According to reports provided by Popular Mechanics, Russia’s latest tank set to begin testing in 2019, the T-14 Armata, will be equipped with anti-tank missiles capable of engaging targets as far away as seven miles, a significant advantage over America’s new workhorse tank, the M1A2 SEP V3 Abrams set to begin fielding in 2020.
The T-14 Armata’s 125-millimeter main gun has been designed like previous Russian tanks to be able to fire anti-tank missiles. The T-80 was the first, equipped with 9M112 Kobra HEAT projectiles that could cover 2.5 miles and penetrate tank armor up to 700 millimeters thick. Current anti-tank missiles employed by Russian military have a range of 3.1 miles and the potential to destroy targets through up to 900 millimeters of armor – but a new missile, called the 3UBK21 Sprinter, is in development for use in the T-14 that boasts a maximum range of over seven miles and has as yet unannounced armor penetration capabilities.
Compare that to the primary weapon on an American M1 Abrams, which is a 120-millimeter smoothbore gun capable of engaging targets at a maximum range of 2.48 miles (in some models). That places the effective range of the Armata’s new missile at nearly three times that of America’s most advanced tanks.
Of course, the M1 Abrams’ reactive armor, reinforced with depleted uranium, is widely considered to be the best protection a modern tank can muster. When coupled with the Active Protection System the army is planning to install on their tanks, it could potentially render the T-14’s range a moot point. The APS system will use front facing radar arrays to actively detect, track, and intercept incoming rockets or missiles. The system is currently still under development, as designers work to find ways to integrate defensive projectiles launched by their tanks into a strategy that allows for American troops to operate near to the tanks without being put at risk.
It is believed that the existing armor on the M1 Abrams may already be a formidable opponent for the shaped charge of the 3UBK21 Sprinter anti-tank missile, meaning the inclusion of new active defenses in conjunction with American’s advanced armor may work to offset the strategic advantage allotted by the Sprinter’s superior range. The Russian tank commander’s inability to target via direct line of sight at such long distances could also prove a limiting factor, unless Russia develops a targeting method that employs satellites or airborne reconnaissance to pinpoint tanks beyond their visual scope.
Some have postulated, however, that the Sprinter missile launched from the T-14’s main gun may also serve as an effective anti-aircraft weapon, particularly for attack helicopters such as the Apache, employed by the U.S. and a number of its allies.
The T-14 Armata has already drawn the attention, and the concern, of NATO allies who see it as a real risk to America’s Abrams, Germany’s Leopard, the UK’s Challenger 2, and France’s Leclerc. Each of these battle tanks, while considered modern and extremely capable, could find themselves facing a far more dangerous opponent if Russia manages to muster an entire fleet of Armatas. Of course, doing so may be a challenge under the current economic cutbacks Russia’s military is facing. At around $8 million per tank, Russia’s proposed fleet of 2,300 T-14 Armatas may be a bit far-fetched – but only time will tell.
Image courtesy of Popular Mechanics
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