The Russian T-14 Armata tank has reportedly seen its first combat in Ukraine, with footage released on May 16 allegedly showing a tank firing on Ukrainian positions in the theatre. The T-14 was confirmed in the final week of April to have been deployed to support operations against Ukrainian forces, although it was uncertain whether the tanks were deployed as part of a Russian Army unit, or by personnel from the manufacturer Uralvagonzavod. The vehicle is not known to have been accepted into service by the Russian Military. It was reported at the time the tanks were first dispatched to Ukraine that they had been fitted with extra protection on their flanks, which may be visible on the tank seen firing in the recently released footage. The tank class’ deployment to Ukraine comes as Ukrainian government forces continue to warn of a major upcoming offensive against Russian positions, which is expected to be spearheaded by hundreds of tanks including newly delivered T-72, Challenger 2 and Leopard 2 tanks among a range of other vehicles recently sent by Kiev’s Western supporters. Western tanks have notably been equipped with depleted uranium rounds by Britain, which provide a greater penetrative capacity but also causes extreme damage to the environment. This makes the T-14’s deployment significant since it was designed specifically to withstand frontal hits from such munitions.
The T-14 was first unveiled in 2015, but like many high profile Russian weapons systems it had its entry into service delayed considerably, which has forced the Russian Army to rely heavily on surged production of its T-90M tank which integrates some of the same technologies. The next generation tank has a number of very significant performance advantages over rival designs, including higher end foreign tanks such as the South Korean K2 fielded by Poland. While the K2 has double the engagement range of standard Western tanks, for example, the T-14’s engagement range stands at triple – or around 150 percent that of the K2. It has long been speculated that sales of the K2 tank to Poland and other NATO members by South Korea could stimulate increased Russian investment in the T-14, since the Korean vehicle outperforms Western tank designs as well as the T-90M in most metrics. The T-14 is prized for a number of features including an extreme degree of survivability, with its unmanned turret allowing all crew to be housed in a highly protected separate compartment. The tank’s frontal base armour protection of over 900mm, paired with Malachit explosive reactive armour and the AFGHANIT active protection system, provides an extreme degree of survivability. The T-14’s sensors and armaments are also highly prized and major improvements over those of older vehicles, with its Vacuum-1 APFSDS projectiles having an extreme penetrative capability considered sufficient to frontally penetrate any of the vehicles currently in the Ukrainian theatre.