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When Russia’s T-14 Armata main battle tank (MBT) was first demonstrated in the May 2015 Victory Parade in Moscow with its remotely controlled 125-millimeter 2A82-1M smoothbore main gun that features a fully automated loading system, the designers noted that the tank could be armed up with a more powerful main armament. This week Russian military specialists have proposed doing just that—outfitting the latest models of the T-14 with a new unmanned turret with a 152-millimeter gun.
According to a report from the 38th R&D and Testing Institute of Armored Hardware and Armament, which was obtained by Tass, this would be a new variant/new-generation of tanks that would be employed by the 2030s. It would require an upgrade of the T-14 that would utilize a revised unmanned turret with the more powerful cannon – one that could fire supersonic sub-caliber armor-piercing projectiles, fuel air explosive munitions, missiles based on the ’fire and forget and fire again’ principle and an onboard reconnaissance and signal relay drone.
Russia’s military specialists have proposed enhancing the T-14’s protection as well, and this would be accomplished with the addition of a system of remotely neutralizing homing anti-tank projectiles, along with technology to automatically detect and strike targets in probable areas of enemy armor approaches of distances up to one kilometer. In addition, the upgraded and enhanced tanks would feature laser equipment capable of disabling anti-tank guide missile guidance systems along with a platform for deactivating anti-tank mines.
Tass further reported that other upgrades could include improvements to the tank’s all-out shielding against rocket-propelled grenade launchers as well as anti-tank guided missiles; and enhanced electronic protection against electromagnetic and microwave weapons. The new tanks could also offer a system to change its signature and counter blinding laser weapons.
It isn’t clear why Russia’s Testing Institute of Armored Hardware and Armament has suddenly suggested these improvements, but the fact that a T-14 was reportedly destroyed in Syria after being hit by a rather low-tech—and not to mention low-cost—TOW-2B anti-tank system could be a significant factor. The Russians have touted the survivability of the tanks in combat situations and it is notable that one was so easily taken out by so-called “terrorists” (Syrian rebels) who were seen to be relying on beat-up pickup trucks rather than advanced western weapon systems.
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The Testing Institute has reportedly also called for the tank to qualitatively boost the crew’s situational awareness for accomplishing assignments successfully in a multi-domain operational environment. What that may mean is that the crew should be able to have improved situational awareness so as not to allow the tank to be taken out by a small number of terrorists armed with a TOW-2B anti-tank weapon.
The crew could be equipped with an advanced decisionmaking support system with technology that could automatically identify targets at a distance in excess of six kilometers and reportedly feature “transparent armor,” but what exactly the latter means isn’t clear—and could suggest some sort of armor coating that makes it hard for anti-tank weapons to lock onto a target.
Other requirements called for by the Testing Institute include an upgraded and more efficient fifteen-hundred horsepower diesel engine, dual manual control of weapons, along with an improved ergonomics and habitability to provide for the crew’s continuous operation around-the-clock. The T-14 also has an internal toilet system, which enables the crew to remain within the tank while answering nature’s call.
While much of what the Testing Institute has called for appears to relate specifically to the T-14, many of these upgrades could be integrated to Armata heavy tracked standardized platform that serves as the basis for the MBT, an infantry fighting vehicle, an armored personnel carrier and some other armored vehicles.
These are not the only possible upgrades or potential variants to the T-14 platform. Earlier this week the T-14’s manufacturer UralVagonZavod announced that it was exploring the possibility of developing a completely unmanned version of the MBT.
Russia has been slow to widely adopt the T-14 despite its capabilities due in part to the costs and announced that the T-14 tank and the T-15 infantry fighting vehicle based on the Armata combat platform would be demonstrated to potential foreign buyers at the Army-2020 international arms show that is running this week.
-- This Story First Appeared in The National Interest --
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear includingA Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.