Russia’s BMPT Terminator may be one of the Russian armed force’s most widely promoted vehicles in service today. While it is one of the only examples of Russia’s latest batch of armored vehicles which have actually been sent to fight in Ukraine, its presence there has not answered any questions about the vehicle’s uncommon tank-supporting role it is intended to perform on the battlefield.
What is the BMPT Terminator?
With its intended purpose written into its name, the BMPT Terminator’s intended purpose is clear. The acronym BMPT within the Russian vehicle’s name stands for Boevaya Mashina Podderzhki Tankov, which translates in English as “tank support fighting vehicle.” Its name “Terminator” was applied for export purposes.
While the BMPT Terminator is a new design, it is built on the chassis of a T-72 tank and is outfitted with Relikt explosive reactive armor. The twin 30mm autocannons, which make up the main armament of the Terminator, were specifically designed to give the vehicle an edge in attacking infantry targets low to the ground, based on Russia’s painful experience fighting Chechen rebels who frequently attacked Russian tanks from basements or other points which the tanks’ guns could not reach.
While the basic version of the Terminator is manned by a crew of five, newer versions have a crew of just three.
The Terminator is also armed with two AG-17D grenade launchers, four Ataka anti-tank missiles, and one coaxial 7.62 mm PKTM machine gun.
Development of the BMPT Terminator
Russia’s BMPT Terminator is intended to fill a tank support role, which is usually filled by infantry in a combined-arms-oriented Western army. While the idea for an armored vehicle that could protect Russian tanks from the attack was borne out of some of the guerilla war conflicts waged by the late Soviet and early Russian Armed Forces, the actual combat effectiveness of such a solution remains unknown.
Russia only had a few Terminators in service in the period shortly before its 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
How Has the BMPT Terminator Been Used in Ukraine?
Throughout Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the Russian armed forces have lost significant numbers of tanks in battle, which is in large part a result of the common Russian employment of tanks without combined arms support from infantry or artillery, leaving them vulnerable to being picked off by Ukrainian troops. Therefore, Russian military leaders likely saw a chance to test their new equipment in combat to fill a hole in Russian capabilities.
The Ukrainian combat debut of the Terminator was in the grinding battle for the Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk. Russian state media initially reported that the Terminator had arrived to fight in Ukraine in May, and pro-Russian social media accounts began to promote the vehicle’s participation in the battle for Sievierodonetsk.
After Ukrainian forces withdrew from Sievierodonetsk and the neighboring city of Lysychansk following long battles, Russia’s BMPT Terminators are reportedly following Russian forces westward into Ukraine, and continue to take part in the invasion. Russian state media has reported that Terminators are present with Russian forces fighting around the Donbas city of Siversk, which is a current focus of fighting in Donbas today.
While the jury is still out on whether the Terminator can meaningfully improve the security of tanks in combat operations, Russian military leaders do appear more confident in it than in other novel systems which they have so far chosen not to deploy, such as the T-14 Armata tank. The limited number of Terminators likely in service also makes it difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of the vehicle, or even whether it is present on the battlefield at all since most of the information available on the presence of BMPT Terminators in Ukraine comes from Russian sources.
Wesley Culp is a Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. He regularly writes on Russian and Eurasian leadership and national security topics and has been published in The Hill as well as in the Diplomatic Courier. He can be found on Twitter @WesleyJCulp.