RUSSIANS DEVELOP NEW-GENERATION MAIN BATTLE TANK

Ilya KEDROV and Sergei SOKUT


Russian experts have come up with the really unique new-generation T-95 main battle tank. It ought to be mentioned in this connection that similar Western tanks will appear only some ten years from now.

On March 16 it was officially admitted for the first time ever that Russia has developed the entirely new T-95 main battle tank. This was disclosed by the Russian Federation's Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev, after he had visited defense factories in Nizhny Tagil and Yekaterinburg. Sergeyev examined a full-size T-95 tank, while visiting Russia's leading tank-construction enterprise "Uralvagonzavod."

Sergeyev referred to the new tank as the T-95, thereby enabling analysts to hope that such tanks will eventually be adopted by this country's Armed Forces. As is known, all production tanks are designated accordingly, be it the T-80, the T-90, etc. Meanwhile all prototype tanks are designated as Mk No. ...

The Mk 95 tank's technical specifications, appearance and lay-out specifics still remain secret. Talking to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, a spokesman for the Uralvagonzavod factory noted that the new tank is an entirely new fighting vehicle, rather than a modified production-tank version. At the same time, some experts, foreign experts, in the first place, already know at least something about the new tank. The T-95, which weighs some 50 tons, will apparently have the same length and breadth as the current T-72, T-80 and T-90 tanks.

However, the new tank's lay-out is seen as its main attraction. The T-95's gun is mounted inside a rather small uninhabited turret. The tank's new automatic loading device, which is seen as a traditional component of Russian-made tanks, is located beneath the turret. The tank will be crewed by three men, e.g. a driver-mechanic, a gunner and a tank commander. Their respective battle-stations are to be found inside a special armored capsule, which, in turn, is separated from the automatic loading device and the turret proper by a special armored bulkhead. This engineering solution will make it possible to reduce the tank's profile, thus making it less conspicious on the battle-field and ensuring greater crew safety, too.

Such a lay-out enables one to overcome the main contradiction now besetting the modern tank industry, e.g. the need to combine reliable armor protection, mobility and transportability. The West has failed to solve this dilemma just because operational NATO tanks, i.e. the M-1-A-2 Abrams, the Leopard-2 and Leclerc, weigh more than 60 tons each. Consequently, the ground must be organized well in advance for the sake of using such heavy-weight warriors. Meanwhile Russia has decided to implement a somewhat different scenario, reducing armor thickness and installing optical-fiber/electronic devices, which make it possible to suppress anti-tank weapons systems, aboard its T-80 and T-90 tanks. Nonetheless, considering the adoption of more effective anti-tank weaponry, even this option was bound to lead into a blind alley, sooner or later.

In a bid to solve this problem, designers decided to drastically change the new tank's lay-out. By the way, Russian tank designers were the first to revolutionize the entire tank industry. Owing to its uninhabited turret, the new prototype Russian tank is far less spacious. Besides, it is renowned for thicker and more reliable armor. Consequently, it will become possible to ensure unprecedentedly great armor protection, without exceeding specific tank-mass restrictions.

According to experts, yet another extremely serious problem now bedevilling the Russian tank industry has been solved within the framework of the Mk 95 project. In a nutshell, the potential of existing Russian-made 125-mm tank guns, as well as that of Western-made 120-mm tank guns, has been completely depleted at this stage. Quite possibly, the T-95 tank's gun will have a caliber of 135 mm. In fact, this gun amounts to an entirely new, albeit smooth-bore, artillery system.

The new tank will also be fitted with a new fire-control system. All target-acquisition data will be fed through optical, thermo-visor and infrared channels. Apart from that, the tank's fire-control system will comprise a laser range-finder and, quite possibly, a radar.

The T-95 should not be perceived as the only new-generation Russian tank. In 1999 the so-called Mk 640 tank, e.g. the Black Eagle, which is the "brain-child" of the Omsk-based transport machine-building design bureau, was unveiled at an Omsk arms expo. That tank also boasts an entirely new running gear and turret. However, Omsk people decided to opt for an easier concept, while designing their tank. The Black Eagle's automatic loading device, as well as part of its entire ammo, are located inside a spacious niche, which, in turn, is to be found inside the inhabited turret's rear section.

There is no doubting the fact that the new Russian tank is much superior to all existing Western equivalents, as well as those specific Western tanks that will make their appearance within the next decade.

(Nezavisimaya Gazeta, March 17. Abridged.)

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