Russia's T-14 Armata Tank Is Officially a Paper Tiger

T-14 Armata Artist Image
March 6, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Europe Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: RussiaMilitaryUkraineT-14T-14 ArmataTanksTank

Russia's T-14 Armata Tank Is Officially a Paper Tiger

The Russian military's T-14 Armata tank, often heralded as a leap forward in armored warfare, has encountered significant setbacks that cast doubt on its deployment and operational readiness.

Summary: The Russian military's T-14 Armata tank, often heralded as a leap forward in armored warfare, has encountered significant setbacks that cast doubt on its deployment and operational readiness. Sergey Chemezov, chair of Rostec, highlighted the tank's prohibitive costs as a key factor deterring its widespread manufacture and deployment, particularly in the context of the Ukraine conflict. With less than 50 units produced against an initial target of 2,300, and amidst unverified claims of its combat deployment, the T-14's future appears uncertain. Despite its advanced design and features, such as an unmanned turret and enhanced crew safety, its operational impact remains hypothetical. The decision to prioritize more cost-effective alternatives like the T-90 underscores a strategic pivot in Russian military procurement, influenced by financial constraints and the practicalities of modern warfare. This development reflects broader challenges within Russia's defense sector, balancing ambition with feasibility.

T-14 Armata: Russia's Advanced Tank Too Costly for Combat?

The Russian military's T-14 Armata has been touted by the Kremlin as being one of the most advanced main battle tanks (MBTs) built to date. However, despite the hype, it appears that Moscow has lost almost all faith in the platform, likely driven by the fact that it is so expensive that the Russian military couldn't afford to see any lost in combat.

Sergey Chemezov, the chair of Rostec – Russia's state-owned defense conglomerate – told the Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti on Sunday the T-14 Armata will not be deployed to Ukraine, due to the high cost limiting the manufacturing of the MBT at scale.

"The Armata, in general, is a little expensive," Chemezov told the Russian news agency, per Newsweek. "In terms of functionality, it is, of course, much superior to existing tanks, but it is too valuable, so the army is unlikely to use it now. It's easier for them to buy the same T-90s."

The Rostec head also suggested that the Kremlin needs to increase the funding for other military hardware.

"Now we need money to create new tanks, new weapons, perhaps cheaper ones. Therefore, if there is an opportunity to buy cheaper ones, why not," Chemezov added.

T-14 Armata: Not Going to Ukraine

The Russian Army initially had plans to acquire as many as 2,300 of the T-14s between 2015 and 2020, yet to date, fewer than 50 have been produced.

As reported by the Defence Blog, though Russian propaganda had previously claimed the T-14 had been deployed in combat operations in Ukraine last year, no concrete evidence has surfaced to support those claims. That has only cast doubts on the MBT's capabilities, as well as the Kremlin's confidence in the Armata.

It is also unlikely that any T-14s will be sent to the front lines – even as some units now engaged in the fighting were supposed to have been equipped with the advanced platform.

"The 1st Guards Tank Army was due to receive the T-14 Armata MBT in 2021, however, it is highly unlikely delivery to any front line unit has taken place. The next generation MBT has been spotted conducting training exercises in southern Russia in December 2022, and it was stated by Kremlin news agencies that it would be used in Ukraine," the UK's Ministry of Defence stated in its intelligence briefing posted on Tuesday to X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

"To date, it is almost certain that the T-14 Armata MBT has not been deployed to Ukraine. This is highly likely due to the potential reputational damage of losing the 'prestige' vehicle in combat and the requirement to produce greater quantities of MBTs which can only be satisfied by other variants," the UK ministry added.

According to figures from Kyiv, Russia may have lost as many as 6,648 tanks since it launched its full-scaled unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. The losses haven't been independently verified, but Western estimates still place the number of Russian tanks destroyed, disabled or captured in the thousands.

All Tank Hype?

First demonstrated during the May 2015 Victory Parade, the T-14 was noted for featuring a modern design that was in noted contrast to previous Russian/Soviet tanks. The outline of the MBT, from its hull to its long and boxy turret more closely resembled Western tank turret designs.

Among its heavily touted features was its unmanned turret, which included a remotely controlled 125mm 2A82-1M smoothbore main gun with a fully automated loader. In addition, the driver, gunner, and tank commander were housed in a crew compartment located in an armored capsule at the front portion of the hull, isolated from the automatic loader, as well as the ammunition storage in the center of the tank. The Armata further offered a low-silhouette that was meant to reduce exposure to enemy fire, enhancing the safety and survivability of the three-man crew.

It could also be argued that no weapon has been as massively overhyped as the T-14, only for it to fail to live up to it. That should have been clear when it made its aforementioned debut in 2015, as the tank was unable to cross Red Square after breaking down during parade rehearsals and needed to be towed away for repairs. Just five years later, there were reports that three T-14s were hit by anti-tank weapons in Syria, with one being completely destroyed.

Fast forward to 2024, and it is abundantly clear that the T-14 won't ever be deployed to Ukraine.

Author Experience and Expertise: Peter Suciu

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. You can email the author: [email protected].

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