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From Terminator to combat systems of the future: Main advantages of Russia’s armor armada

November 01, 19:36 UTC+3

Uralvagonzavod's deputy CEO has briefed TASS on progress achieved in the work under the 2017 state defense order and some details of upgrading the T-90M, T-72B3 and T-80BVM tanks

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T-90M tank at Zapad-2017 drills

T-90M tank at Zapad-2017 drills

© Anton Novoderzhkin/TASS

by Roman Azanov 

Russia’s sole manufacturer of tanks for the country’s Armed Forces – research and industrial corporation Uralvagonzavod (UVZ, an affiliate of Rostec) - is about to complete ahead of time its work under state defense order to provide a batch of upgraded T-72B3 main battle tanks. Last summer the UVZ concluded a number of major contracts for providing T-90M and T-80BVM tanks and the newest tank support combat vehicles nicknamed Terminator. More about the unique features of these vehicles, their combat potential and details of upgrading armored vehicles, as well as combat systems of the future – in this TASS interview with UVZ Deputy CEO for Special Vehicles, Vyacheslav Khalitov.

Tank contracts

As he dwelt on the state defense orders the UVZ worked on for the past few years, Khalitov said the results achieved, such as the value, quantity and variety, were basically the same. The UVZ upgrades T-72 and T-80 tanks and manufactures a variety of configurations of the T-90 tank. In 2015 the UVZ unveiled the T-14 tank and BMP T-15 mechanized infantry combat vehicle on the newest tracked platform Armata. Also, the corporation makes self-propelled howitzers Msta-S, tank support combat vehicles Terminator and other vehicles on tracked tank chassis.

In 2017 we signed contracts for new vehicles – the tank support combat vehicle Terminator and upgraded tanks T-90, which are to be produced serially. Alongside this we will start upgrading the T-80 tank. It is a new large-scale project Vyacheslav Khalitov UVZ Deputy CEO

Khalitov says the corporation sticks to a quarterly system of providing the whole variety of weapons and military equipment on offer. “Already now one can say that more than 70% of the equipment ordered has been delivered to the Armed Forces. Some of the contracts, for instance, those for T-72B3 tanks, were accomplished ahead of time.”

Also, Khalitov remarked that the UVZ had achieved a steady production schedule. “In other words, there are no ups and downs. We have long-term contracts with the Defense Ministry, which keep our enterprises busy day in day out. This enables us to run our business in a stable way and to address issues concerning cooperation with the providers of raw materials and components. The advantages of doing business this way are many. “The work load does not change. It has been even for years. This guarantees sustainable development. Next year is going to be the same: the order books have been finalized and practically all contracts have been signed,” Khalitov said.

In 2018 the UVZ will continue to provide upgraded T-72B3 tanks, self-propelled artillery pieces 2S19M2 and other weapons we have traditionally made for years. Contracts for the BMPT Terminator, T-90M and T-80 are the new entries on the list of our products Vyacheslav Khalitov UVZ Deputy CEO

Combat bolide

T-72B3 is one of the most common tanks in service in Russia and other countries that participate in the Tank Biathlon contest. The vehicle has undergone fundamental upgrade to obtain up-to-date parameters in terms of mobility (a more powerful engine) and protection (extra protection components for the turret, lateral surfaces and the bottom). The tanks are equipped with an advanced round-the-clock system of fire control and digital means of communication.

Khalitov believes that the vehicle has a very good upgrade potential, so it is too early to say that the T-72 has approached the limit of perfection. Tank engineering these days widely relies on the modular design concept. Know-hows and materials continue to be improved, which allows for maintaining the tank’s parameters at the required level, without fundamental design changes and in accordance with the customers’ requests.

We develop and replace the tanks’ modules thereby considerably improving their military and technical performance. There is a special parameter used for contrasting earlier and later configurations of this or that vehicle and comparing them with foreign counterparts. As far as the T72B3 tank is concerned, the parameter of the first T-72 tanks is equal to 1 (one), while that of T72B3 is close to 2 (two) Vyacheslav Khalitov UVZ Deputy CEO

All of the tank’s main combat systems have been upgraded. “Its firepower has been enhanced. Now the tank has a highly automated system of fire control, the gunner’s multi-channel sight Sosna, automatic target-tracking device, an advanced 125-mm gun and higher yield ammunition, lateral screens Relikt, and a kit of extra protection for use in combat in urban areas,” Khalitov said.

Greater mobility is another key feature. The tank now boasts a higher capacity power plant. “You can see that for yourself when you watch Tank Biathlon contests. The vehicle has no equals in either speed or other characteristics,” Khalitov said. As for command and control functions, the tank is equipped with a jamming-resistant digital radio station.

About the cost-effectiveness ratio. In other words, greater combat effectiveness is achieved at lower costs. We invest less but get a better vehicle, something that cannot be said about foreign tanks. Their share of investment is far greater, while combat effectiveness is no higher. This a fundamental distinguishing feature of our vehicles Vyacheslav Khalitov UVZ Deputy CEO

Khalitov believes that T-72B3 is popular not only with the Russian military, but is in great demand from other customers as well. Military specialists sometimes call it a bolide. At this point, he points out, a great deal begins to depend on the skills of the crew.

“Our crews are great. If the personnel has been trained properly, the vehicle tuned up and all required preparations for firing and driving have been made,  and if the personnel has good command of the equipment and knows how to us it, the result will be more than guaranteed,” he says.

All promised characteristics are confirmed in real combat. This is most important. Take today’s Syria or other armed conflicts. This tank has demonstrated the highest reliability, firepower effectiveness and degree of protection. This combination of factors makes the tank a legend Vyacheslav Khalitov UVZ Deputy CEO

Khalitov points out that in upgrading the T-72, T-90 and T-80 tanks the corporation seeks to use a comprehensive approach.

“We are systemic in our work on the T-80 tank. We take the same upgrade measures we applied to the T-72B3. This concerns firepower, degree of protection and some elements crucial to the vehicle’s mobility. The T-80BVM has retained its serial gas turbine engine, but has undergone certain changes, too. Its fuel consumption has been down,” he said.

The main customer has set the task of unifying our work. It will make no sense to stage useless experiments by replacing guns, power plants and other components. It is essential to squeeze the maximum out of the vehicle’s basic configuration. The more so, since the T-80 and the T-72 have a good upgrade potential Vyacheslav Khalitov UVZ Deputy CEO

'Flying Breakthrough'

The new T-90M (R&D project Proryv-3, literally meaning Breakthrough-3) is another cutting-edge product from the UVZ. It is 25 years since the moment the first model of the T-90 tank was authorized for service. Many great changes have been carried out since. If you take a look at the T-90M, you will see that it is a dramatically new vehicle meeting the modern requirements in terms of firepower, protection, viability, mobility and controllability.

It is a fundamental upgrade project based on advanced technologies. There has been created a new combat module boasting a highly automated system of fire control. The characteristics of the 2A46 gun have been considerably improved. Advanced types of ammunition are used Vyacheslav Khaliltov UVZ Deputy CEO

The T-90 is often called a “flying tank.” This capability was repeatedly demonstrated at different shows, where the tank successfully negotiated a special jump ramp.

The unique running gear is capable of coping with a great dynamic impact. The driver and all other crew members feel quite comfortable. They are prepared to conduct fire while performing this trick, literally in flight. This is convincing proof the crew are capable of coping with combat tasks despite high-G effects Vyacheslav Khalitov UVZ Deputy CEO

The T-90M has achieved a qualitatively new level of effectiveness of using its weaponry. For instance, the commander and the gunner enjoy the same capabilities to search for potential targets, which allows for operating the fire control system in a highly effective combined “hunter-gunner” mode.

The commander transfers the target the automatic tracking system has locked on to the gunner together with all other information available, including the range and other data. All the gunner will have to do is to select the type of ammunition and hit the target. I should say this is a very important target elimination procedure. It can be likened to the operation of an assembly line. It is a reality Vyacheslav Khalitov UVZ Deputy CEO

The tank possesses a higher level of protection in contrast to the T-90. It has a new modular dynamic protection feature, which enhances the tank’s resistibility to the impact of modern means of attack. Moreover, it is far easier to maintain and repair.

As far as the command and control features are concerned, the tank has a computerized system of interaction within an automated tactical level system (army Internet).

Khalitov says T-90M is the first vehicle that widely uses digital technologies, including the fire control system. “There have already appeared some elements of artificial intelligence,” he says.

The driver’s display shows full information about the condition of all systems responsible for the vehicle’s mobility Vyacheslav Khalitov UVZ Deputy CEO

The ergonomic features of the T-90M have been fundamentally reworked. “There’s a system of air conditioning, a diesel generator that keeps all of the tank’s electronic systems operational independently from the main power plant, a system of outside observation and many others.”

The vehicle possesses a great export potential. You know that the corporation is the world’s leading exporter of tanks. Upgrade is the next development phase. Today we offer our main clients an upgraded configuration of T-90 – T-90MS Vyacheslav Khalitov UVZ Deputy CEO

Many experts and foreign mass media have repeatedly compared the T-90 and Abrams (the United States’ main battle tank – TASS). However, the UVZ believes that saying which one is better is rather difficult, because they are products of different schools of engineering and design and their original concept and purpose was different.

“Whereas the T-90 was conceived as a breakthrough weapon, Abrams was designed as an anti-tank means for confronting Soviet-made armor. Progress in engineering goes on. Today they are very different vehicles capable of matching the current requirements,” analysts say.

These days several types of main battle tanks are available on the international market, but not a single foreign tank is equal in sales to Russia’s T-90.

Whenever this or that country points to the T-90 or the T-72 as the main battle tank of choice, its decision is a very telling sign. It indicates that the foreign customer has conducted thorough analysis and evaluation and arrived at an unambiguous conclusion these vehicles are far better than their foreign counterparts by the main parameters. Some features may be slightly worse, but on the aggregate these tanks are better. The cost-effectiveness ratio is one of the key parameters. In a word, we offer a product of the same or better quality at a lower price, which is very important for the customer Vyacheslav Khalitov UVZ Deputy CEO

'Fear effect' and combat systems of the future

Last summer it was announced that a new type of armored vehicle – BMPT Terminator had begun to be provided for the Russian Armed Forces. It was presented as a yet-unparalleled piece of military hardware. The Defense Ministry made a decision to purchase the first batch of Terminators. In the longer term the vehicle may be either upgraded or reconfigured further to better suit customer requirements. There is a possibility its successor may be developed for the tracked mount Armata.

The concept of this new vehicle emerged on the basis of experience of ground operations in Afghanistan and other conflicts.

I would say that the idea was proposed still earlier, when it became obvious that a great variety of anti-tank weapons became available and they had to be countered in some way and eliminated effectively and promptly. It was then that the image of a highly-protected vehicle capable of fighting against these anti-tank weapons started taking shape Vyacheslav Khalitov UVZ Deputy CEO

The conflict in Syria provided fresh arguments in favor of creating such a vehicle.

“The tank support combat vehicle is protected no worse than any other tank. Its multiple weapon systems have a far greater firepower and are capable of hitting several targets in different directions simultaneously. This is very important. The Defense Ministry made a decision in favor of its purchase,” Khalitov said.

The tank support combat vehicle BMPT owes its unofficial name Terminator to its formidable look and the ability to fire several weapons simultaneously at targets situated at different ranges and at different angles. Continued fire and its high rate literally suppress and demoralize the enemy in the whole territory under attack. “This produces a fear effect. Nobody dares to look up.”

In order to change the vision of its likely uses we often call it not a tank support combat vehicle but a fire support combat vehicle. It can be used as an integral part of armor or mechanized infantry units or independently, which is very important Vyacheslav Khalitov UVZ Deputy CEO

Khalitov says the Terminator can be used independently within mechanized infantry units or anti-terror units, or in combination with tanks “as part of an armor module equipped with multi-channel armaments.”

It is inexpedient to make an all-purpose machine capable of hitting any targets, because it would be too difficult to operate. It is necessary to create combat groups incorporating vehicles meant for different purposes and performing different functions. This would produce a synergetic effect. I have already described this. It will be a combat system of the future. The ideology of building a modern combat system needs revision Vyacheslav Khalitov UVZ Deputy CEO

What is most important, though, says Khalitov, is that the BMPT Terminator is in demand and the need for it on the battlefield has been confirmed.

Robots and the 'Dagger'

Uralvagonzavod corporation is the leading designer of equipment for the ground forces. It is the largest provider under the state defense order as well. Khalitov says the UVZ provides more than 100 ground vehicle systems. The UVZ makes finished products and robot parts and components.

For instance, this concerns the automatic performance of certain processes in order to rule out or ease the effects of the human factor in the man-machine relationship Vyacheslav Khalitov UVZ Deputy CEO

Development of new machines of the future is one of the promising areas of activity. Among them are the unified platform Armata, self-propelled artillery system Koalitsiya, articulated tracked armored personnel carrier Arktika and some others. Experimental products were on display at a special demonstration for selected visitors at the Army-2017 weapons show.

“The Arctic is one of the lines of research into new vehicles. Also, we upgrade the existing vehicles and constantly address our customers with various upgrade options,” says Khalitov.

None of our projects goes into the dustbin. All projects we launch always materialize as experimental products. We have repeatedly demonstrated that at many exhibitions. The 57-mm combat module Kinzhal (Dagger) is an example. It is a real product. It has undergone almost all tests and is ready for being installed on a chassis. It is a highly effective combat module. We are prepared to discuss it with any potential customer Vyacheslav Khalitov UVZ Deputy CEO

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