Russia Will Unveil 'Next Generation' Armata T-14 Tank on Victory Day

This is the first new tank built by Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union. Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters

Russia's got a brand-new tank.

On Monday, Russia displayed its Armata T-14 tank during the final practices for the Victory Day parade that will take place in Moscow on Saturday. The parade will commemorate 70 years since the end of World War II and the Allied defeat over Nazi Germany. The tank has been rolling through the streets of Moscow in rehearsals for the past week.

The Armata is significant because it's the first new tank Russia has come up with since the fall of the Soviet Union. Previously, the military had tweaked and updated old Soviet-era tanks.

"It says something about Russian military-industrial capacities, which is one reason why they're willing to make a big splash of it," said Mark Galeotti, professor of global affairs at New York University.

Images of the Armata tank, as well as other armed vehicles, have been posted on the Russian defense ministry's website. Images of the tanks taking part in a nighttime rehearsal for the Victory Day parade have also been shared.

About 100 tanks will make their official public debut on May 9 in Moscow's Red Square, according to the Russian news agency TASS. Kurganet-25 infantry fighting vehicles will also be displayed as part of the convoy in the parade, which will feature around 16,500 Russian troops and 200 pieces of military equipment, the Associated Press reports.

"They're debuting it now because that way you get the maximum story out of it," said Galeotti. By gradually showing pieces of the tanks—photos of the tanks rehearsing for the parade see the prominent armed turret covered with tarpaulin—builds up hype and makes sure the story doesn't get lost among Saturday's parade pageantry.

Russian servicemen operate the Armata main battle tank during a rehearsal for this year's Victory Day parade in Moscow. Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

Tension between Russia and Western countries over the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine means several international leaders will be no-shows at Saturday's parade. U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will not be attending. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was expected to attend, but recently canceled his trip. Cuban leader Raul Castro is expected to attend. The U.S. will be sending John Tefft, the ambassador to Russia.

Trials for the Armata tanks will begin in 2016 and the defense ministry hopes development of the tanks will be completed by mid-2016, Oleg Bochkarev, a deputy chairman of the board of the Russian Defense Industry Commission, told Russia's Ekho Moskvy radio station last month. Trials will take place in both the Arctic and warmer regions, he said.

The Armata tanks are the first tanks to include a remote-controlled armed turret "to deal with various targets, including low-flying aerial targets, such as attack planes and helicopters," Russia Today reports. The crew is stationed in an armored capsule at the front of the tank's hull, while the turret remains unmanned. "In that respect, the Russians have leapfrogged into the next generation of design," said Galeotti.

There are, however, problems. For all the military might the Armata represents, Russian armored vehicles have a tendency to look better than they fight, says Galeotti. Some on social media have also suggested the Armata tanks that have been seen in public so far are mock-ups, parts of which might even be made of cardboard or a similar material. It's possible that the Armatas might not be ready for Saturday's big parade, which will likely be the last major World War II anniversary in Russia to be celebrated by living veterans of the conflict.

The debut of the Armata tanks shouldn't worry the U.S.; while it will probably be an effective tank and bring Russia closer to parity with the West in terms of its military prowess, it's not a game changer, says Galeotti.

"There are still questions. The Russians are good at proclaiming new breakthroughs. Almost all of these new weapons systems over the past 10 years have actually come out late," said Galeotti.

Tanks are also relative dinosaurs in the age of modern warfare. While they look good in a parade and are large and intimidating, spying, drones, well-trained light infantry and cyberwarfare will form the battlefields of the future, says Galeotti.

Twenty tanks, which will be used for practical training, have been included in Russia's 2015 defense order, International Business Times reports. Eventually there will be 2,300 tanks.