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Russia's newest armor slated for maiden appearance in V-Day Red Square march-past

May 08, 2015, 10:09 UTC+3 Litovkin Viktor
© Alexey Dityakin/TASS

MOSCOW, May 8. /TASS/. Thursday’s dress rehearsal of the military march-past, due in Moscow’s Red Square May 9 on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the allied victory over Nazi Germany, was impressive, to say the least. The few technical glitches merely confirmed Murphy’s Law still works. The new-generation main battle tank based on the Armata platform surely took centre-stage. For the first time ever it appeared in front of the general public in broad daylight to be caught on camera by a dozen professional photographers, including foreign ones. Also, media people had an excellent chance to quench their curiosity about the new heavy infantry fighting vehicle built on the very same Armata chassis, the MICV Kurganets-25, the self-propelled 152-mm artillery piece Koalitsiya-SV, wheeled APC Boomerang and the self-propelled anti-tank rocket system Kornet-D1.

Although this is a very incomplete list of the newest weapons systems, due to be presented at the jubilee Victory Day parade (both proposed for supplies to the Russian Armed forces in the near future, or those which had entered duty just recently), each of the armoured vehicles deserves a closer look. At least because they spell a real breakthrough in armoured vehicles engineering and manufacturing. All of these achievements were made in the post-Soviet years and capitalized on exclusively Russian components and know-how, as well as progress in domestic science and engineering and the talent of Russian designers and technicians. Lastly, all of them surpass by far their foreign counterparts and are surely unparalleled in any other industrialized country.

One little reservation is worth making at this point, though. Although the veil of secrecy is off and the look of the tracked and wheeled vehicles is now open to one and all, their characteristics remain a secret, so very sketchy speculations regarding their combat features are the greatest liberty a military analyst can take.

First, a few words about Armata. It is not the name of the new main battle tank, although it has proved handy in everyday use and will apparently remain so. Armata is the name of the universal tracked platform the tank is based on. The tank’s official name is T-14. Armata is an advanced tracked platform, also meant to be used in a heavy armoured personnel carrier and infantry combat vehicle Kurganets-25, a combat engineering vehicle, air defence missile systems, multi-role engineering vehicles, communication, chemical and radiation surveillance vehicles and many others.

Unification is its key feature. Armata is capable of carrying various combat blocks and serving as a universal mobile base. This spells huge costs saved in manufacturing various types of combat vehicles, easy repairs, common spare parts for the whole family of vehicles, technological effectiveness for further manufacturing and upgrade, and also other tactical, technical, and combat advantages.

What does Armata look like? It is an armoured hull housing a 1200-1500-horsepower engine (less powerful in light armoured personnel carriers and infantry combat vehicles) on traditionally wide rubber-steel caterpillars and seven road wheels on either side. The engine is powerful enough to let the tank carry great combat payloads, enjoy excellent cross-country capacity in any climate, weather and type of terrain, high speed (up to 65-70 kilometers per hour) and high maneuverability on the battlefield. Its relatively small mass (under 50 tonnes) lends the T-14 main battle tank extra competitive edges over its foreign counterparts. Most of them are heavier and less mobile. And more vulnerable.

The crew of the Armata platform is seated in an armored capsule, where it is far safer in combat. Even in case the tank suffers a direct hit and the ammunition is caused to detonate, the commander, gunner and driver (the crew of the tank, APC or MICV) have great chances to survive. The computerized or digital system of controlling the vehicle and the unmanned combat module (a 125-mm gun, a 30-mm gun, a 12.7-mm machine-gun and 7.62-mm machine-gun for the APCs and MICVs) is placed inside the armoured capsule, too. The just-unveiled combat blocks let specialists conclude that the crew enjoys a 360-degree view of the battlefield, for which it can use optical instruments, as well as on-board radar and thermal imaging cameras. It can easily identify targets, feed the data into the on-board computer and hit them in the selected order depending on the battlefield situation. Alongside the armoured hull the vehicles have other protective features, such as additional screens, passive dynamic protection and explosive reactive armour, capable of identifying approaching shells and destroying them just several fractions of a second before the moment of the likely hit.

It is worth noting such a distinguishing feature of the new vehicles as their ability to receive target setting info and exchange intelligence obtained from helicopters and drones with the crews of other vehicles and with the command posts of various levels, remain within the network centric system and, consequently, to be invariably aware of one’s own maneuvers and tasks in the fast-changing modern warfare environment.

The Armata platform-based tank’s 125-mm gun is capable of firing various types of ammunition: armour-piercing, fragmentation and cumulative shells and also guided anti-tank missiles. Another Armata-based combat vehicle and the MICV Kurganets-25 are capable of hitting enemy vehicles with laser-or radar beam-guided missiles. The self-propelled anti-tank rocket system Kornet-D1 carries supersonic anti-tank rockets. It can attack surface and air targets 5.5 kilometers away and pierce armour more than one metre thick.

As it can be easily seen, the combat turrets of the Armata-based armoured personnel carrier and Kurganets-25 are the same - a clear sign the platform and some weapon systems are unified, with all the ensuing advantages. And one more feature that instantly catches the eye - the APC and MICV Kurganets-25 and the Boomerang APC are amphibious vehicles. This capability was one of the key features of Soviet-era light armoured vehicles, and it has remained so in modern Russia.

In conclusion, a few words about the self-propelled 152-mm artillery piece Koalitsiya-SV. Its platform, as well as that of Koalitsiya’s elder sister (the self-propelled artillery piece Msta-S) apparently remains the same. It is the one borrowed from the T-72/T90 main battle tank. Judging by its look, though, it has undergone fundamental upgrade. The same is true of the turret and the gun. The barrel is much longer - a sure sign the range of fire has grown considerably: according to unofficial estimates, up to 70 kilometers. Gun loading, laying and firing are automatic. The on-board information and control system enables Koalitsiya’s crew to receive topographical control, intelligence and target-setting data from its own instruments, superior headquarters, drones and early warning and control planes A-50 or A-100, and to run the vehicle’s engine and all combat systems and complexes.

The new generation vehicles that are likely to arrest the public’s attention at the May 9 victory parade, so briefly reviewed in the paragraphs above, are still to undergo routine testing in the army and at manufacturers’ and government certification proving grounds in various natural and climatic environments across the nation. All will continue to be perfected to achieve the high characteristics (not known for sure, as it must be noted again) that had been identified in the Defence Ministry’s terms of reference. It should not be ruled out that some changes will be seen already at the Army-2015 show the Russian Defence Ministry is planning to hold in the middle of June near Moscow, and then at the international air show MAKS-2015 in Zhukovsky.

Now, the bottom line to round up these pre-Victory Day notes. The Russian defence industry has long said it will soon provide cutting-edge combat technologies, unparalleled in the world and capable of providing reliable protection for Russia’s national interests. It has delivered.

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