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Russia began mass production of the T-14 Armata main battle tank earlier this month, with plans in the works to create an export version. The new tank, which has been field-tested in Syria, was first unveiled to the public during the 2015 Victory Day Parade in Moscow.
Armata maker Uralvagonzavod may have already solved the biggest problem inherent to the creation of a remote-controlled tank, and the appearance of such a distinctive feature in the combat platform may prove an excellent way for Russia to attract foreign customers, National Interest contributor Peter Suciu suggests.
In an article on the subject, the defence analyst recalled the recent press statement by Uralvagonzavod at the ongoing ARMY-2020 arms expo that “the appearance of heavy unmanned combat vehicles is a matter of the near future”.
Speaking to Sputnik on the sidelines of the expo on Monday, a company representative confirmed that the T-14 had been tested in an unmanned mode.
The T-14, whose possible potential as an unmanned drone tank was revealed shortly after its unveiling in 2015, already boasts a number of automated features, including a remote-controlled main turret, digital control systems for movement and target tracking, and automatic activation of external defence systems to defeat anti-tank weapons.
Sputnik / Alexei Malgavko
The Tenth Russia Arms Expo. Day Two
At the same time, the Armata Universal Combat Platform on which the T-14 is based was designed from the start to allow for the incorporation of “network-centric warfare” technologies, that is, systems which would enable the armoured vehicle to carry out its mission remotely, and be used as a scouting, target designation and fire adjustment platform for artillery, anti-air systems and even other tanks.
Network-centric warfare, also called network-centric operations or net-centric warfare, is a military doctrine which was first introduced by military planners at the United States in the 1990s to take advantage of the rapid advances in information technology and computing power. In addition to autonomous and unmanned systems, the doctrine focuses heavily on the multimodal collection and analysis of data from the battlefield to try to secure a military advantage.
Situational Awareness: T-14’s Cameras Have That Covered
“One issue with any remote control vehicle is ensuring that distant operators are provided with ‘situational awareness’ but in this case, the T-14 may have that covered,” Suciu writes.
The observer points to the tank’s network of 360-degree wide-angle cameras, which are currently used to increase crew awareness of the battlefield, but which can presumably be converted for use by a remote operator. The same goes for the turret-mounted commander’s sight, which includes a digital direct-vision periscope and laser designator.
The Armata’s cameras aren’t simple, off-the-shelf products, either, but rugged military-grade components with zoom, heat sensing and infrared capabilities and the ability to operate in all weather and lighting conditions.
“If it is true that an umanned version is in fact in the works, then it is possible it is an attempt to help entice foreign customers,” Suciu suggests, pointing to the Russian defence industry’s recent move to begin marketing the tank.
In July, Dmitri Shugaev, director of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, the agency overseeing all military-technical cooperation between Russia and other countries, confirmed that the defence sector has already started promoting the T-14 Armata to potential foreign customers.
Last year, National Interest speculated that countries including India, China, Algeria, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates may be among the T-14 Armata’s first customers once an export version is made available.