Russia’s T-14 Armata Tank Not Ready for Potential Conflict in Ukraine – Russia’s next-generation T-14 Armata tank has been called a paper tiger since it has endured delay after delay since its unveiling at a military parade in 2015. Often promised that it is going to the troops soon, it does not appear the tank is ready for combat against Ukraine in an invasion conducted by Russia – if the military incursion happens. However, if Russia keeps a permanent supply of troops and military hardware arrayed around Ukraine, which appears increasingly likely, the new tank could make an appearance at the front around 2023.
When Is This Tank Going to Be Ready?
But there has been a long litany of promises made and promises broken about the T-14. The claims have been dizzying.
Russian tank manufacturer Uralvagonzavod first said the T-14 would be delivered in 2018. Then the distribution of the first nine tanks would come in 2019. After this date came and went, the leadership said 20 would be tested and 80 would be ready by the end of 2021. Then that claim was changed to 20 being introduced. An additional optimistic statement said that Armata would enter serial production in 2022. Now we find out that much more testing will be required and the tank won’t be ready until after 2023. Are You Confused Yet?
On Paper The T-14 Armata Has Many Big Advantages
Russia’s new T-14 Armata could be quite the beast if it ever gets to a battlefield. Like American and Western tanks, it has a lower silhouette to make it a more difficult target to hit. One interesting design aspect about the T-14 is that the three-person crew sits in another armored compartment in the front of the tank away from the 125mmm smoothbore gun and ammunition storage. They depend on an autoloader.
Keep the Crew In a Different Compartment
The crew compartment is comprised of multilayer armor for better crew survivability. This reportedly could defend against a hit of nearly any type of round from tank fire. The forward section of the Armata is protected with an active defense system that is made to block anti-tank munitions from guided missiles, rockets, and rocket-propelled grenades.
The T-14’s “Mantiya” masking system features a radar-absorbent coating that the manufacturer claims will hide the tank from detection. The Armata has improved sensors, new communications equipment, and it includes an active electronically-scanned array radar.
How Does the Crew See?
The wide-angle cameras give 360-degree all-round imagery for the crew, with the commander’s sight on the turret also providing a full field of view. The gunners have a periscope and laser designator. The cameras deliver heat sensing and infrared targeting. This system is good in all weather conditions and in night and low visibility environments.
It’s Reported to Be a Fast Tank
The T-14 Armata weighs 48-tons and can scoot at 55 miles per hour on roads. If that speed is true, it would be faster than a T-90 and an M1A1 Abrams. With a 1,500 horsepower engine, it has a range of at least 311-miles.
The T-14 Armata is not just a tank. It is meant to be an all-around platform for a new armored personnel carrier and other types of combat vehicles. Since the program has been so delayed, it doesn’t look like those vehicles will be ready any time soon.
Overall Cost Will Keep the T-14 Armata From Being Produced in the Thousands
Twenty T-14 Armatas, even if they were ready today, would not make a huge difference on the battlefield in Ukraine if the invasion actually takes place. This program is still in its test and experimental phase. The new tanks are believed to cost $4 million apiece. That doesn’t sound like much, but the Russians want to produce them in the thousands, so you could see how that $4 million would be multiplied to create an overall price tag that could force the Russians to re-calculate just how many they will build.
Russia’s defense acquisition system for tanks has to be seen as over-rated. They over-promise and under-deliver. It seems that military leadership has gone down the rabbit-hole of the Soviet era when the armed forces were under outsized military-industrial production quotas. Manufacturers simply lied about dates and capabilities to make their chain of command believe everything was going to plan.
With Putin distracted by the decision on whether or not to attack Ukraine, the tank maker, Uralvagonzavod, can take its time and send out optimistic signals to a military that has more on its mind than a future tank. However, if the new normal is a permanent deployment of Russian troops and material along the Ukrainian border, the T-14 Armata has plenty of time to be made in numbers.
Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, Ph.D., is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.