As if we hadn’t seen everything in the war in Ukraine, the Russian military will soon be deploying tanks designed during World War Two to fill in the gaps created by casualties.
Footage has emerged showing T-54/55 main battle tanks on trains heading to western Russia.
Once again, the Russian military has to take out of storage ancient weapon systems to compensate for the losses it has suffered on the battlefield in Ukraine.
T-54/55 Heading to Ukraine
This isn’t the first time the Russian forces had to unearth obsolete weapon systems to support their failing campaign in Ukraine.
Last time it was the T-62 tank. Back in May, the Russian military started taking out T-62 main battle tanks developed in the 1960s out of storage and refitting them for action in Ukraine.
The T-54/55 is the most produced tank in history, with over 100,000 variants of the type produced by the Soviet Union, Warsaw Pact, and China.
Despite the age of the weapon system, several militaries around the world still operate the T-54/55.
Unlike the current main battle tanks in use with the Russian forces, the T-54/55 has a crew of four instead of three and doesn’t have an autoloader.
The tank sports a 100mm main gun with 43 rounds and two machine guns. To be clear, these are obsolete weapon systems with minimal chances of survival on a modern battlefield.
The failure to field a large number of modern tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and armored personnel carriers is one of the main reasons behind the Russian military’s inability to conduct large-scale maneuver warfare of the kind necessary to achieve an operational breakthrough on the ground. Another significant reason is the poor training plaguing Russian units.
Why the T-54/55?
If the Russian military leadership ends up deploying the T-54/55 tank in Ukraine, it will probably do so to replenish the casualties the Russian tank fleet has suffered.
In its daily casualty estimates, the Ukrainian military assesses that the Russian forces have lost more than 3,500 tanks since February 24, 2022. Independent estimates provide more conservative figures.
For example, the credible Oryx open-source intelligence outlet assesses that the Russian forces have lost almost 1,900 tanks, including 57 T-90, 448 T-80, 1,025 T-72, 53 T-64, 73 T-62, and 215 of unknown types.
However, the Russian military leadership might also think that deploying older tanks will help attrite the Ukrainian anti-tank resources, thus indirectly increasing the survival rates of its more modern tanks. That rationale is dubious.
To be sure, depending on the operational circumstances, Ukrainian troops will likely be forced to expend expensive anti-tank weapons, such as FGM-148 Javelin and Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapons (NLAWs), against T-54/55 tanks.
But the Ukrainian forces could also fire older anti-tank weapons against the T-54/55 tanks and save their more advanced munitions for the modern Russian tanks.
“The Russian military may also be deciding to field the tanks because parts to repair the T-54/55 tanks are abundantly available and substantially cheaper,” the Institute for the Study of War assessed in a recent operational update on the war.
“The Russian military will likely experience greater numbers of casualties by fielding these older tank systems in Ukraine. The deployment of inferior equipment to replenish the Russian military’s ability to conduct mechanized maneuver warfare may prompt a further degradation of Russian manpower in Ukraine,” the D.C.-based think tank added.
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A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.
March 24, 2023 at 10:08 pm
This is worse than WW1 or 2.
Land is not worth lives being spent.
No one is going to attack.
End the insane excursion.
March 25, 2023 at 12:33 am
Deploying these tanks is a sure sign Russia is really struggling in this war. Can’t wait to see how the Russian Trolls on this site try to show this as a win.
March 25, 2023 at 2:07 am
“The failure to field a large number of modern tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and armored personnel carriers is one of the main reasons behind the Russian military’s inability to conduct large-scale maneuver warfare of the kind necessary to achieve an operational breakthrough on the ground. Another significant reason is the poor training plaguing Russian units.”
“The Russians aren’t using them right” This is the excuse repeatedly given by those that said the Russian 3 to 1 advantage in heavy weapons would give them the win in 3 days. Their refusal to admit that they are stuck in the Industrial Age, and don’t understand the Information Age smart weapon battlefield is lame.
But the evidence says heavy weapons are not survivable on an Information Age smart weapon battlefield. It used to be that it took another tank to kill a tank, but nearly every weapon on today’s battlefield can kill a tank now, most only need one shot from kilometers away. AT4, Javelin, NLAW, TOW, Hellfire, Excalibur, GMLRS, are some of the western weapons given to Ukraine that all kill tanks.
While critics like to say that the Ukrainian number of 3,500 tanks destroyed or captured is a bloated fantasy. The fact that Russia has drained its stockpiles of T-60’s series tanks and is now reaching into the T-55’s, proves the Ukrainian number is so close to factual that any error doesn’t matter. The frequently quoted Oryx number of 1,900 at the moment, is admitted by Oryx to be much lower than the truth due to problems with their collection method, and no method for adjusting their number to account for reality.
March 25, 2023 at 7:33 am
It is incredible to see how western media – like this one – without the slightest question on their probability, again and again continue to promote the blown-up Ukrainian propaganda figures on alleged Russian losses in equipment and manpower. It is almost comic! Not only 3.500 tanks, but MORE than 3.500 tanks. At what SINGLE DAY did the Russians lose 10 tanks – because that would be the average if they did. Can anyone point to any given day or place where the Russians lost 10 tanks through the day. Or for that matter, 350 such occasions through the past year?
The way a train-load of old Russian tanks is perceived as a clear sign of the break-down in the quality of the Russian tank forces is also – comic. There could be many reasons for the movement of these exact tanks, if it, at all, is taking place at this time. Are they being returned to storage because its units havee received newer, modern, tanks? Are they taken out of storage to equip new Russian tank forces under training? Are they to be used to increase the numbers of self-propelled artillery units? We know the Russians, exactly to minimize losses in tanks, have started to use their heavy armour for such purposes instead of head-long attacks.
“Experts” would do well in some more thought on different reasons for the Russian activities instead of constantly jumping on the light-hearted band-wagon of Ukrainian propaganda. The West (meaning Europe) might get some nasty surprises down the line if they base their policies purely on that propaganda. The US, of course, do not mind this as they, too, strive to keep the European nations in line, not to start doubting the outcome of the conflict, that of creating a second Russian break-down, like that of the Soviet Union.
March 25, 2023 at 7:41 am
They have the same engines and components as the T-62. They will serve as parts donors. Therefore, the newer T-55 was not used.
March 25, 2023 at 12:22 pm
What are you so worked up about, not going so well on the battlefield?
If you bothered to read the whole article you will also find several references to independent open source outlet Oryx, that catalog and document all Russian and Ukrainian losses they can find. They have documented ca 1900 Russian tanks lost. It’s highly unlikely that they have been able to document ALL losses, so there is bound to be many more. So who knows, maybe 2500-3000? In any case the floor of the estimate should be 1900. It’s open source, so you can go to Oryx and check it out for your self. Its all there, with photos or video of every tank in the list.
As for the Western governments blindly trusting Ukraine think again. Western Europe have their own military intelligence that provides intelligence for European governments.
March 25, 2023 at 10:56 pm
What is Russia going to use for tank crews? I would think that when a tank is destroyed, its crew usually dies, unless maybe the tank runs over a mine and loses its tread. In any case, throwing a bunch of tanks at the front only works if you have crews to man those tanks, and those crews need to be trained–not just to drive the tanks and shoot the guns, but to coordinate with other tanks in their units. And that takes time.