Modernization of Russian MBT inventory after Syrian conflict
The operation in Syria has revealed some drawbacks of serially produced armored vehicles. In order to fix them, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) has intensified the development of upgraded platforms, including the T-90M and T-80BVM main battle tanks (MBTs). At the same time, the previously developed T-90A has demonstrated very high protection performance.
BMPT-72 Terminator-2 (Picture source: Army Recognition)
In 2017, the Russian MoD adopted two new vehicles, namely the BMPT Terminator fire support vehicle and the updated T-72B3M tank. The Ministry also developed some programs to upgrade firepower, protection, and C2 capabilities of IFVs and APCs. The military is exploring the modernization and designing of main combat vehicles through 2030 and beyond.
The Uralvagonzavod (UVZ) research-and-manufacturing corporation (a subsidiary of Rostec) and the MoD have already signed a long-term contract for overhaul and modernization of some T-80 MBTs.
The upgrade of the T-80 to the T-80BVM standard will substantially enhance the vehicle`s combat performance. Russia`s defense analysts suggest the vehicle receive the Sosna-U multichannel sighting system with a laser range finder, a thermal imager and an automatic target tracker. The tank`s fuel consumption is believed to be reduced, while the lower limit of its operating temperature range will be extended to -50C°.
The Soviet Army adopted the T-80BV in 1985. It is a modified variant of the T-80B that features the Kontakt-1 ERA. The T-80BV weighs 43.7 t and is armed with a 2A46M-1 125 mm smoothbore gun with an ammunition load of 38 rounds. The tank can fire the 9M112 Kobra (NATO name: AT-8 Songster) and 9M119M Refleks (AT-11 Sniper) anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). The vehicle is powered by a 1,100-hp GTD-1000TF gas-turbine engine, producing a top speed of 70 km/h and a cruising range of 500 km.
In 2017, the Western Military District (ZVO) received the first batches of the T-72B3M tanks. The updated platform features a 1,130-hp diesel engine and an updated armament suite. The tank has also received a new targeting system with a digital system, rear view TV camera, Relikt ERA, bar-slat armor, and additional applique soft-shell ERA tiles.
According to the Military Balance 2017 analytical report issued by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the Russian military operates some 800 upgraded T-72B3 tanks. The vehicle has received a 2A46M-5 gun that can fire ATGMs. The tank features a modular ERA, dual-axis stabilizer, and automatic target tracker. The MBT`s sighting system allows the commander to detect a target at a distance of up to 4,000 m by day. The vehicle weighs 46 tons.
In 2006, the Relikt was brought into service with Russia`s Armed Forces and installed on the T-72B, T-80BV and T-90MS MBTs and the BMPT fire support vehicle. It features higher protection performance and serviceability compared with the Kontakt-5 ERA system. The frontal ERA tiles are integrated with a single module that can be easily replaced in the field. The Relikt`s effectiveness against armour-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot and tandem high-explosive anti-tank munitions has been increased in a substantial manner.
At the Army-2017 international military-technical forum held near Kubinka, the MoD and the UVZ signed contracts worth over RUB24 billion (USD400 million).
The BMPT Terminator-2 fire support vehicle was unveiled at a defense show in Nizhny Tagil in 2013. It features high firepower, protection, controllability and can effectively accomplish missions to support tanks and soldiers in all types of actions by day and night in all climatic areas. The Terminator-2 features better fire control and navigation systems compared with the basic model. The vehicle has a combat weight of 44 t. It is fitted with a powerful armament suite that comprises two 30 mm 2A42 automatic cannons with an ammunition load of 850 rounds and a 7.62 mm PKTM coaxial machinegun with an ammunition load of 2,100 cartridges. These weapons can effectively engage light armoured targets and manpower. The Terminator-2 also carries two twin missile launchers to engage heavily protected targets. The armament suite is located in an unmanned superstructure. The vehicle is fitted with an automated round-the-clock fire control system that incorporates a multichannel sight that can detect, recognize and engage targets.
The T-90M main battle tank is believed to be a modernized variant of the T-90MS MBT intended for Russia`s Armed Forces. The export-oriented T-90MS can operate round-the-clock under all weather conditions. The vehicle is armed with a 125 mm 2A46M-5 gun, which can fire ATGMs, and a PKTM 7.62 mm machinegun. The tank has received a modern fire control system that can recognize a tank-type target at a distance of up to 5,000 m. The T-90MS is fitted with an enhanced dual-axis weapon stabilizer and an automatic target tracker that can work in 'hunter-killer' mode, modular ERA and bar-slat armour in the rear. The tank has a maximum road speed of 60 km/h and a three-strong crew. It can cross water obstacles with a depth of 5 meters using a deep water fording kit.
Deputy Defense Minister General of the Army Dmitry Bulgakov emphasizes the role of ground forces in modern conflict. The counter-terrorism operation in Syria has apparently shown that even cutting-edge long-range high-precision weapons cannot ensure victory without involvement of land systems, so-called ‘boots on the ground’. Thus, tanks will remain the only weapon systems that are capable of seizing and keeping positions. Moreover, MBTs provide protection against existing and advanced weapons to dismounted infantry.