Russia is offering its T-14 Armata main battle tank (MBT) to India to secure a spot in New Delhi’s next-generation battle tank program.

Russia is ready to share T-14 MBT technologies with India’s next-generation main battle tank project, Vladimir Drozhzhov, deputy head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, said at the 2023 Aero India exhibition, the state agency reported. Russian news RIA Novosti.

The same source quoted Drozhzhov as adding, “The Russian side intends to engage in the collaborative development of the Indian main combat tank employing modern Russian technologies in the field of tank construction.”

According to Drozhzhov, India will soon publish an international tender for its next-generation MBT project, the details of whose the results of the bids will decide tactical and technological qualities.

The offer is likely in line with Russia’s efforts to salvage its embattled export-oriented defense industry, which faces multiple challenges, including reliance on selling updated but outdated Soviet-era designs, aging of talent, and Western sanctions imposed for his invasion of Ukraine.

Russia wants India to jump on its T-14 main battle tank.

There have also been reports that Russia is trying to recruit India to its Su-75 5th generation light stealth fighter program.

India doubts Russia’s ability to reliably supply aerospace components and payment issues due to Western sanctions, making it questionable whether Russia can convince India to participate in the program.

New Delhi is also likely to shy away due to its increasing use of indigenous military technology, diversification of global weapons suppliers, and indigenous 5th-generation fighter programs.

While Russia has little chance of convincing India to jump on its Su-75 light fighter program, it may have better luck persuading India to join its T-14 MBT project.

There is no doubt that Russia is seeking a place in India’s Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV) next-generation tank program, which aims to replace the 40-year-old T-72 and upgraded derivatives of the T-72s. 90, as well as finding alternatives to its troublesome indigenous Arjun tank. The program aims to introduce 1,700 units by 2030, The Hindu reported in an August 2022 article.

The report notes that the FRCV will have greater survivability against asymmetric threats such as loitering munitions and drones, an active protection system, and enhanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.

In addition, the Financial Times reported that India had sent a request for information (RFI) to different MBT manufacturers apart from Russia.

It looks like requests have been made for the Leclerc in France, the K1 in South Korea, the M1AX Abrams in the US, the Leopard 2 in Germany, the T-84 Oplot in Ukraine, the Ariete in Italy, the M-84 in Serbian Yugoimport, the Merkava in Israel, the Challenger 2 in the UK, and the Altay in Turkey.

Although India’s license-produced T-72 and T-90 remain the backbone of its armored forces, they face significant technical problems. In an article in The Times of India, he notes that India’s T-90 tanks broke down due to an apparent fan belt break during the International Army Games that year, leading to a major oil leak that caused India’s disqualification from the competition. 

Aside from those flaws, Huma Siddiqui points out in a Financial Times article that the T-90 suffers from “night blindness” in desert regions, as its night vision equipment does not work well in high temperatures.According to the report, the tank’s electronic systems have consistently failed in the desert heat.

Russia wants India to jump on its T-14 main battle tank.
India’s T-72 was deployed during the recent tensions with China on the Himalayan border of both sides.

However, the practicality of India’s homegrown Arjun tank remains questionable. The development of the Arjun tank in India began in 1972, according to an article by Kyle Mizokami published in The National Interest in November 2021. However, the tank wasn’t ready for production until 2009.

Based on his research, Mizokami concludes that India’s bureaucracy, red tape, and insufficient industrial foundation make it impossible to manufacture a high-tech main battle tank.

Furthermore, Mizokami claims that Arjun’s lengthy development time made important design decisions obsolete as battle tank technology improved.

He mentions the widespread adoption of technologies like global positioning systems (GPS), laser alert receivers (LAR), and non-explosive reactive armor (NERA), which were only mentioned in academic papers in the 1970s but became standard equipment by the 2000s and prompted several redesigns of the Arjun.

According to Mizokami, these advances led to a development spiral that lasted decades and turned the Arjun into a mediocre tank instead of a cutting-edge one.

India may find relief in the Russian T-14. According to Asia Times, the T-14 differs from other Russian main battle tanks from the Soviet era.

The 55-tonne T-14 is the first Russian tank with an unmanned turret. Its three-person crew is protected from fuel and tank ammunition by being contained in an armored capsule within the hull.

The tank is armed with a self-loading 125mm smoothbore main gun, a 12.7mm coaxial machine gun, and a 7.62mm machine gun mounted on a Remote Control Weapon Station (RCWS). 

It’s protected on many fronts with radar-deflecting paint, an infrared (IR) dampening cover (Nakidka) that’s optional, an active protection system (APS) called Afganit that has both hard and soft kill systems, and explosive reactive armor (Malakhit) (ERA).

For situational awareness, the T-14 features a 360-degree commander’s sight, thermal and night vision for the commander’s and gunner’s sights, a Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) camera for the driver, and several In-helmet cameras for 360-degree visual coverage.

 

Russia wants India to jump on its T-14 main battle tank.
The T-14 tank has not played a significant role in the Ukrainian war.

The T-14 is equipped with a diesel engine producing 1,500 horsepower; it is capable of network-centric operations and is made to function as part of an autonomous module consisting of combat and support vehicles.

At the same time, the T-14 has its own problems. For example, a January 2023 article stated that although Russia has worked to deploy a small number of T-14 tanks to Ukraine, deployed Russian forces were reluctant to accept the tanks due to their “poor condition,” and the Russian officers have publicly described problems with the T-14’s engine and thermal imaging systems.

According to the same source, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu referred to a 2022 manufacturing run of the T-14 as an “experimental-industrial” batch, which could imply that the tanks won’t be up to par with the norms for being declared operational.