The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is upgrading some of its BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) to enhance their survivability during counter-insurgency operations.
While numerous improvised protective measures have been seen on SAA armour over the past two years, a video released by the insurgent grouping Jaish al-Islam on 17 December 2013 shows a BMP-1 that has been fitted with a factory-made upgrade package. Presumably captured from the SAA, the vehicle is purportedly being operated by insurgents fighting in the suburbs east of Damascus.
The upgraded BMP-1 has a better level of protection against a wider range of battlefield threats through a full 360° than the baseline vehicle, which was first fielded by Soviet forces more than 45 years ago.
Its one-man turret is fitted with a previously unseen type of stand-off armour that will provide improved protection against shaped-charge warheads such as the one used with RPG-7-type weapons.
The turret retains its original 73 mm 2A28 low-recoil gun and 7.62 mm PKT machine gun, as well as the launcher for the 9K11 Malyutka anti-tank guided weapon. It also has four 81 mm smoke grenade launchers that have been integrated onto the rear of the turret so that they fire in the same direction as the main gun.
The hull has been fitted with armour on and below its glacis plate. Its more vulnerable sides have been provided with three different types of additional protection: horizontal bar armour at the top; a passive armour package in the middle; and flap-type armour over the running gear, which would also help to keep dust down.
More appliqué armour has been fitted over the two rear doors that are used by the eight dismounts to enter and leave the vehicle.
While the additional armour has increased passive protection, it decreases the dismounts' ability to suppress threats from inside the vehicle as it appears to have obscured some, if not all, of the firing ports and associated vision devices in the sides and rear of the troop compartment.
The additional weight of the new armour package also means that the vehicle no longer has an amphibious capability, a loss that is unlikely to be a significant problem for operations in Syria.
The source of the BMP-1 upgrade is unknown. While a number of contractors have developed modular upgrades for the IFV, the Syrian upgrade appears to be a new design.
Syria also operates the later BMP-2 IFV with a two-person turret, but these have yet to be observed with this enhanced armour package. Source: JANEs defence Magazine
The upgraded Syrian BMP-1 clearly showing the additional armour fitted to its hull and turret. Source: Jaish al-Islam