Russia's new (pre-production) T-14 Armata tank will be the world's first mass produced next-generation tank. Innovations include:
- An unmanned, remotely-controlled turret
- Crew is in a special armored capsule
- Comes with an "active defense" system
This article originally appeared in The Diplomat
Russia will display its newest tank during the Victory Day Parade in Moscow’s Red Square on May 9 this year. 20 units of the world’s first series-produced third generation main battle tank, designated T-14 and based upon the new “Armata” universal chassis system, have recently been delivered to the Russian Armed Forces for training purposes.
By 2020, Uralvagonzavod (UVZ), the largest main battle tank manufacturer in the world, plans to produce 2,300 T-14 Armata models. According to media reports, large deliveries of the tank (around 500 per year) will start in 2017. In total, the Russian Land Forces are scheduled to receive a batch of 32 Armata main battle tanks this year.
The Russian military intends to replace 70 percent of its tank corps with the new tracked vehicle, replacing the older T-72 and T-90 main battle tanks – both of which were also produced by UVZ. The Russian military envisions the universal chassis system as a platform for as many as 13 different tracked vehicles, including a self-propelled artillery platform, an armored military engineering vehicle, and an armored personal carrier.
What are the tank’s technical specifications? According to the Foreign Military Studies Office (FSMO) based at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas:
The tank’s main armament is the 2A82 125-mm smoothbore cannon, capable of firing high-powered munitions,including armor-piercing discarding sabot, guided missile, shaped-charge, and other types of munitions. The T-14 is equipped with the Chelyabinsk A-85-3A X-diesel engine capable of producing up to 1500 hp. It also has a tank information control system (TICS) that monitors all assemblies and components, diagnoses malfunctions, and controls onboard systems.
The muzzle energy of the 2A82 123-mm smoothbore cannon is greater than that of the German Leopard-2 Rheinmetall 120 mm gun, according to media reports. The tank also boasts fully automated ammunition loading and completely computerized targeting systems.
The FSMO report continues:
The T-14 tank will be equipped with an adjustable suspension capable of adapting to varying relief, terrain type, and vehicle speed, resulting in increased speed while moving in columns, as well as over rugged terrain. The suspension system will also alleviate crew fatigue, while assisting the fire control system to deliver accurate fire while on the move.
The article also notes that, “unlike previous Soviet/Russian vehicles, crew safety (survivability) and comfort appear to be a concern. The crew is in an armored capsule that is somewhat roomy compared to other Soviet/Russian tanks.”
According to RT, “the tank’s turret will also carry a 30 mm sub-caliber ranging gun to deal with various targets, including low-flying aerial targets, such as attack planes and helicopters. A 12.5 mm turret-mounted heavy machine gun is reportedly capable of taking out incoming projectiles, such as anti-tank missiles. It’s capable of neutralizing shells approaching at speeds of up to 3,000 meters per second.”
What makes Russia’s new main battle tank so special?
First, the active defense system deserves special attention. It is an individual anti-missile and anti-projectile tank defense system, supposedly capable of intercepting any type of anti-tank ammunition.
“It defends the vehicle from strikes, including those from the air. Thus, even the most modern Apache helicopter will not have a 100 percent chance of destroying a T-14 with its missiles. Active defense is situated along the entire perimeter of the turret at various levels, which ensures complete protection of the tank’s most important elements,” according to the FSMO report.
Second, the location of the crew is also quite unique for a Russian tank (as is the vehicles unmanned remotely controlled turret):
The crew of three men is located in an armored capsule in the forward portion of the hull. According to the specialists, the forward projection has multilayered, combined armor protection which can withstand a direct hit of any type of rounds which exist today, [including] sub-caliber and cumulative rounds.
The German weekly Der Stern notes about the T-14 Armata:
An absolutely new main battle tank is certainly not something most of the world’s exiting armies can boast about. The German Leopard-2 tank was developed 35 years ago, just like the American M1 Abrams. The existing versions of the western tanks feature many improvements, but the basic characteristics do not differ much from the original. The Armata is the first genuinely new [tank] construction since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The Foreign Military Studies Office further underlines:
In order to appreciate the real design and technological breakthrough of the Russian tank builders, a rather recent, but classified story should be remembered. It turned out that it is more difficult to design and manufacture a truly new tank than a new aircraft. Fifth-generation fighters are already flying, but only second-generation tanks are in the inventories throughout the entire world. So the Armata will become the first series-produced third-generation tank (although there are those who will dare to list it as fifth generation).
Of course, all of these reports have to be taken with a grain of salt, and until the tank has been thoroughly examined in action, we will know very little about its genuine capabilities.