Russia is expected to produce 2,300 of its all-new T-14 Armata main battle tank between now and 2020, with its promise of better crew protection, increased lethality, anti-air capabilities, and supposed imperviousness to NATO antitank rounds.
The marketing of military hardware should always be taken with a degree of skepticism, said Henry Boyd of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
“Where this puts it in comparison with contemporary Western tank design is something I think we’ll have to wait some time to get a better sense of. It’s inevitably not going to end up with everything that is currently being advertised as possible to put on this platform, the ambition is just going to be too great. Cost will come in at some point,” he said.
The cost is estimated at up to $8 million per tank – the same as a light fighter jet. But Western sanctions over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, and the falling oil prices have hit the Russian economy hard.
“The nominal production process is [to begin in] 2018. Whether it even makes that is questionable,” said Boyd.
He said it’s unlikely the Armata T-14 tank would be seen on the battlefields of eastern Ukraine – even if the fighting escalated. But Boyd said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s geopolitical doctrine would play a big part in the Armata’s development.
“It is not impossible that we will see T-14 being used at the front lines of Russian intervention or quasi-intervention in its near-abroad in the not too distant future,” he said.
I had to laugh at that $8 million figure for a “light fighter jet.” All $8 million will buy you in today’s market is a short-lived target.
But the important bit to remember is that the Russians have a long history of bluff and blunder when it comes to new military gear. The simple, rugged stuff — like the T-34 or the AK-47 or the MiG-21 in its time — the Russians tend to get right. Anything much more complicated than those tends to be hit or miss — with more misses than hits.
Let’s just wait and see.