Historically, airborne units have been lightly armed infantry elements with little-to-no access to armored vehicles and viable support weapons. Some deficiencies were addressed in the airborne campaigns of World War 2 (1939-1945) and the evolution of the field continued into the Cold War years (1947-1991). The Soviet Union, in particular, placed a tremendous emphasis on delivering to its airborne troopers useful battlefield weapons as showcased by the BMD series of air-droppable vehicles (detailed elsewhere on this site). The line began with the BMD-1 of 1969 and continued with the BMD-2, BMD-3 and the BMD-4 - the latter introduced as recently as 2004. Continued development in such vehicles has also revealed the all-new "BTR-MD" tracked vehicle - intended as a successor to the BTR-D airborne amphibious tracked APC of 1974. Development of the BTR-MD began in 2009 and prototypes were available by 2013 for formal testing with Russian airborne units.
The BTR-MD carries the name of "Rakushka" which translates to "shell". It offers protected combat capabilities in tracked format, able to traverse water sources and survive small caliber damage and "artillery spray". Fast-moving, agile and robust, the system is off-road capable and can operate in cold and temperate weather environments with equal success.
While dimensionally larger than preceding BMD designs, the BTR-MD retains a full air-droppable quality in which the vehicle is dumped out of the rear bay of a passing transport aircraft. The drop of the tank is retarded some by a deployable parachute as well as a fitted underside cushion. In this way, the vehicle can be made ready to run with minutes upon landing , getting to a tactical point in short order.
Power is derived from a 2V-06-2 diesel-fueled turbocharged engine of 450 horsepower driving a traditional track-and-wheel arrangement set at the hull sides. The drive sprocket is at rear with the track idler at front and four track return rollers featured to each hull side. Road speeds can reach 70 kmh with ranges out to 500 kilometers. Gradients of 60% can be tackled and progress in water reaches 10 kmh. The suspension system is fully adjustable "on-the-fly" allowing the driver to pre-select chassis height when attempting to cross varying terrain types.
The hull is completed in welded aluminum armor to maintain a useful gross weight yet still protect the occupants to an extent. Additional survival measures include an automated Fire Suppression System (FSS) to keep onboard fires from spreading as well as an NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) suite to cover more dastardly battlefield dangers.
The base operating crew numbers two (driver and commander) with passenger occupancy reaching thirteen combat-equipped infantry forces (or equivalent in cargo up to 2,000 kilograms). The crew is given entry / exit access through a rear-mounted door as well as roof-mounted hatches. Rear access is protected some by the elevated hull side structures present but passengers must navigate over the engine compartment when entering / exiting. The driver sits at front-center in the hull with the commander's post to his immediate left (at the machine gun mounting). Internally, all-digital displays and modern controls greet the crew.
Armament, largely defensive in nature, is 1 x 7.62mm medium machine gun. The weapon is remotely-controlled by the vehicle commander. A 30mm Automatic Grenade Launcher (AGL) can also be fitted for improved enemy troop suppression at range. Smoke grenade dischargers are fitted in two banks of two at the vehicle's glacis plate edges for a self-screening capability.
The vehicle weighs 13.2 tons and sports a length of 6.1 meters with a width of 3 meters and height of 2.5 meters.
The BTR-MD is only in light circulation as of this writing (2016) but may very well see its value grow and its battlefield role expanded in the resurgent Russian Army. It was one of the many new-generation vehicles displayed by the Russian Army in the 2015 Moscow Victory Day Parade.