Russia may send new T-14 Armata tank to Ukraine — but it has some issues

The UK Defense Ministry said Russia's tank would likely only be fielded for propaganda purposes in Ukraine, rather than a military advantage.

 Russia's T-14 Armata tanks are seen on display at a rehearsal for the Moscow Victory Day parade in 2018. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Russia's T-14 Armata tanks are seen on display at a rehearsal for the Moscow Victory Day parade in 2018.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Russia is likely to deploy its new T-14 Armata main battle tank in Ukraine, the United Kingdom Defense Ministry said in a Thursday morning intelligence update but said that decision was associated with problems for the Kremlin.

“In late December 2022, imagery showed T-14s on a training area in southern Russia: the site has been associated with pre-deployment activity for the Ukraine operation,” the UK Defense Ministry said.

Since December, pro-Russian bloggers and outlets have asserted that the tank, which some have described as a “super tank,” would soon be used in Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. The UK said that it was still unclear if the tank type had yet been mobilized.

However, according to UK assessment, the tank has had a less-than-stellar production and testing history.

“Any T-14 deployment is likely to be a high-risk decision for Russia. Eleven years in development, the program has been dogged with delays, reduction in planned fleet size, and reports of manufacturing problems.”

UK Defense Ministry

“Any T-14 deployment is likely to be a high-risk decision for Russia,” said the Defense Ministry. “Eleven years in development, the program has been dogged with delays, reduction in planned fleet size, and reports of manufacturing problems.”

 Russia's T-14 Armata main battle tank (Illustrative). (credit: Wikimedia Commons) Russia's T-14 Armata main battle tank (Illustrative). (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

What are the issues with Russia's T-14 Armata main battle tank?

According to Russian state media outlet TASS, the tank has had issues with its engines and thermal imagers, which producers claim to have been fixed in 2020. According to the Associated Press, in one instance one of the tanks broke down during a 2015 Victory Day parade. However, according to Russian media, the tank has been tested in Syria, where the Kremlin has had a heavy presence since the Syrian Civil War.

The T-14, according to TASS, features fully digital systems, an unmanned turret, and the crew protected in an isolated armored capsule. It is equipped with a 125mm cannon and anti-tank missiles, as well as modular and active protection systems to protect it, Popular Mechanics reported.

The military potential of the T-14 has also been questioned, given the role that modern anti-tank weapons such as  American-made TOW missiles have played. National Interest has argued that such missiles make the task obsolete.

“Production is probably only in the low tens, while commanders are unlikely to trust the vehicle in combat,” said the ministry.

All of the armored vehicle systems come at a steep cost. Bloomberg reported in 2018 that the T-14 comes with an expensive price tag, limiting the proliferation of the platform through the military. 

Besides the initial purchase, there is also the strain of maintaining the platforms in the field.

“An additional challenge for Russia is adjusting its logistics chain to handle T-14 because it is larger and heavier than other Russian tanks.”

UK Defense Ministry

“An additional challenge for Russia is adjusting its logistics chain to handle T-14 because it is larger and heavier than other Russian tanks,” said the UK Defense Ministry. 

The Russian military has suffered from poor logistics and frayed supply lines since the beginning of the war. Reports have surfaced of underserviced equipment, old rations, and new recruits being forced to supply their own essentials such as bandages. The Pentagon has repeatedly related over recent months that Russia has been unable to fill these gaps.

The UK Defense Ministry concluded that the tank would likely only be fielded for propaganda purposes, rather than a military advantage.

The Kremlin would be taking this risk as the war approaches the one-year mark, and according to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, has lost around 3,100 tanks.

The UK report comes as Ukraine is making its own push for new tanks. The UK has promised its Challenger 2 tanks to Kyiv.

France is considering sending its own Leclerc tank, and Germany its Leopard 2 tanks, Politico reported. The deliberations to send the war machines hinges on the US’s own willingness to send its own M1 Abrams tanks.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov continued to appeal for tanks in a joint statement on Thursday, specifically asking for Leopards from any countries that possessed them, such as Canada and Denmark.

“The improvement of the provision of the Armed Forces of Ukraine with modern armored vehicles and increasing their fire and maneuverability capabilities with the help of Western tanks is one of the most pressing and urgent needs,” the Ukrainian ministers said.