30 years ago, engineers from Nizhniy Tagil created a foundation for a new tank with Object 187 and Object 187A. The innovative but unfortunate Object 195 was then built in metal. What was the fruit of the labours of Ural engineers?
On the way to a breakthrough
Successful decisions in the 1960s allowed Soviet engineers to achieve a tank with a very tight layout. The tanks were compact, not very heavy, and had excellent protection. On the other hand, if the enemy shell did punch through the armour, it was nearly guaranteed that it would destroy components or kill the crew. The ammunition rack in the fighting compartment was especially worrying.
In the end of the 1980s, all major Soviet tank factories were working on new tanks. Engineers aimed to boost the firepower (including by means of increasing the gun caliber), increase protection, and automate the vehicles. Additionally, a new layout was necessary, as the classic layout was no longer sufficient for survivability on the battlefield.
Soviet engineers had a difficult task. They needed to develop an innovative solution to protect the crew and fighting compartment, separating them from the ammunition rack. Kharkov, Nizhniy Tagil, and Leningrad were working on this task. The Nizhniy Tagil project from Uralvagonzavod, Object 187A, was never built in metal, but was the basis of the experimental "Perfection-88" program. In 2000, the Object 195 vehicle was created based on that research, a predecessor for the T-14 tank built on the heavy universal tracked Armata platform.
What is the logic in creating a unified platform? Production of spare parts is simplified. It is easier to repair the tanks, easier to train the personnel. A unified platform allows for larger production runs, which reduces unit cost. Vehicles on the same chassis have more or less the same speed, which is important when marching. For instance, a bridgelayer should not lag behind MBTs, as it needs to arrive on the battlefield at the same time.
Armata's older brother
Object 195 built by Uralvagonzavod included two important novelties: an unmanned fighting compartment and an armoured capsule for the crew. However, the new was just the somewhat forgotten old, as there were attempts in the 1950s to separate the crew and armament into different modules, but only in a prototype. Similar work was conducted in the 1980s.
Object 195's capsule increased armour from all sides: sides, roof, front. The tankers were also separated by armour from the fighting compartment. The design was such that when the ammunition detonated, the blast wave would go everywhere but in the direction of the crew. This did not guarantee survival, but it increased the odds by orders of magnitude.
The unmanned fighting compartment was completely automatic. It contained the ammunition and loading mechanism. The turret served only as a weapons mount. At the same time, it acted as added protection against ammunition that penetrated the roof. It is much harder to penetrate such an obstacle than a single armour plate. The crew entered the turret only during an emergency, such as a breakdown in the loading mechanism.
The main armament of the Object 195 was the 152 mm smoothbore 2A83 gun, which provided many options when destroying targets with APFSDS shells or ATGMs.
Object 195 passed state trials in the late 2000s but never made it into production. There were several causes for this. The 152 mm gun was too powerful, there was no worthy adversary for its ammunition, and none were visible in the near future. The ammunition capacity was also very small, only 24 rounds. This is acceptable when fighting only enemy tanks, but the modern MBT has to solve a wide array of problems, and it is very possible that frequent restocking of ammunition will be difficult or impossible. There were also complaints about the armour: if the front was adequately protected, the roof and sides did not meet new increased requirements. Factories were also not ready for this new tank.
Soon after work on Object 195 was complete, Object 148 arose, also called T-14. This is the tank that today is called Armata. The T-14 includes all the best parts of Object 195, but on a qualitatively new technological level.
A portrait of the T-14
The Armata inherited the armoured crew capsule, unmanned fighting compartment, and rear engine compartment from Object 195. The tank has a modular design that makes repairs and modernization easy. Most components can be easily replaced. If necessary, the mass can be increased. It is a veritable 50-65 ton "Lego tank" (this is the alleged weight limit of the chassis).
The powerful front armour is comparable with the crew compartment capsule. The upper and lower front plates are protected by a new generation of reactive armour, in addition to composite armour. It is designed to destroy or destabilize incoming ammunition that threaten the main armour. Additional reactive armour also protects the sides. All armour components of the T-14 are easy to replace.
Why is the crew capsule in the front, right against the front armour? The tank's designers estimate that no modern tank gun or those that are likely to be developed in the near future can penetrate the front armour of the tank. The crew is most protected when it is closest to this shield. The only way the tank can be penetrated in the sides is if it is fired upon at a nearly 90 degree angle, and even then, the capsule is still protected by many layers of armour and reactive armour.
The T-14's turret is a mount for sights, various equipment, and of course the 152 mm 2A82 high power gun. The gun is designed to have high precision even without the high-tech fire control system. The gun has two variants: with a bore evacuator and without. The latter is installed in the Armata. As there is no crew in the fighting compartment, the gases that escape into it do not matter.
The engine is an X-shaped 12-cylinder diesel with 1200-1500 hp that can run for 10,000 hours at maximum power. This is high enough as it is, but can be even higher in economy mode. Even this mode retains good mobility. In order to make repairs easier, the engine and transmission exist as a single module, which can be replaced in under an hour.
The suspension has 7 road wheels like Object 195. Designers considered it optimal. Compared to its predecessor, the T-14 did not gain weight or increase in size, even though it is still heavier than a T-90A or T-80U.
In order to increase mobility, the T-14 is equipped with an adaptive controlled suspension that can be configured depending on the terrain, speed, and combat mission. The stiffness, travel, etc. are all configurable. The average and maximum speed of movement are increased, as is the precision when shooting on the move (although it is a secondary factor, as this is the job for the fire control system and gun stabilizer).
Every modern tank is filled with high-tech gadgets, and the T-14 is no exception. The tankers are now operators. They receive information from several channels of the fire control system, screens show maps and various information. The systems are controlled with buttons, joysticks, and touchscreens. The driver drives the tank with a steering wheel instead of levers, as it is more comfortable.
Unofficial sources claim that the T-14 will be equipped with a radar with a phase array that can track up to 100 targets at long ranges. The T-14 does have a phase array, but it is a part of the new Afghanit protection unit, which is designed to intercept enemy ammunition with special offensive elements. The new system protects not only from RPGs, but from roof penetrators and all types of shells: HEAT, HE, and subcaliber AP.
Each vehicle is a collection of compromises. Not all innovations designed by engineers made it in. For instance, the additional radar channel had to be excluded from the fire control system, but matrices for heat sensors designed for the new tank, completely made in Russia, are already entering trial production.
The road ahead
The T-14 is one of many vehicles that will be built on the Armata platform. Bridgelayers, flamethrower vehicles, minelayers and minesweepers, engineering vehicles, etc are all planned.
Today, three types of vehicles exist on the Armata chassis: heavy BMP-15 (an APC), BREM (armoured repair and evacuation vehicle), and the T-14 itself. A trial batch of each vehicle was built and will be shown at the May 9th parade in Moscow. After that, the vehicles will go to be improved, trialled by the army, and state trials.
The road of the T-14 to a production model is far from over. It is a potential path, as any "child" is victim to growing pains. It will be modified and improved before it can earn the name of a Main Battle Tank. The T-14 has great potential for modernization. Armament can be improved, the electronic "filler" can be upgraded, the armour can be increased. The tank's designers estimate that the lifespan of the tank is about 50 years.
Original article available here.