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

By Paul Huard

In March, a Russian motorist filmed a very unusual (see below), camouflaged tank rolling down a street outside Moscow. Most likely, it was the mysterious T-14 — or Armata — heavy tank, which could represent a major evolution in Russian tank design.

The Kremlin has largely kept the T-14 under wraps, both literally and metaphorically. But we have a pretty good idea of what it can do.

The T-14 weighs around 50 tons and has a 1,500-horsepower gas turbine engine. The tank’s three-man crew operates the vehicle and its weapons from a capsule in the front. It doesn’t lack for protection — packing both composite and reactive armor.

The tank has an unmanned, remote-controlled turret armed with a 125-millimeter smoothbore cannon — which the Russian defense press claims is 15 to 20 percent more accurate than the existing cannon on the T-90, the Russian army’s most advanced current tank.

But like a giant Lego kit for military use, the T-14 is just one part of the Armata Universal Combat Platform — an entirely new generation of armored, tracked military vehicles.

The Kremlin hopes to use the same chassis as the T-14 for as many as 13 different vehicles. This includes an infantry fighting vehicle, a combat engineering vehicle, a tank support combat vehicle and a self-propelled artillery platform.

It’s no surprise that Russian military media and official government news outlets are touting the prowess of the new tank, claiming it will equal the American M-1 Abrams and the German Leopard.

That claim could be propaganda. But two things are for certain.

The first is that the Russian army already has a limited number of them for testing. Second, despite current problems with the Russian economy, the project is moving forward.

Using a single chassis for lots of different armored vehicles is probably a shrewd move, too. The main reason … it’s cheaper that way.

The Kremlin pushed for a uniform tank chassis even during the Soviet era, according to Charles Bartles, a Russia analyst at the U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office.

“Imagine if you were responsible for maintaining a brigade’s rolling stock and had several different heavy track chassis,” Bartles told War Is Boring. “You would have to keep enough spare parts and folks trained to attach those spare parts for all those chassis.”

For example, Russia duplicated the T-72 tank chassis when developing a number of other vehicles. This kept costs down, and helped simplify maintenance and logistics.

“It is far easier to forecast and provide maintenance when you only need to worry about one chassis type,” Bartles added. “Plus, there are lots of options for ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul.’ It is common practice in most armies including the U.S. to pull parts from lower priority working equipment to make higher priority non-functioning equipment work.”

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This piece first appeared in War Is Boring here

Paul Huard
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