The Cold War medium tanks had recently completed the process of “modernization at the 103rd Armored Tank Repair Plant in the Southeast” and will now head to the frontlines, the open source intelligence monitor OSINTdefender (@sentdefender) said in its post.
At least a dozen tanks could be seen in the 27-second-long clip, and it is likely more than 100 of the refurbished tanks were loaded onto the train.
Russia’s Old Tanks Seeing New Use in Ukraine
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union more than 30 years, Russia inherited vast stocks of the T-62, and most have remained in storage until now. Production of the tanks ended in the early 1980s, while the upgraded T-62MVs first entered service in 1985 – the final update of the Cold War-era armored vehicles.
However, only a small number of these were actually fitted with the Kontakt-1 explosive reactive armor (ERA).
As of last year, some 800 T-62Ms that had been in storage began to receive overhauls and upgrades. All of these retained the BDD turret armor but received the Kontakt-1 ERA on the glacis plate. Some of the enhanced tanks have been equipped with slat armor at the turret sides and rear, while metal cage armor on the turret roof has also been encountered among those already sent to Ukraine. Other upgrades reportedly include the 1PN-96MT-02 gunner thermal sight.
Western experts have suggested that the deployment of the T-62 – and news that even older T-54/55s could also be upgraded and sent to Ukraine – speaks of the desperation Russia faces as it has lost thousands of tanks and other vehicles in the year-long war.
The proverbial deck will also be increasingly stacked in Kyiv’s favor, as it will be equipped with more modern Ukrainian T-72s, and in the coming weeks German-made Leopard 2– the latter considered the best main battle tank (MBT) in service in the world today.
In addition, Ukrainian forces still have vast stockpiles of man-portable anti-tank weapons that were developed to take out even advanced/modern MBTs, and which would be more than ideal for taking out these Cold War relics.
The workers at the 103 Armored Repair Plant are likely working around the clock to refurbish the stocks of the old tanks. The plant, which is located in the Trans-Baikal Territory of Siberia and the Russian Far East, is one of the largest defense enterprises in the region. Construction of the facility began during the Second World War, and its location was chosen to keep it out of the range of German bombers. However, it was after the war in 1946 that it became operational.
What is noteworthy is that in 1992, the production of old vehicles was completely discontinued, and from 1993, the plant switched entirely to repairing more modern vehicles including the T-72 and BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle. It is thus unclear what was needed to refocus on the older platforms including the T-54/55 and T-62s again.
However, how much effort is actually being put towards the effort isn’t known.
Newly Upgraded T-62MVs recently spotted on a Train somewhere in Russia; these Tanks have most likely just finished their process of Modernization at the 103rd Armored Tank Repair Plant in the Southeast and will soon make their way to the Front-Line in Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/27RoY5fWdj
— OSINTdefender (@sentdefender) March 26, 2023
A 2012 profile on the facility described the process of repairing military equipment, including tanks, as being extremely complicated.
“A tank that drives into the factory is literally dismantled to the last detail, of which there are about a thousand. Each of them goes to a specialized workshop. Already there it is cleaned, defective, repaired, and checked if necessary,” the profile noted.
Of course, today, it is likely the process is far less complicated. It seems these tanks are getting fresh paint, some improved optics, and a little additional armor and are being sent on their way.
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A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.