Russia’s state-run media is claiming the much-hyped T-14 Armata tank is finally on the battlefield in Ukraine. The latest-generation tank is reportedly firing rounds at Ukrainian targets from a distance. RIA admitted that the T-14 is not involved in tank-on-tank warfare, but this is still an important development for the Russian military.
T-14 Has Not Met Expectations
The T-14 has struggled to reach the battlefield. Only a small number has been made, due to increasing manufacturing costs. Russia wanted to field more than 2,300 T-14s when they were introduced to the army in 2015, but there might be no more than a few hundred available for service at this time, and a full allotment will not be ready until 2025.
Russia has worried that the T-14 is not completely primed for battle. It has endured performance issues and other delays. Few tank crews know how to operate the tank, although that is changing as more soldiers receive instruction on proving grounds in Russia. Moscow did not want to suffer the embarrassment of seeing an Armata destroyed or captured by the enemy, so it has been kept primarily in reserve.
The army also lacks a number of needed spare parts at the front, as the T-14 uses modern technologies that other tanks do not have. So once again we see the Russian military dogged by logistical problems and supply chain issues that keep its modern tanks from functioning correctly on the battlefield.
The British military and its intelligence organs have kept a close eye on the T-14 and its critical path toward full usage. UK intel reports have said the tank may have seen some limited combat for propaganda purposes. Analysts in England are skeptical that the T-14 is engaging in close-up battles. The tank is larger and heavier compared to older models, and it will be a challenge to quickly send them to Ukraine in great numbers.
The T-14 has interesting and novel features. The three-member crew is not housed in the turret. It instead operates the tank from an armored chamber in the front of the hull. The tank’s gun is a powerful 125mm smoothbore model with an auto-loader. The main gun can also fire anti-tank missiles designed to break through the armor of modern enemy tanks such as the M1A2 Abrams and Leopard 2.
The turret is lower than other Russian tank,s allowing for a smaller silhouette that makes it more difficult to target from a distance. Better protection is provided along the front with fourth-generation explosive reactive armor and slat armor in the rear. Russian designers have also improved protection from the sides to counteract guided anti-tank missiles and rocket-propelled grenades.
The tank has a gas turbine engine that produces 1,500 horsepower and speeds up to 55 miles per hour on roads. The T-14 has a range of over 300 miles. The tank employs a modern sensor suite to sniff out incoming enemy fire from other tanks or man portable anti-tank weapons.
Russia is doing the right thing by not rushing the unproven tank onto the battlefield before operators work out all the kinks. Moscow worries that allies are providing the Ukrainian army with modern tanks such as Abrams and Leopard 2s. Vladimir Putin’s generals have likely promised that the T-14 will roll through the Donbas region and punch holes in the enemy’s defenses someday. But such an ambitious mission from the tank is likely months, if not over a year, away.
Until then, the T-14 will have a limited combat role, which is not what Russia expected when it was first unveiled around eight years ago. The T-14 cannot be considered a success at this point.
Author Expertise and Experience:
Serving as 19FortyFive’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.