The type did not have great success in combat, but it played an important role as a development project for the Soviet designers. A series of new ideas and solutions that were tried out on the T-28 were later incorporated in future models.
The T-28 was deployed during the Invasion of Poland and the Winter war against Finland. During the initial stages of the Winter War, the tank was used in direct fire missions against Finnish pillboxes. In the course of these operations, it was found that the armour was inadequate and programs were initiated to upgrade it. Frontal plates were upgraded from 30 mm to 80 mm and side and rear plates to 40 mm thickness. With this up‑armoured version, the Red Army broke through the main Finnish defensive fortification, the Mannerheim Line.
The Soviets had 411 T-28 tanks when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941.
A large majority of these were lost during the first two months of the invasion, many of them abandoned after mechanical breakdown. Some T-28s took part in the 1941 winter defence of Leningrad and Moscow, but after late 1941, they were rare in Red Army service; a few were operated by enemy forces.