The Mil & Aero Blog
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
  Russian T-95 main battle tank: could this combat vehicle be more formidable than we thought?

Posted by John Keller

I wrote about a new Russian main battle tank (MBT) more than a year ago, the T-95, in a blog headlined "New Russian battle tank: it's beginning to look a lot like the '80s." In this blog I wrote of a chilling sense I had about what felt like a return the bad old days of the Cold War between the United States and the then-Soviet Union. This T-95 tank which is supposed to enter service this year with its advanced vetronics, appears to be one of the most advanced war machines ever produced.

This blog generated some comment, particularly from an alert reader who calls him or herself NERO. This reader says, with some authority, that the introduction of the Russian T-95 main battle tank could be worse for Western powers than originally thought, and could bode ill for the West on a variety of military issues. You can see the original blog for NERO's initial comment. For now, I'll let NERO speak for himself:

"Hmmm! As an earlier post of mine keeps being re-quoted in the dialogues of a number of forums, you may as well have a look at this as well. I notice with amusement, the reference to General Dynamics Land Systems and TACOM in your article.

Back in the days of the Crusader System Project, both TACOM and United Defense Systems (now part of BAE Systems) were approached regarding this powering technology -- before the Russian military indicated they wished to evaluate the technology.

Like all other American institutions and manufacturers, nobody wanted to know about this work. Interestingly all of the work-ups that were provided to the Russians were based on the Crusader self-propelled artillery system and the M1A1 Abrams tank -- the original systems for which land warfare applications had been configured.

The Russians simply had to cross platforms to their smaller-chassis systems. At 1,500 horsepower, even the power level of the T-95 is the same as that which had been proposed for the Crusader and M1Al Abrams.

As I recall, during the existence of the Soviet Union, the massed tank forces of the Soviet Union, were one of the greatest concerns of NATO. Not realised at that time, but as confirmed by subsequent testing post the Soviet era, NATO had no weaponry capable of penetrating the combined ballistic and ERA armor of a Soviet tank of the period; this remains the case to this day and with the upgraded form of ERA, not even the projectiles of the guns of the various marks of Abrams MBT of the USA Army, are capable of improving this situation. This situation is the same for depleted uranium projectiles and tungsten penetrators, there is simply nothing out there that can be fired at a T-95 on the move, that will knock it out; unless you wish to consider a tactical nuclear weapon.

Consider the implications of a new Russian tank force, with an un-refuelled range better than three times that of any previous equivalent MBT, that cannot be countered by conventional weaponry. Perhaps you will then understand why Mr. Putin moved to withdraw from the Conventional Forces in Europe, accord. The Next Generation Equipment of the Russian Army is specifically a trump card situation. With the existence of this equipment, any conflict in which NATO openly confronts Russian land warfare forces, must be a nuclear action and as this equipment is specifically performance oriented, with deployment directly from a barracks situation, any attacking force would be well into the bordering European states, before NATO could react. What European government is going to authorize NATO to undertake a nuclear action within it's own territory. Russia is going to retake it's former satellite states, one way or the other; if for no other reason than to remove the threat of NATO missile strikes from within those states.

One day, in the not too distant future, Russia may publicly demonstrate the superiority of the T-95 MBT and the balance of the associated next generation equipment of the Russian Army's land warfare equipment and pointedly, the inability of NATO to counter this equipment with non-nuclear weaponry. At this point, Russia need only announce it's annexation of it's former border states and simultaneously, deploy these advanced combat systems within these former Soviet satellites, and there will be little that can be done about it. Ask yourself this question, will the various European governments risk nuclear war with Russia, to preclude the return of these former Soviet territories, to the Russian sphere of influence?

I think not.

And something you should also know, much of the land warfare component of the next generation equipment of the re-armed Russian Army, is going to be in the form of very advanced land warfare combat robotics. At this point it is salient to mention, the T-95 is both the most advanced MBT ever built, and the most formidable land warfare combat robotic ever deployed. Development of equivalent or superior systems, is the only non-nuclear counter to Russia's introduction of these systems, and the key to this is the development of the power plant and power-train system that is the enabling component of all these next generation land warfare systems. The opportunity to develop the equivalent powering system, is the first step down the path to countering the dominance of Europe by Russia; what Russian interests remain unaware of is the ability to produce a far more fuel efficient and powerful power plant, based on the system they are already aware of. This is much more than a commercial opportunity. Gentlemen, feel free to raise this matter with Angela Merkel, it holds the potential to counter Russia's dominance over Europe. Have no doubt of this: the era of computer-game-style robotic conflict is already upon us. Don't let Europe fall too far behind in this, or you may never get a chance to recover the lost ground.

For the record, in a less hostile time, I not only provided the original powering concept for what has become the T-95 MBT, but also wrote the original concept papers on it's mode of operation, within a range of combat scenarios; these have also been adopted by the Russian Army and the early production versions of the T-95 MBT have been deployed to operational training units, to refine these integrated procedures.

You should also be aware, the re-armed Russia is going to be re-aligned as a very much high tech military. Long gone are the days of reliance upon conscripts and massed formations; or hasn't anybody noticed the shift in policy, regards the priority, previously given to ballistic missile systems? Russia is rapidly developing a first strike capability, based upon supersonic cruise missiles and in the near future, you can expect the Brahmos joint venture to roll out the first hypersonic cruise missiles. There is a new arms race, but somehow, most observers seem to be missing the indicators and the implications of the shift in policy, as does NATO and the military of the former Western alliance.



-- Posted by John Keller,

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Thomas Kelly responds to NERO's Russian T-95 tank analysis; response placed by John Keller

I just wanted to weigh in quickly on the, well, absurd article that was written by NERO about the T-95's formidable capabilities -- that this next-generation main battle tank was somehow an unstoppable juggernaut.

The article then goes on to describe how the tank's existence alone could lead NATO to make a tough nuclear decision when the Soviets take back their ex-Eastern Bloc territories because of this trump card. Did NERO forget Superman is on our side? Surely the Man of Steel would not stand idle while the Russians bulldoze their way into Europe.

Fantasy? Yeah, just like stating that the T-95 is invincible; it's not. I hadn't read an article that warhawked that hard in a long time.

And the kicker is that this month's magazine had a feature on the new 15-ton bunker buster super bomb. I wonder if that could penetrate the T-95s armor?

In any case, your publication is informative and helpful. Just kind of felt like that point of view was kind of comical.

-- Thomas Kelly
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