Turkmenistan upgrades BTR-80 APC

Turkmenistan’s army has upgraded several BTR-80 armored personnel carriers (APCs) of its land force. The modernized vehicles were demonstrated during the Turkmen Edermen (‘Valiant Turkman’) exercise of special forces, which was held on September 5.

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BTR-80 APC (Picture source: Vitaly Kuzmin)

According to footage broadcasted by Turkmen TV channels, the improved BTR-80 APCs have received upgrades of their firepower and protection. The hulls of the updated vehicles feature all-round bar-slat protection against rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank guided missiles with high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warheads. The Turkmen BTR-80s have also been fitted with new frontally mounted headlights and two roof-mounted lighting facilities, namely, a powerful searchlight and a forward-looking infrared lamp.

The Turkmen military has reinforced the firepower of the BTR-80: the vehicle’s organic manned turret with a Vladimirov KPVT 14.5 mm heavy machinegun (HMG) and a coaxially-mounted Kalashnikov PKT 7.62 mm general-purpose machinegun (GPMG) has been replaced by the Turkish-made SARP remotely operated weapon station (ROWS). The ROWS has been designed by Aselsan and carries a 12.7 mm HMG and a 7.62 mm GPMG. Unlike the basic turret, the unmanned combat module has been fitted with optical-electronic sensors, stabilizer, automatic target tracker, and ballistic computer (however, the armour-piercing capability of the station’s main weapon obviously falls short of that of the KPVT). It should be mentioned that the manufacturer promotes the SARP as a ‘cradle’ for small-/medium-caliber machineguns and automatic grenade launchers.

The organic armored hull of the BTR-80 has remain untouched, protecting both crew and mounted soldiers against small-caliber bullets, splinters, and other kinetic threats.

The Turkmen military seems to have upgraded only several BTR-80 APCs. According to the Military Balance 2018 analytical report, the country’s land force operates a fleet of some 450 BTR-80s and four BTR-80As. Therefore, the BTR-80 remains the backbone of Turkmen mechanized infantry’s armour fleet.

Despite its age, the BTR-80 is still an effective combat-proven carrier that transports infantry on the battlefield and provides fire support. However, the land platform should be modernized in order to meet modern requirements to APCs.

Russia’s industry offers several options of the BTR-80 upgrade. At the Army 2019 international military-technical forum held in Kubinka near Moscow on June 25-30, the vehicle's manufacturer, the Military Industrial Company (VPK), unveiled a ballistic armor update kit that can be installed on both BTR-82A/AT and the BTR-80. The kit comprises several applique armour plates, as well as bar-slats. These pieces provide the carrier’s hull all-round reliable protection against 12.7 mm bullets, a source from VPK told TASS at the show. The kit was attached to the BTR-82AT (T for ‘with thermal imager’) APC; however, it could be carried by the baseline BTR-80.

Russia’s corporation Uralvagonzavod (UVZ, a subsidiary of the state corporation Rostec) has also developed its own variant of the BTR-80’s modernization. In particular, the UVZ’s Burevestnik institute has updated the carrier with additional armor protection, new unmanned combat station, and enhanced sensors (the institute’s modernization concept drastically resembles the Turkmen one; however, it is more comprehensive and balanced). The land platform’s hull has received applique armor plates and all-round anti-HEAT bar-slats, while the troop compartment has been reinforced with Kevlar spall liner. The internal layout of the vehicle has remained the same, with only minor changes introduced. The BTR-80’s organic turret has been replaced by the Burevestnik’s 6S21 ROWS armed with a single stabilized KPVT HMG. The station also features an advanced sensor suite that incorporates a TV camera, thermal imager, and laser rangefinder. The enhanced BTR-80 has received a navigation system, air cooler, updated communications suite, and situation awareness system. The carrier’s forward-looking headlights and internal lighting facilities have been replaced by light-emitting diode (LED) lamps.

Burevestnik unveiled its upgraded BTR-80 carrier at the Russia Arms Expo (RAE) defense show held in Nizhniy Tagil (Sverdlovsk Region) in September 2015. However, there are no known operators of the land platform.

Russian industry also converts BTR-80s to heavier APCs: UVZ’s armor repair plants rebuild the carrier into the BTR-82AM, the capacities of which are equal to those of the brand new BTR-82As armed with a 2A72 30 mm automatic cannon.

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Turkmen BTR-80s have been upgraded to the BTR-82A standard, with an anti-RPG slat grill protection, but without modifying the original hull (Picture source: Army Recognition)

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