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The ‘World’s Deadliest Tank’: Not as Deadly as Putin Thinks?

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The ‘World’s Deadliest Tank’: Not as Deadly as Putin Thinks?

Some Western defense analysts caution that there is still much we don’t know about Russia’s new T-14.

The ‘World’s Deadliest Tank’: Not as Deadly as Putin Thinks?
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The new Russian T-14 Armata main battle tank (MBT), dubbed the “world’s deadliest tank,” has been making headlines ever since its first public appearance during this year’s May 9 Victory parade in Moscow.

With its brand-new design – dissimilar to any Soviet-legacy armored ground vehicles – paired with bombastic statements by the tank’s developers, analysts as well as the media have been mesmerized by the T-14s alleged groundbreaking new technology features.

For example, this week, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly reported yet another previously unknown system that the Armata is purportedly fitted with: a new generation of explosive reactive armor (ERA) that, according to a Russian defense industry source, has “no known world equivalents.”

“The new ERA can resist anti-tank gun shells adopted by NATO countries, including the state-of-the-art APFSDS DM53 and DM63 developed by Rheinmetall [and] anti-tank ground missiles with high-explosive anti-tank warheads,” the source added.

Last week, Andrei Terlikov, head designer at Uralvagonzavod, the largest main battle tank manufacturer in the world, announced that there might even be a possibility of reducing the number of soldiers operating the T-14:  “The high degree of automation allows for coming close to reducing the crew of the Armata platform-based tank from three to two.”

However, Western analysts have begun to caution that Russian official announcement by the tank designers and military officials should be taken with a grain of salt. As Henry Boyd of the Institute for Strategic Studies told Voice of America:

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. 

I have written about the T-14 and the cost factor (see: “Is the World’s Deadliest Tank Bankrupting Russia?”), recounting a joke that made the rounds during the rehearsals of the May 9 Victory parade regarding a T-14 Armata which broke down while crossing Red Square:  “The Armata truly has unprecedented destructive power; a battalion can destroy the entire Russian budget!”

Additionally, if the recently published analysis of the U.S. cybersecurity firm Taia Global is correct, a crucial piece of the tank’s equipment – the night vision cameras – might not even be Russian-made (see: “Is Russia’s Deadliest Tank Using Western Technology?”).

Like Boyd, I also repeatedly underlined that there is very little we genuinely know about this new piece of Russian military hardware and that it is impossible for now to truly assess the tanks capabilities. It is mostly an informed guessing game.