RUSSIA has deployed its new T-14 Armata ‘robo-tanks’ to the frontline in the Ukraine war ahead of an expected blitz by Kyiv’s forces.
The tank has an unmanned turret which is equipped with a powerful gun that has a five-mile range it's been claimed could reduce cities to rubble "in minutes".
The Russians also claim it has a special stealth coating to make it invisible to enemy radar.
It comes ahead of a widely anticipated Spring counter-offensive by the Ukrainians.
The attack is expected to be a key moment in the Ukraine war and experts believe Ukraine could seek to drive the Russians out of Crimea to free the first chunk of its territory seized by Vladimir Putin.
Russia has begun using the new tanks to fire on Ukrainian positions "but they have not yet participated in direct assault operations," the RIA state news agency reported.
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The have been fitted with extra protection on their flanks and crews have undergone "combat coordination" at training grounds in Ukraine.
Footage has emerged of the tank being put through its paces and firing.
First unveiled in 2017, the T-14 has been in development for a number of years and Russia has made impressive claims about its capability.
UV detectors give instant warning of incoming fire while a 125mm smoothbore cannon fires at a rate of 100 shots per minute.
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Professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at Sheffield University Noel Sharkey, has warned the tank's firepower "could lay waste and devastation to our cities in minutes".
It also boasts a fully autonomous turret that can rotate 360 degrees at high speed to hit back at threats in any direction, the Russians claim.
In addition, the tanks have slat armour providing protection against high-precision anti-tank weapons and close combat weapons such as hand-held anti-tank grenade launchers.
But the Russians have also specially developed a masking agent named Mantiya for the T-14, which absorbs radar waves, repelling and at the same time scattering them.
The thermal signature of the functioning engines is reduced to background level, so one is blurred with the other, which reduces its ability to be detected.
As a result the vehicle stops being visible to weapons like the US military's Javelin's homing warheads that use thermal detection to hit targets.
Russian tanks have been obliteratedby the use of the Javelin and British-supplied NLAW and the Russians hope this masking will be more effective than simply boosting its armoured protection alone.
The tank also boasts a top speed of 50mph, making it comparable to Western tanks.
The cost has not been publicly disclosed by the Russians but is thought to be around £3 million per tank.
But the Armata has been dogged by technical problems and the first batch of 2,300 were meant to have been delivered by 2020.
Despite being pictured on the annual World War II victory parade in Moscow’s Red Square, the tanks have yet to be deployed to the front line.
British military intelligence said in January that Russian forces in Ukraine were reluctant to accept the first tranche of the tanks due to their "poor condition”.
"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 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.
In the coming battle, the Armatas will be up against Ukraine’s latest weapons.
These include the Challenger 2 and Leopard 2 main battle tanks, Stryker and Bradley armoured vehicles, and new artillery systems.
And the US is dramatically speeding up the timeline for the Ukrainians to get M1 Abrams tanks, with training on the vehicles to begin next month.
With these weapons – in theory they should outrange and outmatch the Russians, laying the groundwork for the new offensive.
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