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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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 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 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.”
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.
'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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.