The West Plays Catch Up to Counter the Armata

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The Armata tank has become a real challenge for NATO tank builders. Design offices of Western countries were discouraged by the tank’s passing into service, which has the most advanced features in terms of mobility, protection and firepower. That is why tank builders have to adjust their current projects on future tanks, and prepare them for a possible confrontation with the Armata on the battlefield. But are the efforts being made to catch up to the Russian engineers successful?

At the Eurosatory exhibition which was held in June in France, German weapons company, Rheinmetall, presented a promising sample of a 130 millimetre (mm) gun – L/51, which is aimed at combatting modern armored vehicles, including Russian main battle tanks (MBT) T-14 and the Armata. The latest modifications to the T-90 were also presented. Manufacturers are affirming that the gun will be between 10% and 50% more efficient than the previous model of the 120 mm gun, the L/55, which is widely used in the army. However, the manufacturer has not reported on the method of estimation for the effectiveness of the gun.

Despite the increase in the firepower of the gun, its weight remains almost the same: the shutter – with a vertical locking mechanism – weighs about 3 tons (t) and the trunk has a weight of 1 400 kilogrammes (kg). This result is achieved through the use of high-tech materials and optimal design that allows for the new gun to be used on existing tanks of the latest modification, such as the German Leopard 2A7. This means that the weapon can be distributed widely. It can also be installed on the projecting German-French tank, the MGCS, which is anticipated to be placed into service after 2030.

To increase the armor penetration for the gun, new, longer and heavier projectiles were developed –   Armor-Piercing Fin-Stabilised Discarding Sabot (APFSDS) – as were separable trays and high explosive air-bursting munitions (HE-ABM).

Despite the manufacturers’ declaration of the significant increase in the firepower of the guns, experts have expressed doubts. The sample that was presented is designed for manual loading and experts have confirmed that the rapidity of fire cannot exceed more than six to eight rounds per minute. The T-14 has an autoloader, which provides for the rapidity of fire of about 10 to 12 rounds per minute.

Regarding the “increased efficiency” of the gun’s shot, as claimed by Rheinmetall, it must be noted that the rounds DM63 for the previous gun model, the Rh120 L/55 – which is installed on the tank Leopard 2 – has a penetration of up to 800 mm of homogeneous armour. Therefore, an efficiency of 10% in the L/51 model yields 880 mm. In comparison, Armata’s 125 gun, the 2A82-1M, provides armour penetration of between 850 mm and 1 000 mm. The 152-mm gun, the 2A83 – which has been tested in the 1990s to 2000s and will be installed on Russian tanks in future – hit 1 024 mm of homogeneous armor. It is known that field tests of the German guns were not carried out and that the gun has not been set on a real tank. Therefore, it is hardly possible that a 50% improvement in the performance of the German gun can be said to be achieved.

The Russian tank crew is set in a separate capsule, protected by a modern, multilayer counter-heat protection-effect armor. In addition, a dynamic Armata ‘Malachite’ protection system and the active protection system, ‘Afghanit’, provide protection against all existing anti-tank weapons. Finally, according to Armata’s developers, the mounted machine gun which obtains data from the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar is able to protect the tank by knocking the flight of anti-tank missiles and changing the trajectory of the rounds or damaging cumulative jets.

It appears doubtful whether the new German gun can defeat such a fortress at this stage, even with a possible 50% increase in its efficiency. Of course, much depends on the situation awareness systems used, the ammunition, fire correction systems and electronic warfare; but it will take years or decades to develop such a combat-complex and corresponding strategy of its application. It should be kept in mind that Russian engineers will continue to design more sophisticated armaments.

Since it is possible to now assert that the Armata is currently the most powerful and protected main battle tank in the world, Rheinmetall’s affirmations that the gun can defeat the T-14 are seen as a marketing ploy and an attempt to attract the attention of potential customers to the objective problem of the need to combat the modern Russian tank.

The arms concern also raises the question of the expansion of financing for such developments. Clearly, the Western, or at least the European tank-building industry is behind the Russian industry. Nevertheless, the US military technologies could pose a significant threat to Armata, as demonstrated by the Future Combat Systems (FCS) and familiar doctrines. US military strategists are betting on the interaction of unmanned and mixed combat systems operating in three dimensions: ground, air and space. According to this approach, the target should be defeated from the zone located beyond the line-of-sight of the enemy. For example, a promising lightly-armored 20 t tank, the XM1202 (project FCM), equipped with a 120 mm gun (XM360), was supposed to launch the Mid Range Munitions (MRM-KE or MRM-CE) to a distance of 12 km and targeted with drones (class 1 T-Hawk or 4 Fire Scout). It is therefore more likely that in the coming years, we will see more Armata-oriented systems of weapons and even so-called ‘Armata killers’.

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  • Gue Bjuen

    isn’t there always a great danger in unmaned equipments of being hacked? hhmm… it’s kind of scary…

  • Brad Isherwood
    • chris chuba

      The unmanned turret definitely offers a lot of new possibilities.
      1. smaller, harder to target.
      2. pack more electronics into it.
      3. able to whip it around faster.
      4. better crew survivability.
      Defending the M1’s manual loading because you can operate it after it’s hit doesn’t sound that compelling. I don’t think too many tanks will remain operational after being hit by a large caliber shell.

      • Brad Isherwood

        The current version of the T 14 turret sits rather high IMO.
        The future versions larger calibre barrel…
        Maybe this turret will have a lower profile as the hyp design 3d rendering

        • chris chuba

          True. The point is that the Armata is at the start of its design cycle. There is all kinds of future potential with the new platform. When people say that Russia isn’t cranking them out due to a financial squeeze, I have to laugh. Why rush?
          They already plan 2,000. That already sounds like a plenty big number to me.

          We in the U.S. are making a big mistake cranking out 3,500 F35’s ‘to save money’ when we don’t even know how they will actually perform, that is a huge risk.

          • Brad Isherwood

            US public chose airpower attack vs boots on the ground.
            The past decades socio dance with controlled media channels the money towards
            F 35.
            WW 2 Era wavelength radar sees F 22/F 35 perfectly…..Russia uses these wavelengths.
            The concept of deep strike which US airpower were said to have and be able to
            Maintain. ..is doubtful now.
            Like Germany or Allies raids in WW 2…..the attrition rate is off the charts.
            It’s the same for tanks/ground mechanized.

            Ukraine recently showed that each time you move in large numeric…it’s loss…then Cauldron.

            You’ve probably watched the movie Fury**
            Have you watched this.http://www.imfdb.org/images/thumb/0/0f/Thebeast.jpg/419px-Thebeast.jpg
            It’s a spectacular visual movie with great acting.

          • Gue Bjuen

            thanks for the movie.

          • Angostura
          • Brad Isherwood

            Thanks for the links.
            Some of this Russian tactical is in the future…as its doubtfully they have these
            Many Hypersonic strike weapons.
            Unless they have a urgent/hidden production system going 24 and in large scale.

            Russia new Gen weapons still cost. …it’s not like print money out of thin air
            US Federal Reserve.
            Russia makes their investment count….the weapon is to destroy targets.
            Not profit taking like US military industrial complex.

            NATO attack force looks big on paper. …but it is not.
            German Airforce have large % aircraft non operation status over some issue.
            Certain Elite units from NATO are tactical quality….yet they are not large
            Numeric.

            If war occured with Russia….Eastern Europe and yes…even Western Europe
            Would be in complete road panic. ..jamming roads….rushing to airports and rail hubs.
            NATO is not going to be very mobile….
            And the few pre positioned Brigades in the East would get crippled in tactical
            Stand off strike.
            Russia has no interest in ground invasion…keep NATO on their side of the
            Line….which favours Russia exceedingly.
            NATO arty and missiles might cause damage until counter battery radar locate them.

            NATO is the Clint Eastwood Cluster F*k…..they really are.
            These metro sexual drive thru parades of military reveal how gay it is.

      • Brad Isherwood

        Hezbollah learned that hitting Merkava modular panels in same area gets into the turret steel.
        Mostly they just damaged them….
        Repeat hit in same location requires operator skill.
        Knocking the drive sprocket out means the tank is tow…Tow means you can
        Ambush again later if possible.
        Abrams panels when cracked from impact require long downtown to repair.
        Stateside repair yards had 100s of M1..Bradley’s etc

        Reece with ground troops moving at same speed with armor is better tactic
        Than tank blitzkrieg like Israel tried in 2006 Lebanon.

        Even if the Tanks future is automation. ..it’s probable boots on the ground will
        Need to be present nearby.

        • Bob

          I recall an article where IDF tanker from 2006 said that the Hezbollah teams were hitting rear of Merkava panels in same location repeatedly to disable them from terrain high points. The tanker said they got out of tank after a ATGM hit expecting more, and were relieved Hezbollah didn’t have sniper teams waiting for their exit, but they were still trapped in ditches for hours before rescued by advanced units turning back.

          • Brad Isherwood

            Death Traps: The Survival of an American Armored Division in World War II: Belton Y. Cooper
            Found this book online as PDF.
            The US military retreival/repair units moving with Armor divisions.
            The number of tanks knocked out by the Germans was catastrophic,
            And here…this is via a retreating German military getting pummeled by constant
            Air attack.
            No surprise that Hezbollah Knocks Merkava around…even takes down
            Sayaret Stallion helicopters.
            Russians in ditches with mines as German armor rolled over them at Kursk.
            Puny human vs steel beast.
            Poor man’s EMP bomb could stall a Mechanized assault over a limited area.
            Jump out of the tank or Stryker ….and run like hell : )

          • Bob

            Will check out ‘Death Traps’ online, cheers.

    • SOF

      I wonder why they didn’t follow this early concept of the Armata.

      • Brad Isherwood

        Several 3d computer versions of T 14 were online before T 14 was unveiled
        During the Parade.
        Comments on the 3d versions about different turret for larger calibre version
        Gun.
        The Armata tank chassis may be the foundation for several vehicles with
        possibly different turret/gun calibre and other weapons set ups .

  • sagbotgamot

    Go ahead! the moment the US/NATO has a response to Armata, the Russians introduces Armata 2.0

  • Bob

    About this US idea of drones as future of combined air/ground system beyond visual range. I saw brief reference somewhere to a counter-drone concept of advanced pulse lasers in development projects that are designed to knock out/fry sensitive transponders/sensors/cameras in drones, is this real thing?

  • Eidolon

    The capabilities of the T-14 in this piece are largely exaggerated and/or outright wrong. First, I frankly do not believe the claim that the Rheinmetall 120mm/L55 is outperformed by the 2A82-1M until I see some hard evidence. Since the 70’s Russian tube development has lagged behind the West, largely due to metallurgical issues, and successive versions of Russian/Soviet 125mm gun have not been THAT different from one another, compared to European development. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it sounds improbable at best– definitely not something to believe without better evidence.

    Furthermore, the AESA on the T-14 is for the Afghanit hard-kill APS, which uses cartridges, not the remote 12.7mm on the top of the tank. You would need a insanely fast and accurate FCS to provide 360deg protection with one 12.7mm. What I THINK they meant, which is probably a translation error committed by someone who isn’t well versed in military tech, is that the AESA suite can relay information on threat direction and angle to the main fire control computer, which can then be used to target the main cannon or 12.7mm, much like the ARENA system can.

    The reference to Future Combat Systems is also laughable. The Future Combat Systems programme and resultantly, the XM1202 were cancelled in 2009.

    Also, on autoloaders: autoloaders maybe be faster, but they are less reliable than a human loader. Plus you put more strain on the crew having only three people to the huge amount of work that entails keeping a tank in proper fighting order (one of those being a commander who probably is going to be in briefings as much as he’s going to be helping with maintenance).