What is the future of BVP-2 fighting vehicles in the Czech Army
The current process of new infantry fighting vehicle choice is probably the most discussed program of the CAF, or rather of Czech Ministry of Defence. However, whatever should the end of this rearmament program be, the result of that will, of course, be removal of so far used infantry fighting vehicles BVP-2 from service. At the moment the CAF operates quite a significant number of these vehicles, approx. 180 pcs. Nevertheless, many of them are still in quite good technical state. Therefore, we shall ask - what will be the future of these combat vehicles? May they still be of any use?
IFV /BVP-2/BMP-2 today
BVP-2 is already obsolete to current standards. Maybe it is not about the technical age of these vehicles. After all, there are deployed even older armoured vehicles in the world. For instance, M-113 American armoured transporter keeps serving in number of tens of thousands of pieces. The BVP-2 disadvantage is much more a conceptual obsolescence caused by a technical level of its creation but also by its use philosophy for planned deployment during the Cold war. As a result of that BVP-2 is equipped with quite thin armour, significantly thinner thank modern IFVs, the level of mine protection is also insufficient. Very important negative is also a very limited and low room for passengers, which is, considering increase of modern soldier´s equipment, more and more important factor.
On the other hand, the BVP-2 has also got some positive qualities that are still very appreciated. Mainly it is a simplicity, technical endurance and total sturdiness. Ability of BVP-2 to go through a hard terrain is highly evaluated. From the CAF´s point of view low weight and capability to swim are another advantages. These are the factors that are not deemed to be important these days. However, they should not be ignored as in the Czech Republic still hasn´t been built road infrastructure and most of the bridges do not allow deployment of modern IFVs.
The most important factor is, of course, that the CAF has built a complex logistics for BVP-2 vehicles, the Czech Republic has at its disposal the servicing equipment as well. The CAF has also got enough spare parts for BVP-2 vehicles. Thanks to that the CAF may operate the BVP-2 vehicles for quite a long time.
At the first sight further operation of BVP-2 vehicles might make no sense once the army purchases new modern western IFVs. The opposite is true. We have to realize that the planned number of new IFVs (210 pcs) is in fact low. Given the modern IFVs price (the Army will spent 53 billion Czech Crowns for 210 IFVs), though, it is not probable that the Army may significantly increase the number. It will also take some time to build for these vehicles the logistics (which will, in addition, be much more complicated than with relatively simple BVP-2 vehicles). Even after that the CAF will evidently need a vehicle that would somehow complement modern but expensive and heavy IFVs.
For that matter also other BVP-2/BMP-2 users upgrade them. Everywhere the arguments are the same. It seems purposeless even to relatively rich states to dispose of vehicles of sufficient technical lifetime.
Therefore, the question is not whether to upgrade BVP-2 vehicles, but in which way. The question is much more complicated than it may look like at the first sight. There are several upgrade programs in the world that do differ diametrically in their conception and technical parameters as well as in their prices.
BMP-2 upgrade in the world
For instance, Russia, the land of their origin, is modernizing their own BMP-2 vehicles. Russia decided to do that out of many reasons. Probably the most important one was a delay in development of brand new IFV Kurganěc-25. That was also a matter of Russian ownership of considerable number of BMP-2 vehicles of sufficient technical lifetime and there is also a huge stockpile of spare parts and ammunition.
The Russian BMP-2 vehicles modernization is quite extensive. Firstly - the turret was replaced with brand new Berežok turret system. Although it includes the original 2A42 gun, but there were mounted brand new sensors and new fire controlling system in the turret. Also, it is equipped with new ATGMs, grenade launcher was added as well. By way of contrast the chassis will get only minimum upgrade. The original driving unit will probably also stay the same.
Finland realized upgrade of part of their BMP-2 to BMP-2 MD as well. Even though they are operating quite high number of more than 100 pcs of modern IFV CV, they continue to use BMP-2 vehicles delivered by Soviet Union in past.
The Finnish upgrade is quite similar to the Russian one. There are only limited alterations to the chassis. Compared to that the instrumental equipment was significantly upgraded, almost all the sensors were exchanged, new night vision system was mounted etc.
The interesting point of this upgrade is equipping with new GTS-30 guns from Slovak ZŤS company. However, these guns are only modernized version of 2A42 guns (used at BMP-2 vehicles) which they are having the same Russian, or rather Soviet, ammunition 30 x 165mm, completely distinct from "western" 30 x 173 mm calibre. This means that Finnish army will further operate two IFV types (CV-90 and BMP-2MD) with the same gun calibre, but using completely different ammunition. Seemingly logical would be not only unification of calibre as well as ammunition in a way of mounting new western gun. The Finnish reason for that is evident. This spared finances (western guns are usually more expansive than Slovak type GTS-30), quite large stockpile of 30 x 165 ammunition. Thanks to that the Finnish upgrade may be judged as a very pragmatic one.
The modernization offered by Israeli company to India is noteworthy. The most interesting point of this modernization is mounting of Samson II weapon station to BMP-2, the same weapon station was mounted to Czech Pandur armoured carriers. Yet, this upgrade was not successful, the Indian army refused that because of technical reasons as well as high price. There became apparent that to combine old chassis with fresh new weapon station is ineffective. Therefore, completely different modernization was given preference.
There were much more modernizations in the world. We have mentioned here only the most interesting and the most symptomatic ones.
At the end it is necessary to mention also Czech BVP-M2 SKCZ Jackal of Czech Excalibur Army company. Seemingly, the BVP-M2 SKCZ Jackal does not belong into this overview. It is not current BVP-2/BMP-2 vehicles upgrade. However, BVP-M2 SKCZ Jackall proceeds from BMP series vehicles and it shares with them many technical components. Therefore, its inclusion into this overview is completely rightful.
BVP-M2 SKCZ Jackal is completely different from described upgrades. Tracked chassis of this IFV (the same as BMP series) was mounted to new hull. Thanks to that required raise of height of passenger room was realized. Mounting of new weapon station - Slovak remote controlled Turra armed with 2A42 gun, was a considerable upgrade. Even the driving unit was exchanged. The application of new additional armour completely changed the vehicle silhouette.
This makes the BVP-M2 SKCZ Jackal the most fundamental upgrade of BMP series vehicles. In fact, there was created completely new IFV which has almost nothing in common with BMP vehicles. Still, this vehicle turned out unsuccessful. Several tests proved the vehicle to be overloaded, torsion bars were cracking, the vehicle didn´t have necessary stability. These were the main reasons for the Czech Army to refuse BVP-M2 SKCZ Jackal.
The BVP-M2 SKCZ Jackal had also another disadvantage. On account of high part of completely new modernizing components (new motor, new turret) it was quite expensive. Even though the BVP-M2 SKCZ Jackal is cheaper than western IFV, its price is high.
Despite that, BVP-M2 SKCZ Jackal is of great value. Mainly - it proved high capabilities of Czech arms industry which is capable even of such demanding programs. And some of its parts may be used during further upgrades. They are helping to answer the fundamental question - in which way should BVP-2 vehicles be modernized?
In which way to upgrade BVP-2 vehicles?
The above-mentioned foreign experience as well as home arms industry experience show us the possible way of such upgrade.
Possible upgrade should be designed as less demanding. As proven with BVP-M2 SKCZ Jackal project and other similar projects, exaggeratedly ambitious projects do usually finish in failure. The upgrade should not include cardinal adjustments to the hull as such adaptations are technically complicated and, last but not least, very expensive.
The upgrade should concentrate much more to modern instrumental equipment that improves site overview as well as fire accuracy. This may increase the vehicle value much more than a gun of higher calibre, for instance.
Therefore, we shall ask, whether some fundamental weaponry upgrade should be done. The experience proved the capabilities of old 2A42 gun being relatively sufficient. There is an interesting option to use new GTS-30 guns as the Finnish army did. Though, we have to add, that the Finnish army decided to do so only because of high wear and tear of 2A42 guns. Therefore, such decision should be based on evaluation of technical state of these guns.
Installation of some western gun would be a mistake - even though such measure would mean armoury unification. it would be possible to use Samson II weapon station, however, installation of that would for sure negatively influence the vehicle weight and stability. The new turret mounting disadvantage would also be disproportionately high price.
Compared to that, there should be more concentration to improvement of the crew working conditions, namely in passenger room. Here may be used some technical solutions which were already used with BVP-M2 SKCZ Jackal. A relatively easy step would be mounting of new seats. Following the BVP-M2 SKCZ Jackal example, the fuel tank may be removed as well as rechargeable batteries that take disproportionately too much space.
The BVP-2 bottom strengthening for mine protection would be a proper measure. Even this solution was used at BVP-M2 SKCZ Jackal vehicle, namely in a successful way. It only partly improved mine protection, however, this measure means a considerable break.
On the contrary replacement of the original door with a ramp door would be useless. Though, such solution is much more modern, on the other hand it would make the upgrade disproportionately expensive.
The result modernization would be very effective and relatively easy. The advantage of that would be the option for the Czech Republic to realize it on its own via home arms industry. This would favourably influence the price and this measure would also further strengthen the position of Czech arms industry.
Should we upgrade BVP-2 vehicles?
Pursuant to the above-mentioned it may be possible to answer - yes. Should BVP-2 vehicle still be of certain technical lifespan, it would be a mistake not to use it. Despite the fact that the CAF will have new IFVs.
Such upgrade is also supported by its technical and financial low demands. It is not always possible, of course. Should others (Finland) be able to realize such measure, there is no reason why the Czech Republic should not be capable of it. The modernization, even though of only some of BVP-2 vehicles would in a relatively easy way enhance the CAF capabilities and strengthen the defensive capacity of the Czech Republic. That is not small value in current unstable international situation.