The new T-14 Armata tank is considered by many analysts to be the most advanced tank Russia has ever produced and a match for the best Western tanks. Germany has accepted the challenge and begun work on upgrading their Leopard 2 as well as a new design. The Leopard I was widely regarded as the premier battle tank in the world.
Still, even though the Armata seems formidable, the price will likely prevent Russia from producing very many. “The high cost of the Armata tank is expected to limit procurement,” writes Dmitry Gorenburg, a scholar at Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University. This is especially the case given the current troubles in the Russian economy.
“According to unofficial sources, the cost per tank is approximately 400 million rubles, which is more than double that of the German Leopard-2 and about 60-75% higher than that of the French Leclerc and U.S. M-1 Abrams. Yuri Borisov, the deputy defense minister responsible for procurement, has indicated that the cost is about 2.5 times higher than stated in the State Armaments Programme.”
Rostec, a state corporation that facilitates Russian technology exporting, has stated that the tank is in production. Uralvagonzavod, the Armata’s manufacturer, has announced that they can build 40 tanks in 2016, 70 in 2017 and up to 120 per year after that. With those numbers, the estimated Armata fleet in the Russian military by 2020 will number 330.
As an alternative, Russia could continue to purchase newly built T-90AMs or another advanced version of the T-90. While still expensive, at $4.5 million per tank, they are cheaper than the Armata. Otherwise, Russia could expand the T-72B3M modernization program.
Russia plans to spend 2.5 billion rubles ($35 million, or an average of $234,000 per tank) to upgrade 150 T-72Bs to the new B3M standard. For what they expect to receive for that money, it’s a bargain.
According to Izvestia, the upgrade includes a 2A46M5 125-mm smoothbore gun, a new sighting system called the Sosna-U which is paired with a 1A40-4 fire-control system, a new ballistics computer, an independent PK PAN sight for the tank commander with its own thermal imaging system, the new Relikt explosive reactor armor, a new 1,130hp V-92S2F engine, new automatic transmission system, improved drivetrain, and a new rear-view camera for the driver.
The new tanks will offer comparable performance to a T-90 for a lower price. It seems that economic factors will determine the exact nature of the Russian tank fleet in the future.