We’ve spent some time earlier talking about remote turrets in our analysis of the Land 400 finalists. The German Lance turret is a pretty solid design. The Russians have a fancy new remote turret too. They don’t need to make a design with a bunch of different option s for export, so they settled on a somewhat different feature set. It’s in use on the T-15 Armata Heavy IFV and the Kurganets 25 IFV, so let’s take a look.
Unlike most other remote turrets, this new turret, called the Epoch, is pretty big. Russian big. It also contains a whole bunch of lessons from Russian experiences in Chechnya, as well as American experiences in Iraq. Epoch holds ATGMS, a 30×165 mm cannon and a 7.62x54R mm machine gun. And it’s loaded with ammo. The Bradley’s designers would be proud and jealous. There are 500 (no that’s not a typo) ready rounds of 30 m ammo, plus 2,000 ready rounds of 7.62x54R. Lots of ammo is good. The Russians have tended towards large ammo capacities, and just in case they had second thoughts, watching the American Bradleys go Rambo with their 300 rounds of 25 mm in Iraq convinced them that combining an HE firehose with staying power is aweseome. Reloading is for chumps. For the 30 mm, there’s a 340 round magazine and a 160 round magazine, and a dual-feed system for the 24A2 autocannon. We’d expect the bigger magazine to hold HE.
The autocannon and the coaxially mounted machine gun are both biaxially stabilized, and the turret is electrically driven. More interestingly, the Epoch is designed for high angle fire. This isn’t for indirect fire, this is because the Russians remember insurgents in Grozny hiding on the upper floors of buildings. That’s no place to hide now.
Additionally, the Epoch has provision for four Kornet-EM launchers, with two tubes on either side of the turret. I’m somewhat torn here. On the one hand, these are modern missiles, and four is the right number of missiles. More is better. On the other hand, while it has a relatively large tandem warhead, the Kornet is a laser-beam riding, SACLOS-guided missile that takes a direct flight path. It isn’t top-attack, and that’s just lame. Javelin or Spike would be better here. Even the newest TOW model, the TOW-2B, has an overflight top-attack profile. I really don’t like the idea of directly attacking enemy armor, now that the turret might automatically be rotated to present the strongest armor, and how light composite arrays and multilayer ERA arrays are getting. We’ve just had a nasty urban warfare campaign in Iraq which has convinced everybody to augment the side armor of their tanks. Time for some cleverness in your missile design, KBP.
The Epoch has two obvious sighting units, one for the gunner and an independent one for the commander. They appear to have day and thermal viewing units plus laser rangefinders. I don’t know the magnification levels, and I also don’t know how good the thermal viewers are. Historically, this hasn’t been something the Russians are good at. I don’t know if the sensors are quietly being provided by the French, or if the Russians have finally figured things out. This is probably not a dealbreaker though; as I mentioned in the T-14 review, it’s easy enough to change these out.
Moving on to other questions, the protection levels aren’t published, and don’t appear to be all that heavy. Probably good against machine gun fire and shell fragments, but not much else. This is acceptable, given that it’s unmanned. More protection would be better so a support fires kill by enemy IFVs is harder to achieve. It’d be hard to augment it much further given how many systems are externally mounted.
Overall though, this turret is a really good design. I like built-in combat persistence, and most of my serious gripes would be easy enough to work around. Here’s another good, modern design.