The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has signed a contract with Russia’s main tank manufacturer Uralvagonzavod (UVZ) for the production of 132 third-generation T-14 Armata main battle tanks (MBT) and T-15 heavy infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) on August 22, according to Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexei Krivoruchko.
“Today, a contract has been signed for 132 T-14 and T-15 vehicles,” Krivoruchko was quoted as saying by TASS news agency on August 22. “We will get the first nine this year.” The T-14 MBT and T-15 IFV are both based on the “Armata” universal chassis system, which also serves as a platform for as many as 13 different tracked vehicles, including a self-propelled artillery howitzer and an armored military engineering vehicle.
The Russian MoD revealed earlier this year that it plans to induct two battalions of T-14 and T-15 each. A Russian tank battalion consists of around 40 main battle tanks, excluding support vehicles, while a motorized rifle battalion can include up to 35 infantry fighting vehicles. Notably, Krivoruchko did not reveal the exact composition of the order placed with UVZ, although the number of armored platforms ordered indicates that a third tank or motorized rifle battalion will be stood up in the near future.
The Russian Ground Forces are expected to receive a total of 100 T-14 MBTs by 2020, although Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov noted earlier this month that Russia will not mass-produce the T-14 and instead retrofit legacy armor systems including the T-72 and T-90. “In 2019, the Russian Army will get the first batch of heavily modernized T-90M tanks in the amount of several dozen vehicles,” a Russian defense industry source told TASS news agency on August 23. As I explained at the time:
It has been obvious for some time (…) that the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has abandoned plans to mass-produce 2,300 T-14s by 2025, as was originally outlined in the 2018-2027 State Armaments Program. For example, already in October 2017 the MoD announced that it will upgrade T-80 and T-90 series MBTs and revise plans to melt down 10,000 armored vehicles by 2020 and keep 6,000 in reserve.
Also in January 2017, the MoD announced that it will upgrade its T-72 MBT force. “The Russian Ministry of Defense’s decision to upgrade older T-72 and T-90 models could be interpreted as a sign that despite earlier announcements, the T-14 will not replace the Soviet-era tanks as the mainstay of Russia’s tank force in the near future and that the Russian Ground Forces will continue to operate various MBT variants at least for the next decade,” I speculated at the time.
The Russian military is presently operating 16-20 T-14s prototypes for evaluation and testing. (Final operational evaluation of the T-14 is scheduled for next year.) The first T-14 MBT will purportedly be deployed with the 1st Guards Tank Regiment of 2nd Guards Tamanskaya Motor Rifle Division, garrisoned in Moscow and part of Russia’s Western Military District. According to sources, the Russian Ground Forces also operate around 20 T-15 prototypes.