air, Space, and Cyber Conference. He declined to say exactly who could receive the Medal of Honor, pending the outcome of the review process.

Read More Show Less