T-14 Armata tank is the newest addition to the Russian family tree of armored vehicles is, produced as part of Russia’s £250 billion military update programme. The Armata Universal Combat Platform consists of the T-14 main battle tank, the T-15 heavy infantry fighting vehicle and the T-16 armored recovery vehicle, and upgunned heavy assault armored vehicle, which has been dubbed “the Tank Killer” by Russian media. The 5th generation innovative battle vehicle was developed by the Uralvagonzavod Research and Production Corporation and combined the most advanced developments in the design and construction of heavy armored platforms. The Russian army has already ordered the first batch of 100 Armata T-14 tanks; they began performance trials in late 2016 and will be operational by 2018.
Long in development, the T-14 Armata is planned both for the eventual replacement of the existing tanks in Russia’s arsenal, as well as for export abroad. In April 2021, Denis Manturov, the head of Russia’s Ministry of Industry and Trade, stated that “foreign partners” had lodged applications to procure the future export version of the much-advertised new T-14 Armata tank. The problem is that this main battle tank model has not yet entered service, despite its prototype first appearing in 2015 and raising hopes of the imminent arrival of the “tank of the future” within the Armed Forces. Recently Rostec chief Sergei Chemezo told Tass, “Serial deliveries of the T-14 tank based on the Armata platform will begin in 2021,” while boasting of the platform. “This is, undoubtedly, the world’s best tank today. In the future, this vehicle will become the main battle tank in the Russian Army.”
Russia’s new T-14 Armata tank represents “the most revolutionary step change in tank design in the last half century,” says a leaked report of the British military intelligence obtained by The Sunday Telegraph newspaper in London.”For the first time, a fully automated, digitised, unmanned turret has been incorporated into a main battle tank,” The Sunday Telegraph quotes the report. “And for the first time a tank crew is embedded within an armoured capsule in the hull front.” “As a complete package, Armata certainly deserves its billing as the most revolutionary tank in a generation,” the report says.
Recently it has emerged that the Kremlin is set to equip its Armata tanks with advanced new reconnaissance drones named ‘Pterodactyls’, which will be able to circle up to 100 metres and stay in the air indefinitely. The drones, which will be powered by a cables, will increase Russian ground forces’ capabilities by increasing the distance at which they can identify targets.
The newspaper also quotes Brigadier Ben Barry, an expert on land warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, “who said two features of the Armata would threaten NATO forces.” “Firstly, it is the first tank designed with an unmanned turret,” he said. “This will potentially improve crew survivability.” “The turret also looks to have the stretch potential to accommodate a larger-calibre gun of up to 150mm,” Barry said. “If fielded, this would overmatch the guns and armour on existing Nato tanks.”
“Secondly, it appears to be the first tank designed from the outset with an active protection system, to intercept incoming anti-tank guided missiles and shoulder-launched anti-tank weapons,” he said. “This has the potential to greatly reduce the firepower of Nato infantry,” Barry said. “Of course, there are few Armata yet, and it is not clear how rapidly they will enter service. But as they do, they will increase the effectiveness of Russian armoured forces.”.
Made for Multiple Hybrid warfare Scenario
Unlike its earlier T-90 and T-72B3, which were made for conventional warfare, the new series of tanks have been designed for high crew survivability against insurgency tactics in low-intensity conflicts.
“Russian military appears to be preparing for multiple hybrid war scenarios. Toward this purpose, there is the need for soldiers trained in irregular warfare and for mobile armor capable of addressing a variety of threats. Whether a hybrid action like in Ukraine, open warfare with a neighbor, or low-level terrorism threats in the Caucasus, the Armata would be extremely useful for the Russian military,” say Blake Franko and Nicholas Varangis of Atlantic Council.
Russia’s new tank, the T-14 Armata, can compete equally with the US M1A2 Abrams and the German Leopard 2, a Chinese media source pointed out. The new tank weighs 57 t, has a low silhouette, and could hit speeds of more than 50 miles per hour with a range of 500 km. It tackles slopes with a 60-degree inclination and passes over obstacles 1.3 to 1.5 m high. Comparatively, Abrams variants weigh in between 65 and 70 tons, according to General Dynamics Land Systems spec sheets, with a top speed of just more than 40 mph.
The Armata features a digital control system that directs its movement, tracks targets and activates the tank’s defense systems. It frees the crew from performing routine tasks to allow it to focus on key combat functions. “For the crew, it’s like playing a video game,” said Ilya Demchenko, one of the Armata’s designers.
“The Armata crew does not need to aim accurately,” explained Chemezov. “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.”
According to Rostec, the targeting algorithm has already been used in the combat robots that were deployed to Syria. This is likely the Uran-9 robot tank, a diminutive remote-controlled armored vehicle that has been noted for its formidable guns and missile armament. The platform reportedly underwhelmed in field testing and it is clear much work has to be done. However, it highlighted that efforts to build remote-controlled robotic weapons platforms are increasingly becoming a reality of the twenty-first-century.
First fully robotic tank
The tank will have an unmanned, remotely controlled turret. It will be digitally controlled by a crew-member located in a separate compartment. Uninhabited turrets are a growing trend in armored vehicles, like the heavy Stryker armored personnel carrier used by the US military.
It is believed that this would eventually lead to the development of a fully robotic tank. The Armata’s chief designer, Andrei Terlikov, said that the new technologies built into the Armata could make it possible in the future to build a fully robotic vehicle that would operate autonomously on the battlefield.
Earlier it was hinted that Russia was also working on an unmanned version of the T-14 MBT. However, according to the report from Tass, the uncrewed version of the tank won’t be serial-produced and instead will be designed for testing unmanned technologies for other land-based robotic systems. Russia’s Kalashnikov Group is currently developing ground combat autonomous systems—or robots—and those have already been employed in field testing in Syria.
While it won’t be fully autonomous, the T-14 MBT still has a number of automated features. Among the T-14’s innovative characteristics is its unmanned turret, which includes a remotely controlled 125-millimeter 2A82-1M smoothbore main gun with a fully automated loader. The driver, gunner and tank commander are housed in a crew compartment that is located in an armored capsule at the front portion of the hull, isolated from the automatic loader as well as the ammunition storage in the center of the tank. This ensures that the humans inside the vehicle never have to risk that extra peril by sitting directly next to the gun.
In order for the system to work, though, it will need a tremendous amount of information from sensors to hone its targeting. The T-14 will also be equipped with a tank information management system (tankovoy informatsionno-upravlyayushchey sistemoy－TIUS), which controls all components and operations of the combat vehicle (Vzglyad, April 21). In addition to loading the gun, the automated systems will help it track and lock on to a target.
As part of the development of the Armata tank, Russia’s next main piece of battlefield armor, the tank will feature a gun that can automatically find and track targets, requiring human intervention only to approve or decline the shot lined up. It is both an incremental change in using sensors to better fight battles, and a massive step towards a future where machines make decisions over who to kill in war.
“Armata can be used both with a crew and without a crew—the robot will control the tank, it will choose the target itself. But whether a decision is made to shoot or not to shoot, a person still makes a decision to press the button,” Sergei Chemezov, head of Rostec, the state corporation that makes Armata, told news service TASS April 24.
Developers have already begun boasting that the T-14 is 20 years ahead of anything produced in the West. “We made a tank invisible,” said Vyacheslav Khalitov, the director of the tank’s manufacturer UralVagonZavod. “We have applied this system stellz deep-technology radio-absorbing materials, special paint and rational architecture of the machine itself,” Vyacheslav told a radio station in Russia. He implied that Russians have made the tank difficult to detect and track by reducing the tanks radar and infrared signature and by shaping.
The coating was also borrowed from the T-90 MS Taghil: it is painted with a special rubberized Nakidka primer that is radio-absorbent and reduces the thermal footprint.
The T-14’s turbodiesel engine is a version of the T-90 MS Taghil that reaches 1,800 hp coupled to an 8-speed automatic transmission.. The T-14 has an 8-speed (or more) automatic transmission, so there is no need for a manual gear shift. By comparison, the US M1A2 Abrams tanks and Germany’s Leopard 2A5 have 4 forward speeds and 2 in reverse.
There is information that the Armata would also have electric transmission to reduce weight of the vehicle and increase the use of add-on armour. Suspension consists on each side of seven dual rubber-tyred road wheels. The T-14 Armata can run at a maximum road speed from 80 to 90 km/h with a maximum cruising range of 500 km.
The Armata incorporates modern principles of survivability, such as being built around a fully automated turret, sealed away from the crew, which reduces the danger posed by the detonation of ammunition. The crew is locked inside an armoured pod, which is also separate from the tank’s ammunition store.
Light weight Armor
The Armata will use a new type of lightweight armor designated 44S-SV-SH, developed by Steel Scientific Research Institute enterprise. The armor of the armored crew compartment consists of layers of composite, like a sandwich, made with ceramic, plates of titanium–steel alloy, and CNT – carbon fiber nanotube (most likely based on hybtonite, a nanoepoxy resin). In tests conducted by the US Army, the armor of the Leopard 2A5 tank(similar to T-14) demonstrated that it provides twice as much protection from kinetic projectiles as the American M1A2 Abrams tank (equivalent penetration depth 350 mm versus 650 mm).
This armor does not lose its qualities when used in extremely low temperatures, which may indicate an interest in using the tank in Arctic conditions.
The third type of protection for the Armata T-14 is optoelectronic; it’s called Malachit and serves to blind the infrared- and laser-seeking heads of antitank missiles guided in the optical wavelength spectrum.
The Armata T-14 has an Electronic Countermeasures suite to jam enemy laser guidance systems.
A laser warning receiver locates the light source that guides enemy anti-tank missiles, and it emits a high-powered laser spot that blinds the optical guidance equipment (laser rangefinder, night vision equipment, TV cameras in the visible and infrared spectrum).
It uses two automatic grenade launch systems with suspensions of aerosols, which prevents the photoelectric sensors from guiding the missile to the tank in the final stage.
The Armata T-14 tank also has EMT-7 (electromagnetic pulse transmitter) equipment that short-circuits the electrical sensors that can trigger anti-tank mines from a distance of 5–8m.
Active Protection System (APS)
Anti-missile countermeasures are also integral to the Armata’s design. T-14 will incorporate several active protection system called Afganit designed to kill incoming missiles before they even strike the tank. Afganit uses a small Doppler radar that operates in tandem with a set of sensors in the infrared spectrum to discover targets and measure the distance to them. The Afganit microprocessor system calculates the trajectory of the rocket fired at the tank and fires explosive interceptors back at it. Afganit can track multiple targets and prepare to destroy two of them simultaneously. The interceptor tubes have a fuel block and a proximity fuse. Unlike other protection systems, Afganit tubes do not produce shrapnel. They use only the blast wave from the explosion to destroy the incoming missile or cause it to explode early.
Afganit is a generation ahead of the Shtora, Arena and Trophy APS systems (the most advanced in the world at this time). In the operation to liberate the city of Aleppo, the Syrian army used a company of T-90 MA tanks. The APS on the T-90 MA (Shtora) tanks neutralized American BGM-71 TOW-2 anti-tank missiles.
On top of that, the vehicle is protected by an improved version of reactive armor, which explodes on impact to stop a projectile from reaching the main layer of armor.This armor, 600–1000mm thick, is called Relikt and it neutralizes the cumulative effect of antitank shells or missiles. If the outer armour of the tank is hit, it is designed to explode outwards, potentially detonating any explosive rounds fired at it, and preventing heavy shells from penetrating inside and killing the crew. ERA also protects the turret, the rear and the sides of the Armata T-14 tank, where the armor itself is not as thick.
“When it enters service Armata will be the first tank designed for an unmanned turret and APS. Successful fielding of APS will reduce the effectiveness of anti-tank guided missiles and shoulder-fired weapons such as rocket propelled grenades. This will change battlefield dynamics by increasing the importance of cannon, anti-tank guns and tanks,” according to Military Balance 2016 report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies
Completing the defense are slat armor panels at the rear, which provide some protection against shoulder-launched anti-tank weapons. The tank has a high ground clearance and increased armour, especially on the tank’s traditionally soft underbelly in order to protect the crew from mines.
There is more room in the turret for armament; currently, the T-14 is equipped with the latest upgrade of Russia’s standard 125mm tank gun, the 2A82A. The three-person tank will be able to fire up to 12 rounds per minute from main gun that can fire multiple types of munitions. The T-14’s main gun has an automatic mechanism for cooling the barrel, which enables it to fire at a higher rate than the ones on T-90MS tanks.
The gun uses tungsten-core armor-piercing explosive projectiles, with Kitolov 2M laser-guided Sense-and-Destroy (SADARM) antitank sub-munitions, and laser-guided antitank rockets that can be fired at helicopters or low-flying aircraft with a range of 7,000–12,000 m (23,000–39,000 ft).
Designers say that much more powerful 152-mm cannon could be easily fitted to the Armata in the future – although they say there is no need for that yet.
The weapons in the turret are connected to the fire control center, which is equipped with two full sets of HD night vision gear (with video screens protected by anti-laser filters) with x 15–20 magnifying power), a laser rangefinder, and a ballistics computer coupled to wind speed and wind direction sensors.
Sensors and communications
A 360° panoramic sight mounted at the front of the remote weapon station of the turret allows commanders and gunner to have all-round surveillance on the battlefield without being disturbed by turret motion. For close view, the T-14 is equipped with wide angle cameras mounted around a vehicle giving full 360° all-round vision on displays and situational awareness.
Two large sensors, believed to be electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR)-based laser warning receivers, are angularly mounted on the front of the turret providing 180° coverage, while four smaller sensors (covered but believed to be radars) are mounted around the turret providing 360° coverage.
Vehicles of the Armata platform will be equipped with the radar and other technologies found on the Sukhoi T-50fifth-generation jet fighter. They include a Ka band radar (26.5–40 GHz) based on AESA radar. The devices would enable the T-14 to track multiple targets simultaneously and provide automatic ballistic solutions to the gunner. The commander has day, night, and thermal optics in a remote systems.
The IFF (friend or foe) identification equipment has two channels (laser and electronic) that send an encrypted digital signal to the target. The laser identifies the target in 0.6 seconds, and if it’s a friend, it stops the weapons in the turret from firing.
The Armata T-14’s navigation system displays the tactical situation as a digital map using GPS channels to determine the coordinates of still and moving targets. Meteorological mast, satellite communications, GLONASS, datalink, and radio communications antennas are fitted on the roof of the turret.
Russia’s newest main battle tank has a circular Doppler radar with a medium-range active phased antenna array (AFAR) as well as ultraviolet HD surveillance cameras with 360-degree circular coverage, capable of detecting the ionized gas emitted by other working vehicle engines.
Its communications equipment transmits and receives information from similar equipment on other T-14, IFV, and APC tanks, and recon and attack helicopters/airplanes and drones. From detection to location (the transmission of a target’s coordinates), identification, and attack, takes no more than 9 sec. The Armata T-14 also has electronic combat capabilities featuring a broadband receiver transmitter and a jammer.
Its advocates boast that it is uniquely designed to operate in a network-enabled single-information-space battlefield. The Russians also seem to have developed a battle network connecting their T-14s and T-90MS tanks that can relay Instant Messaging, videos and imagery to multiple friendly tanks. The tank is also fitted with GLONASS and NAVSTAR GPS.
The new tank is part of a family of new armored vehicles built on a unified platform that has a structure based on replaceable modules. This helps lower production costs and leaves room for further development.
The T-14’s chassis can support a frame more than 15 tons heavier than what it carries, according to the FMSO. The extra capacity would allow the system to support modified tanks, or serve as the basis of a fleet of vehicles, allowing for a smaller supply chain.
The multipurpose vehicle will be produced as a battle tank T-14, an infantry fighting vehicle, a combat engineering vehicle, a tank support combat vehicle and a self-propelled artillery platform. The Armata Universal Combat Platform is also designed to be used as sophisticated air defense and nuclear-biological-chemical (NBC) defense systems.
Company ‘Electromashina’, which is a part of ‘Uralvagonzavod’ corporation, introduced 3D-printer in 2015, designed to create prototypes and low-volume parts made of polymer materials.
3D-printer allows the drawing of fabricated prototype parts,” the Head of the Laboratory of Rapid Prototyping ‘Electromashina’ technologies Anton Ulrich said.
“There is no need to sharpen an item in order to obtain a sample, just to realize that it does not fit and requires a re-run in the production. There is no need to waste metal. One can produce not just a detail, but the complete assembly and check the assembly of all of the mechanical characteristics,” Anton Ulrich said.
At the same time, according to the expert, the prototype can be used as a master model to fabricate tools for the manufacture of parts made of metal or plastic. In other words, the prototype parts for the Armata tank and other military vehicles, produced by Uralvagonzavod, can be printed on 3D-printers. The technology is just a step away from the ability to create 3D-printed titanium parts several meters in length.
Ready to roll
A Russian military official said the tank will enter service next year. Within 15 years, more than 2,300 Armatas are set to reach Russian troops. Sales of the tank to other nations could begin in five years. No potential buyers have been discussed.
Purported by the media to be a super tank, the credibility of the T-14 was seriously questioned when it broke down during the rehearsal for Russia’s VE Day Celebrations. Its actual capabilities still remained to be tested.