This week Alexander Osadchuk, chief of the Russian Ministry of Defense’s Main Innovative Development Department, showed what must be described as some serious chutzpah. Ozadchuk pointed out that foreign buyers attending this week’s Army 2023 International Military-Technical Forum will have a chance to view the capabilities of some of the Kremlin’s newest military platforms — notably the T-14 Armata main battle tank.
“Today a show of capabilities of 18 types of weapon systems produced by the defense industry and armaments, military and special hardware available to the Defense Ministry of Russia will be held for foreign specialists at the Alabino practice range,” Osadchuk told Russian state media outlet Tass on Wednesday. “The hardware that will be demonstrated includes a T-14 Armata tank, a T-90MS tank, the latest BTR-82A and BMD-4M armored personnel carriers and other equipment.”
Russia has already lost hundreds of tanks and other vehicles, including a number of T-90s, BTR-82s, and BMD-4s, in the conflict in Ukraine. As previously reported, the Kremlin has so little confidence in the T-14 that the MBT has barely been deployed.
“Any T-14 deployment is likely to be a high-risk decision for Russia,” the UK’s Ministry of Defence announced via its intelligence update in January. “Eleven years in development, the program has been dogged with delays, reduction in planned fleet size, and reports of manufacturing problems,”
An additional challenge for the Kremlin would be adjusting its logistics chain to handle the T-14, which is larger and heavier than other Russian MBTs currently employed in Ukraine.
“If Russia deploys the T-14, it will likely primarily be for propaganda purposes. Production is probably only in the low tens, while commanders are unlikely to trust the vehicle in combat,” the Ministry added.
As Trustworthy as a Used Car Salesman
Tass quoted a source in the Russian defense industry who said in July that Russia’s southern battlegroup employed Armata tanks in combat conditions in the zone of the special military operation in Ukraine.
At best, however, the Armata may have been sent to quiet zones far from the front and then quickly withdrawn. This may allow Russia to make the claim it has lost none in the fighting, at least in Ukraine. There have been reports that at least one was destroyed by a man-portable anti-tank weapon during field testing in Syria in the spring of 2020.
Few Have Been Made
Though the MBT was first unveiled at the 2015 Victory Day Parade in Moscow, Russia still lacks significant numbers of the platform. The Kremlin announced soon after the Armata’s debut that the Russian Army would field more than 2,300 of the advanced tanks, yet only a few dozen have been produced.
It is moreover unlikely that Russia will ever have more than 100 Armatas in its arsenal, due to the high costs. Even producing that many could be a challenge, thanks to the Western sanctions now imposed on Moscow. How the Kremlin expects to meet production expectations if the buyers actually line up might be the billion ruble question — and given the current exchange rate that might even be enough for two T-14s.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.
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