Amid the sea of drones and unmanned craft at Abu Dhabi's International Defence Exhibition, the tank remained an endless source of fascination.
Russia’s fearsome super-tank, the T-14 Armata, was on display as a model but that did not stop endless interest from arms buyers and media.
Streams of people visited the pavilion of Rosoboronexport, Russia’s official defence exporter, on the second day of the exhibition to see the T-14.
The fifth-generation Armata was first revealed to the public at a parade in Red Square in 2015, when one of the tanks appeared to stall – although organisers said it was planned and it left on its own power. That episode aside, it represents a step forward for tank technology and Russia’s armed forces are expected to start taking delivery of several units later this year.
It is primed as the main tank of the Russian armed forces for years to come and its makers say it is better than the T-90 – the current workhorse of the Russian army – the T-72 and comparable western models.
“It features a number of characteristics that make it possible to think it the most effective vehicle,” said a representative from UralVagonZavod, which makes the tank.
“In terms of firepower, how it manoeuvres and management – it is at a completely new level.”
The Armata has been one of the most talked-about innovations in Russia's new generation of armed vehicles in years. It is fitted with an array of fear-inducing weapons such as a remote-controlled machinegun, a main cannon that can fire missiles as well as shells and an advanced protection system that can counter rockets fired at it.
The tank, estimated to cost several million dollars per unit, weighs about 50 tonnes. Its powerful diesel engines can reach speeds of up to 90 kilometres per hour. The commander's viewfinder is located on top of the turret and offers a 360° look at the battlefield. The three-member crew sit in an armoured capsule at the front giving them extra protection. Its profile is low on the horizon offering extra protection against attack.
But not even the century-old tank is immune to the drive towards autonomous operation. The T-14’s turret is unmanned. A completely unmanned version has been mooted, and the Armata has been described as a major concern for Western armies with British intelligence viewing the unmanned turret as a threat.
“This is the future,” said the representative. “This is a huge step towards the making of an unmanned vehicle. It has a powerful gun, powerful high explosive armour and a completely digital control.”
When asked how it compared to the popular Russian T-72, he smiled and said: "Compare it with the DC Douglas Aircraft. That level. Russia has always been leading and is the leader of this sector."