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Russian T-14 Armata The Ideal ‘Futuristic Tanks’ For The Indian Army, But Not Against China?

As India sets eyes on futuristic main battle tanks to phase out older ones, the Russian T-14 Armata Tanks could be the right pick, an Indian defense analyst believes. 

The Indian Army has recently issued a Request for Information (RFI) to procure 1,770 Future Ready Combat Vehicles (FRCV) by 2030. The FRCV could eventually become India’s main battle tank in the coming decades, replacing the existing Russian-made T-90 and T-72.

The proposed FCRV would have “state-of-the-art”, “technology-enabled” and “high mobility” features with an ability to operate in different terrains, such as high altitude areas, plains, and riverine borders as well as deserts, the RFI said.

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The prospective vendors for the FRCV have to respond to the RFI by 15 September.

In another RFI issued in April this year, the Army addressed the procurement of 350 light-weight tanks, weighing less than 25 tons under the ‘Make in India’ initiative, to “sharpen its mountain warfare edge” amid the ongoing Ladakh stalemate with China. Lightweight tanks are much more maneuverable and are operationally flexible.

Tanks act as a decisive deterrent and have tremendous war-fighting capabilities. It is natural for India to look for alternatives as the standoff with China is likely to continue.

The Chinese have deployed their T-15 lightweights up against India’s main battle tank T-90. A typical T-15 weighs 33-35 tons whereas a T-90 is a heavyweight of approximately 46 tons.

Why T-14 Armata Is A Good Option

The EurAsian Times earlier reported on the features of the T-14 Armata main battle tank and the possibility of India procuring it.

Equipped with the Active Protection System (APS), this next-generation battle tank can intercept and destroy incoming missiles and works against all types of anti-tank missiles.

File:9may2015Moscow-01.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
T-14 Armata Tank in Moscow: Wikimedia Commons

It was officially unveiled for the first time during the Moscow Victory Day Parade in May 2015 and the mass production for exports is expected to begin in 2021.

But what makes it special for India is its suitability for high-altitude warfare. Another report by The Eurasian Times said the T-14 is capable of operating in temperatures as low as -50 degrees.

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The EurAsian Times had also reported that Russia had offered ‘Sprut’ lightweight tanks last year amidst the India-China standoff. However, lightweight tanks didn’t feature in India’s demands then.

What Analysts Say

India has a familiarity with the Russian defense system which makes the process of transfer of technology easier and faster. A system of purchasing is already in place which makes it convenient for the Indian army to acquire weapons in such a case where time is of value,” Professor Rajan Kumar, who is associated with the Russian Centre at Jawaharlal Nehru University, told The EurAsian Times.

Indian has previously set up joint production with the Russians like in case of Brahmos missile; such an arrangement can be worked out for T-14 Armata that will also give a boost to India’s Make in India initiative,” he added.

The Russians know how to share their technology and so far, it has worked in India’s favor. But there is also a cause for concern. While India remains the primary recipient of the Russian arms exports (23%), its arch-rival China follows second at 18%.

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Russia has exported high-tech equipment, including the S-400 air defense system, early warning systems, and aircraft engines to China while the latter has successfully mirrored Russian technology and created domestic weapons.

The biggest challenge for India is the deepening Russian-China strategic and military ties. If the primary objective of acquiring a lightweight battle tank is to use it against China, then whether Russian-made Armata leaves India with any real advantage or not needs to be strategically calculated,” Professor Kumar said.

However, allaying such fears, Rajorshi Roy, an analyst with New Delhi-based Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, observed that a military alliance between Russia and China appears unlikely.

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“Russia has also sought to expand its engagements, without ruffling China’s feathers, with countries such as India, Japan, Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia which has witnessed tensions in their bilateral ties with Beijing. A military alliance under these conditions, therefore, appears unlikely,” Roy wrote in a research paper.

Contributed by Apoorva Jain