The Abrams has for decades been considered the world's premier tank. However, experts say that the T-14 Armata, a next-generation platform that the Russians are developing, could challenge some aspects of the Abrams' supremacy.
The U.S. tank of today looks much like the same one that was developed in the 1970s, but it has undergone upgrades that continue to make it a formidable presence on the battlefield, according to a report titled, "The Army Modernization Imperative: A New Big Five for the 21st Century," which was released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
"The current version of the Abrams tank--the M1A2 System Enhancement Program v2 Abrams--is a behemoth of a machine. Featuring steel-encased depleted uranium armor, the Abrams has been described as nearly indestructible," wrote authors Rhys McCormick and Andrew Hunter.
At the same time, Russia is investing in the T-14 Armata which is being touted as a next-generation battle tank with advanced weapons, protective systems and an unmanned turret. Moscow plans to build 100 platforms by 2020, said Yury Borisov, the country's deputy defense minister, according to a report by the TASS news agency. The tank is currently undergoing operational testing.
The Abrams--which weighs in at more than 71 tons and can drive at speeds topping 42 mph thanks to a powerful turbine engine--is superior to any tank that Russia currently deploys, including the T-72B, T-80 and T-90, the CSIS report said.
However, there are certain design characteristics of both the Abrams and Russia's tanks that could shrink that gap, it said.
While the United States' battle tank relies on heavy armor for protection, the Russian fleet is made up of smaller, lighter platforms that use countermeasures such as active protection systems to shoot down anti-tank guided missiles and rocket-propelled grenades.
Russian active protection systems are effective "against most current-generation direct-attack anti-tank guided missiles, offsetting some of the differences in the lack of armor, but struggle against the FMG-148 Javelin in top-attack mode," the report said.
A robust APS that is baked in from the start is likely to be a key component of the T-14 Armata, said David Johnson, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
With "the T-14... you're not trying to bolt on active protection," Johnson said. "You've...