Staff Writer (Updated: 4/15/2013):
Outwardly, the BMD-2 mimicked much of what was the BMD-1 before it. The basic shape of the BMP family was still largely retained just on a smaller scale. The hull was very boat-like in its design with a raised front end for wading water sources and a heavily sloped glacis plate provided basic ballistics protection. The driver managed a position at the front hull with the fighting compartment directly behind. The turret was situated ahead of amidships with the engine at the rear. The hull was straddled by running gear made up of five road wheels with the requisite track idler, drive sprocket and track return rollers in place. The hull roof was largely flat and vision blocks allowed the driver, commander and gunner limited observation ports of the action ahead. Armor construction was of welded aluminum alloy which presented minimal protection to the crew but made for a lighter overall vehicle. As the BMD series was always intended to be for airborne troops, it was also intended to be air droppable on parachuting pallets emerging from passing transport aircraft. Overall weight was 11.5 tons and the standard operating crew was four (driver, commander, gunner and machine gunner) with room for four combat-ready troops.
Armament was primarily contained in the small turret which housed the 30mm 2A42 cannon. Like later production versions of the BMD-1, the BMD-2 could also fire anti-tank guided missiles for a truly devastating reach against all modern tanks of the time. Secondary armament came in the form of a 7.62mm PKT machine gun in a coaxial mounting in the turret. There was an additional 7.62mm PKT machine gun in the bow for increased defense. 300 rounds of 30mm ammunition were carried and separated between armor-piercing and high-explosive warheads for use on armored and non-armored targets respectively. 2,940 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition was also carried for the machine guns.
Power for the BMD-2 was derived from the 5D-20 diesel-fueled 6-cylinder liquid-cooled engine developing 241 horsepower at 2,600 - largely comparable to the BMD-1's system. A top road speed of 80 km/h was reported as was a 450 kilometer operational range. The hull was suspended on a torsion bar suspension system and ground clearance was adjustable by the driver. The BMD-2 also retained the amphibious quality of the BMP-1/BMP-2/BMD-1 series which made for a more adaptable tactical instrument of war. The vehicle was propelled in the water by a pair of waterjets fitted to the rear hull. Considering the landscape of Western Europe - most likely to become the battlefield of choice in the Cold War, this was forward-thinking.
The BMD-2 only existed across three notable variants. "BMD-2" was used to signify the basic initial combat vehicles while "BMD-2K" designated command vehicles with additional communications equipment. The BMD-2 was then modernized to become the "BMD-2M" mark which introduced support for smoke grenade dischargers on the turret sides. Beyond that, the BMD-2 production run saw little changes from the original fielding. Operators of the BMD-2 (beyond Russia/Soviet Union) went on to include India, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Russia today remains the largest operator of the type with hundreds still in service and over 1,000 in mothballs.
During development of the BMD-2, another version was being drawn up to fit the full-size, complete version of the BMP-2 turret. This model became the "BMD-3" of 1990 (detailed elsewhere on this site). The designation of "BMD" stands for "Boyevaya Mashina Desanta" which translates into "Combat Vehicle Airborne".
NATO designated the BMD-2 as the "BMD M1981/1"