Russian Builder of T-14 Armata claims it has radar and infrared invisibility

Armour specialists from both Russia and the United States are sceptical of recent claims made by the enterprise that produces Russia’s new T-14 Armata MBT that the tank is essentially “invisible” to radar.

The claim was made by the director of the Nizhi-Tagil-based UralVagonZavod (UVZ) plant, Vyacheslav Khalitov, on Ekho Moskvy radio on 3 July.

“We essentially made the invisible tank,” said Khalitov. He also elaborated on the tank’s internal arrangement, stating that key “emitters” that normally make other tanks vulnerable to current-generation anti-armour weapons are fitted as far as possible into the interior of the Armata to reduce its infrared (IR) signature.

About the tank’s own radar signature, Khalitov said the T-14’s hull is coated with special radar-absorbing paint and other materials and appliqués that make it difficult to be detected.

A retired US army flag-rank officer who was involved at the senior levels of AFV development – including that of General Dynamics’ M1 Abrams MBT – has analysed the T-14 design and other claims regarding its signature reduction and told IHS Jane’s , “These claims would have to be proven. Placing heat-generating components ‘deep inside’ in the vehicle won’t help; modern thermal technology is very sensitive and when the tank is moved, or a weapon is fired, or a person is exposed, the thermal signature will light up. Plus, no matter where the engine is, when an engine big enough to move a 40- to 50-ton tank is fired up, it will have a signature.”

Russian specialists familiar with radar signature reduction techniques told IHS Jane’s that “most of this kind of research in Russia has been performed with an eye towards application to aircraft – in order to reduce a signature as seen from another aircraft’s radar set or a SAM [surface-to-air missile] radar station. This technology is not optimised for protecting ground targets from air-to-surface attacks.

“What you are trying to do in reducing a radar return for these scenarios is also very different,” one said. “For airborne targets you are trying to reduce an RCS [radar cross-section] to make a lock-on more difficult. For ground targets you would be trying to make a tank indistinguishable from ground clutter. These two do not necessarily overlap in how you approach them.”

In addition to its signature reduction modifications, the T-14’s other self-protection features include a new-generation self-protection system that integrates its Malachit exploding dual-reactive armour with an active protection system, designated Afghanit, that employs a millimetre wave radar to track incoming anti-tank weapons and initiate countermeasures. The T-14 also relies on composite, layered armour similar to that used in the M1.