Russia's Armata Super Tank: Part of a Master Plan

By Paul Huard
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The Russians — both during and after the Soviet period — were famous for keeping almost everything in their inventory, no matter how old the equipment. The practice is tolerable for a huge conscript army, but can be a nightmare for supply sergeants.

It wasn’t until the turn of the century that Russia began eliminating some of its oldest and most superfluous weapons and hardware. The purge is part of a massive modernization program that Pres. Vladimir Putin is pursuing for Russia’s military.

However, when developing the Armata Universal Combat Platform and the resulting T-14, the Kremlin turned to a familiar source.

The massive industrial firm Uralvagonzavod spent five years designing and developing the T-14 before manufacturing the first batch. Located in the Nizhny Tagil industrial complex in the Central Urals, the same design center developed the T-72 and T-90 tanks, currently in Russia’s arsenal.

The T-14 has a fully automated ammunition loading system, and the targeting system is completely computerized. Besides the cannon, the tank bristles with exterior guns, including a 30-millimeter autocannon for targeting drones or attack helicopters. Lastly, it has a 12.7-millimeter machine gun for anti-personnel use.

Russian media reports claim the Russian army received 20 T-14s for field tests and hands-on training.

In addition, the Russian army moved an unspecified number of T-14s to the Alabino military training grounds, which is home to the 5th Guards Separate Mechanized Infantry Brigade. The facility is 29 miles southwest of Moscow and is traditionally the site for rehearsals held in preparation for the May 9 Victory Day Parade.

The parade in Red Square commemorates the end of World War II, and is often where the Kremlin publicly unveils its latest military hardware.

Some analysts suggest that the Russians could display other uses of the Armata chassis during the parade, including a new model BMP — which is a type of infantry fighting vehicle. But we’ll believe it when we see it.

The Russian army wants to build around 2,300 T-14s by 2020, equipping up to 70 percent of its tank fleet with the new model. The tanks would replace the T-72 and most T-90s.

That’s probably highly optimistic, especially during an economic recession. But the Kremlin is banking on its economy to eventually improve. And if Russia follows past practices, it will likely put the T-14 up for sale on the export market to help cover domestic production costs.

In any case, it’s still an enormous undertaking.

“As for the export situation, developing a weapon system and then putting it into production is a huge expense,” Bartles said. “Obviously, since Russian military industries are quasi-government, there is a vested interest in generating revenue, but there is also the advantage of economies of scale.”

“Based on previous projects — T-90, Iskander-E — and the state of the Russian economy, I would say that getting the T-14 into the export market will be a top priority,” he added.

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This piece first appeared in War Is Boring here

Paul Huard
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