A major Russian state media platform on Tuesday claimed Moscow had deployed its cutting-edge T-14 Armata tank to fighting in Ukraine, against a background of skepticism the weapons system would reach the field, and, according to some Kremlin critics, ever be combat capable.
The Kremlin-financed RIA Novosti news agency, citing an unnamed “informed source,” reported Russia’s newest and most powerful tank had engaged Ukrainian defensive positions in an unspecified sector of the fighting front, but “had not participated in direct assaults.”
The long-range bombardments were carried out by multiple Armata tanks beefed up with extra ammunition, and whose crews had been in training since late December at a Russian military base in Ukraine’s Donbas region, the report said.
Billed as Russia’s answer to the US-made M1A3 Abrams, British Challenger 2, and Germany’s Leopard 2 tank, Moscow’s T-14 Armata is equipped, according to the RIA report, with a remote-controlled turret, enhanced crew protection, composite ceramic-and-steel layered armor, explosive reactive armor blocks, and a sensor-activated defense system that automatically launches interceptor charges to defeat incoming missiles and anti-tank shells.
The Armata’s 125mm cannon can fire missiles and is capable of accurate fire out to eight kilometers, the article claimed. A weapon in development since the mid-2000s, and in recent years prominently profiled in Red Army parades as evidence of growing Russian military power, the Armata has become to some Kremlin critics a symbol of an inefficient Russian army leadership focused on media images rather than real combat capacity.
Pro-Russia journalist German Kulikovsky was guarded on RIA Novosti’s claim an Armata had actually reached the field and participated in combat. In a Tuesday Telegram channel, he said that information is too limited to determine how the army might use them.
“I don’t understand how many of them there are, in what capacity Russia’s newest tanks might be used… but I guess in any case we’ll soon see how Armata… will stand up to Leopards and Abrams.”
Vehement Kremlin critic Igor Girkin, a leader in Russia’s 2014 invasion of the Donbas now wanted by Interpol for his role in the July 17, 2014 shootdown MH17 airliner by Russian troops, in Monday YouTube comments preceding the RIA Novosti report, lampooned the idea of Armata tanks ever being manufactured in substantial numbers, never mind actually reaching the field.
A Russian T 14 Armata tank is ready to be towed during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade on Moscow's Red Squre on May 7, 2015. PHOTO: AFP
Rampant Russian army top-level corruption, and hundreds of billions of RF taxpayer rubles funneled overseas by Russian oligarchs, make deployment of any new fighting system needed by Russian troops next to impossible, he said.
“Some silly people still ask the question, ‘Where are the Armatas, where are the drones (and so on). It’s easy to see them, you just have to look! In Arkady Rotenberg’s palace and country residence in Surrey. Well, and in Florida, in Cyprus, in the Seychelles, in Dubai, in Courchevel, in Nice, and so on and so on and so on,” Girkin said.
In November Russian propaganda platforms first reported deployment of an advanced infantry assault vehicle called Terminator, a modern weapons system built on the T-14’s heavily armored chassis, but with the turret removed and automatic cannon, two grenade launchers, and a launcher for Russia’s Ataka heavy guided missile in its place.
“The enemy was totally destroyed,” said Boris Rozhin, a top Kremlin correspondent, in a Jan. 26 Telegram report on the Terminator’s first purported use in action. “These vehicles are designed not only to terrify the enemy with heavy fire, but most importantly – to cover our tanks… Specialists speak highly of it, but our enemies [Ukrainian troops] who saw it in action – even higher.”
Drone video published by Rozhin and other Moscow-controlled information platforms showed a single Terminator using autocannon to pound a defensive position possibly occupied by Ukrainian troops, in a forested region of the northeastern Kreminne sector.
Moscow was planning to “saturate” the front with Terminators for “further success on the battlefield,” Rozhin said. Independent media and Ukrainian soldier accounts in following weeks said the weapon in fact was never seen in large numbers, and that Russian commander seemed to keep it to the rear, away from close combat.
On Feb. 9 official army sources in Kyiv and multiple independent news platforms published videos and soldier accounts of the first Terminator destroyed by Ukrainian forces.
Images showed a parked Terminator being struck by two howitzer shells and detonating catastrophically. Drone operators and artillerymen from a National Guard unit and the 92nd Mechanized Brigade used US-made 155mm precision-guided shells in the strike taking place near the village Shypylivka in the northeast Luhansk region, the reports said.
Demolition of the much-ballyhooed Russian armored vehicle triggered gleeful Terminator-themed one-liners on Ukrainian news platforms and from government officials, among them “I’ll be back won’t be back” (Unian news agency) and “Hasta la vista separatista!” (Interior Ministry commentator Anton Herashchenko).
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