Lord of Tanks: Russia’s Newest Armata Tank Goes Into Production

PHOTO by Vitaly V. Kuzmin / Wikicommons
The National Interest, an American magazine covering global affairs, recently published an article about the T-14 Armata tank

The article written by Dave Majumdar indicates Western surprise at the speedy development of the Armata model from prototype to mass production and highlights the strengths of the new tank.

A few days ago, Sergei Chemezov, the General Director of Rostec corporation, told the Wall Street Journal that the new tanks have gone into mass production. This came as a surprise to NATO analysts, who believed the tank was still in its testing phase. So what are Armata’s strengths, according to Western specialists?

The Afganit active protection system (APS) is something Majamdar appears to be especially impressed with.

“Perhaps the most impressive feature of the Armata series is the Afghanit active protection system (APS). The system uses a 360 degree active electronically scanned array radar and a potent electronic warfare system to disrupt the guidance of incoming rounds. It also has a countermeasure suite to jam enemy laser guidance systems. As well, the tank is equipped with interceptor rounds for the APS, which are fitted with explosively formed penetrators. That means the Armata’s APS could potentially be effective against even kinetic energy rounds.”

The new 2A82-1M 125-millimetre cannon. The author states that the modernisation of the German Leopard-2 tank, equipping it with a 130mm cannon, is a direct response to the new Armata.

The unmanned turret. The author calls this the Armata’s most innovative feature – “Most revolutionary is the Armata-based T-14 Main Battle Tank featuring an uncrewed turret. There is emphasis on protection across the platforms – including active protection systems (APS) – reflecting lessons learnt as well as perceptions of future operating environments.”

The Malachit reactive armour and robust passive armour. “The composition of the armour is not known – but it is likely some form of laminated ceramic composite matrix. It’s also equipped with slat armour to protect certain areas that would otherwise be vulnerable to rocket propelled grenades,” writes the author.

Tank armata
T-14 Armata

However, Russian specialists are embroiled in a heated debate over the merits of the new tank. LJ user Yuri Pasholok analyses the arguments put forward by both the tank's supporters and its detractors:

Recently there was an article titled “The oudly heralded arrival of a new tank. Jingoism cannot be allowed to cover up the Military's failings. ” published in the Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie (Independent Military Overview). It was authored by Sergei Vasiliev, who described himself as a colonel in the reserve and as having a PhD in Military Science. We spoke to Sergei Suvorov, a colonel in the reserve, and one of foremost experts on military armour, to hear his opinions on the article.

Colonel Suvorov, the article states that “After the Victory Day presentation, the Armata was ashamedly parked behind a fence at the Russian Arms Expo-2105”.

I get the feeling that the author doesn’t know much about tanks. Yes, the Armata was behind a fence, because it still has a “Top Secret” classification. It wasn’t alone – there was also the T-15 APC, and the self-propelled Koaliciya-SV artillery. There were so many people trying to get a glimpse of these units that their presence was anything but “ashamedly”. People only left the area, when they needed to go to one of the presentations. Many foreigners came to the Expo just to look at the Armata. Christopher Foss, editor of Janes armour analysis, was also there. I took a picture with him and asked for his opinion on the new tank. Foss said that he was eagerly waiting to see the tank. There were specialists from Germany and other countries, who flew in for just one day to look at the Armata.

Let’s keep quoting the article – “The unmanned turret is not just something specific to this tank, it means an entirely new ideology in Russian tank construction. But why has the rest of the world been ignoring this idea?”

Armour manufacturers around the world have been struggling with this issue. Some have been successful, while others – not so much. To say “they don’t do it, so we shouldn’t either” is wrong. When we first introduced our famous T-34 tank with a diesel engine, all other tanks were using gasoline. The first automatic loader was introduced in the West 25 years after we'd put one on the T-64 in 1966. The French implemented it in the Leclerc in 1990. The Germans failed to use it on their Leopard. The Jordanians introduced a similar system, but only on an experimental version of the Challenger. A final point: no one had been to space before us. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have gone there.