The T-14 Armata Tank, Explained: The Russian T-14 Armata is a fourth-generation main battle tank (MBT) and product of an intensive program first launched in 2010. That program followed on the heels of the Russian Ministry of Defence’s failed “Object-195” program meant to design and produce the T-95 battle tank.
T-14 Armata, The Specs
The Armata program is intended to be a large technological leap from Soviet-era military hardware designs. Innovations include adding cutting-edge features to Russia’s cadre of MBTs, such as an unmanned turret with a remote controlled 125mm2A82-1M smoothbore main gun with fully automated loading and a total of 45 rounds of ammunition. Moscow also wants the ability to fire laser-guided missiles and the ability to be fitted with secondary weapons such as a Kord 12.7mm machine gun or PKTM 7.62mm machine gun.
On top of this, the Armata class boasts excellent meteorological sensors, satellite communications capabilities, a global navigation satellite system and data-link and radio communications antennae.
Perhaps most important is the T-14’s developments in crew safety: the three-man crew is highly protected in a multilayer armored crew compartment at the front separated out from other compartments within the tank. In total, the tank contains three compartments: one for the crew, one for the remote-controlled turret in center, and one for the power-pack located in the rear of the tank.
Not T-14 Armata in Mass Just Yet
Despite the T-14 being initially unveiled in 2015 at Russia’s Victory Day Parade in Moscow, mass production of the tank has famously stalled for years.
Russian manufacturer, Uralvagonzavod, first said the tank would be delivered in 2018, then it said nine tanks would be ready in 2019. The company then shifted again to say twenty would be tested with eighty ready by 2021, before pivoting once more to claim serial production would begin in 2022 before setting the date back again to 2023.
Still, it is believed that Russia has perhaps a few dozen of the MBTs ready, so why are they not using them in Ukraine? This question has been the subject of great inquiry.
One potential reason is that there simply aren’t enough tanks to actually send and make a large effect. Indeed, when originally conceived, it was thought the Armata program would produce upwards of 2,300 MBTs by 2020. It may be that lacking sufficient numbers, it is not worth utilizing such precious equipment in the current conflict.
Although the T-14’s armor and anti-tank defensive systems should theoretically protect it from any Ukrainian firepower (including javelin anti-tank rockets and British NLAWs), a T-90M MBT—considerably well-armored—was recently destroyed by Ukraine. The destruction of that vehicle has been utilized with great effect by Ukraine and its media partners in the information battle. The destruction of even a single T-14 would be a massive reputational loss for Russia.
Yet given the T-14’s truly superior capabilities and Russia’s failure to so far achieve its war aims, its lack of deployment to Ukraine is still seen as confusing to some. While it is true that hundreds of Russian tanks have been destroyed during the invasion, most of these are rather dated. The T-14 would have been able to cross large swaths of territory quickly due to its 1,500 horsepower engine and long range. It also would have been able to neutralize Ukrainian infantry from afar using its new anti-infantry rounds.
The lack of the T-14 in Ukraine, then, is still somewhat of an open-question. In the end, it may simply be that the equipment is seen by the Russian military command as Putin as simply too limited and too expensive for use in Russia’s so-called “special military operation.”
Alex Betley is a recent graduate of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where he was an International Security Studies Civil Resistance Fellow and Senior Editor with the Fletcher Security Review.