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The T-14 Tank Was In Red Square Again

May 11, 2018

Via Russian TV.

Thousands of Russian soldiers along with their vehicles, followed by several dozen aircraft, delivered another memorable performance to commemorate 73 years since the Soviet Union crushed Nazi Germany. This year’s Victory Day parade on May 9 was fortunate to have clear weather until the end, unlike the one in 2017 when an overcast sky forced the cancellation of the air force’s flyover.

As expected all of the latest armaments that were rolled out for the Russian military this decade took part. There were new additions as well, such as the BMPT-72 tank support vehicle, the Uran 9 unmanned fighting vehicle and its mine-clearing sibling, two types of drones, a snowmobile for the Arctic Circle, and a column of armored trucks used by the National Guard. Of course, the T-14 tank and its relatives were fixtures in the parade.

The T-14 is arguably the most advanced main battle tank in the world today. It’s best known for an unmanned turret armed with a powerful 125mm main gun that’s controlled from a separate crew module at the front of the hull. The T-14 is also the first Russian tank to be equipped with a new hard kill active protection system–the cylinders installed underneath the turret house munitions that can destroy incoming missiles. The T-14 is equipped with a remote controlled machine gun for a secondary weapon.

The Russian army’s newest tank made its public debut during the Victory Parade in 2015. Prior to its first appearance its existence was a fixture in Russian media where selective “leaks” fed the Internet’s curiosity over the mysterious “Armata.” Another remarkable feature of the T-14 is the extent of its armor, which has a “special coating” making it invisible to thermal sights. While its dimensions don’t match any current NATO tank, the T-14 is almost encased in reactive armor and even its side skirts are reinforced and slats cover the engine’s exhaust outlet. It’s doubtful if portable anti-tank rockets can cripple or knock out a T-14.

But the T-14 does have its problems. Foremost among them is a financial pinch that’s preventing Uralvagonzavod and its suppliers to start its mass-production. The Russian media used to proclaim that thousands would be in service by the end of the decade. In 2017, however, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) acknowledged the T-14 had just completed field trials and the MoD didn’t share any further details on when deliveries to the army are expected.

It was only later that same year when the MoD announced it signed a contract for a “pilot batch” of 100 tanks and these won’t arrive until the year 2020. The slow progress of the T-14 can explain why the Russian army isn’t retiring its T-72B3 and T-80U tanks.

During this week’s Victory Day parade the T-14’s were followed by T-72B3’s. The army’s other fourth-generation combat vehicles were present too like the Kurganets-25 heavy APC, the Koalitsya-SV self-propelled gun, and the Boomerang wheeled APC. Absent from the parade was strange T-15 Armata, whose earlier role may have been supplanted by either the Kurganets-25 or the BMPT-72 that each carry four Kornet anti-tank missiles as secondary weapons.

Exactly when do these next-generation vehicles enter service in large numbers is unclear. The army still operates their precedents such as the BMP-3, the Msta-S, and the BTR-82A and these won’t disappear anytime soon. It’s just cheaper and more practical to use the older stuff that are so plentiful. The airborne forces, on the other hand, are spoiled with new tracked vehicles that either carry so many weapons or are extremely well-armed.

Setting aside the strategic implications of the Topol-M, the S-400 Triumf, and the Iskander short-range ballistic missile, the appearance of flatbed trucks carrying tracked battle robots and drones–one rotary, another twin-boom–offer compelling clues pointing to where Moscow’s warfighting doctrine is headed.

According to Russian media 75 aircraft were involved with the flyover to climax the May 9 parade. As the air force’s strategic bombers such as the Tu-160 and Tu-95 proved an awesome sight to those below, the real darlings among the fixed-wing assortment were the MiG-31BM and MiG-31K interceptors, with the latter carrying a new air-launched cruise missile known as the Kinzhal. Just like the Chinese PLA in Zhurihe last year, the Russians let two precious Su-57 stealth fighters appear to advertise what the domestic aerospace industry is capable of.

This year’s Victory Day parade was an epic showcase of the Russian Federation’s firepower. Whatever “the West” may think of Moscow and its ruler, there’s no arguing the Russian military are the strongest in the Eurasian landmass.

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