Infantry fighting vehicle

An infantry fighting vehicle (IFV, also known as (mechanized) infantry combat vehicle, (M)ICV) is a type of armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) used to carry infantry into battle and provide fire support for them.


IFVs are similar to armoured personnel carriers (APCs), designed to transport five to ten infantrymen and their equipment. They are differentiated from APCs ("battle taxis") by their enhanced armament (allowing them to give direct-fire support during an assault), firing ports (allowing the infantry to fire personal weapons while mounted), and usually improved armour. They are typically armed with an autocannon of 20 to 40mm caliber, 7.62mm machine guns and possibly with ATGMs and/or surface-to-air missiles. IFVs are usually tracked, but some wheeled vehicles fall into this category, too. IFVs are generally much less heavily-armed and -armoured than main battle tanks (MBTs), but they sometimes carry missiles, such as the NATO TOW missile and Soviet Spigot which offer a significant threat to tanks.

Western powers were surprised when the Soviet Union paraded the first IFV, the BMP-1, in 1967. The BMP possessed a very low profile and was armed with both a 73mm smoothbore gun and an AT-3 Sagger ATGM. Its steeply-sloped front armour offered partial protection against NATO's standard .50 calibre machine gun in a 60 degree frontal arc, while its smoothbore gun and ATGM were a threat to NATO APCs and even MBTs. It was not quite the breakthrough some would make it out to be, as in practice its performance was similar to the heavily-armed APCs which NATO countries had already begun to develop.

Since then, all major military powers have developed or adopted IFVs. Examples include the German Marder and Puma, the Canadian LAV III, the British Warrior, the American M2 Bradley and the M1126 Stryker variant, the Spanish Pizarro, the Italian Dardo, the South African Ratel, the French AMX-10P, the Swedish Combat Vehicle 90 and the Dutch YPR-765 AIFV.

Heavy infantry fighting vehicles

To cope with urban combat and mine warfare, including the use of large improvised explosive devices, there have been a number of heavy IFVs (HIFV) with the high protection level of a tank developed, based largely on experience of the Israel Defense Force (although the Canadian Kangaroo of World War II could be called the first). The Israeli Merkava tank is capable of carrying 10 infantrymen or extra ammunition in the back, and the Achzarit is a T-55 tank modified to be heavily armoured personnel carrier. A newer example is the Russian BTR-T, also based on the T-55. The Ukrainian BMT-72 and BTMP-84 are based on lengthened T-72 and T-84 main battle tanks, respectively, and retain the tanks' 125mm main guns.


In times of asymmetrical warfare, local crises, and urban combat zones, the IFV is more important than ever. The IFV offers a viable compromise between mobility, protection, and firepower. They can be used in high and low intensity conflicts as well as peacekeeping operations. The latest vehicles, like the Patria AMV, have been designed with an emphasis on modularity that improves their ability to be repaired in the field.

Most IFVs are amphibious and air transportable. Wheeled IFVs can travel great distances on their own without needing to be transported by flat-bed trucks and railway like tracked IFVs. Tracked IFVs need to have their treads serviced or replaced on a regular basis. The tracks themselves and the weight of the IFVs tend to be tough on road surfaces, wearing them down more quickly than a wheeled IFV. Consequently, wheeled IFVs have greater mobility. Moreover, many wheeled IFVs can extract themselves from a battlefield even on flat tyres. A tracked IFV would require a heavy vehicle to tow it out of the same situation. However, tracks cannot be punctured like a tyre, they offer greater off-road mobility and greater manouevrability than wheels.

Infantry fighting vehicle components

Armour and countermeasures

Generally, IFVs have thinner and less complex armour than tanks to ensure mobility. Most IFVs are proof against heavy machine guns, artillery fragments, and small arms. It should be noted that the IFV's mission does not include anti-tank duties except in emergencies or in support of tank units, therefore it needs less protection from heavy weapons fire. Instead, the IFV, as its name implies, is supposed to carry riflemen and their weapons into the battlefield where they dismount and fight outside the vehicle with the support of the IFV's main armament.

In IFVs, the thickness of armour varies widely between models. Some vehicles are proof against nothing larger than 12.7mm projectiles while others, such as Sweden's CV90, can withstand frontal hits from 30mm autocannon. The sides, roof, and floors of IFVs have thinner armour. Vehicles must also protect crew against anti-personnel mines and against anti-tank mines.

Newer vehicles like the Finnish Patria AMV uses armour made in interchangeable modules of various thickness. This permits the vehicle to be tailored for particular missions such as decreasing the weight of vehicle for air transportation or strengthening the protection if it engages in dangerous missions. The latest models of the Russian BMP-3 use the Arena active protection system (APS) that protects the vehicle from guided and unguided missiles with velocities from 70 to 700 metres per second. Israeli IFVs will soon employ the "Iron Fist" APS which can defeat kinetic APFSDS tank rounds.

The most common counter measures are smoke grenade dischargers. These help IFVs to avoid a hits from ATGMs by allowing the IFV to hide behind a smoke screen. Some vehicles, such as the French VBCI, employ infra-red jamming flare dispensers. These are effective against missiles with IR guidance systems.

Main armament

The primary weapon on most IFVs is an autocannon, usually of a calibre between 20 and 40mm. It is effective against a wide range of targets such as unarmoured and lightly armoured vehicles, infantry, helicopters and low-flying aircraft. It can fire several types of munitions, including high explosive, incendiary, and kinetic penetrator rounds. Germany's Puma (IFV) can fire air burst munition (ABM), that contain hundreds of tungsten rods that are effective against vehicles, helicopters, and stationary strong points. IFV cannons can elevate their barrels by as much as 70 degrees to permit their crews to engage aircraft.

Machine guns

On all IFVs, a coaxial machine gun is mounted on the turret along with the main armament. The most common calibre is 7.62mm. Some vehicles mount more machine guns, for example on the German Marder, one machine gun fires from the rear of the vehicle.


Some IFVs are equipped with anti-tank guided missiles. These missiles are mostly medium range (2000-4000 m). Others carry surface-to-air missiles or a combination of the two, such as the 2T Stalker.

Grenade launchers

Some new vehicles, such as the Puma, come equipped with 30 or 40 mm automatic grenade launchers. All IFVs also have smoke grenade dischargers for concealment.

See also

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