Ukrainian forces have put an advanced Russian BMPT Terminator armored fighting vehicle out of commission for the first time, according to the Ukrainian Marines. The Terminator is a relatively new addition to Russia's ground arsenal and only a small number of them are known to be in service, making this kill quite the trophy for the Ukrainian military.
Members of the Ukrainian Marine Corps’ 140th Separate Reconnaissance Battalion helped destroy the BMPT, according to a post on the service’s official Facebook page. The post explains that Marines belonging to the unit shared the Terminator’s coordinates with nearby artillery forces, who then carried out the attack, stating:
What type of artillery was used for the strike wasn’t disclosed. It also isn’t immediately obvious which of the two known Terminator variants the now-destroyed vehicle from the footage is.
In the video shared, the Terminator can be seen stopped in the middle of a road flanked on either side by forest. Within seconds it is struck by artillery fire. Rounds that progressively get more exact are seen taking their toll on the Terminator, before it erupts in flames.
It’s worth noting that the video is shot from an elevated position, likely by a drone. This would fit with Ukraine's official description. Both Ukrainian and Russian forces have been making heavy use of drones for artillery spotting and fire correction purposes.
According to captions on photos of the aftermath shared on Instagram by Serhiy Haidai, head of the Luhansk Regional Military, the Terminator kill was said to have taken place in Kreminna. This city is located in the contested and strategic Luhansk Oblast region.
Russia’s development of the Terminator BMPT, or Tank Support System in English, was originally prompted by a very specific requirement. After its experiences with armor losses during the two Chechen campaigns in the mid 1990s and early 2000s, the Russian military wanted an armored vehicle that could perform as needed in urban counterinsurgency environments while providing fire support for its main battle tanks. Readers of The War Zone can learn even more about the BMPT Terminator in this past story.
The Terminator, which is derived from the T-72 tank chassis, is made to carry a crew of five and is optimized for armor protection and navigating through obstacle-laden urban areas. Its weapons were also selected with this kind of combat in mind, with its guns being ideal for shorter-range suppressive fire. These include twin 2A42 30mm autocannons and a coaxial 7.62 PKT machine gun. Terminator is also armed with four 9M120 Ataka (AT-9 Spiral-2) anti-tank guided missiles and two 30mm AGS-17D automatic grenade launchers.
Russia also produced an upgraded variant, the BMPT-72 sometimes referred to as Terminator 2, with an improved fire control system, turret, and communications equipment. BMPT-72 saw the crew reduced from five to three, but provided additional protection by introducing explosive reactive armor (ERA).
Very few BMPT Terminators are currently known to be in Russian service. Russia was mainly looking to export the design more than organically field it. As of February 2022, only nine BMPT-72 vehicles were reportedly in use with a motorized rifle battalion within Russia’s 90th Tank Division. Small numbers aside, it's worth highlighting that vehicles of this class are virtually non-existent in the West.
Some of the first recorded use of Terminator vehicles in Ukraine dates back to at least May 2022. Because of how these vehicles are designed for urban fighting, which has become a key feature of Russia's all-out invasion, it's clear why Russia would want them on the battlefield. Today, with urban fighting in Bakhmut and surrounding areas, and a looming larger offensive in the east or south, they are likely considered valuable.
However, the deployment of these advanced BMPTs also underscores how Russia has struggled to find readily available advanced ground combat assets that it can commit to the fight. Notable battle losses and restrictive international sanctions have had a significant impact on Russian military inventory. This has left its forces with no choice but to pull capabilities like a one-off prototype T-80UM2 experimental main battle tank and even vintage T-62 tanks out from its stocks.
Regardless, even with the limited amount it had to begin with, Russia is now down one Terminator and by the looks of it, it "won't be back."
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