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 reports.
The tanks have been fitted with extra protection on their flanks, and crews have undergone “combat coordination” at training grounds in Ukraine, RIA on Tuesday quoted an unnamed source close to the matter as saying.
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The T-14 tank has an unmanned turret, and its crews remotely control the armaments from “an isolated armoured capsule located in the front of the hull”, RIA reported.
The tanks have a maximum speed on the highway of 80 kilometres per hour (50mph), the agency said.
In January, British military intelligence reported Russian forces in Ukraine were reluctant to accept the first tranche of the tanks because of their “poor condition”.
It also said 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. “Eleven years in development, the programme has been dogged with delays, reduction in planned fleet size, and reports of manufacturing problems.”
The T-14 was first unveiled in 2015. The Kremlin ordered production of 2,300 of the tanks by 2020, but this was later stretched to 2025, according to Russian media reports.
NATO nations are sending dozens of state-of-the-art battle tanks to Ukraine, a move Russia has described as a dangerous escalation of the conflict.