Russians have just announced their choice of the new Main Battle Tank for their army, T-14 Armata, which should at least match the American counterpart M1 Abrams.
- It features the unmanned turret with an automatic gun loader. This has some huge benefits as there is no space required for the guy loading the gun so the turret can be much smaller. Also, the turret armour becomes less critical from the point of view of crew survivability.
- The current crew complement is only three but can be further reduced to two with the addition of electronics, sensors, situational awareness displays etc. This is of enormous importance since the personnel compartment becomes very compact and easier to protect.
- Unlike the legacy Russian designs which typically featured turbo diesel engines T-14s will have gas turbines, known for their light weight.
- As a result of the above the tank is smaller, lighter (48 tonnes) and much more mobile. Its 80-90kph top speed is unheard of for MBTs.
- While active protection system may sound great it is easy to retrofit in older tanks like Abrams so I do not see it as a big deal.
My only slight surprise was that the Russians put the personnel compartment in the front as opposed to the rear like in the Israeli tank Merkava. The difference may be that the Israelis are anal about not losing their soldiers in battle and a crew located at the rear of a vehicle is additionally protected from the frontal hits by the engine block. Also Israeli tanks double as Armoured Personnel Carriers and must have doors in the back which governed the internal layout. However, the Russians chose to go with a more conventional crew-at-front arrangement and I am sure they had their reasons.
All-in-all, just like the American M1 Abrams in its own time, T-14 comes through as an impressive piece of military hardware which will shape the battlefields of the World for decades to come.