New Details on Russian T-14 Tank Operations in Ukraine: Wartime Experience Leading to Design Modifications

Since the initiation of large scale ground operations by the Russian Army in Ukraine in February 2022 speculation has been widespread regarding the possible deployment of T-14 Armata main battle tanks to the theatre. The tank class first unveiled in 2015 has introduced revolutionary new capabilities in all areas of performance which make it on paper likely the most capable in the world, although with none reported to have entered service in the Russian Army it is reported to have encountered serious difficulties in development. Approximately 100 T-14 tanks are thought to have been built at a conservative estimate, and although footage released in late 2022 was speculated to have shown T-14s operating in Ukraine, it was only in the final week of April 2023 that the vehicles were confirmed to be deployed alongside Russian forces near the frontlines. Footage released on May 16 allegedly then showed a T-14 tank firing on Ukrainian positions. Some of the first details regarding operations were given by an unnamed Russian defence industry source quoted by state media outlet TASS on August 21, which stated: “The Armata tank was used several times in the zone of hostilities in Ukraine. Based on the results of its use in the special military operation, the vehicle is now being fine-tuned.”

Regarding T-14 operations, the industry sourced added that the tanks would be improved based on the results of its use in Ukraine, and that multiple T-14s were deployed by Battlegroup South to assess their performance in a real war zone. The tanks were withdrawn from the frontlines after this. Although Russia has tremendously expanded the scale on which it is producing new tanks, whether the T-14 is currently in serial production remains highly uncertain. New batches shown being used to equip forces operating in Ukraine have all been comprised of T-90M tanks – a very heavily modernised derivative of the Soviet T-64 tank which first entered service in the early 1960s. Like the T-64 in its time, the T-14 is a clean sheet new battle tank considered well ahead of its time, although it has faced significant delays being brought into service particularly when considering that the Soviet Army was scheduled to begin fielding a similarly capable vehicle with many of the same features in the late 1990s. Some of the tank’s most outstanding features include its sensors, very long engagement range around triple that of current NATO tanks, its access to Vaccum-1 anti armour rounds, its very high levels of armour protection particularly for the crew, and its very high mobility and power to weight ratio.