Power for the vehicle was served through a single 6-cylinder, water-cooled, diesel-fueled engine developing 300 horsepower at 2,000rpm. This allowed the vehicle a maximum road speed of 50 miles per hour with an operational road range of 310 miles, specifications allowing it to keep pace with the rest of the armored spearhead led by Main Battle Tanks. The vehicle was also fully-suspended and its track-and-wheel arrangement involved six double-tired, rubber-surrounded road wheels to a hull side with the drive sprocket at the front of the hull and the track idler at the rear. Three track return rollers were partially shrouded by a thin layer of armor skirt along each hull side.
The BMP-1 was equipped with a smoothbore 73mm 2A28 Grom main gun as primary armament firing a proven High-Explosive, Anti-Tank (HEAT) projectile or High-Explosive, Fragmentation (HE-FRAG) round. The main gun was fitted to a low-profile, conically-shaped turret set at the middle of the hull roof. The turret could manage a full 360-degree firing arc about the vehicle with +33 and -4 elevation reach. This was coupled to an AT-3 "Sagger-A" 9M14 Malyutka anti-tank, wire-guided missile launcher fitted over the main gun barrel which gave it line-of-sight armor-defeating capabilities at range. While the 73mm armament could contend with infantry, structures and lightly-armored vehicles, the AT missile could be reserved for countering the threat of Western-originated combat tanks. Secondary armament included a 7.62mm coaxial-mounted machine gun in the turret.
The hull of the BMP-1 was designed to withstand the effects of a 12.7mm heavy caliber machine gun (up 23mm cannon fire across the front facings) and artillery spray that would otherwise maim or kill occupants within the hull of the vehicle. Armor thickness measured 33mm at the critical facings. Complete crew features included an integrated NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) system, night vision equipment for all three crew and a smoke generating system that utilized fuel vapor injection directly into the exhaust port.
The BMP-1 received its baptism of fire with Syrian and Egyptian forces during the 1973 Yom Kippur War against Israel. The type was also extensively used by Soviet forces in the Afghanistan War from 1979 into 1989. Libyan Army forces fielded the type against Chad. As a mechanized platform, the BMP-1 certainly proved valuable to the operating scope of its users (including the Soviet Army). The BMD-1 of 1970 was a direct offshoot of the BMP-1, intended as a dimensionally smaller and lighter airborne derivative of the original and issue to Soviet paratrooper elements as a formidable "air-droppable" light tank.
The BMP-1 was, itself, eventually superseded by the improved BMP-2 series of armored vehicles debuting in 1980, a storied design which also went on to see considerable sale and use worldwide. The BMP-2 improved by way of a shorter, lower hull, improved visibility for the commander through a revised internal layout, room for seven infantrymen and a more accurate - though smaller caliber - 30mm main gun - changes brought about by the limitations of the original BMP-1 design showcased in both the Yom Kippur War and Soviet-Afghan War - particularly in the tandem seating of driver and commander which limited views for the latter and expose both crew to a single mine or RPG blast. The cabin stowage of ammunition for the main gun also exposed the crew to ammunition explosion from a direct hit and the cabin-fitted fuel stores posed its own obvious danger to passengers. Support for the 2nd Generation AT-4 and AT-5 anti-tank missiles was also brought about as were improved amphibious capabilities. The BMP-3 of 1987 was, and continues to be, the ultimately evolution of the BMP fighting line, having superseded the BMP-2 in limited numbers.
Many BMP-1s saw extensive modernization programs undertaken in the mid-1970s. This initiative begat the definitive BMP-1P which brought about support for the 9M113 and 9M113M AT missiles of increased range and penetration values. 6 x smoke grenade launchers were added for point defense in screening the vehicle from tracking eyes. These versions came online in 1979, resulting in a new BMP-1 operational standard utilized throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
Production of BMP-1 units have totaled 26,000 examples from Soviet factories, Chinese state arsenals, Czech factories and local-license production in India. Many BMP-1 users consist of Soviet-allied states and nations. Many such examples were grandfathered in to local inventories after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.