Sticking with tanks at the moment, but this time with Russian ones, there is speculation that Russia is preparing to deploy its newest main battle tank (MBT), the T-14 Armata, to Ukraine. It has been reported that this latest model has been seen in training establishments near the Russo-Ukraine border.
The Armata is in design terms arguably the most advanced MBT in the world at the moment, but it has suffered all sorts of teething problems during its development and is only available in smaller numbers. Compared to the ancient T-62, T-64, T-72, T-80, and relatively modern T-90 that the Russians have been using, Armata is a generation to a generation and a half ahead.
First officially seen at the Victory Day Parade in Moscow in May 2015, one hundred were initially meant to be delivered to the Russian army by 2020, but this delivery has been delayed and has fallen by the wayside. Currently only a “few tens” of these MBTs have been produced and are in service, with a ramp up in production promised up until 2025.
That said, the Armata marks a significant departure from mainstream Russian tank design. For a start, the turret is unmanned, with the three man (or woman perhaps) crew contained in an armoured compartment in the hull, separate from the ammunition and autoloader. Presumably this will mitigate the worst of the catastrophic ammunition explosions we have seen with older models in Ukraine.
The gun is a version of the Russian 125 mm gun seen on previous vehicles and can fire both armoured piercing ammunition and guided anti-tank missiles, and the two machine guns are also in remotely controlled mini turrets. With a top speed of around fifty-five miles per hour and a range of approximately 500 kilometres, it could well prove to be a formidable opponent to NATO-standard western tanks.
Some observers have said that its presence in Ukraine will be purely political and symbolic, and its small numbers will not impact the conflict significantly. Now, where else have I heard similar criticism recently?
Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a Defence Analyst and a former Army officer, author & broadcaster – sign up to his podcast at defencereview.uk
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