The BTR-3 is a modern eight-wheeled armored fighting vehicle that currently serves operationally with a handful of armies across the globe - most notably the United Arab Emirates, Thailand and Myanmar. Design of the BTR-3 began in 2000 as a private venture involving ADCOM Mfg of the UAE and Kharkiv Morozov Machine Building Design Bureau (KMDB) of the Ukraine with proven powerpack components originating in the United States and Germany. ADCOM handled the vehicle's general design while KMDB utilized its manufacturing facilities for serial production beginning in 2001. The BTR-3 was originally known under the designation of "BTR-94K" and, despite Ukraine's involvement in the project, the BTR-3 is not a formal part of the Ukrainian Army inventory at this time. All told, the BTR-3 is similar in scope and function to various other global designs including the Russian BTR-90 and Canadian LAV-25.
Design of the BTR-3 is not unlike previous Soviet-era BTR wheeled transport offerings though it is generally regarded as an "all-new" design due to its upgraded powerpack, modernized armament and greater internal space. Ukraine utilized a locally-produced version of the Soviet BTR-80 as the BTR-94 which sported indigenous armament fixtures and this explains the BTR-series influence on the new BTR-3 design. The BTR-3's appearance is characterized by its eight large road wheels with four wheels to a vehicle side. The front hull features a short sloped glacis plate with a heavily sloped underside. Forward rectangular vision ports are provided as are optional armor plate panels. The sides of the hull are also heavily sloped for basic ballistics protection against small arms fire and artillery spray. A one-man modular turret emplacement - designated as the KBA-105 "Shkval" (or "Shakval") - is fitted to the hull roof and manages all of the available heavy-caliber armament. The turret is designed to as modular to suit operator mission requirements. Basic armament fittings combine an autocannon, machine gun, grenade launcher and anti-tank missile launchers. The hull roof is flat to help promote a sleek profile and improve turret traversal. The passenger cabin is fitted at the center of the design with the engine to the rear and vision/gun ports are identified along the vehicle sides. A standard operating crew is three specialist personnel that includes the driver, vehicle commander and gunner. Six combat-ready infantry can be transported within the fighting compartment and entry/exit of the vehicle for these occupants is by way of two-piece doors fitted to either side of the hull between the second and third wheel pairings. The upper portion of the door holds the firing port while the lower is hinged to fold down and form a step. Additional hatches are identified across the hull roof.
The BTR-3 is powered by a single German Deutz BF6M1015 air-cooled, diesel-fueled engine of 326 horsepower and mated to an American Allison MD3066 series automatic transmission system. This coupling allows for a top speed of 53 miles per hour with an operational range of 372 miles. All eight wheels feature suspension making for excellent cross-country capability and power steering is afforded to the two front-most wheel pairs. Each wheel is also managed by a centralized tire-pressure system which allows the driver to customize pressure to each unit based on environment. The BTR-3 weighs in at 18 tons and features a running length of 7.6 meters with a hull roof height of 2.8 meters.
As an armed transport, the BTR-3 series makes use of a plethora of weapons fittings. Such a vehicle is designed to content with varied encounters centered upon support of allied infantry forces in the Infantry Fighting Vehicle or Armored Personnel Carrier role. As such, the BTR-3 utilizes a modular armament system with the turret at the center of the design. The standard "Shkval" turret mounts a powerful 30mm dual-feed autocannon encased in a protective steel "cage" structure for additional support. The cannon provides defense against other armored vehicles and enemy troop concentrations through High-Explosive (HE) and Armor-Piercing (AP) projectile types. To contend with enemy infantry - either through direct action or in a suppression role, a coaxial 7.62mm general purpose machine gun is fitted alongside the cannon. Armament is further augmented by a 30mm AGS-17 automatic grenade launcher which can lob High-Explosive Fragmentation (HE-FRAG) grenades against target areas. The turret also sports a dual-launcher system for AT-5 "Spandrel" (9M113 Konkurs) anti-tank guided missiles on the right side to combat enemy vehicles or main battle tanks. The gun fields a traverse of 360-degrees while elevation is limited to +75 and -6 degrees. While these weapons are basic to the BTR-3 design, they can be replaced as needed by the customer.
For self-defense, the BTR-3 crew can rely on 6 x 81mm smoke grenade dischargers mounted as two banks of three launchers. These launchers are fitted along the rear turret side facings and can be used to cover tactical actions offensive or defensive in nature. The crew is also protected against NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) attack and an integrated fire suppression system counters internal fire threats. Creature comforts include a standardized air conditioning system allowing the BTR-3 crew to operate in relative comfort across tropical and desert environments.
Consistent with Soviet-era doctrine considering their original BTR family vehicles, the BTR-3 is also fully amphibious by fording water sources through some light preparation by the crew. The operators erect a trim vane and activate bilge pumps while a propeller system - located at the rear hull underside - is lowered and started. The inherently amphibious nature of the BTR-3 adds yet another welcomed layer of tactical usefulness to the discerning armored vehicle customer.
The BTR-3 has appeared in only two major production variants to date and these are designated formally as the original "BTR-3U" and the updated "BTR-3E". The BTR-3E is differentiated by its fitting of a different engine choice (believed to be a UTD-20 series diesel). A sub-variant of the BTR-3E line is the BTR-3E1 which is completed with the BM-3 "Shturm" turret system. The BTR-3E variant has also been evolved into an armored battlefield recovery vehicle known fittingly as the "BTR-3E ARV". Consistent with other vehicles in this specialized class, the BTR-3E ARV is fitted with a bulldozer-type blade, a heavy-duty crane system and a powered winch suite - all designed to clear roads of debris and destroyed vehicles.
Operators of the BTR-3 beyond the UAE military include Azerbaijan, Chad, Ecuador, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Myanmar, Nigeria and Thailand. By far, the largest export operator of the vehicle is Myanmar which is signed on to procure some 1,000 BTR-3s by contract's end. At least 210 have already been completed with production being handled locally in Myanmar facilities. UAE marines operate the original BTR-3U production form with these having been completed with the "Buran-N1" turret system. UAE marine versions are known under the name of "Guardian".