Russia will not mass-produce its new third-generation T-14 Armata main battle tank (MBT) as it is too costly, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov told Russian media on July 30. Instead, the Russian military will continue to rely on older platforms such as the T-72B3s (fitted with explosive reactive armor), an upgraded variant of the original Soviet-era T-72 MBT, or the T-90A MBT, according to Borisov.
“Why flood our military with Armatas, the T-72s are in great demand on the markets,” the deputy prime minister said noting that the upgraded variant of the T-72 “leaves far behind” German, French and U.S. MBTs currently in service “in terms of price, efficiency and quality.” Furthermore, Borisov noted, when discussing the government’s decision to modernize older armor platforms: “Having a military budget ten times smaller than that of NATO, we are achieving our objectives due to such efficient solutions.”
It has been obvious for some time now 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 per-unit cost of a T-14 MBT is estimated to be around $3.8 million.
The Russian Ground Forces are still expected to receive around 100 T-14 MBTs by 2020. In February, the MoD placed an order for two T-14 battalions with each unit expected to receive around 40 T-14 MBTs. The Russian Ground Forces are presently operating 16-20 T-14s prototypes for evaluation and testing. 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.
“The -14 (…) is one of the world’s first battle tanks to feature an unmanned turret,” I explained in August 2017. “The MBT’s main weapon system 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 mm cannon in later versions, although this would reduce the T-14s ammunition capacity and likely require a complete re-design of the platform. Final operational evaluation for the T-14 has been scheduled for 2019.