The T-14 Armata main battle tank. Rumor has it that the T-14 will eventually be sent to Ukraine to bolster Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” against that war-torn nation.
But how do you separate rumors from reality when it comes to the Armata? With a video on the internet supposedly showing the T-14 in Ukraine, what are we to believe?
T-14: Brief history and specifications
In 2014, Uralvagonzavod, a Russian joint-stock firm, was tasked with designing and producing the T-14 Armata. Production began in Nizhny Tagil.
The tank was unveiled to the public for the first time in May 2015 at Russia’s Victory Day parade in Moscow, which marked the country’s 70th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany.
As Peter Weber noted at the time in The Week, “The Armata, which is expected to be the centerpiece of the Russian ground forces for years, if not decades, is packed with state-of-the-art technology, both offensive and defensive… And it has room to grow.”
The T-14’s cutting-edge appearance is due in part to its computerized weapons control system, which can automatically deploy explosive reactive armor, track targets (through a remote-controlled pioneer turret, for example), and direct the MBT’s movements.
Instead of being ensconced in that automated turret, the three-person crew is housed inside the tank’s hull in an armored pod.
The T-14 even has a toilet. In the words of Ilya Baranov, director of quality and information technology at the Ural Transport Machinery Design Bureau, “one of the main problems for them [tank troops] is that they cannot relieve their natural functions.”.
That is, in the tank, there are water and field rations, but all other amenities, alas, are absent. Only Armata vehicles solved this dilemma. From the beginning, this tank offers this possibility for a crew to carry out long combat missions, which is why it has the so-called life support system or, simply, a toilet”.
Armament consists of a 125 mm main gun with a claimed effective range of 5 kilometers and a maximum range of 12 km. It has a 7.62mm PKTM machine gun and a 12.7mm Kord machine gun for a backup.
The Armata weighs 55 tons, has a length of 35 feet, a width of 11 feet, and a height of 11 feet. The top speed of the T-14 is estimated to be between 50 and 55 miles per hour.
The case of the T-14: The fight against the Abrams and the Leopard
In addition to the psychological (read: propaganda) value of deploying their “super tank” on the Ukrainian battlefield and the possible morale boost for Russian front-line soldiers, the T-14 would presumably provide the Russians with a counterbalance.
One major difference between the Armata and the Abrams is that the latter has a maximum speed of only 42 miles per hour. Russian tanks will need every edge they can get against the M1, which has a history of destroying every single Russian-designed main battle tank it has faced in combat, starting with the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
The arguments against Problems with the T-14
Unfortunately, there is trouble in Putin’s paradise for the vaunted T-14. The British Ministry of Defense noted in January that the development of the Russian MBT was “fraught with delays, reductions in planned fleet size, and reports of manufacturing problems.”
The Ministry went so far as to suggest that Russian armored troops “were reluctant to accept the first batch of T-14s assigned to them because the vehicles were in very poor condition.” Some of the main reasons for the troops’ reluctance were doubts about the engines’ reliability and the new tanks’ thermal imaging systems.
Also, while sending Armatas to Ukraine may have some propaganda value, there is a risk of backlash if any of these tanks are destroyed on the battlefield. Putin’s public relations machine already suffered a severe blow when Russia’s newest infantry fighting vehicle, “Terminator,” was shot down for the first time by Ukrainian defenders.
Would Putin and his generals be willing to risk a similar humiliation if one of their treasured T-14s was lost?