The Russian Ground Forces will likely begin operational evaluation of its deadliest tank, the third-generation T-14 main battle tanks (MBT), an armored vehicle based on the “Armata” universal chassis system, in 2019, according to Deputy Minister of Defense Dmitry Rogozin.
Speaking at a meeting with representatives of Uralvagonzavod (UVZ), the world’s largest tank maker, the deputy defense minister emphasized his expectations that the new tank will be handed over to the Russian military in two years’ time.
“I hope that the Uralvagonzavod management will today confirm that the year 2019 is already the commencement of the Armata’s operational evaluation, i.e. the tank will go to military practice ranges rather than to factory testing grounds, which will be followed by serial production,” Rogozin said, according to TASS news agency.
The Russian Defense Ministry inked a contract with UVZ for the first batch of 100 T-14 MBTs in September 2016. Rogozin’s public visit to the tank maker indicates that the Kremlin is not happy with the progress of the T-14 program. (Senior Russian defense officials usually visit troubled weapons program sites to increase pressure for defense contractors to abide by previously agreed upon schedules.)
Rogozin’s statement also appears to contradict a March 2016 announcement by the CEO of Russian Technologies State Corporation (Rostec), Russia’s largest defense industrial conglomerate, in which he claimed that the T-14 has already entered serial production(See: “Is Russia’s Deadliest Tank Already in Serial Production?”). As I explained at the time:
Whether the T-14 has entered serial production is hard to verify independently. It is possible that Chemezov was referring to a larger number of T-14 tanks produced in 2015 and currently undergoing operational trials. Vyacheslav Khalitov, the deputy director of Uralvagonzavod (…) said in an interview in February 2016 that his company has produced a trial batch of over 20 T-14 MBTs.
It remains to be seen whether UVZ can stick to the 2020 induction date. The Russian Ground Forces plan to induct up to 2,300 T-14s by 2025. Yet as I explained elsewhere:
[T]his is far beyond the financial and production capacity of Russia. According to some estimates, Russia is only capable of building 120 new T-14s per year from 2018. There are currently around 20 T-14s prototypes operating with the Russian Ground Forces. It is unclear whether the tank has already entered serial production.
The T-14 is the first Russian MBT to feature an unmanned turret. The tank’s main weapon is a 2A82 125-millimeter smoothbore cannon, capable of firing high-powered munitions (10 shots a minute at an effective range of up to 7 kilometers). The 125-millimeter variant may be replaced with a more powerful 152-millimeter cannon in later versions, although this would reduce the T-14s ammunition capacity and likely require a complete re-design of the platform. Russia is promoting the T-14 as one of the world’s most advanced next-generation MBTs. However, it remains impossible to independently verify the tanks combat capabilities.