T-14 Armata: The Main Battle Tank That Fights Wars in Comment Sections, Not Battlefields

T-14 Armata 11 photos
Photo: Vitaly Kuzmin
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Main battle tanks, big, sweaty leviathans of motor vehicles whose only earthly job is to roll through enemy territory imposing their will on hostile armor until the other side waves the white flag and screams for their mommies. But not every MBT is destined for a long and illustrious career turning enemies to scrap on the battlefield. Some tend to wage war in an entirely different form of combat. The unforgiving, relentless crucible of Reddit and YouTube comments sections.
But make no mistake about it, Russia's latest main battle tank, the T-14 Armata, spends more time these days starting arguments in online comment sections than it does digging its heels in on the front lines. No, seriously, the amount of hour-long marathon video essays explaining why the T-14 does or doesn't blow chunks simply begs belief. But depending on who you believe, the T-14 has yet to see a day of combat during the Russian Invasion of Ukraine despite having arrived on the scene there back in April. To understand why the T-14 is the world's most polarizing tank before it's even been confirmed as seeing any fighting, you need to understand what exactly constitutes a Soviet/Russian MBT and the people on either side of the argument.

Since the end of the Second World War and the advent of the MBTs on both sides of the Iron Curtain, the Soviet Union generally preferred introducing upgrade packages to their existing main battle tank platforms instead of starting from scratch with an entirely bespoke chassis. Admittedly, it's difficult to pinpoint definitely which Soviet tank was its first MBT. By NATO standards, the title goes to the T-55 series introduced in 1948. Meanwhile, native Soviet nomenclature tends to declare the later T-62 as their first MBT by being the first of its kind built after the end of medium and heavy tank terminology in the 1960s.

Whatever the case, it's customary for new Soviet/Russian MBTs throughout the years to carry a considerable level of DNA from their predecessor tanks. For instance, the ever-present T-72 was a technological development package of the decades-old T-64, as was the turbine-powered T-80. Which, in turn, was modified by an independent Ukraine into one of their most important vehicles in their current war against Russia, the T-84, as well as the Russian T-90. What this means in relation to the T-14 Armata is it's a pretty huge deal when Russia finally introduces an entirely-new main battle tank.

First produced in prototype form in 2014 and first shown in public in March of the following year, the T-14 was the first entirely bespoke main battle tank chassis designed in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. No sooner was the T-14 driving down Red Square in military parades did it allegedly break down and was unable to be moved for a full 15 minutes back in 2015. Weighing in at an estimated 55 tons with a length of 35 feet (10.7m) long and 11 feet (3.5m) wide, the Armata is slightly longer than an average M1 Abrams MBT while being around a foot wider. At the heart of this new-age Russian bear, as far as anyone in the West knows, is a 34.6-Liter, twin-turbocharged 12-cylinder diesel engine arranged in a fascinating X arrangement rather than a traditional V-shape.

T\-14 Armata
Photo: Vitaly Kuzmin
That said, rumors of the T-14 utilizing an upgraded variant of the Kharkiv model V-2 V12 engine dating its lineage back to the late 1930s have circulated online somewhat. As for weaponry, the T-14 appears to roll into battle sporting a 125 mm smoothbore cannon paired with a sophisticated autoloader system similar to that of the French Leclerc or the Japanese Type 90 main battle tanks while being backed up by one 12.7 mm and one 7.62 mm machine gun each as its secondary weaponry. Couple this with armor plating made from a novel type of steel developed domestically in Russia, plus its clever explosive reactive armor (ERA) in its construction, and it looked on paper like Russia had a true counter to Challengers, Leclercs, and Abrams MBTs in service with NATO on its hands.

But there's a reason we use words like "rumors" and "as far as the West knows" when discussing the T-14 Armata. It's because even almost ten years after its design was complete, so much of what's true about the T-14's makeup remains top secret and very much classified within Russia. More to the point, Western intelligence has yet to learn exactly how many T-14s have been manufactured. When combined with the absolute cluster you-know-what of the ongoing invasion of Russia, what results are two camps on either side of the T-14 argument. The side which acknowledges the Armata's production shortcomings while commending its potential upsides, and those that find it to be the biggest pile of Russian scrap to hit the scene since the Berlin Wall fell.

Thus, this begins a proverbial battle between the two camps waged not in Bakhmut or Mariupol but instead on internet forums, comment sections, and YouTube videos bemoaning the other side as uninformed. In the case of the T-14, patient zero for this online spat comes from a YouTuber you might be familiar with if you're into war vehicles. A small, scrappy anonymous upstart channel called LazerPig. The person behind the character that is LazerPig is no stranger to stirring up controversy. His two-part series on why he personally thinks the A-10 Warthog attack jet, in his opinion, "sucks," amassed over two million views between both videos.

But while most of LP's audience had to begrudgingly agree with his take on the A-10 having way too many blue-on-blue friendly fire incidents for comfort, the same couldn't be said for his take on the T-14. LP's hour-long-plus, non-stop verbal assault detailing the T-14's allegedly poor optics, unreliable engine, questionable top speed, molasses-slow development time, and inexplicable hydraulically-sealed main hatch were just a taster of the full-blown onslaught unleashed upon the T-14 during his video uploaded March 22nd, 2023.

T\-14 Armata
Unlike LP's series on the A-10, such critiques seemed to not sit well with certain aspects of the war enthusiast community. Particularly with another YouTuber by the name of Red Effect. In Red Effect's equally long rebuttal of LazerPig's T-14 video, he spent nearly the entire 50 minutes attempting to refute as much of LP's claims about the Armata as possible. Among the moments of note in Red Effect's video was calling out LazerPig for saying the T-14 had the same torque figures as a Honda Jazz (Fit) economy car. A point which, admittedly, LazerPig noted was wrong after the fact in his video's description.

Other points of contention included Red Effect believing the T-14 never broke down during a parade, as was shown in a video uploaded in 2015. Declaring instead that the Armata in question had accidentally engaged the parking brake and kept moving once the mistake was identified. Furthermore, the differentiation between top speed and acceleration in relation to the T-14 vs. NATO tanks like the Challenger 2 became key points of Red Effect's rebuttal of LazerPig's video. We highly recommend checking out both videos by LazerPig and Red Effect, respectively, as there's no way to adequately break down each point both YouTubers make in one article. Be sure to check out LazerPig's second rebuttal video of Red Effect if you want even more juicy details.

But what both videos prove more than anything is just how polarizing of a tank the T-14 truly is. Indeed, it's quite bizarre that a main battle tank with, at most, a couple of dozen examples manufactured in total as of 2023 could create such a divided and polarizing reaction only speaks of the starkly divided state of the online zeitgeist in regards to the Russo-Ukrainian war. For this reason, while the war rages on and so many of the T-14's particulars remain classified, one's opinion about the machine is almost guaranteed to be influenced by which side you take in the conflict. As the highest-rated comment on Red Effect's video said, "Never has so much been said about a vehicle that has been produced in such small numbers." Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the modern internet in a nutshell.

But what do you all think? Is the T-14 Armata a genuinely great but thoroughly flawed MBT, as Red Effect believes? Or are you team LazerPig, and think it's the pure embodiment of everything wrong with modern Russia? Let us know in the comments down below. Oh, and check out each video while you're down there. None of this will make sense until you do.

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