Armour steel turret and aluminium alloy hull provide crew's protection against small arms fire, projectile fragments, etc. The BMD-3 is fitted with automatic fire fighting equipment, NBC protection system, smoke discharges. Multi-fuel diesel engine ensures high cross-country capability, high speed on ground and afloat.
The BMD-3 is the successor to the BMD-1 and BMD-2 AIFVs. The BMD-3 features a brand new chassis fitted with the complete turret of the BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle. The BMD-3 retains the boat-shaped hull with the two-man turret located in the forward third of the chassis. The BMD-3 has much better amphibious capability than its predecessors. There is more room inside the vehicle, a significant increase in firepower, with the two-man turret offering better overall command and control of the vehicle and its weaponry.
The BMD-3 can be airdropped from transport aircraft with the complete crew of seven men remaining inside the vehicle. In the past, the crew was dropped separately, and it often took a considerable time for them to locate the vehicle. By dropping the BMD-3 with its crew ready in the vehicle, the element of surprise associated with airborne operations is enhanced. The BMD-3 is of all-welded construction which provides the crew with protection from small arms fire and shell splinters. The crew consists of commander, gunner, driver, and four infantrymen, with the commander normally dismounting with the squad. A further three infantrymen can be carried in an emergency in the rear.
The two-man power operated turret is armed with a 30-mm 2A42 dual feed cannon which is fitted with a distinctive muzzle brake and is stabilized in both elevation and traverse. Maximum effective range when firing AP-T (armor piercing-tracer) ammunition is 2000-m, and when firing HE-I (High Explosive-Incendiary) ammunition is 4000-m against an area target. A 7.62-mm PKT machine-gun is mounted coaxially to the right. Mounted on the roof is an ATGM launcher for either the AT-4 SPIGOT or AT-5 SPANDREL. Mounted on either side of the turret is a bank of three 81-mm electrically operated smoke dischargers firing forwards.
Mounted at the front of the BMD-3 on the left side is an AG-17 30-mm automatic grenade launcher while on the right bow is a 5.45-mm RPKS machine-gun.
Each of the bow weapons is operated by one of the infantrymen seated in the front of the BMD-3. The power pack is located at the rear of the hull and consists of a 2V-06 water-cooled diesel developing 450-bhp which gives a very high power-to-weight ratio of 34 hp/ton. The hydroneumatic suspension of the BMD-3 is adjustable to give a ground clearance of between 130-mm and 530-mm, although for normal road travel it is 450-mm. The BMD-3 is fully amphibious being propelled by two water jets mounted on either side at the rear of the vehicle.
Since the formation of airborne troops, designers were preoccupied by a desire to provide them with efficient armament and hardware. Experience of World War II revealed that the "winged infantry" should be on a par with the conventional infantry in terms of protection, fire power, and mobility. However, a degree of military-transport aviation capability to airlift airborne troops to landing zones at the time of their creation impeded the solution of this problem. The development of An-8 and An-12 special military-transport aircraft, industrial achievements and new approaches to military doctrines created technical and economic preconditions for the development of armament and hardware versions that could be airportable and dropped by parachutes. In 1969 the first airborne combat vehicle, designated BMD-1 entered service with airborne troops. The BMD-1 was a highly mobile, light armored, tracked, amphibious and air landing combat vehicle on a par with the BMP-1 infantry combat vehicle in terms of combat capability.
The BMD-1 had no counterparts in the world at that time. The main turret armament of the BMD-1 comprised a 73mm smoothbore gun, 7.62mm PKT coaxial machine gun and launcher rail for 9M14M Malutka ATGMs. The two bow-mounted 7.62mm PKT machine guns were arranged in the front part of the vehicle, in addition to one ball joint firing port on either side and cover of the rear hatch to fire from individual weapons. The BMD-1 boasted unique engineering solutions incorporated for the first time in international practice. The vehicle featured a special hydropneumatic suspension system capable of altering its ground clearance. The vehicle could be dropped by parachute with a combat weight of 7.5 tons from any types of military-transport aircraft. At that time the BMD-1 had the best power-to-weight ratio (32 hp/t) enabling it to attain a speed of 60 km/h. The BMD-1 was the first domestically produced vehicle equipped with aluminum armor. The engineering solutions incorporated in the BMD-1 allowed to use it as a base vehicle during the development of other armament versions for the airborne troops. In 1971 the BMD-1K command airborne combat vehicle was developed from the BMD-1. This new vehicle was identical to the BMD-1 except two radio sets and a petrol electric power unit for self-sustaining power generation. In 1974 the BTR-D armored personnel carrier entered service with the airborne troops. It was developed from parts and units used in the BMD-1.
The BTR-D had a longer hull, more road-wheels and no turret and armament. In the course of time, developers incorporated in the BMD-1 innovations that improved the running gear, power plant and transmission. Efforts were made to increase the BMD-1 combat performance. In 1978 the updated BMD-1P and BMD-1PK versions entered service with the airborne troops. These vehicles were fitted with a launcher rails for 9M113 Konkurs and 9M111 Fagot ATGMs. In 1979 the BTR-RD armored personnel carrier fitted with Fagot ATGMs was developed from the BTR-D. The APC entered service with the airborne troops units, dealing with tank fighting. Later on the BTR-3D used to carry AD system crews, special communication vehicles, ambulance version of the BTR-D and BREM-D armored repair and recovery vehicles were developed from the BTR-D. The combat experience of the airborne combat vehicles accumulated in the war in Afghanistan revealed that the main armament mounted on the BMD-1 and its modifications lacked sufficient fire power. Consequently, early in the 1980s work began to develop a new BMD, fitted with a new main armament. In 1985 such a vehicle, designated the BMD-2 entered service with the airborne troops. The BMD-2 differed from the BMD-1 and its modifications in terms of the new combat compartments fitted with a 30mm 2A42 automatic gun stabilized in two planes. The gun elevation allowed to fire against ground and air targets. In addition, the BMD-2 was fitted with a launcher rail for 9M113 and 9M111 ATGMs. The command version of the BMD-2 was also developed. In short, the
BMD-2 may be considered as a comprehensive modernization of the BMD-1, which had been operational with the airborne troops over two decades, representing the backbone of its armored armament. In 1990 the BMD-3 new generation airborne combat vehicle entered service with the airborne troops, which incorporated the high-tech breakthroughs. The BMD-3 was a qualitatively new combat vehicle that could be airportable and dropped by parachute with its crew inside. This enabled the vehicle to engage in combat right away after landing. The main armament of the BMD-3 comprised a 30mm 2A42 automatic gun with two-belt feeding. The sighting system provided firing from the gun and coaxial machine gun day/night against ground targets. The BMD-3 was fitted with the 9P135M ATGM system and four Konkurs ATGMs to fight tanks. The 30mm AG-17 automatic grenade launcher was arranged in the front part of the vehicle left of the driver in a ball joint firing port To the right from the driver, there was another ball joint firing port to deliver fire from a 5.45mm RPKS-74 light machine gun. The BMD-3 hull was made of aluminum alloy that could withstand bullets.
The seats of the combat crew were fastened to the roof of the combat compartments to protect them from the mine effect. An NBC collective protection system was provided by overpressurization of the combat compartment via a filter-ventilation unit. The BMD-3 was fitted with a new hydromechanical transmission with hydrostatic steering mechanism. It was powered by a reliable and powerful engine and developed a high maximum speed on the highway of up to 70 km/h and an average speed of up to 45 km/h on dry earth roads. The hydropneumatic suspension system ensured smooth movement of the vehicle and the driver could alter its ground clearance from his seat. The vehicle could move in water, being propelled by two water-jets at the rear part of the hull at 10 km/h and operate in sea strengths of up to 3. The BMD-3 could be landed from Navy ships on water and vice versa. The vehicle was easy to operate and maintain. It is planned to develop from the BMD-3 a whole family of combat and combat support vehicles for the airborne troops. One can read tabulated data on airborne combat vehicles and BTR-D armored personnel carrier.
The development of airborne combat vehicles was carried out alongside development of airportable means. At the beginning, the BMD-1 and BTR-D were dropped by multi-cupola parachute platforms designated P-7 and P-16. These platforms allowed one to drop by parachutes objects weighing 3.5 to 20 tons. Then PRS parachute-jet systems were developed. Their preparation for airportable operations was less time consuming. The PRSM-915 and PRSM-925 were the main airportable means used to drop the BMD-1, BTR-D and their derivatives. However, the systems were sophisticated and costly. Currently the PBS-950 airportable system is used to drop the BMD-3. The system has no a platform and weighs about 1,500 kg. It is highly reliable, easy to operate and allows one to drop combat vehicles with a crew inside. The current degree of airborne combat vehicles and their derivatives reveal that the "winged infantry" is rigged with efficient combat means, ensuring a great fire power, protection and high mobility.