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Russia’s Best Tanks Keep Dying in Ukraine

Ukraine T-90
Russian T-90 Tank Firing. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Ukraine Has Become the Graveyard of Russian Tanks – The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” certainly rings true in the age of the smartphone, where everyone is able to snap a photo and share it for the world to see. The ability to capture images on the ground in Ukraine has undoubtedly changed how the conflict is being reported.

On Tuesday, a Reuters’ photo slideshow titled “Ukraine is becoming a scrapheap for Russian tanks” featured images of dozens of destroyed armored vehicles, rusting hulls, and blown-off turrets. The destroyed tanks have become a curiosity to locals, something for children to climb on, and most notably, something akin to trophies for Ukrainian soldiers to pose with.

Such images are certainly a propaganda coup for the Ukrainians and a national embarrassment for Russia, as officials in the Kremlin likely expected the vehicles to roll down the streets of Kyiv and Kharkiv in victory parades.

Instead, the tanks litter the Ukrainian countryside and remind us just how badly the war in Ukraine has gone for Russia.

Jack-in-the-Box Flaw

Many of those tanks have been destroyed with their turrets blown off the hulls due to the storage of ammunition within said turrets. It is a defect that Western militaries have been aware of for decades and was first discovered during the Gulf War with Iraqi T-72 main battle tanks (MBTs), yet was apparently underestimated by the Russians.

“What we are witnessing with Russian tanks is a design flaw,” Sam Bendett, an adviser with the defense research group Center for Naval Analyses, told CNN earlier this month. “Any successful hit … quickly ignites the ammo causing a massive explosion, and the turret is literally blown off.”

Fire and Brimstone

Ukrainian forces employing man-portable anti-tank weapons including the American FGM-148 Javelin, the British NLAW, and the Swedish Carl Gustav have been responsible for most of Russia’s casualties.

However, on Wednesday, it was also reported that Ukraine’s armed forces appeared to have used a British-made Brimstone missile for the first time in the conflict.

Drone footage shared by a Ukrainian combat instructor showed two missiles strike military vehicles in quick succession, according to the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper. The Brimstone had been adapted to be fired from small vehicles on the Ukrainian battlefield rather than used from warplanes, drones of naval ships, as it was initially designed. It is believed this is the first time the missiles have been fired from the ground in live combat.

The £175,000 ($215,000 USD) Brimstone came into service in 2005, with an updated version supplied to the RAF six years ago. It is a “fire and forget” missile – one that can strike its target after being launched without further intervention, as it utilizes laser-seeking guidance or autonomous targeting.


Russian tank firing. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Russian Tank

Russian tank firing. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Russian Losses Mounting

The Ukrainian military has claimed that Russia has lost 1,235 tanks, 3,009 armored fighting vehicles, 578 artillery systems, 198 multiple launch rocket systems, 90 anti-aircraft systems, 201 warplanes, 167 helicopters, 2,109 motor vehicles and fuel tankers, 13 vessels, 436 unmanned aerial vehicles, 43 units of special equipment and 97 cruise missiles.

Russia launched its unprovoked and unwarranted invasion of Ukraine on February 24 in what the Kremlin is now calling a “special military operation” to “protect Donbas.”

Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.