So, how good are the TOW-2A’s chances? Against a wire-guided system, the T-14’s soft kill system will work if the Armata’s radars are effective and the crew is quick enough to move the tank to a new position while the missile is in flight. The active-kill system, however, might have a good chances of taking out the missile if it’s as good as it’s cracked up to be. Relikt ERA will likely further complicate the missile’s chances of penetrating. Even without that, whether the TOW-2A’s shaped charge can penetrate the frontal armor is looking dicey. The bottom line is multiple missiles might be required for one to get through.
What about the wireless top-attack TOW-2B? The Afganit active protection system, mounted on the turret side, doesn’t appear useable against it. The Relikt ERA will also be less effective, and the top armor will likely be easy to penetrate.
In any event, there is a good chance that turret penetrations of the T-14 will knock out the vehicle’s offensive capabilities but allow the hull with the crew to escape intact.
It remains to be seen how many T-14s will be brought into service—right now only 100 are slated for production. While the number will doubtlessly increase, it’s uncertain to what extent Russia will attempt to replace its older T-72BV3 and T-90 tanks.
In the end, the T-14 appears to boast some decent defenses against the TOW, particularly the TOW-2A, but how well they will work in combat is a question even the American and Russian manufacturers can only guess at. As is always the case in matchmaking, you can theorize all you want, but only a real close encounter will reveal the truth. Let us hope, then, that never the twain shall meet.
Sébastien Roblin holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.
Image: Main battle tank T-14 object 148 on heavy unified tracked platform Armata. Wikimedia Commons/Vitaly V. Kuzmin