From what I have read the Burlak program started out as a program to unify the components of the three main in service Russian MBTs, the T-72, the T-90, and the T-80s so that the engines and transmissions and other components including turrets etc would be the same to reduce the costs of ownership and simplify maintainence.
What it has become however seems to be a total upgrade of all the problems perceived with the T series tank fleet, ie new thermal sights (from France) one for the gunner and one for the commander, new communications and battle management systems, new navigation based on satellites, revision of ERA and armour to make it more effective, rearrangement of the turret to hold the extra equipment, additional autoloader so that no ammo is carried loose in the crew compartment at all.
The new standard will become the production standard T-90 for the Russian Army and also an upgrade standard for the existing T-90s and any other vehicles that will be kept.
All this talk of foreign kit has nothing to do with Russia importing stuff, and everything to do with Russian makers making foreign designs of learning foreign techniques under licence for local production.
The armour technology Russia is looking at buying from Germany is armour for light vehicles that is made of light metals. The problem is not heavy tank armour, it is armour for light vehicles only, and it is most likely to result in a Russian company buying a licence to make this new German armour in Russia rather than Germany making Russian light vehicles in the future.
Here is an article from a BLOG:
Т-90М. New Specs.
The new pictures and main specs of T-90M (ob.188M) were appeared on a Russian site. This tank was first time demonstrated for Putin in Dec.10 at N-Tagil. It has got:
- New bigger turret without weakened frontal areas and with the all-aspect ERA covering.
- ERA 'Relict'
- Additional roof protection against atop attacking munition.
- New additional autoloader, placed on the aft part of the turret and able using the new longer sub-caliber rods.
- Aft ammo storage.
- Panoramic 3-channel IR commander site with improved anti-split/rounds protection.
- 7.62 mm automatic turret instead of 12.7mm.
- Totally new 2A82 125 mm MG (2A46M5 - optional).
- FCS with the net-centric module.
- New radio.
- New navigation system.
- New anti-split kevlar layer instead of the standard Russian anti-neutron layer.
- new anti-fire system.
- Mono-block power unit on 1200 hp V-99 engine.
- Steering wheel control.
T-90M - is intended for the export purpose mainly. For domestic use there was confirmed 'Burlak' program with heavy Tomsk OKBTM's input.
Note the last line above.
Also before you say this is just a BLOG, so is this.
On this page:
(to make it work replace the . between igorrgroup and blogspot)
Which talks about a new compact Russian air conditioner for tanks.
Below that article shows a new turret design mockup for the Burlak.
Claims the Burlak program continue are supported by an interview with the guy in charge of the company that makes the T-90 and is developing the T-95. From memory he said that program will be completed by the end of this year hopefully.
I am reading the babelfish translation of this page:
but it seems to mention stuff I have mentioned too. It adds the external sights are redesigned to give better view and also reduce vulnerability to enemy fire. It mentions that while they lack money for the program that the simulators for the upgrade are being bought by the Russian Army.
It mentions new fire suppression systems and kevlar liners to reduce spalling of armour.
It mentions new ERA, repositioned armour to improve coverage and reduce weak spots, new engine with steering wheel control.
When the overall plans are this:
Tank design and performance, in addition to crew training, are becoming increasingly important at a time when Moscow has decided to reduce Russia's tank force from over 20,000 operational and reserve vehicles to 2,000 operational and 5,000-6,000 in reserve.
The T-90 has undergone continuous upgrades since it was first developed in the early 1990s on the basis of the latest modifications to the T-72/T-72B. It is the only mass-produced main battle tank in Russia.
Under the current state rearmament program, the Russian army is expected to receive about 1,500 tanks of this model. At present, the Russian Armed Forces have 500 T-90 tanks and receive 60 to 100 new tanks of this model each year.
So it seems their plans are probably to have 5 to 6 thousand tanks, of which 1,500 would be T-90s, which suggests perhaps a lot of T-72s will be upgraded:
In addition to the production of T-90 tanks, T-72 tanks continue to be modernized for the Russian Armed Forces. The T-72BA is currently the main modified version. Modernization programs streamline the fire-control system, enhance hull-bottom mine resistance by installing an additional armor plate near the driver's seat, standardize the platform and engine with the T-90 tank and improve the tank's armor.
An upgraded T-72 tank has considerably greater potential and meets modern tank requirements, while at the same time being far cheaper to produce than a new T-90 tank.
So lets say 6 thousand tanks of which 1 thousand 500 will be T-90s and the other 4 thousand 500 or so will be cheaper upgraded T-72BAs.
With two thermal imagers in the T-90s they will be the expensive tanks so spending money on a Burlak upgrade makes sense for only 1,500 of your fleet.
The upgraded T-72s can use cheaper Russian thermal sights so they are day and night capable, but over time as production continues of the French thermal sights they can be added (where it is worth it of course... the Russian sights might get upgraded to the point where replacement with french designed sights is not necessary) during routine overhauls.
The point is that you want standardisation.
You want your T-72BA units to be able to communicate with your T-90 units with the same comms gear and the same sort of electronics.
The real expensive stuff like French thermals can go in the T-90 and cheaper Russian thermals in the T-72BA, but at the end of the day if you can create an upgrade that makes the T-90 more similar to the T-72BA then it makes a lot of sense.
The whole purpose of withdrawing the T-64s and T-80s is because they are less like the T-90s than the T-72BAs.
A unified upgrade you apply to your entire fleet as you can afford it makes a lot of sense.
A bit like with aircraft for the 50 new aircraft you buy you can also upgrade 200 of the airframes in best condition to a better standard. If you want to go all new, then you can have 80 new aircraft and no upgraded aircraft for the same price.
Unless you have bottomless pockets with lots of money to spend then upgrades are a good way of keeping numbers at minimal cost while still improving the performance of the fleet.
It seems the problem is the Strategic Rocket forces, the Airforce and the Air Defence Forces are getting the lions share of the budget for the next decade and the Navy and the Army will have to make do with upgrades.
(from here: http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20100603/159294042.html )
This is understandable you can't replace everything all at once, and have to set priorities.
Delaying the T-95 (ie I am referring here to the tank that eventually replaces the T-90 in Russian Army service as the standard Russian MBT, not the particular model currently developed) will only result in the final product being better.
Hopefully its cost will reduce as the various technologies mature and with domestic production of high technology hopefully the Russian content of the design can be increased to the point where it is more Russian.
I would think if only 1,500 T-90s are to be produced for the Russian Army and 1/3rd are already in service that an upgrade to unify them to make them more compatible with each other and the other vehicles in the Russian fleet would make a lot of sense.
Money set aside for tooling up and production of the T-95 can be spent on upgrading all the T-90s to Burlak standard and some aspects can also be retrofitted to existing T-72BA vehicles to improve their performance, ie the same ERA and engines and guns and transmissions and anti spall armour etc etc.
When was the last time the tanks of the Russian army were one calibre?
125mm can be standardised for all Russian tanks and all the stocks of the 100mm smoothbore, and 115mm smoothbore can be sold or destroyed.