Russia has begun using its new T-14 Armata battle tanks to fire on Ukrainian positions ‘but they have not yet participated in direct assault operations,’ the RIA state news agency reported on Tuesday, quoting a source close the matter.
RIA said that the tanks have been fitted with extra protection on their flanks and crews have undergone ‘combat coordination’ at training grounds in Ukraine.
The T-14 tank has an unmanned turret, with crew remotely controlling the armaments from ‘an isolated armoured capsule located in the front of the hull’.
In 2015, the designers of the T-14 claimed it would be the world’s first invisible tank.
The vehicles have a maximum speed on the highway of 80 kilometres (50 miles) per hour, RIA reported.
Pictured: Armata T-14 battle tanks move along Tverskaya Street ahead of a Victory Day Parade rehearsal in Moscow’s Red Square
Pictured: Russian tank Armata T-14 during the Victory Day military parade in the Red Square in Moscow
In January, British military intelligence reported that Russian forces in Ukraine were reluctant to accept the first tranche of the tanks due to their ‘poor condition’.
It also said that any deployment of the T-14 would likely be ‘a high-risk decision’ for Russia, and one taken primarily for propaganda purposes.
‘Production is probably only in the low tens, while commanders are unlikely to trust the vehicle in combat,’ the British military said.
T-14 Armata tanks
Combat weight: 48 tonnes
Max speed: 90km/h
Source: Army Technology
‘Eleven years in development, the programme has been dogged with delays, reduction in planned fleet size, and reports of manufacturing problems.’
The T-14 would also pose a logistical headache for Russia as it is larger and heavier than other Russian tanks.
The Kremlin ordered production of 2,300 of the tanks – first unveiled in 2015 – by 2020, but this was later stretched to 2025, according to Russian media reports.
The Interfax news agency reported in December 2021 that the state conglomerate Rostec had started production of some 40 tanks, with an anticipated delivery after 2023.
The T-14 war machine was among the new vehicles unveiled by Putin at Russia’s Victory Day parade in Moscow in 2015.
It was produced as part of Russia’s £250billion military update programme.
The previous Russian tank, the T-90, was designed to have a low profile, light armour, and to be extremely manoeuvrable on the battlefield.
It weighed 20 tons less than the American Abrams tank, but that meant it was also extremely vulnerable if hit by high-explosive rounds.
By comparison, the Armata T-14 has a high ground clearance and increased armour, especially on the tank’s traditionally soft underbelly in order to protect the crew from mines.
The T-14 Armata is equipped with an unmanned turret mounting a 125mm 2A82-1M smoothbore gun fed by an automatic loader.
The turret holds 45 rounds of ammunition, including ready-to-use ammunition. The main gun can also fire laser-guided missiles.
The tank’s remote-controlled main turret was designed in such a way to improve the crew’s chances of survival if the tank is hit.
Instead, those inside are locked inside an armoured pod, which is also separate from the tank’s ammunition store.
Pictured: T-14 Armata main battle tanks during the Victory Day military parade in Red Square marking the 75th anniversary of the victory in World War II, on June 24, 2020
Pictured: Russian Armata T-14 tanks move along a street in Moscow as day breaks following Victory Day military parade night training on May 5, 2015
If the outer armour of the tank is hit, it is designed to explode outwards, potentially detonating any explosive rounds fired at it, and preventing heavy shells from penetrating it and killing the crew.
In 2015, developers UralVagonZavod made claims that the T-14 is loaded with high-tech equipment that will screen it from enemy radar and infra-red heat-seeking target finders.
The manufacturer’s head of special equipment Vyacheslav Khalitov boasted: ‘We essentially made the invisible tank.’
Khalitov went on to claim that the T-14’s special stealth technology includes radar absorbing paint and materials that make it resistant to rapid detection by radar.