Russia's armour revolution | World Defense

Russia's armour revolution


Dec 5, 2014
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Nicholas de Larrinaga, London and Nikolai Novichkov, Moscow - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly
16 May 2015


Russian T-14 Armata main battle tanks take part in the 9 May 2015 Victory Day Parade in Moscow. Source: PA Photos

Key Points
  • Russia's 9 May Victory Day Parade in Moscow marked the formal debut for the country's sweeping range of new armoured vehicle designs
  • The parade revealed many new details about the vehicles, which appeared fully uncovered for the first time
Paraded uncovered for the first time on 9 May in Moscow, Russia's new range of armoured vehicles represent not only the biggest change in the country's armoured vehicle families since the 1970s but also a new design ethos.

While the vehicles' designs partly involve radical rather than revolutionary innovation, the scale and ambition of the change they embody is nothing short of a revolution. Together, the Armata, Kurganets, Boomerang, and Koalitsiya and other vehicles on show will replace nearly all Russia's existing vehicle families as, remarkably, Russia is attempting to replace all its main armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) families at the same time.

Additionally, the new vehicles display radical changes in design ethos and incorporate multiple previously unseen active protection systems (APSs). The reported weight and the apparent size of all the vehicles indicates a shift in armoured vehicle design philosophy away from the Soviet emphasis on manoeuvrability and low vehicle profile towards the Western focus on armour protection and crew survivability.

While many details of the vehicles had already been known, and were covered in depth by JDW in April, the full unveiling of the vehicles has revealed many fascinating new details and added greatly to our understanding of the vehicle family designs.

T-14 Armata main battle tank (MBT)
The T-14 is Russia's first truly new tank design since the T-72, designed in the early 1970s. Based on the Armata Universal Tracked Platform, the T-14's most attention-grabbing feature is its unmanned turret, with all of the MBT's three crew (commander, driver, gunner) seated in a well-protected crew compartment at the front of the hull.

Russia's T-14 Armata MBT (IHS/Andrey Kryuchenko/Russian MoD)

Seven T-14s took part in the parade and the type is slated to replace the Russian Ground Forces' T-72M3 and T-90 main battle tanks (MBTs) currently in service.

Notably, the unveiled turret dispels suggestions the MBT would be armed with a coaxial 30 mm cannon, in addition to its 2A82A 125 mm main gun. Indeed the pre-production vehicles paraded by Russia feature neither a 30 mm cannon nor a coaxial machine gun (MG) armament as expected, although the production vehicles might eventually feature the dual 30 mm cannon/7.62 mm MG.

Although the T-14's turret features a large bustle, it remains unclear whether this features the autoloader/weapon-handling system for the MBT's main gun or serves another purpose (meaning the T-14 would retain the vulnerable hull-mounted carousel system present in previous Russian MBTs). Some reports also indicate Russia has not entirely abandoned its ambitions to arm Armata with a 152 mm main gun. If this is the case, it could explain why the T-14's unmanned turret has an unusually high profile relative to the position of the 125 mm main gun, with the turret possibly designed to incorporate growth potential up to the 152 mm calibre.

T-14 is armed with a remote-controlled turret (RCT) armed with a 7.62 mm PKTM MG, with the unit also functioning as the commander's independent sight. The gunner's sight is mounted to the left side of the main gun and shielded by a two-piece armoured door to protect it from small arms fire. A barrel reference unit is mounted above the base of the 2A82A main gun, which notably lacks a fume bore extractor (which would be superfluous given the turret is unmanned). Metrological, satellite communications, GLONASS, datalink, and radio communications antennae are fitted on the roof of the turret.

The MBT's turret is literally covered in a variety of launcher and sensor systems understood to be linked to a new APS system, which some reports call 'Afghanit'. At the base of each side of the turret are five large and fixed horizontally arrayed launch tubes covering the 120° frontal arc of the turret. These bear a strong resemblance to the launchers for the earlier Drozd and Drozd-2 APS, which fired a hard-kill 107 mm unguided projectile armed with a high-explosive-(HE) fragment warhead to defeat incoming anti-tank guided weapons (ATGWs).

The T-14 is also fitted with four sets of smaller-calibre launchers, with each unit armed with 12 launch tubes. Two horizontally trainable launcher units are fitted on either side of the top of the turret, while two apparently fixed and vertically facing launcher units are recessed into the top of the tank's turret.

It is unclear whether this second system fires hard-kill (ie warheads) or soft-kill (ie anti-infrared/laser-obscuring smoke) munitions, or a combination of the two. It is also unclear if the vertically mounted units are fireable, or simply storage for reload units for the two trainable launchers. One limitation of the Drozd systems were that they provided no protection against threats emanating from above the tank, so mounting the fixed launchers vertically could be one way to provide protection against top-attack threats.

Providing warning and guidance for the APS system are two types of sensors mounted around the T-14's turret. Two large sensors, believed to be electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR)-based laser warning receivers, are angularly mounted on the front of the turret providing 180° coverage, while four smaller sensors (covered but believed to be radars) are mounted around the turret providing 360° coverage.

Armata features a notably different hull design to the T-72/90. One striking difference is the road wheels, which are of a different design to the T-72/90's, while the Armata features seven road wheels, to the six of the previous MBT designs, with the drive wheel at the rear. This is similar to the T-80 MBT family, which also has chassis with seven smaller road wheels.

It is not known whether Armata is equipped with a gas-turbine or a diesel engine, but the T-14's powerpack is mounted at the rear of the MBT, with two internal fuel tanks mounted on either side, and exhausts also mounted on either side. Day/night cameras are mounted around the T-14's turret to provide situational awareness, while a forward-looking EO/IR (FLIR) system is mounted on the front of the hull for the driver. The driver's hatch has no periscopes. When driving buttoned-down, the driver may be in a reclined position, using a set of periscopes mounted on a second hatch directly behind him.

NII Stali is understood to have designed a new form of steel armour for the Armata family. Speaking to TASS, a NII Stali representative said the "steel armour alloy, named 44S-sv-Sh [44S--], is approved by the Armata's developer. The alloy's operational testing has been started and it can be used in prospective vehicles' parts". The use of the 44S-sv-Sh steel in Armata is intended to provide protection at a similar level to STANAG 4569 (first edition) Level 5. The high level of 44S-sv-Sh's protection is ensured by the short-grained material structure, the optimised legation process and the special heat processing. The steel has also been designed to maintain its characteristics in very cold conditions.

The Armata design is also understood to utilise explosive reactive armour (ERA) within its base design (rather than the appliqué ERA tiles seen on previous Russian MBTs), with views from above the MBT showing a distinctive tiled pattern indicative of ERA on the top of the vehicle's chassis and turret. Although what appear to be ERA tiles are present on the turret roof, much of the sides of the turret appears to be just a thin cladding covering the various APS and sighting systems rather than armour. Appliqué armour (unclear if passive or ERA, or both) is fitted to the forward two thirds of the T-14's sides, while the rear third is protected by bar armour to provide clearance for the T-14's exhausts.

T-15 Heavy Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV)
Also based on the Armata universal platform and fully unveiled during the 9 May parade is the T-15 Heavy IFV.

Russia's T-15 Armata Heavy IFV. (IHS/Andrey Kryuchenko/Russian MoD)

For the creation of the T-15 the Armata chassis has been reversed in its entirety to create a compartment to accommodate dismounts at the rear of the IFV. Accordingly, the T-15's powerpack is mounted at the front of the vehicle, with the drive wheel also at the front and the exhausts now on the forward sides of the vehicle.

This swap has necessitated relocating the vehicle's fuel tanks, while to protect the normally weaker armour of the rear of the Armata chassis a distinctive arrowhead-shaped armour package extends around the forward sides of the vehicle. To accommodate the vehicle's exhausts the side armour is overhanging rather than arrowhead. The overall effect of this is to give the vehicle an odd, bulbous appearance. The top of the vehicle's chassis appears to be protected by integrated ERA tiles.

T-15 Armata heavy infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) take part in the Victory Day Parade in Moscow. (PA Photos)

The T-15 is armed with a KBP Instrument Design Bureau Epoch Almaty-designed RCT at the rear of the vehicle equipped with a 30 mm 2A42 cannon, 7.62 mm coaxial MG, and a bank of two Kornet-M ATGWs on either side. The RCT features a gunner's sight to the right of the main gun and an independent commander's sight on the top of the turret on the left-hand side.

The heavy IFV is also fitted with an advanced armour package on the side of the vehicle. The T-15 appears to feature the same APS sensors and launchers as seen on the T-14, although mounted on the hull of the vehicle rather than its turret.

A three-man crew (commander, gunner, driver) are located in the centre of the vehicle, behind the engine, with the rear of the vehicle's hull raised to accommodate the troop compartment and turret. Egress from the crew compartment is made via a power-assisted door at the rear of the vehicle.

The front/underside of both the T-14 and T-15 is fitted with what appears to be a small entrenching/counter-mine system.

The lighter, 25-tonne, Kurganets-25 was present in two variants at the 9 May parade: IFV and armoured personnel carrier (APC). The new vehicle family appears significantly wider and taller than BMP series of vehicles it is slated to replace.

Russian Kurganets-25 IFVs take part in the 9 May 2015 Victory Day Parade in Moscow. (PA Photos)

The IFV variant is armed with the same 30 mm cannon/Kornet ATGW armed turret as the T-15. Uralvagonzavod has also created its AU-220M turret armed with a 57 mm cannon, which is understood to be in contention to be fitted to the IFV variant, although this was not fitted to the Kurganets-25 IFVs taking part in the parade.

Much like the Armata vehicles, the Kurganets-25 IFV appears to feature two types of APS sensor and effector, although these appear subtly different to those on the Armata vehicles. Fixed launchers are placed all around the vehicle hull, providing 360° coverage. While these resemble the launches on the Armata vehicles, they appear to be of a much smaller calibre. A two-part sensor system, similar to the laser-warning receivers on the Armata vehicles, is also located around the hull. Oddly, three sensors are located on the left-side of the vehicle, but only two on the right-side. Given both sets of sensors and effectors are located on the hull, it would appear the two systems are linked.

Russia's Kurganets-25 armoured personnel carrier (APC) takes part in the Victory Day Parade in Moscow. (Nikolai Novichkov)

Three two-part sensors (covered during the parade) are also mounted around the turret, along with four sets of effectors on the front of the turret and two mounted sidewise on the rear of the turret. It is unclear what these effectors are, but they appear similar to an unknown system seen mounted on the turret of the earlier T-95 (Object 195) prototype MBT. On the IFV, each set has a pair of what are either round windows or frangible covers. If they are windows, this system could be a new APS interference emitter similar to a greatly slimmed-down version of the soft-kill Shtora system present on the T-90. Alternatively, each set could contain two of the effectors from the smaller-calibre launchers on the Armata vehicles. Given that the coverage provided by the location of the effectors appears to intermesh, the latter option seems more likely.

Kurganets-25 IFV. (IHS/Andrey Kryuchenko)

The APC version, meanwhile, is fitted with a much smaller RCT armed with 12.7 mm MG. The APC lacks the hull-mounted sensors or effectors seen on the IFV variant, and instead features solely the second APS type present on the Kurganets-25 IFV. While the sensor configuration is the same for this APS on both the APC and IFV variants, the configuration of the effectors differs. On the APC vehicle, the effectors are located only on the front of the turret and instead of six sets of paired effectors, there are four sets of paired effectors, and four sets of single effectors.

Kurganets-25 APC. (IHS/Andrey Kryuchenko)

Both the APC and IFV variants are otherwise identical, with a forward-mounted powerpack and seven road wheels. Commander and driver's hatches are present in front of the turret, with access to the troop compartment via a rear door. Unlike in previous Russian IFV designs, there are no other hatches for troops carried inside, apart from the rear door. Neither variants feature any obvious ERA, although ERA has not typically been fitted to Russian IFVs.

Both feature a large appliqué kit to the sides of the vehicle, although whether this is principally for armour or flotation purposes is unclear. Amphibious capability has been designed into the Kurganets family, with both featuring a bow plane and waterjets installed within the rear of the hull.

The Boomerang 8x8 vehicle also made its full debut at the 9 May parade, and is intended to replace the BTR-family of vehicles, the most recent variant in Russian service being the BTR-82A.

Russian Ground Forces Bumerang (Boomerang) 8 x 8 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV). (Nikolai Novichkov)

The 8x8 is armed with the same turret as both the T-15 and the Kurganets-25 IFV, although the examples taking part in the parade were fitted with no APS systems. An APC variant fitted with an RCT with a 12.7 mm MG is also understood to be planned.

Boomerang 8x8 IFV. (IHS/Andrey Kryuchenko)

Boomerang's powerpack is located in the front right-hand side of the vehicle, with the driver at the front-left side of the vehicle. Neither the vehicle's commander nor gunner have their own hatch, although unlike the Kurganets vehicles there are two roof-hatches for the troop compartment. With the engine located in the front of the vehicle, troops can egress via a door at the rear of the vehicle, unlike the awkward side doors of the BTR series (which had their engine at the rear). Also designed to be amphibious, Boomerang is equipped with a bow plane at the front of the hull and shrouded propellers at the rear of the 8x8.

Also shown off on the 9 May parade was the 2S35 Koalitsiya-SV (Coalition-SV) self-propelled artillery (SPA) system, which will replace the 2S19 MSTA-S SPA in Russian Ground Forces service.

Russia's Koalitsia-SV (Coalition-SV) self propelled artillery system (SPA) takes part in the Victory Day Parade in Moscow. (PA Photos)

This is understood to feature a new 152 mm ordnance utilising a modular charge system. This main gun features notably different muzzle brake and recoil dampeners to the earlier SPA. An RCT armed with a 12.7 mm MG is mounted on the roof of the turret. There are two bundles of 902B Tucha smoke grenade launchers mounted on either side of the cabin and no other APS effectors, although four warning receivers are located on the SPA's turret. The main turret, understood to be unmanned akin to the T-14's turret, is significantly longer than the 2S19's.

Koalitsiya 152 mm SPA. (IHS/Andrey Kryuchenko)

Although Koalitsiya-SV was slated to be based on the Armata universal chassis, the pre-production vehicles appear based on a modified T-72/90 chassis. The general layout and roadwheels appears to be identical to those on the T-72/90 chassis, although the front of the chassis has been heavily modified to create positions for the commander and gunner on either side of the driver. Unlike on Armata, where the driver is located on the right side of the vehicle, the driver on Koalitsiya is located in the centre of the vehicle (as seen in the T-72/90 and 2S19).

According to Georgy Zakamennih, chief director of TsNII Burevestnik, the developer of the 2S35, Coalition-SV has a maximum range of 70 km when firing advanced shells. He added that its ammunition load is larger than Western analogues. There is a unified command-and-control panel on which all the actions are displayed. The system's pneumatic loader is billed as increasing Coalition-SV's rate of fire. 2S35 can automatically choose the appropriate type of shell and fire it. Coalition-SV is therefore not a classic self-propelled gun but an innovative robotised complex, autonomous to a high extent, he said.
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