While passenger hauling capabilities under protection is one of the key qualities of the BMP series as a whole, the other is the use of heavier-than-normal firepower. The BMP-3 utilizes a turret that houses a 100mm rifled 2A70 series main gun coupled to an autoloading system of which 22 rounds of the available 40 x 100mm projectiles are ready-to-fire. The armament of the BMP-3 is further broadened by way of a coaxially-installed 30mm 2A72 series autocannon which can be used against light armored vehicles and infantry with equal lethality. As in the BMP-1 and BMP-2, the BMP-3 was given the capability of firing/launching anti-tank missiles to counter the threat of modern Main Battle Tanks (MBTs), this by way of support for the 9M117 "Bastion" / AT-10 "Stabber" laser-guided Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) fired through the 100mm main gun itself. Beyond these installations, the vehicle is defensed by an optional 40mm grenade launcher, a standard coaxially-installed 7.62mm PKT machine gun and a pair of standard 7.62mm machine guns in fixed, forward-firing positions at each front hull corner. Personal weapons carried by the passengers also come into play through use of the available firing ports. It is noteworthy that the vehicle's primary weapons can engage a variety of targets whilst the vehicle is stationary, on-the-move or in the water due to the excellent stabilization system used. Targets include low-flying aircraft, MBTs, light-armored vehicles, fortified structures and infantry.
Initial BMP-3 units were designated simply as "BMP-3". These were then followed by modernized forms with all-new turrets, fire control systems and powerpacks in the BMP-3M. The Russian Navy received the BMP-3 as the BMMP though these were fitted with the 30mm-armed turret of BMP-2's. The BMP-3K was a command vehicle variant with improved communications and navigation facilities while the BRM-3K "Rys" was a command reconnaissance model for the Russian Army. A special Russian Marine amphibious variant became the BMP-F with its sustained waterborne capabilities allowing it to remain at sea for up to seven hours and fire from rough seas. The BREM-L was a dedicated Armored Recovery Vehicle (ARV) and the 9P157-2 "Khrizantema-S" became a dedicated missile launching platform, joined by the 9M163M-1 "Kornet-T" of similar scope. The BMP-3 chassis was further developed into the one-off 2S18 "Pat-S" self-propelled gun platform prototype mounting a 152mm howitzer, the 2S31 fire support vehicle mounting a 120mm mortar, the DZM "Voxtorg-2" Combat Engineering Vehicle (CEV) and prototype Hermes self-propelled anti-aircraft system. The KhTM serves as a driver trainer.
The Russian Army received nearly 700 (693) vehicles since the adoption of its BMP-3. However, the type has not seen as widespread a service in foreign hands as the BMP-1 and BMP-2 before it. The United Arab Emirates has taken delivered of nearly 400 systems to date, making the UAE the second largest operator of the BMP-3 series, while a 415-strong order for Greece has been delayed. Beyond that, the vehicle is in limited service with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Indonesia, Kuwait, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Turkmenistan and Venezuela. India - the world's current (2013) largest importer of military products - remains a potential candidate for the Russian BMP-3 series pending the outcome of the indigenous Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) development.
Prior to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Soviet Army was looking to replace their entire line-up of BMP-2 vehicles with newer BMP-3 models. However, the untimely collapse of the empire and subsequent military budget reductions left the two to co-exist side-by-side in the modern Russian Army inventory.