Staff Writer (Updated: 5/11/2015):
Taking the BTR-70 as a starting point, Soviet engineers did away with the twin gasoline engine setup of the former BTR-60 and BTR-70 designs and instead fitted a single V-form 8-cylinder KamAZ-7403 series diesel engine to deliver 260 horsepower at 2,600rpm. The characteristic eight road wheel arrangement was retained. The implementation of the new powerplant required some restructuring of the rear engine compartment which raised the rear hull line. Modernized sighting devices (nightvision to both the driver and the commander) were installed as was an infra-red search light. Armament was fitted to a revised, low-profile one-man turret and given 360-degree traverse and 60+ degrees elevation to counter low flying aircraft and engage targets even if the vehicle was hampered along sloped terrain. Primary armament came in the form of a 14.5mm KPVT anti-aircraft heavy machine gun supported by a 7.62mm PKT general purpose machine gun.
The standard operating crew included the driver, commander and gunner while up to eight combat ready soldiers could be ferried in relative safety in the revised fighting compartment. The driver and commander were situated at the front of the hull under the shallow glacis plate while the gunner manned the powered turret system. Passengers could take part in a given firefight thanks to the inclusion of rounded firing ports complete with ball mounts located at the side (three each side) and front facings of the hull. The vehicle's operating weight was listed at nearly 15,000kg while displaying a running length of 7.65 meters, a width of 2.90 meters and a height of 2.35 meters. Independent suspension and drive power was afforded to all eight wheels and operational ranges were listed out to 600 kilometers. Steering was assisted at the front four wheels only. A centralized tire air pressure system maintained the required levels to all eight wheel systems and was controlled by the driver for when managing varied terrain "on-the-fly".
The BTR-80 was designed with a certain level of self-survivability in mind and could manage to lose two of its eight road wheels and still keep itself viable. Top speed was 80 kilometers on smooth paved surfaces, lesser on rough and uneven terrain. The BTR-80 was given amphibious capabilities and could traverse relatively calm waters at roughly 9 kilometers per hour with its integrated water jet propulsion system that required no outward preparation by the crew. The crew was also protected in the event of nuclear fallout and chemical weapons by a new Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) suite and a pressurized fighting compartment. Six 81mm smoke grenade dischargers were fitted to the rear of the turret and set to fire forwards for self-protection in a combat environment. Armor was designed heavy enough to deflect or stop small arms fire and artillery spray but was not specifically designed to withstand direct hits from larger caliber weapons, rocket grenades or anti-tank missile weapons. Troops exited/entered the BTR-80 hull through split doors found on the hull sides between the forward and rearward wheel pairings (between axles two and three). Each door was split horizontally with the upper portion hinged to open forwards and the lower portion folded down to become a step capable of supporting the weight of a soldier. A third door section along the hull roof could similarly flip upwards (towards centerline) for increased headroom and speedy insertion/extractions.
Once in service, the BTR-80 had proven a winner for the Red Army, with off-road performance equal to that of any tracked vehicle systems coupled with excellent on-road performance. Where it lacked in protection and firepower (not its specifically designed forte) it made up for in mobility and speed. Such was the success of the BTR-80 that it went into service with a plethora of national armies the world over including Columbia, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, North Korea and South Korea among others. The Ukrainians took initiative and branched their BTR-80 series family into further improved indigenous lines to benefit their mobile army units. The BTR-80 chassis has also proven highly adaptable to the fitting of various armament types (machine guns, cannons) as well as flexible enough for several required battlefield roles to include that of command vehicle, battlefield ambulance, signals vehicle and mobile communications station.
A new YaMZ-238M2 engine was introduced into the BTR-80 line in 1993, further enhancing inherent capabilities. As of this writing, at least 5,000 BTR-80s have been placed into service with 35 countries.