Russia will begin serial production of the third-generation T-14 Armata main battle tank (MBT) in 2020 with the first batch of T-14s purportedly to be deployed to the country’s Southern and Western military districts, a Russian defense industry source said in Moscow this week.
“In accordance with the 2018-2027 State Armaments Program, the serial production of the T-14 tanks based on the Armata platform is planned to begin in 2020, hundreds of tanks will be made,” the source told TASS news agency.
The statement is in line with previous announcements by Russian government officials.
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov said in August 2017 that he expects the Russian Ground Forces to receive up to a 100 T-14 MBTs by 2020. He made the exact same statement in August 2016.
The Russian MoD concluded a contract with Uralvagonzavod (UVZ), Russia’s premier tank maker, for the first batch of 100 T-14 MBTs in September 2016. Originally, the MoD spoke of inducting over 2,300 new T-14 MBTs into service by 2020, a date that was later pushed back to 2025.
Yet, 2,300 T-14s are likely “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,” I noted elsewhere.
There are currently around 20 T-14s prototypes with the Russian Ground Forces undergoing testing. More prototypes are expected to be delivered this year, although the exact number is unknown. Final operational evaluation for the T-14 has been set for 2019.
Russian government officials have repeatedly expressed their frustration with the cost and delays of the Armata program of which the T-14 is the core component. The Armata program is a universal chassis system intended to serve as the foundational element for the Russian military’s next-generation armor force.
Originally, Russia planned to replace 70 percent of Soviet-era armor with Armata armored vehicles by 2020. However, this plan quickly had to be adapted following budgetary shortfalls and program cost overruns.
As I reported in October 2016, the Armata program could perhaps be in danger of being scrapped in its entirety, as a result of a decision by the MoD to upgrade T-80 and T-90 series MBTs in addition to revising plans to melt down 10,000 armored vehicles by 2020.
“In detail, the MoD announced that it will melt down 4,000 armored vehicles and retain the remaining 6,000 as a strategic reserve,” I explained. “Earlier this year, the MoD also awarded a $417 million contract to upgrade T-80 and T-90 MBTs to modern standards.”
The T-14 features an unmanned turret and carries 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), as its main weapon system. The 125-millimeter variant may be replaced with a more powerful 152-millimeter cannon in subsequent T-14 versions, although this would reduce the tank’s ammunition capacity and likely require a complete re-design of the platform.