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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

Russia’s T-14 Armata Tank May Have Made it to Ukraine After All

T-14 Armata Tank. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
T-14 Armata Tank. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Photos and videos on social media have shown Russia’s vaunted T-14 Armata tank finally in action in Ukraine. You can see the video on Telegram here and the photo on Twitter here.

T-14 Armata in Ukraine?

The T-14 was operating near the village of Midginskaya near Luhansk on October 8. Russia’s most advanced tank is highly mobile with ample crew protection and powerful sensors. But the T-14’s production has been curbed by sanctions against the Russian arms industry. Its numbers are limited, and the T-14 may see more units exported to other countries in the future. 

Russian Tank Failures

The tank is supposed to be potent and lethal. It reportedly made an appearance on the battlefield in Syria in 2020 but has been absent in Ukraine up until recently. The Russian military has over-hyped the vehicle and did not realize how difficult it can be to build and field a new main battle tank. Plus, Ukraine has been a killing field for Russian tanks with numerous models destroyed or abandoned. Ukrainian soldiers and farmers tow them to the rear where they are examined and repaired then are re-flagged for the Ukrainian army.

Could the T-14 Be a Remedy?

The T-14 does have enviable features. It can shoot down anti-tank missiles with its active protection system and network easily with other tanks and armored vehicles. The idea was for it to lead formations and provide situational awareness for larger tank units.

Powerful Engines and Excellent Crew Protection 

The T-14’s ChTZ 12N360 diesel engine pushes out 1,500 to 2,000 horsepower enabling an impressive speed of up to 50 miles per hour on roads. 

For crew protection, there is Malachit dual-explosive reactive armor. Three soldiers fight out of a separate crew capsule. All controls are digital. The Afghanit active protection system is a real jewel should it work as advertised. The Afghanit can detect an incoming rocket or missile, track its path, and then fire its own intercepting munitions to eliminate the threat. The turret is unmanned and employs the 125mm 2A82-1M smoothbore main gun.

T-14 Armata: It Doesn’t Live Up to the Hype

But the program has been disappointing. The Russian army originally wanted over 2,000 Armatas sent to the troops in 2025 for $4 million per unit. Then that estimated number was reduced to only 132 T-14s in 2020.

Quality But No Quantity   

While the T-14 may be in Ukraine, it is difficult to see it make a difference with such a low number of units deployed. It may have quality, but it is not being deployed in quantity. It shows that the Russian defense industry is not pulling its weight. This could be due to sanctions or just poor manufacturing execution.

Ukraine Is Too Good At Fighting Tanks 

Ukraine does not appear to be afraid of Russian tanks in the slightest. They have numerous anti-tank missiles such as the Javelin, NLAW, and Stugna-P. They are quick to pounce on abandoned tanks and re-flag them to fight for the defenders. Russian tanks are often destroyed by accurate artillery fire or drones, with unmanned vehicles either dropping munitions or providing targeting data to Ukraine’s howitzers.

Russia T-14

Russian Armata T-14 Tank Prototype from above.

T-14 Armata

T-14 Armata. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Ukraine T-14

Russian Armata T-14 Tank. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Another Example of Not Living Up to Expectations

The T-14 is a cautionary tale. Why develop such a tank that is loaded with excellent features and then not produce it in numbers? It should have been deployed early in the war and incorporated with T-90s to give the Russians next-generation armored capability. The T-14 could have been a key battlefield feature that could “quarterback” other tanks in the fleet. Now it is more of an afterthought and even though it may continue to fight in Ukraine, it is difficult to see it dominating to the point that Ukraine would fear it.

Just wait until one is abandoned and captured by Ukraine, you will surely see a public relations bonanza for the Ukrainian side.

Expert Biography: Serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood 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. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, 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.