According to a report issued by the Izvestia Daily news brief last month, the Russian military has announced that it began to train operators for both of the Armata platforms including the T-14 main battle tank (MBT) and the T-15 armored fighting vehicle. Beginning in early 2021, cadets will begin to undergo training to “control” the combat vehicles at two specialty military universities.
At the Kazan Higher Tank Command School, cadets will be trained to master the specialties of “crew commander” and even “tank platoon commander;” while at the Omsk Automotive and Armored Engineering Institute, cadets will receive training in the repair and operations of the Armata vehicles. The training at each of the military academies will reportedly take four years and the first graduates, who will be commissioned as lieutenants, are expected to begin operations with the Armata T-14 or T-15 beginning around 2025-2026.
Russia is apparently taking a high-tech approach to the training, and instead of sending out the cadets to gain experience in a very hands-on approach, the first cadets will be headed to the classroom and will began training on advanced computer simulators including the TVK-Armata, which will be used to drive the tank, and the fire support TOPK-Armata BM-S.
The simulators will be used to train all future crew and commanders as well as tank platoon commanders. It is unclear if these simulators will utilize augmented or virtual reality (AR/VR) or will be more akin to complex video games, but given the cost of the T-14 it is easy to see why the training will begin in the classroom rather than on a physical training ground.
The T-14 Armata is also a complex vehicle, which features fully digitized equipment, an unmanned turret and an isolated armored capsule for the crew. While it reportedly has advanced capabilities that could give it an edge over the United States Army’s M1 Abrams, it could require quite a learning curve to master all of the Armata’s systems.
“The tank has a lot of electronics,” military expert Viktor Murakhovsky told Izvestia
“The weapons are controlled by the so-called technical vision,” said Murakhovsky of the T-14 Armata’s advanced systems. “There is no direct monitoring through optical sights. The vehicle is integrated into the single tactical control. It carries the latest communication and navigation means. Major education is necessary for officers to know how it works and to correctly operate the hardware.”
The Russian military is also not going to rely on the stereotypical “grease monkey” to handle the maintenance and repair of its latest MBTs either. Instead of the Red Army approach that may or may not have involved a swift kick or the hit from a hammer to fix an engine, the Omsk school will be train cadets in the required high-tech maintenance.
This will include working with “cut-through” tanks, which will highlight individual components inside the vehicles. The Omsk Automotive and Armored Engineering Institute will also take a top down approach to future training, where newly minted officers will in turn help train the next batch of incoming students.
“The officers will have to not only master the management of the new equipment themselves, but in the future organize the training of soldiers in their units,” Murakhovsky added. “Senior students have at least a year to do it. They cannot fully master the vehicles in such a brief time, but will be able to avoid errors that can break down the hardware.”
The two programs will reportedly begin to train cadets with the T-14 MBT, which is set to enter service beginning next year, while the T-15 is still undergoing trials.
These cadets will of course not be the first true “operators” of the Armata platform. Russia has conducted field testing of the T-14 MBT in Syria this year, but given that one may have been destroyed by insurgent forces it is clear that perhaps a bit more training—including on the simulator—was necessary to ensure that this expensive hardware is used properly on the battlefield.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.