The BMD-3 was a further installment in the relatively successful line of light amphibious, air-droppable infantry fighting vehicles serving with Soviet airborne forces. The BMD series was technically billed an "airborne combat vehicle" though its field operation was more akin to a traditional "infantry fighting vehicle" (IFV). The series was based the dimensionally larger and heavier BMP series of IFVs which was produced in the BMP-1, BMP-2 and BMP-3 marks. The original BMD (BMD-1) was first unveiled in 1969 to which then the improved BMD-2 was showcased beginning in 1985. Both saw combat service in the Soviet war in Afghanistan alongside the larger BMP models - though proving susceptible to land mines and rocket propelled grenades (the BMP/BMD was designed to fight in Europe). The BMD-3, therefore, was the third evolution of the BMD fighting line intended to provide lightly armed Soviet airborne personnel with a capable armored fighting vehicle. The BMD-3 was designed alongside the BMD-2 model which utilized a smaller version of the BMP-2 turret. The BMD-3, therefore, was given the full-size version of the BMP-2 turret and all of its inherently beneficial qualities. The BMD-3 entered service with the Red Army in 1990 and retains a presence in the Russian military of today. Production was handled out of the Volgograd Tractor Factory as in versions prior. The project name for the BMD-3 model was Obyekt 950 and the BMD designation stood for "Boyevaya Machina Desanta" which, when translated, simply detailed its field use ("Combat Vehicle Airborne").
The BMP-3 retained much of the design lines of the BMP/BMD series prior. The hull was rather basic with slab sides, a raised front and a well-sloped glacis plate. The driver maintained a position at the center front flanked by a pair of seating positions for additional crew. The turret was now large enough to fit two crew and this would be generally staffed with the vehicle commander and the primary gunner. Three smoke grenade dischargers were fitted to each turret side. The fighting compartment was held at the center of the hull with the engine at the rear. Waterjets mounted at the lower hull rear allowed for fully amphibious capabilities - a trademark of Soviet armored vehicle designs. The track system encompassed five small road wheels with the drive sprocket at the rear and the track idler at the front as well as four track return rollers. Armor was a light aluminum alloy arrangement at the hull with steel used on the turret. Wider tracks were also available as necessary (480mm from the original 320mm types).
Primary armament was the 30mm 2A42 cannon which was augmented by a coaxial 7.62mm PK series machine gun. The power-operated two-man turret was also home to an anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) launcher. Secondary armament included a 30mm AGS-17 series automatic grenade launcher (front left hull) and a 5.45mm RPKS general purpose machine gun in the bow (front right hull). Overall, the BMD-3 was a very well-armed machine that could be called upon to tackle various enemy types - including Main Battle Tanks. 860 x 30mm projectiles were carried for the main gun as well as 4 x ATGMs. 2,000 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition were also stowed aboard as was 2,160 rounds of 5.45mm ammunition. 551 grenades were carried for the 30mm grenade launcher.
Power was supplied by the fitting of a 2V-06-2 liquid-cooled diesel-fueled engine developing 450 horsepower. This represented a much better offering than the 241 horsepower system fielded in the BMD-1and BMD-2 prior. Top road speed was 70 km/h with an operational range of 500 kilometers. As in the previous BMD offerings, the torsion bar suspension system was served with a hydropneumatic variable height arrangement. The amphibious portion of the BMD-3 relied on the aforementioned pair of waterjets as well as onboard bilge pumps. A trim vain was erected prior to entry into water. Top speed once in water was 10 km/h.
BMD-3 was used to designate the original production fighting vehicles. A new turret was then developed featuring a 100mm main gun with 30mm autocannon and this gave rise to the improved BMD-4 variant (born of the BMD-3M prototype fitting the BMP-3 turret). A modernized version of this form became the BMD-4M. The BMD-3 itself was furthered in the RKhM-5 chemical reconnaissance platform designed to test soil and air samples in the event of a nuclear detonation. The BTR-BD "Rakushka" was a dedicated transport variant with an enlarged hull lacking the traditional turret assembly. These served as multi-faceted tracked movers for the Russian Army. The battlefield ambulance version became the BMM-D. This chassis also served as the basis for a command vehicle, armored recovery vehicle and a mortar carrier. The BTR-BD was modernized to become the BTR-MDM sometime later. The final installation of the BMD-3 design came in the form of the specialized 2S25 Sprut-SD which fitted a 125mm main gun into a new turret atop the BMD-3 chassis to be used as a tracked tank destroyer or light tank. This design also included two additional road wheels to each track side to displace the added weight.
Production has delivered over 120 BMD-3 systems as well as a further 60 improved BMD-4 models.