IFV – 50-115 built
The Bulgarian IFV
A small country like Bulgaria is not supposed to single-handedly develop and build a national main battle tank, however creating an Infantry Fighting Vehicle using existing platforms was at hand. It was to be tailored for the needs of the Bulgarian Army then under the Soviet sphere of Influence as part of the Warsaw Pact. It was a goal as much achievable as nearby Romania or Yugoslavia. The goal was to improve the concept of Infantry Fighting Vehicle compared to the BMP-1 already in service. Only a few were cranked-up by KINTEX State Commercial Enterprise, 50 (wikipedia) or 114 (army-guide), entering service in the early 1980s.
The basis for the BMP-23 was the sturdy Soviet 2S1 “Gvozdika” self-propelled howitzer, then built under licence, itself based on the multipurpose MT-LB chassis. However given the goals of the military, it has to be given a much sturdier armour than the original BMP-1. The better engine and reinforced suspensions helped that way. The hull was also comprehensively modified, to integrate a roomy troop compartment at the rear, for six equipped infantry seated either side back-to-back. The rear was modified to accept two doors for the crew, in addition to the two large roof hatches. Three pistol ports were also placed in the walls, with bulletproof vision devices. The welded steel hull was reinforced with a frontal arc protection about 20-23mm (it is assumed to withstand 23mm AP rounds).
Turret and armament
The turret was the major change of course for this model. This turret is used by the BMP-23/BMP-23A. It has a rounded rear, with flat sides all around and a well sloped front. Protruding from it is the 23 mm automatic cannon 2A14 also known as the ZU-23-2, equipping standard Soviet light AA units. It is fed by 600 rounds, had a +80° elevation, and could fire either HE-IT and AP-IT ammunitions with a muzzle velocity of 970 m/s. This gun, introduced in the 1960, has a total length of 4.57 m (10 ft), barrel length of 2.008 m (79.1 in) for 87.3 calibers, and fired a 23x152B, with a low 200/300 rds/min to high at 500 rds/min rate of fire at 2.5 km (2 mi) practical range.
It was completed by a 7.62 mm machine gun (PKT) coaxial light machine gun, and to deal with tanks at longer range, an 9K11 Malyutka ATGM launcher, replaced recently by a 9K111 Fagot. The latter is a SACLOS missile, fitted with a 1.7 kg High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) warhead. The first can defeat 400 mm of RHA /200 mm 60° sloped armour up to 2,500 m, the second up to 4,000 m (and tandem HEAT charge). The mount was electrically operated from the inside (90° traverse) and -5 to +15° elevation. In addition the crew carried their personal AK-47s, RPG-7V, and RPG-22, plus a Strela-2M for AA cover.
For targeting, the gunner (left) has a forward-opening hatch cover and a binocular day sight with magnification of ×4.5 and a 40° field of view and white light searchlight. The commander (right) has a cupola, single-piece hatch cover opening to the front and mounting an infra-red searchlight. He also had his own 1PZ-3 monocular sight, TKN-3B day/night sight with a ×4.75/×4 day/night magnification. These sights were produced under licence by the Vazov Engineering Plant in Sopot, Bulgaria.
For mobility, the BMP-23 is given an improved engine, the turbocharged diesel YaMZ-238N, which develops 315 hp, giving the vehicle a 62 km/h top speed of road and 550 to 600 km operational range on average. The drivetrain shared with the MT-LB, with a full row of heavenly spaced seven rubberized roadwheels system without return rollers, with drive sprocket at the front and idler at the rear. These were suspended on torsion bars, and in addition came hydraulic shock-absorbers on the first and last suspensions units. In addition to the seven infantry, the crew also comprises the driver (left), commander and gunner (turret).
For concealment the usual exhaust smoke ejector is used, but two banks on three 81 mm electrically operated smoke dischargers facing forward were added on the modernized versions BMP-23D. Importantly, the BMP-23 retains amphibious characteristics for the MT-LB, with enough buoyancy to swim, propelled and guided by the tracks. Preparation included raising the trim vane, removing the hull sides slotted mudguards. Fire detection and suppression systems are installed, R-123M VHF radio and R-124 tank intercom, NBC collective protection with GO-27 radiation and chemical detection system.
-BMP-23D Upgraded model with the 9K111 Fagot ATGM plus 2×3 81mm smoke grenade launchers.
-BRM-23 Reconnaissance vehicle, apparently entering service in limited numbers in 1991, equipped with a large folded antenna mounted on the rear of the vehicle.
-BMP-30 A first Prototype was built using turret recalling the one seen on the BMP-2. Only 10 built according to army-guide in 1995. It has a 2A42 30mm auto cannon with 4000m range, coaxial PKT and AT-5 Spandrel ATGM.
The BMP-23 in service
The BMP-23 was first publicly revealed at a parade in 1984. It served its tour of duty in Iraq along with the M1117 Armoured Security Vehicle, without noticeable event. The BMP-23D is still in service today in the Bulgarian Army. There is an interesting “recycling” potential for nations willing to replace their old 2S1 Gvozdika today, with a more potent IFV than the BMP-1.
|Dimensions||7.28x 3.05x 2.53m (24 x10 x8 ft)|
|Total weight, battle ready||15.2 tonnes (33510 Ibs)|
|Crew||3+7 (driver, gunner, commander, 7 infantry)|
|Propulsion||Turbodiesel YaMZ-238N 315 hp pw 20.7 hp/t|
|Suspension||Torsion bars, shock dampers|
|Speed (road)||62 km/h (xx mph)|
|Range||550 km (xx mi)|
|Armament||23 mm 2A14, 9K111 ATGM “Fagot”, 7.62 mm PKT LMG|
|Armor||About 20 mm front (0.35 in)|
|Total production||140? in 1982-1992|
BMP-23, regular green livery, 1980s
Camouflaged BMP-23D, 1990s
Video: Walkaround, comparing the BMP-1/23/30
BMP-23 in a parade
Camouflaged BMP-23D BULAF, Iraq, 2000s.
BMP-30, as preserved.