Russia Says Its New Tank Is Invincible. Is It?

Armata tank
Russian servicemen operate "Armata" main battle tank during a rehearsal for the Victory parade on Moscow's Red Square May 4, 2015. Russia will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two on May 9. Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

New armor set to be fitted to Russian tanks will be capable of withstanding any current anti-tank technology on the market—making it effectively invincible, according to its state-owned manufacturer.

State news agency Itar-Tass reported on Tuesday that the so-called Armata platform will form the basis of its prospective T-14 and T-15 tanks, as well future models.

Armata tanks are still not in regular service and shrouded in secrecy. The only exposure the T-14 has received in recent years was when it ground to a halt in front of the Kremlin during a live broadcast of the 70th anniversary Victory Day parade in 2015.

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But Armata's manufacturer Uralvagonzavod, which was put under the authority of state-run Rostec by Russian President Vladimir Putin last year, still regards the technology very highly in its annual report, published this week.

"This is a principally new and totally Russian development," the report claimed.

"The Armata's armor is capable of resisting the hit of any existing anti-tank measure. The tank is equipped with active and dynamic defenses, fitted with a remotely controlled weapon module that has a powerful cannon as well as an automatic recharge system."

Claims about the Armata's specs are hard to verify given that its units are yet to be seen on the battlefield, but according to the Carnegie Endowment for Peace's assessment in 2017 the new technology may indeed challenge the West's technical superiority over Russia.

Not only do Western forces not consider tank development as high a priority as Russia, but tank design in the West is concentrated on supporting retreating troops. The design of the Armata T-14 is much more suited to attack, according to the report.

"It's important to remember that the Armata platform is still a prototype undergoing field trials and not a completed system," Michael Kofman, Senior Research Scientist at CNA Corporation and a Fellow at the Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center says.

Uralvagonzavod will likely continue testing the Armata into next year, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said last month, with the first delivery to the armed forces expected no sooner than 2019. It will still be a long way off entering service as the military will have to conduct its own round of tests.

"There is still a debate in Russia on what its capabilities should be and the initial serial production run of 80-100 tanks is doubtfully going to be the final variant, so we should reserve judgment," Koffman says.

Speaking about the superiority of the Armata fitted T-14, Koffman urges caution. "The tank is designed with very good modern APS systems, reactive armor, and layers of defenses. In this respect it is better than most comparable Western tanks," he says.

"That being said no tank is invincible, it is only more survivable. It's somewhat unclear how effective these defensive systems are against top-down attack missiles like the FGM-148 Javelin, which is expensive but effective," he adds