An official in the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defense warned in an internal document that a high-technology tank under development by Russia represents the "most revolutionary step change in tank design in the last half century."
The briefing document, viewed and reported by The Telegraph, indicates internal doubts about the U.K.'s defense strategy to counter Russia's Armata tank, prototypes of which were unveiled during the Victory Day parade in Moscow last year.
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"Without hyperbole, Armata represents the most revolutionary step change in tank design in the last half century," a top Army intelligence officer wrote in the internal document.
The five-page document was commissioned after Russia displayed copies of the Armata T-14 medium tank last May. The Russian defense ministry also published images of the tank on its website alongside other "advanced forward-looking military hardware" on display during the Victory Day proceedings.
The Telegraph further reported:
The tank is pioneering, according to the document, because of a revolutionary turret design that makes crew less vulnerable under fire.
The tank is also reckoned to be lighter, faster and lower in profile than Western rivals.
The document also suggests the tank will be kitted out with a radar system currently used on state-of-the-art Russian fighter jets and new composite armor. It has a "reported higher muzzle velocity" gun and the possibility of an upgraded missile system.
"As a complete package, Armata certainly deserves its billing as the most revolutionary tank in a generation," concludes the intelligence briefing paper.
"For the first time, a fully automated, digitized, unmanned turret has been incorporated into a main battle tank. And for the first time a tank crew is embedded within an armored capsule in the hull front."
News of the document comes amid rising tensions between Moscow and NATO, after the alliance moved forward with plans to bolster defenses on its eastern flank to counter Russian aggression. The document, which explicitly states that it does not represent an official statement from the defense ministry, raises questions about whether the U.K. should rethink its strategy to counter Russia's developments in military technology.
"Are we on the cusp of a new technological arms race? Has an understandable focus on defeating the single threat of IEDs distracted Western military vehicle designers? Challenger 2 [the British tank], with life extension programs, is currently due to remain in service until 2035. Is it time to rethink?" the document states.
It also notes that Russia is adding six other armored vehicles to its arsenal, in addition to the Armata.
The Russian defense ministry said in September that it had finalized a contract for the delivery of the first batch of 100 Armata tanks. The Russian government plans to acquire 2,200 additional such tanks over the next several years.