Russia’s 2018-2027 State Armament Programme is set to revolutionise the nation’s tank fleet, according to an article published on 13 February by Vedomosti. By 2025, the article claims, Russian ground forces will boast a fleet of 900 modern, capable tanks -to include the T-90M and the long-awaited T-14 ARMATA.

Citing a source within the Russian Ministry of Defence, the authors state that 160 T-90Ms have been ordered, of which 15 will be delivered in 2020. An anonymous industry source adds that there have been hurdles in development of the tank, including integration of the target tracking system and advanced explosive reactive armour (ERA).

The T-90M upgrade includes rebuilt T-90As as well as some of the very first T-90s that are completely rebuilt and modernised to the T-90M standard. Further new-build vehicles will be procured, the article states, suggesting that a total of 400 T-90Ms will be procured by 2027, with a heavy budget and resources focus on the ground troops for the next five years.

The T-14 will account for 500 of the new tanks, the article states, assuming that the state tests scheduled for 2020 are successful. The T-14 and T-90M share multiple systems, such as the RELIKT ERA, which provides twice the protection against kinetic energy rounds and 1.5 times against chemical energy rounds, according to Russian sources.

Both tanks carry the same 125mm 2A82-M1 smoothbore gun, the T-14’s, of course, mounted in an unmanned turret, while the T-90M retains its crewed turret. The 2A82-M1 is linked to an advanced fire control system, which includes an automatic target tracking capability. The new gun and a revised automatic loader enable the vehicle to fire a new family of improved ammunition, leading to an improvement in lethality.

All this is linked to a battle management system, which will provide a network-centric capability and the mandatory thermal imaging sights. Many of these systems are common to the T-14 and will ensure that the T-90M represents the most capable of tanks within the Russian tank fleet.

With a total of 900 modern tanks, Russia will, of course, out-number the vast majority of its neighbours with modern vehicles – assuming that the State Armaments Programme is fulfilled. However, as an October 2019 article in Ria Novosti states, the majority of the Russian fleet will remain the T-72 and the T-72B3 upgrade.

The programme is likely to be given a determined focus, as the ground forces are lagging behind the navy, air force and strategic missile forces, with only 50% of their vehicles and equipment modernised. Furthermore, analysis released by the Chatham House think tank in May 2018 suggests the project is likely to be fully funded, as even a modest economic growth of 2% and a reduction in funding, would see the promised RUB19 trillion (€259 billion) fulfilled. It follows that the next five years will see a revolution in the capabilities of the Russian tank fleet and ostensibly a return to the high-low capability mix that was favoured during the Cold War.

Miles Quartermain in London for MON

The original T-90s shown in this image are considered to be some of the most advanced tanks in the Russian inventory. However, they do not represent a vastly different capability to the T-72B3, which makes the T-90M upgrade a necessity. (Photo: Russian MoD)

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