The United Arab Emirates has announced at IDEX 2011 the conclusion of an agreement for the modernization of 135 Russian produced BMP-3 amphibious infantry fighting vehicles in service with the UAE land forces. The a $74-million upgrade contract was negotiated with Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport.
The current upgrade is expected to modernize these vehicles into ‘BMP-3M’ level, integrating a modern turbocharged 660 hp UTD-32 engine, improved fire control system and upgraded armor package. Rosoboronexport is offering the new BPM-3M with the Arena-E Active Protection System (APS), but to date, this APS system has not yet been ordered by foreign (or domestic) customers.
The main armament remains unchanged, with three coaxial weapons – the 2A70 low-velocity 100mm gun (which can also fire guided missiles), a 2A72 30mm automatic cannon, and 7.62mm coax machine gun. The vehicle carries two additional 7.62mm machine guns mounted on hull and turret positions. The turret of the M’ model is equipped with all-new optronics and fire control system, a new ammunition loader, the BZS1 gunner sight, integrated thermal imager and laser illuminator provided by Sagem and new commander’s periscope.
BMP-3 is capable of speeds up to 70 kilometers per hour when driving on the highway, or up to ten miles an hour swimming at sea. The cruising range of the upgraded model is 600 kilometers.
The UAE is the largest international operator of BMP-3 vehicles. Between 1992 and 2000 about 600 BMP-3 were delivered. The chassis were manufactured by the Kurganmashzavod plant in western Siberia and turrets delivered by the Tula based Instrument Design Bureau (KBP). These vehicles have already received an armor upgrade in the year 2000, fitting reactive armor panels on 400 of the BMP-3s. These vehicles are now reaching their mid-life point and require significant improvements.
The UAE has also pursued parallel tracks for the vehicle’s upgrade; few years ago Industriewerke Saar GmbH (IWS), a member of the Diehl Defence group, was contracted by the UAE to develop an ambitious modification of the vehicle. IWS introduced a single prototype of the modified BMP-3 but, apparently, this effort has not been pursued further.
While the basic BMP-3 accomodates nine troops in addition to the three-man crew, the redesigned vehicle offers only six positions, but these ergonomic positions offer more sustainable combat missions, rapid disembarkation and more useful space.
IWS has moved the engine from the original lower rear position to the front, clearing more spacious accommodation for six troops. The front-mounted powerpack comprised a MTU-V6 engine and Renk automatic transmission. To maintain floating stability the turret was moved backward.
The UAE has also explored utilizing parts of the BMP-3 on other vehicles. In 2007 a version of the Patria AMV was displayed at the IDEX exhibition mounting the BMP-3 turret.