In 2009, the Arzamas Machine-Building Plant in Arzamas, in Nizhny Novgorod Oblast 250 miles east of Moscow, revealed a new variant of the BTR-82 armored personnel carrier.
The BTR-82A—a 17-ton, eight-wheel APC with a stabilized 7.62-millimeter machine gun and extra Kevlar armor—was meant for export. But in 2013, the Russian defense ministry ordered the vehicle for its own use for the first time.
The BTR-82A is better-protected and better-armed than older BTR-82s, BTR-80s and BTR-70s are. But that didn’t save the BTR-82As that rolled into battle outside Avdiivka, northwest of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.
They ran over mines, lost wheels or flipped over then got pummeled by artillery. In a single bloody day on Thursday, Russian regiments lost no fewer than 13 BTR-82As, most or all of them around Avdiivka. It was one of the worst single-day losses for any vehicle type in Russia’s 21-month wider war on Ukraine.
Perhaps more seriously, the 13 BTRs each might’ve carried 10 crew and infantry. It’s unclear how many of the crew and passengers died in their vehicles’ destructions.
It isn’t the BTR-82A designers’ fault that the APCs got wiped out outside Avdiivka. The Russians have been losing potentially scores of vehicles every day trying, and failing, to capture the heavily-fortified settlement.
According to the Ukrainian general staff, Russian regiments lost 55 tanks in a 24-hour period starting on Thursday. That’s a rate of loss 20 times the average in the two years of wider war.
The Russian armed forces operate around 1,500 BTR-80s, including hundreds of BTR-82As. The loss of 13 BTR-82As itself isn’t catastrophic. But the loss of 13 BTR-82As in a single day in an ongoing campaign should startle Russian commanders.
After all, the Russian assault on Avdiivka shows no sign of ending any time soon despite losses that, in any other country, might spark a political crisis. If the Kremlin lost 13 BTR-82s, plus scores of other vehicles, in just one day—how many might it lose in 30 days?