Monday, May 16, 2011

Controversy Around Tank: T-90 & T-95

by Ilya Kramnik

Permanent scandal is shaking the Russian defense industry and military officials of the Russian Federation in connection with the purchase of new armored vehicles, had reached its climax after the announcement of Land Forces Commander Alexander Postnikov of obsolescence of proposed designs. After that search for common ground has become inevitable. How it will be successful and where are the roots of today's critical situation in the domestic tank manufacturing?

There is no sadder story in the world ...

Problems with the park of national main battle tanks arose not yesterday - fundamental flaws in T-72, from which in fact T-90 has its roots, were understood by specialists before the collapse of the Soviet Union, and work  to create a new generation MBT began already in the 1980s. Part of the flaws - an outdated engine (development of the legendary V-2, which stood on the BT-7M, T-34 and KV) transmission lag in features sighting equipment and avionics could be eliminated through the development of new units. However, a number of flaws - namely, poor survivability of the crew in case of penetration of armor, and tightness in the tank, entailing fatigue in tankers, and other features that define layout and dimensions of T-72 demanded radical measures. Thus decided to construct a new tank, with a different approach to its layout, and other weight and size restrictions.

To obtain a new MBT till 1990s has been impossible - end of the Soviet superpower buried those plans, as well as many other projects, but the study of advantages/disadvantages of armored machines continued. The actions of our troops in Afghanistan and Chechnya, the Iran-Iraq war and the campaign in the Persian Gulf gave a lot of valuable information.

By the end of the 1990 it became clear that Soviet tanks which were designed to "overthrow English Challenger" in the case of the third world war, performed not too good in local conflicts. This case revealed precisely fundamental assembly deficiencies - low survival of crew and its increased fatigue in connection with the dense layout of machine.

"Since 2015, the Armed Forces will be a new main tank with fundamentally new tactical and technical characteristics"

Furthermore, in the conditions of catastrophic reduction of defense expenditure proved to be very essential and one additional flaw: in the Soviet tanks in comparison with the western contemporaries was the worse modernization potential. Radical improvement of technical characteristics, such as the modernization of Abrams M1 to M1A1 and M1A2 variants or create later versions Leopard 2 - 2A5, 2A6 and 2A7, for domestic machines require much more effort.

These disadvantages are compounded by a huge "species richness" of the Russian tank fleet inherited from the Soviet Union. Tens of thousands of tanks of various types, located on the storage bases with no hope ever to stand on line, hanging on the Russian Defense Ministry as dead weight.


... The story of the Central Committee

These unnecessary reserves of the Russian Federation was a result of Soviet style "Industry lobby”, whose influence grew all the years after the victorious conclusion of the Great Patriotic War and reached its peak after the arrival of the post of Defense Minister Dmitri Ustinov, who actually pushed aside servicemen from decision making in the sphere of the production of weapon.

A consequence of this approach was the variety of tanks in service platforms - by 1991 the Soviet army at the same time used T-54/55, T-62 T-64 T-72 T-80. In this case, multiply the options for each model: for example, T-80U with a gas turbine engine and Kharkov T-80UD boxer diesel. Many veterans of the defense remembers that time with nostalgia. Servicemen, especially those, for whom it was necessary in the parts of one division to derive three types of the tanks incompatible on the spare parts, reacted to these recollections disdainfully, but views of financiers, as usual, no one asked…

As the main platform of the Russian army have chosen the T-72. Such a step was decided by the higher cost of gas-turbine unit of Omsk T-80U and the increased demands of the tank to the qualifications of personnel. And in terms of economic disaster in the first half of the 1990s Ural Machine gained extra points.

In her favor does not mean the immediate withdrawal of T-80 with weapons - these tanks are in service now, but development of the platform has virtually stopped. Another loser was the "object 187”, also created on the basis of the T-72 and, according to several experts, greatly surpassing the "object 188"- the future of T-90. Reasons for choosing the "object 188" still uncertain, but the main motive is price of tank.

T-90 went into production in 1993. True, the word "series" will probably be too loud: the first years of registration (1993-1995) Russian army has received no more than 120 tanks, after which the production of T-90 for its own ground forces stalled for nine years. In the subsequent period of "military" part UVZ survived by exports of tanks, primarily in India.


Too expensive and complicated

About the "object 195", also known as T-95, has already been said a lot, but the main points of this story still to be a refresher. Work on radically new tank for the Russian Armed Forces resumed in the early 2000's, almost at the same time, when once again began buying the T-90.

T-95 is equipped with an uninhabited tower, and the crew of the machine is placed in an armored capsule separated from the turret and autoloader. This arrangement was supposed to dramatically improve the survival of the crew in case of penetration of armor, removing one of the main shortcomings of Soviet tanks.

And increased firepower by installing a 152-mm guns. The tank according to information released by the media handled over 60 tons, which necessitated the creation of a new engine.

Given the time have been formulated and hardware requirements MBT, which under modern conditions must interact with other units on the battlefield, receiving and transmitting information in real time. Protection and firepower of the tank makes it a natural "center" order of battle that determined the high demands for communication systems and controls and, of course, the qualifications of the crew.

Characteristics and cost of the T-95 influenced the result, and its fate - in the current environment, this project has become unaffordable task for the Russian industry and price of the machine proved to be prohibitive. Future tanks had to be created from scratch, taking into account the state of the domestic defense industry and opportunities for the country's economy.


Passion for T-90

Meanwhile, since 2004, T-90 once again went into the series for the Russian Armed Forces.First, they got one, and then, from 2007 - two battalion sets annually. Updating of the old machines by overhaul with elements of the modernization of tanks T-72, which was given the T-72BA, also occurred.

Around 2007 were made first public made claims of T-90. First of all, the military was not satisfied with the increasing price of the machine and maintaining the previously mentioned drawbacks of the tank. Producers from their side explained an increase in the cost by low production rate, by the rise in price of raw material and components.. However, if the second factor actually occurred, then the first was designed for deception of public: only volume of production T -90 for the export in 2001-2011 approached 900 machines, and taking into account internal order were about 1300units and to speak about the low production rate is here incorrect.. Over the past 10 years, T-90 is the most high-volume main battle tank in the world.

Part of the shortcomings of the T-90 has been eliminated: the new welded tower (inherited from the "Object 187") was shown to increase protection of the whole, and the French thermal imaging significantly raised the possibility of the tank to detect targets on the battlefield. However, there remains a claim to communication systems and management capabilities to the dynamic security protection and finally to the overall quality of the production of MBT. Partly these deficiencies were recognized and the leadership of Uralvagonzavoda, which made claims against the supplier of components that have a significant negative impact on the final product.

Nevertheless, the growth rates of T-90 and to save some image;  in general have led to the fact that in 2010 the Russian Defense Ministry has decided to waive the procurement of the tank in an existing form. The scandal,  which rotted on the pages of press, flared up & was worse than the forest fires, which enveloped Russia in hot summer. Gasoline into the fire it added the fact that by subject of the debate it became by no means only T-90: servicemen produced serious claims almost to the entire rule of technology and armament of ground forces.. Of the camp industry representatives to the subordinate, Anatoly Serdyukov accusations almost a willful undermining the country's defense and total incompetence. In turn, the leaders of the military department argued that the defense industry without the use of spending allocated to it is made, with a new approach to the equipping of the army declared its readiness to the procurement of foreign weapons.

The apotheosis of scandal became demarche of Commander-in-chief of ground forces mentioned above, who said that contemporary Russian tanks were inferior in their capacity machines than NATO countries, and often China, besides being unduly expensive. Made at a meeting of the Federation Council in the heat of the argument the statement was not meant for the press, but got into print, and the flames soared up to heaven.


The news of "Armata"

At the end of April in Moscow held a round table discussion with representatives of defense industry and military experts, which discussed the situation with T-90. Of greatest interest among other statements caused the words of Lieutenant-General Yuri Kovalenko, a former Deputy Chief Ministry of Defense of Russia. He confirmed that the creation in Russia of a new main battle tank under the code "Armata", representing the adaptation of the latest developments in this field to the capabilities of Russian industry.

"By 2015, the Armed Forces will have a new main tank with fundamentally new tactical and technical characteristics, with a new automatic feed ammunition to the crew accommodation in bronekapsule**, with removal of ammunition from the crew compartment", said Kovalenko. Among other innovations, he said high-capacity automatic loader, which will contain not 22, but 32 rounds for various purposes.

**”Every time I have seen this in the west in English it has been translated as armoured capsule in the front hull that is separated from the turret and autoloader and gun. The purpose is to increase the safety of the crew by not storing fuel or ammo in the armoured capsule with them.”

As an interim solution industry offers T-90AM, which must be demonstrated at the exhibition in Nizhny Tagil in the summer. Another modification of the T-90 will, as expected, a new tower with ammunition stowage be outside the crew compartment bronekapsule that will significantly increase the survivability of the machine. Dense arrangement of the tank, low ergonomics, lack of elevation angles / declination instrument are already corrected since the adoption of  "Armata".


Why Army MBT?

Does it make sense to invest in  the development of T-90 and other machines? This question is regularly asked not only by ordinary people but also some members of the expert community who say that today the value of tanks come to naught. However, despite regular attempts to "bury" MBT, and even armored vehicles as a class, the value of this technique is only growing.

"The experience of recent military conflicts has clearly demonstrated that the tanks retain the position of the backbone of any great army and played a crucial role in many ways on the battlefield. Moreover, in connection with the development of mine warfare and improved anti-tank weapons are now seeing a "renaissance armor" - says the director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Ruslan Pukhov. - Today we can talk about the beginning of a new phase in the development of heavy armored vehicles associated with the nomination at the heart of the requirements of security, achieved as a constructive development of defense and the passive and active protection systems. Significant place in this adaptation takes construction of tanks to operate in urban areas, so that any requirements to ensure protection of the circular, the specific development of surveillance and fire control equipment and auxiliary weapons, etc. ".

Commenting on the words of an expert, you can add that reducing the MBT fleet in the world only increased the demands to the capabilities of each machine, the value of which has risen sharply. Under these conditions, thousands of "tank hordes" in warehouses in the Siberian forests or the Arizona desert are all of equal importance. Increasing role played by the ability to create a modern machine that is able to act on the battlefield and equally effective to perform tasks in a local conflict, and a big war. New modification of the T-90 will be demonstrated already this summer, "Armata" - in the coming years. Soon we will get the answer to the question of whether Russia can build a machine on their own.


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