Russia's new Armata tank appeared in public for the first time Monday, rumbling down a broad Moscow avenue on its way to Red Square for the final rehearsal of the Victory Day parade.
The Russian Defense Ministry last month released photographs of the tank, but its turret was covered with fabric and only the platform was visible. Monday was the first time that the tank was shown uncovered.
The Armata will be a highlight of the military parade on Saturday, the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. About 200 pieces of military hardware and 16,500 troops will take part in the parade on Red Square.
Russian and some Western military experts say the Armata will surpass all Western versions. The tank is the first to have an internal armored capsule housing its three-man crew and a remotely controlled turret with an automatic weapons loading system, features that allow for increasing both the level of crew protection and the efficiency of the tank's weapons.
The Armata designers also envisage the use of the same platform for several other machines, including a heavy armored infantry vehicle, a self-propelled heavy howitzer and combat support vehicle. This would cut production costs and streamline technical support and maintenance.
The pioneering design potentially puts the Armata ahead of Western competition, but it is yet unclear whether the Russian weapons industries will be able to meet the ambitious production plan for the new tank.
Under a major weapons modernization program, the military is reportedly set to receive 2,300 Armatas by 2020, but those plans may face revision with the Russian economy reeling under the impact of slumping oil prices and Western sanctions.
Oleg Bochkaryov, a deputy head of the Military Industrial Commission, a government panel dealing with weapons procurement, said last week that the Armata will enter service next year. He said the new tank will not be sold abroad at least for another five years.