Since the foundation of the VDV, Soviet engineers continuously sought to provide them with sufficient firepower. Experience from World War II revealed that the "winged infantry" should be at least en par with the conventional infantry in terms of firepower, protection and mobility. However, a degree of military-transport aviation capability to airlift airborne troops to landing zones at the time of their creation impeded the solution of this problem. The adoption of the An-8 and An-12 military-transport aircraft, industrial achievements, and new approaches to military doctrines created technical and economic preconditions for the development of armament and hardware versions that could be air portable. In 1969, the BMD-1 entered service and was equally combat-efficient as the BMP-1.
At the time of its operation, the BMD-1 had no analogues abroad. Its main armament was a 73 mm smoothbore gun with a coaxial 7.62 mm PKT machine gun. It also had a launcher rail for the 9M14 Malyutka. Additional armaments include two bow-mounted 7.62mm PKT machine guns in the front part of the vehicle, in addition to one ball joint firing port on either side and cover of the rear hatch to fire from individual weapons. The vehicle also featured a hydropneumatic suspension system capable of changing its ground clearance. A low weight of 7.5 t allowed it to be light enough to parachute from any types of military-transport aircraft. This airborne infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) also possessed one of the highest power-to-weight ratios at 32 hp/tonne. The BMD-1 was the first domestically produced vehicle equipped with aluminum armor to ensure its light weight. The engineering incorporated in the BMD-1 allowed it to be used as a base vehicle for multiple variants including the BMD-1K and the BTR-D.
During the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, intensive combat highlighted the lack of sufficient firepower provided by the BMD-1 and its variants. This led to the development of a new vehicle in the 1980s, fitted with a new main armament. The new vehicle, designated as the BMD-2, entered service in 1985 with the airborne troops. The sole difference between the BMD-2 and BMD-1 was the armament. The new armament for the BMD-2 was the 30 mm 2A42 autocannon capable of a higher elevation. In addition, the BMD-2 was fitted with a 9P135M launcher rail for 9M111 Fagot and 9M113 Konkurs anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM).
The development of this 3rd generation airborne combat vehicle was initiated during the same time frame of the development of the BMP-3. However, the results of the development showed that the mass of the BMP-3 with landing facilities will significantly exceed 20 tonnes limiting an Il-76 to transporting one vehicle. In the early 1980s, creation of an airborne combat vehicle was initialed. During the design, two options were considered as the BMD-3. The first one included the chassis with the 100 mm 2A70 rifled gun and a coaxial 30 mm 2A72 autocannon weighing over 18 tonnes. The second option was to use the combat module with a 30 mm 2A42 autocannon. Thus, loading the IL-76 was either with two airborne combat vehicles weighing 18 tonnes, or three airborne combat vehicles weighing 12.5 tonnes. Research showed that the latter version of the new BMD-3 ran much more efficiently. On the basis of the experience gained and the results of the research, the Council of Ministers of the USSR and the CPSU number 451-159 officially opened the ROC under the code "Bakhcha" on May 20, 1983. Work included the development of airborne combat vehicle weighing 12.5 tonnes with the Volgograd tractor factory appointed as the head developer.
One month later, an agreement was made for the tactical and technical requirements for the new BMD as well as a complete technical design stage. When developing the new BMD, the experience gained in the course of work on the BMD-1 and "Object 934" light tank was used. By 1985, the acceptance testing of three new BMD prototypes was completed. The test results revealed that all the samples exceeded the permissible mass by 190–290 kg and that the running vehicle gave numerous failures. The design bureau VgTZ fixed most of the shortcomings and were eliminated. By May 1986, the refined BMD prototypes completed preliminary tests with three more prototypes developed by the Volgograd tractor factory. These were sent to the state test for another evaluation. New samples exceeded the permissible mass by 400 kg, as they were made subject to measures of improving the reliability of the running transmission gears. The BMD state tests took place between 27 October 1986 and 27 October 1987. According to test results, two to three vehicles were completed and sent to the control tests in different climatic zones conducted from 10 July to 19 November 1988. The conclusion for the "Bakhcha" was assessed as positive with the vehicle fulfilling the tactical and technical requirements set by the airborne troops. On 10 February 1990 the USSR adopted the "Object 950" IFV into service under the designation BMD-3. The serial production of the BMD-3 was then initiated and continued until 1997. Excluding six prototypes produced before 1990, a total of 137 BMD-3s were produced from the year of its adoption to the end of its serial production.
- BMD-3K – The commander variant of the BMD-3 adopted by the Russian Army in 1996. Mass production of this vehicle was never initiated.
- 2S25 (Object 952) – A self-propelled anti-tank gun that entered service in 2005. This vehicle has the chassis of the BMD-3 and is operated by a crew of three. The main armament is the 125 mm 2A75 smoothbore gun which is a variant of the 2A46 smoothbore gun series used by Soviet main battle tanks since the T-64. It can fire the ammunition of the 2A46 including the 9M119 Svir. The chassis has seven road wheels on each side instead of five and the engine is now the 2V-06-2S with a power of 510 hp.
- BTR-MD “Rakushka” (Object 955) – A multi-role transport vehicle with bigger hull and no turret. This type can be used to transport troops, fuel, ammunition and wounded personnel. It also serves as the basis for a new range of specialised vehicles for the Russian airborne forces, including a mortar platform and an ambulance.
- BTR-MDM – A modernized version with the same improvements as the BMD-4M.
- RKhM-5 (Object 958) – A chemical reconnaissance vehicle introduced in 2011 and is fitted with the same specialized equipment as the BTR-80 version known as the RKhM-4. The turret has been removed; the RKhM-5 has a fixed superstructure with a machine gun turret. The hull is larger allowing it to transport troops, fuel, ammunition and wounded personnel. The VDV successfully completed the testing of the first three vehicles in March 2012.
- BMD-4 (Object 960) – Originally designated as the BMD-3M, this vehicle has a modified chassis with new turret known as the "Bakhcha-U". The weaponry bears greater similarity to the BMP-3. This new armament consists of: a 100 mm 2A70 rifled main gun, a 30mm 2A72 autocannon, a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun, and new "Ramka" fire control system. The bow-mounted AGS-17 has been removed and is replaced with an AGS-30. BMD-4s are newly built or upgraded BMD-3s. The BMD-4 is no longer being purchased for the Russian troops, in favor of the BMD-4M.
- BMD-4M – The upgraded variant with a new chassis and the 500 hp UTD-29 engine of the BMP-3. This version will be produced by Kurganmashzavod (KTZ) instead of VgTZ. The vehicle was presented to the VDV in March 2008. According to KTZ, series production could have started in 2009. The BMD-4M was evaluated by the VDV. In August 2011, the evaluation process still wasn't terminated and no firm agreement had been taken as to the delivery of the 10 first vehicles to the VDV, as foreseen in the 2011 state orders. The Russian Defense Ministry decided to adopt the BMD-4M in December 2012.
- BMM-D – A command post vehicle and a recovery vehicle. Some variants will have a longer chassis with seven road wheels and probably the same 510 hp engine as the 2S25.