Shkval: How Ukraine-Modernized BMPs Ended Up in Russia and Fight Against the Defense Forces

Shkval: How Ukraine-Modernized BMPs Ended Up in Russia and Fight Against the Defense Forces

Саня Козацький Саня Козацький
Armored vehicles IFV Russian Armed Forces Ukraine War with Russia

In the autumn of 2023, reports emerged indicating that Russian invaders had started deploying Ukrainian-modified BMP-1 vehicles captured during the Russo-Georgian War.

In particular, these reports referred to the BMP-1U Shkval infantry fighting vehicles, which had undergone upgrades in Ukraine during the 2000s and were subsequently supplied to the Georgian army.

After the Russian attack on Republic of Georgia in August 2008, these IFVs were seized by Russian troops and transported to the aggressor country’s territory.

BMP-1U Shkval is a Ukrainian modernization of the Soviet infantry fighting vehicle, which was developed between the 1990s and 2000s. The main changes were primarily related to the weapons. We will study the combat characteristics of this IFV in the final part of the article. For now, let’s explore how Georgia received these fighting vehicles and why they are currently deployed as part of the Russian invasion forces against Ukraine.

BMP Shkval in Georgia

Due to open sources, it’s known that in 2007, Georgia ordered an unnamed number of BMP-1U Shkval from Ukraine. And by the beginning of the Russo-Georgian War in August 2008, 15 modernized vehicles had been delivered to this country.

They didn’t participate in the battles, at least there is no such information. During the fighting, the Russians stole 14 BMP-1Us (according to some sources, perhaps all 15). It is known that at least most of them were captured unharmed at one of the Georgian military bases. Photos of these vehicles were published on social networks and in the media of the aggressor country.

Captured by Russian troops, BMP Shkval were delivered to the territory of the Russian Federation and tested. According to some reports, the tests were held at the test site of the 38th Research Institute of Armored Vehicles, located in the city of Kubinka, Moscow Oblast.

The Russians were primarily interested in the KBA-105 Shkval unified remote weapon station, which was developed by Ukrainian specialists and installed on combat vehicles during modernization to the BMP-1U level.

After finding out all the technical and combat capabilities, the Russian BMP army didn’t use those vehicles but instead put them into storage. None of them were caught in photos or videos until the full-scale war with Ukraine.

BMP-1U in the war with Ukraine

In mid-September 2023, photos of the Russian military using the BMP-1U Shkval that was captured during the war in Georgia were published on the web.

One such infantry fighting vehicle fell into the frame of the Russian propaganda video of the Ministry of Defense of the aggressor state, which demonstrated the combat training of the Russian military. This footage was probably shot at one of the military ranges.

Another photo shows the Russian invaders sitting on top of the BMP’s hull while the vehicle is moving. The military has obscured the turret entirely, but behind the metal frame, housing a 30mm automatic gun for enhanced firing accuracy, it can be discerned that this is the Shkval RWS, which was installed on the modernized BMP-1U in Ukraine.

Already in November, it became known that the Defense Forces of Ukraine destroyed the first BMP-1U Shkval of the invaders at the front line.

Soldiers of the 47th Brigade’s strike drone company published a video of the elimination of Russian infantry amidst the destroyed BMP-1U infantry fighting vehicle near Avdiivka.

On published frames, it can be seen that the KBA-105 Shkval’s RWS, which was installed on the BMP-1U, was torn off as a result of the detonation of ammunition. However, instead of the Ukrainian ZTM-1 30mm automatic gun, the Russians installed the 2A72 gun in the module. In addition, the module shows the absence of an automatic 30mm grenade launcher and a launcher for Konkurs anti-tank guided missiles. All this could be dismantled to simplify operation or come off during the explosion of the IFV on which it was installed.

In February 2024, social media published a photo of two BMP-1U Shkvals as part of the Russian invasion forces in the Donetsk region. The images date back to January 17, 2024. Combat vehicles have improvised reinforced protection on the sides and a counter-drone screen above the turret. This indicates that a certain number of such vehicles are still in service with the Russians and are used in hostilities.

The presence of these IFVs in the Russian invasion army may indicate a significant shortage of serviceable armored vehicles. This scarcity could be compelling them to employ even small modifications of vehicles that were produced in Ukraine and seized in Georgia over 15 years ago.

BMP-1U Shkval

BMP-1U is a Ukrainian modernization of the Soviet BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle, which was developed between the 1990s and 2000s as part of the ‘Blindazh’ (‘Dugout’) R&D project.

The main changes primarily affected the weapons. Instead of the old single-seat turret with a 73mm main gun, a 7.62mm machine gun, and an ATGM launcher, a new unified remote weapon station was installed with the KBA-105 Shkval outboard armament.

The module can be armed with a 2A72 30mm automatic gun, a Ukrainian ZTM-1 with an ammunition of 360 shells and a PKT 7.62mm machine gun, or a Ukrainian counterpart KT-7,62 with an ammunition of 2500 rounds.

KBA-105 is also armed with an AG-17 30mm automatic grenade launcher or a Ukrainian KB-117 with 116 grenades – 29 ready-to-use. 87 more grenades are placed in three additional stores.

The Shkval is equipped with a launcher for two anti-tank missiles from the Konkurs system (two more missiles are transported inside the IFV).

Due to the significant mass of the module, which weighs 1,300 kilograms with full ammunition, as well as the place it occupies inside the hull, the number of soldiers BMP-1U carried decreased from 8 to 6 troops.

Armored vehicles IFV Russian Armed Forces Ukraine War with Russia