Despite conflicting reports about its main battle tank (MBT) program, Russia’s new T-14 Armata will enter series production in 2022, Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov announced on 5 July, Jane’s Defence Weekly reported.
“The [tank’s] state trials will come to a close next year. It will actively go into serial production from next year,” Manturov told the state news outlet TASS.
As noted by Jane’s, Russia’s defense industry has been less than consistent in its messaging on the Armata tank’s development progress.
Moscow previously planned to procure as many as 2,300 Armata tanks by 2020, a wildly optimistic estimate that was later pushed back to 2021 and then again to 2025.
Manturov said on Russian state television in April 2020 that serial T-14 Armata deliveries would begin in 2021, seemingly contradicting his most recent statement to TASS.
Manturov’s latest timetable appears to align with Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s announcement in March that Russia’s armed forces will take deliveries of a “pilot batch” of T-14 tank’s in 2022, confirming that the tank has been delayed by another year.
First unveiled at the 2015 Victory Day Parade in Moscow, the T-14 Armata is a fourth-generation MBT that brings a wide array of cutting-edge design features to Russia’s ground forces, The National Interest reported.
The T-14 MBT weighs forty-eight tons and is capable of reaching speeds of up to ninety kilometers per hour, according to sources.
The T-14 tank features an unmanned turret scheme with an isolated crew capsule, boasting a twenty-five-millimeter 2A82-1M smoothbore gun with autoloader compatibility.
Rostec CEO Sergey Chemezov noted that the tank’s artificial-intelligence-powered weapons systems can handle the entire acquisition, tracking, and targeting process without any considerable degree of manual input, the report said.
“The Armata crew does not need to aim accurately,” he said. “It only has to aim the gun roughly. Electronics will do all the rest: it will accurately determine the distance to the target and aim the gun at it. That is, the vehicle uses artificial intelligence elements that help the crew deliver fire.”
Nevertheless, Chemezov added that only a human operator can make the final decision on whether or not to take the computer-calibrated shot.
An unmanned turret allows the crew to sit in an armored capsule inside the tank rather than next to the gun, as with traditional tanks. This position provides the crew with much greater safety from enemy fire, The Defense Post reported.
The roof of the turret houses a meteorological mast, satellite communications, global navigation satellite system (GLONASS), data-link and radio communications antennae.
The tank is also equipped with “nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) protection, (an) automatic fire suppression system and smoke grenade dischargers,” according to Army Technology.
Moreover, the tank’s new Afghanit hard-kill active protection system protects the vehicle from incoming anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), rockets, and rocket-propelled grenades (RPG).
Quality-of-life features reportedly include an on-board lavatory as well.
The T-14 tank looks to be more than capable of giving NATO’s current MBTs a run for their money, but the tank has been unable to shake the cost concerns that have plagued the program since its inception.
Some Russian sources have indicated that the Armata may cost three times more that an upgraded T-72, Jane’s reported.
The Armata’s projected per-model cost of roughly US$3.7 million compares favorably against other fourth-generation platforms, particularly South Korea’s K2 Black Panther, but is still a major strain on Russia’s relatively modest defense budget, National Interest reported.
The Kremlin is eager to offset the tank’s long-term costs with a series of early export contracts, with Manturov telling TASS — without providing additional details — that several foreign states have expressed interest.
Meanwhile, Uralvagonzavod (UVZ) general director and chief designer Andrey Terlikov told TASS in February that the T-14 Armata would come down in price, Jane’s reported.
The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) and UVZ “will agree on a price that will suit both parties,” he said.
Uralvagonzavod (a subsidiary of Rostec) is also developing an unmanned version of the tank in limited numbers, which will be used to test “unmanned technologies for other land-based robots,” Chemezov added.
Sources: Jane’s Defense Weekly, The National Interest, The Defense Post, Army Technology