T-14’s transmission issue may have thrown it off the battlefield

According to official reports released by Russian state media in the preceding week, the country’s military forces have initiated a process of “withdrawing” their Armata tanks from the immediate front lines in Ukraine.

Newest Russian tank in the mud at a training ground in Kazan
Video screenshot

As disseminated by the government-controlled TASS news agency, it has been reported that the Russian Army Group South has deployed multiple Armata main battle tanks in direct assault operations.

The deployment of the Armata, as per the source quoted by TASS, was undertaken with the primary objective of evaluating its operational efficiency in real-world combat scenarios. This strategy provided a platform to scrutinize the performance of these combat vehicles under actual battlefield conditions. After this investigative phase, it was reported that the tanks were strategically repositioned away from the front line.

Engine issues

T-14 Armata operates in Ukraine, but fires from afar - media
Photo by Natalia Kolenskinova

Despite the conspicuous absence of official statements from either TASS or the Russian Defense Ministry, assertions have emerged postulating a significant issue with the engine transmission system of the T-14. These allegations, ostensibly originating from various Russian bloggers, suggest that this complication, which was first brought to light in 2020, remains unresolved to date.

Commanding an impressive 1,500 horsepower, the ChTZ 12Н360, a formidable 12-cylinder diesel engine, serves as the beating heart of the Russian T-14 Armata tank. This engineering marvel seamlessly integrates power and speed, thereby enabling the tank to achieve remarkable velocities in the vicinity of 50 miles per hour.

Powering the machinery is an engine, meticulously coupled with an advanced automatic transmission system, aptly named the 2К25 Kulibin. This state-of-the-art system boasts an impressive seven forward gears and a single reverse gear. The strategic design of the transmission aims to facilitate seamless and efficient gear shifting, thus empowering the tank with the ability to sustain its velocity and agility under an array of circumstances.

main battle tank t-14 armata
Photo credit: Wikipedia

However, the 2К25 Kulibin transmission has been known to experience reliability issues, particularly with its electronic control system. Some reports suggest that the transmission can be prone to overheating and failure, which can lead to significant downtime and maintenance costs for the tank. The Russian military has acknowledged these issues and has reportedly been working to address them through various upgrades and modifications.

Thermal system issues

Acquiring credible intel regarding the complications within Russian weapon systems often proves to be a challenging endeavor, largely due to Moscow’s reticence on such matters. However, in an illuminating revelation in 2020, sources from UralVagonZavod, a prominent Russian defense company, shed light on the existence of issues within the thermal systems of the T-14 Armata tank.

Operating on an intricate network of sensors and cameras, the tank bestows upon its crew a panoramic, 360-degree perspective of the battlefield. Nonetheless, instances of functional disturbances have been reported in the thermal imaging system, potentially jeopardizing the tank’s capacity to identify and interact with targets.

On the brink: Russia can no longer produce T-90 and T-14 Armata tanks
Photo credit: Uralvagonzavod

A further predicament that plagues the T-14’s thermal system pertains to its susceptibility to electronic warfare. The tank exhibits a significant dependence on electronic sensors and systems, elements that could potentially fall prey to the sophisticated disruption techniques of enemy electronic warfare. Such a scenario could render the tank bereft of its perceptual capabilities, leaving it exposed and prone to assault.

British MoD

Amid unfolding events, the British intelligence community cast a doubtful gaze upon the potential of Russia dispatching its latest and most formidable tank models to the unstable region of Ukraine. The recent communication from UK officials posited that the T-14 Armata, a paragon of modern armored warfare, might indeed be sighted in Ukraine, albeit unlikely to participate in any tangible combat scenarios.

The report posits with a degree of certainty that, should Russia choose to deploy the T-14, the primary motivation would ostensibly be for propaganda purposes. The production of this military vehicle, it surmises, is likely limited to a modest number, perhaps only in the low tens. Furthermore, it is conjectured that military commanders may harbor reservations about the reliability and combat readiness of the vehicle, thereby reducing the likelihood of its widespread use in warfare.

The T-14 Armata, Russia’s cutting-edge main battle tank, is architecturally centered around an unmanned turret. This distinctive configuration sets it apart from all other operational main battle tanks [MBTs], bestowing upon it a unique array of strengths and weaknesses.

T-14 in Ukraine

T-14 Armata vs. M1A Abrams: the Russian Tank Takes an Advantage
Photo credit: National Interest

Confronted with an array of technological challenges, the T-14, a state-of-the-art military vehicle, has experienced a tumultuous journey in its development process. Initially, the Kremlin had commissioned the production of 2,300 units of this advanced armor by the year 2020. However, due to unforeseen complications, the completion timeline has been reluctantly extended to the year 2025.

During April, a multitude of Russian media outlets disseminated information asserting the deployment of Russia’s newest tank, the T-14 Armata, in a zone defined by the Russian authorities as a “special military operation” – a term employed by Russia to describe the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The news was initially released by the Russian online portal, Izvestia, which relied on the report provided by RIA Novosti. RIA Novosti, in turn, based its claim on the account of an undisclosed source.

According to an informed source who spoke to RIA Novosti, the Russian military has begun employing their state-of-the-art T-14 Armata main tanks in operations against Ukrainian positions. However, the source clarified that these tanks have not yet been utilized in direct assault operations.

As per the information that has been disseminated, the tank has been equipped with an additional layer of side protection, specifically designed to safeguard the chassis and the tank itself against enemy anti-tank missiles. This strategic enhancement, as reported by RIA Novosti, has been in operation on the T-14 Armata situated in Donbas since the culmination of the previous year.

Kazan training grounds

In late November of the previous year, BulgarianMilitary.com disseminated a video showcasing the rigorous training exercises of the Russian ground forces at their designated training facilities in Kazan. In these visual documents, a tank crew was observed to be engaging in a training session with a T-14 Armata tank, maneuvering through the challenging terrains of Kazan’s muddy landscape.

A particularly noteworthy segment of the video captured the Russian tank advancing in unison with the soldiers, navigating through the muddied portions of the training field. This training, even at the time of its occurrence, was seen by observers as a possible precursor to Russia’s impending decision to deploy the tank to the front lines in Ukraine.

In the preceding month, reports emerged from Russian media outlets purporting that the inaugural T-14 Armata tank was discerned in the hamlet of Midginskaya, situated in the Luhansk region. However,  careful scrutiny of the photograph disseminated as corroboration of this assertion does not unequivocally substantiate such a claim. Indeed, the T-14’s artillery was captured on film, yet the precise location and timing of this documentation remain shrouded in ambiguity.

In essence, the depicted tank could feasibly have been photographed not solely in Luhansk, but also within any military training compound situated in Russia, or within the territories of the erstwhile Soviet republics that continue to avail their training grounds for Russian military exercises.


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