Is the Russian T-14 Armata Tank Ready for Prime Time?: Russia’s vaunted T-14 Armata tank is getting closer to being deployed in a regular fashion on the battlefield.
Footage of a T-14 Armata maneuvering in Ukraine hit Twitter in February and a company of the next-generation tanks was seen in transit on a train, likely headed toward Ukraine in March. However, the tank has suffered from problems during its development phase and is not likely to see substantial combat anytime soon, according to British military intelligence reports.
T-14 Armata: Not Trustworthy
The British believe that the Russians are “unlikely to trust” the T-14 Armata in combat.
Defense officials in the United Kingdom think that any photos or video footage of the T-14 will likely only be for propaganda.
Vladimir Putin’s forces are not ready to risk the T-14 Armata in battle. This would be a high-risk decision as any combat losses would allow the Ukrainians to see inside and outside the tank and gain intelligence that could be passed along to Britain, the United States, and NATO members.
The British ministry of defense said that “the program has been dogged with delays, reduction in planned fleet size, and reports of manufacturing problems,” which would reduce their battlefield performance.
The UK’s military intelligence analysts do not believe the tank has been produced in enough numbers for it to make a difference in combat.
It Has Been in Production for Years
The T-14 Armata program has been plagued by delays and low production. The next-generation tank was first unveiled at the Victory Day parade in 2015 and one even stopped rolling during the ceremony. Moscow wanted the military to buy 2,300 T-14s between 2015 and 2020, but that optimistic plan did not work out. Russia likely has under 50 T-14s built with only a handful ready for battle and headed to the front. Manufacturer Rostec said in state-run media that 40 additional T-14s would be produced by 2024.
More Details About the T-14 Armata
The T-14 Armata is impressive – to say the least.
It can travel at a maximum speed of 50 miles per hour. It has a powerful 125mm gun that can fire up to 60 rounds per minute with a range of up to three miles. Anti-tank missiles are also available on board.
T-14 has other cutting-edge features. There is a digital weapons control system that tracks targets and directs the tank’s motion along with a newfangled remote-controlled turret. The weapons control system automatically runs the tank’s explosive reactive armor protection.
For better protection, the three-man crew is not located under the turret but in a separate armored compartment. This would be a feature that would maintain more survivability should the tank encounter anti-tank missiles and grenades dropped by Ukrainian drones.
There Have Been Problems With Some Systems
But the Russians have reportedly encountered difficulty with the tank’s thermal imaging system and its engine which has resulted in such a low number being produced. These maladies were supposed to be fixed by 2020, but they still exist, according to British intelligence. Russia has claimed they used the T-14 in Syria, but that is likely untrue or overstated since they have been so slow to hit the front in Ukraine.
The new design of the tank would mean that maintenance of it is not easy in Ukraine. Spare parts would be short if the T-14 was damaged or if it broke down. Plus, there may not be enough trained crews to operate its advanced systems.
Because of the risk of the tank breaking down or being destroyed on the battlefield, Russia may hold the T-14 out of combat. If it lost one to enemy fire from missiles or drones, the Ukrainians would have a public relations bonanza on their hands that would send social media into a frenzy.
This is why Russia has kept the T-14 from being deployed to Ukraine in great numbers and may only show it in action in hype videos. This is another example of how Russia was overconfident before the war thinking its military had been greatly modernized. The T-14 has to be considered a disappointment for Putin and the Russian defense industry.
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.