The Russian Ministry of Defence’s (MoD’s) 7 September announcement that it was revising plans to permanently remove 10,000 armoured vehicles from its inventory and upgrade T-80 and T-90 series main battle tanks (MBTs) could jeopardise the future of the Armata programme. The announcement together with the reduction in potential orders for the T-14 MBT and the continued decline in Russian defence spending have led some sources to claim that the Armata programme has been cancelled.
Under previous plans, 10,000 reserve vehicles, made available after downsizing the Russian armed forces, were to be melted down by 2020. The revised plan stated that only 4,000 vehicles would be broken down, with the remaining 6,000 kept as a strategic reserve. Russia also plans to upgrade the T-80 to the T-80BVM standard and the T-90 to the T-90M standard as part of a USD417 million contract signed earlier this year. The T-80BVM includes a significant armour upgrade, and the T-90M appears to incorporate many of the improvements from the T-14, such as the commander’s sight with an integrated remotely operated weapon station.
Initial development of the Armata started out with high hopes, but estimates of the number of vehicles to be procured have plummeted downwards since the T-14 and T-15 were unveiled. In 2015, UralVagonZavod (UVZ) CEO Oleg Sienko announced that 2,300 vehicles would be produced by 2020. In 2016, Deputy Defence Minister Yuri Borisov announced the far more sober figure of 100 before 2020, and later in the year, this figure fell to just 70 vehicles, due by the end of 2019. Borisov’s latest announcement, in August 2017, restates his figure of 100 vehicles by 2020, although this presumably includes the approximately 20 vehicles currently undergoing trials in the Russian armed forces.
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