While Western nations are working to upgrade Ukraine's ground game with US M-1 Abrams and German Leopard 2 tanks, Russia has now introduced its latest-generation tank into the war in Ukraine, according to Russia's state-owned RIA.
The new Russian tank is the T-14 Armata, which features an unmanned turret, with a three-man crew operating the vehicle from what RIA describes as an "isolated armored capsule located at the front of the hull." The tank has a maximum highway speed of 50 miles per hour.
It's equipped with a 125mm smoothbore main gun with a reported range of 8 kilometers. The gun is fed by an automated loader with a 45-round capacity, and can also fire laser-guided missiles.
On defense, it has both reactive armor that explodes outward upon a projectile's impact, and an "active protection system" (APS), which BBC has described as "essentially an anti-missile system for tanks, with radars capable of tracking the incoming anti-tank missile, and projectiles that are launched to disrupt or destroy it." The T-14 is additionally distinguished from predecessor T-90 tanks by having higher ground clearance.
A developer also claimed the tank would have technology to hide it from radar- and heat-seeking targeting systems: "We essentially made the tank invisible." RIA reports the deployed T-14s have received "additional side protection from anti-tank ammunition."
Until now, T-14 appearances have been largely limited to a series of Moscow Victory Day parades stretching all the way back to 2015, though RIA says they have been "tested in Syria."
Why has it taken so long for this supposed cutting-edge weapon to appear in Ukraine? Especially where military procurement is concerned, it turns out the Russians aren't so different from the United States.
"Eleven years in development, the [T-14 Armata] programme has been dogged with delays, reduction in planned fleet size, and reports of manufacturing problems," the British military said in January.
Tank T-14 platform "Armata" pic.twitter.com/91TPWP2Rth— Spriter (@Spriter99880) April 25, 2023
The initial order called for 2,300 of them to be delivered by 2020. However, the UK claims "production is probably only in the low tens, while commanders are unlikely to trust the vehicle in combat," and suggested its introduction in Ukraine may largely be for propaganda purposes. Of course, that jab may itself be propaganda.
Lending some credence to the claim of commander hesitancy, RIA's source says Russia is proceeding gradually with using the T-14 in Ukraine: "Russian troops have begun to use the latest Armata tanks to fire on Ukrainian positions. They have not yet participated in direct assault operations."
Meanwhile, Ukrainians are slated to begin 10 weeks of training on US M-1 tanks at Grafenwoehr Training Area in the next few weeks. That means we could see M-1 vs T-14 bouts by early fall -- assuming the West continues thwarting attempts to reach a negotiated peace.