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Surprise: Putin Sent the Terminator ‘Tank’ Into Ukraine

Terminator. Image Credit: Russian State Media.
Terminator. Image Credit: Russian State Media.

Russia is sending a massive amount of military hardware into Ukraine to try and achieve some sort of victory there after what looked like a complete failure. And that means sending its latest weapons of war, like the so-called Terminator. Here is what expert has to say about it: 

What We Know

Can the Russian BMPT Terminator tank support vehicle live up to its name? The Terminator is indeed threatening with its two dual-feed cannons and futuristic look. It’s currently on the battlefield in the eastern Donbas region, tagging along with tanks and trying to provide a boost to Russian armored maneuver warfare tactics. Russia has struggled against the force of precision-guided anti-tank missiles used in Ukrainian ambushes. Let’s take a closer look at the Terminator to see if it can be effective or if it is just another example of Russian hype.

Where Is It Seeing Action?

The Terminator has been deployed to Ukraine for roughly two months. Janes defense database observed on May 18 after analyzing Russian state-run press and Russian social media that the BMPT had debuted in Luhansk oblast in eastern Ukraine.

Quick Background on the Terminator

BMPT stands for “Boevaya Mashina Podderzhki Tankov (Tank Support Fighting Vehicle).” It’s important to remember that the Terminator is more for tank support rather than serving as a main battle tank. The idea is that the Terminator can pin down infantry with rapid and massive fire and work to suppress individual fighters shooting anti-tank missiles. Fire support from the BMPT is thought to keep the enemy’s head down while the tanks maneuver to penetrate enemy defenses.

Can Modern Russian Armor Protect It?

The Terminator is equipped with the latest in protection features and the kind of armor that you would see on modern Russian tanks. It features the Relikt family explosive reactive armor on an upgraded T-72 hull – armor that is also outfitted on variants of the T-80 and T-90 main battle tanks.

Fully Armed for Terrorizing the Enemy Too

Its armaments are impressive. The BMPT features the menacing 2A42 30×165 mm dual-feed cannons firing ten rounds per second. That is what gives the Terminator’s turret its distinctive look. It also shoots Ataka anti-tank guided missiles and has 30mm grenade launchers.

Try to Eliminate Enemy Ambushes

This kind of firepower on a tank support vehicle evolved from the Soviet experience in Afghanistan and the Russian wars in Chechnya where unsupported Russian tanks were destroyed by the Mujahideen and Chechen insurgents.

The Soviets wanted a vehicle that could accompany armor and suppress enemy fire from combatants who were hiding in wait to kill tanks. Now the Terminators are patrolling in find, fix, and destroy mode in the Ukrainian city of Sieverodonetsk where heavy fighting has taken place. The BMPT is designed for urban warfare and should help Russian armor advance and work to resist Ukrainian counter-attacks, at least that’s the plan.

Logistics Issues Could Plague the Terminator

The Terminator’s moniker is likely more for export marketing rather than battlefield domination. Russia is looking for answers and needs to improve armored tactics. They have lost hundreds of tanks and Donbas is the last roll of the dice for Putin after withdrawing from Kyiv. The Terminator will also be tested on the way it can be re-fueled and re-supplied – logistics issues that have plagued Vladimir Putin’s forces.

Despite big hopes, it will likely fall to shoulder-fired anti-tank munitions too and get bogged down with the rest of Russia’s struggling tanks. Plus, there are limited numbers of Terminators – likely not enough to change the military balance in Donbas.

So even though the Terminator is initially answering the call, it’s too early to fully evaluate its performance. Some observers say the BMPT deployment is a last-minute desperate act. The coming weeks in the Donbas will tell the tale since there will be urban fighting that will allow the Terminator to shake up the battle in suburbs and cities. Then we will know if the Terminator will live up to its name.

Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.