Tanks A Lot – Russia Has Lost a Lot of Tanks in Ukraine:
Hardly a day goes by that there isn’t a new video showing the destruction of a Russian tank or other armored vehicles in Ukraine.
In the now more than 15-month-long war, the Kremlin has lost a significant number of its tanks.
Though the total number isn’t known at this point, and arguably may never be – the Netherlands-based open source military intelligence website Oryx reported that the Kremlin’s tank losses have exceeded 2,000.
The group has kept a running tally of Russia’s military weapons and losses based on social media posts, photos, and other battlefield data, and on Tuesday, Oryx noted that 1,239 Russian tanks had been destroyed, 106 damaged, 113 abandoned, and 544 captured.
Two-Thirds of the Pre-War Fleet Lost
The numbers haven’t been independently verified, if true – or even close to it – this would be quite significant, as Jakub Janovsky, a military analyst who contributes to the website, told Insider this week that Russia had started the war with around 3,000 operational tanks.
The Kremlin may have lost more than two-thirds of its original tank force in just 15 months of fighting.
In fact, Oryx’s numbers could be vastly underestimating the actual losses, as its data is based on destroyed vehicles and equipment where there is a photo or video evidence available. If it wasn’t recorded and shared with the world, it didn’t happen in other words.
Based on recent data, Moscow may have lost not just the majority of its pre-war active tank force, but also some of its best tanks – notably large numbers of T-90s, T-80BVs, and T-72B3s.
Massive Losses Due to Poor Planning
Janovsky has suggested that there have been several factors that contributed to Russia’s losses, but overconfidence certainly played a key role. The Kremlin expected a quick victory, and executed a “reckless invasion plan,” while the Ukrainian military was ready with anti-tank weapons.
Russia’s poor tactics led to massive early losses, and it had taken more than a year of continued losses for Russia to finally adapt to the way it was fighting. According to a new report, “Meatgrinder: Russian Tactics in the Second Year of Its Invasion of Ukraine,” from the UK-based Royal United Services Institute, Russian tank tactics have evolved significantly during the conflict.
That has shifted from using armor to “punch into operational depth” and instead Russia now only employs tanks to attempt breakthroughs when conditions appear more suitable. Armored thrusts, such as the types seen in the early stages of the war, are rarely employed.
Of course, Russia may simply not have the tanks to accomplish such direct assaults, even as it most recently tried such tactics in its ill-fated offensive earlier this winter, where it lost dozens of tanks. Russian tanks charged across Ukrainian minefields with disastrous results.
Still a Lot of Tanks In Storage
Despite the massive losses of its tanks, the Kremlin has been able to field a significant number of replacements. At issue for Moscow, is that Russian industry at best can only build a few dozen tanks a month; yet, it can modernize the tanks it had in storage.
And Russia had a lot of tanks in storage – perhaps 10,000 or more.
Though it is also true that perhaps just half or as little as a third of the tanks are actually in working condition, it still leaves a lot of tanks that the Kremlin can deploy to Ukraine. Of course, those would be older T-72s dating back to the 1970s, while Russia has also employed Cold War tanks from the 1960s that include the T-62 and even T-54/55 series tanks. These should be seen as antiquated war machines at best, but as far as pure numbers, Russia can field a lot more tanks.
As noted, Moscow’s forces aren’t employing armored thrusts as much, but clearly a T-62 or worse a T-55 is going to be ill-suited to such a task when facing modern anti-tank weapons. Yet, those older platforms could still present a reasonable defense against Ukraine’s mechanized infantry units.
The question of course is how many Western main battle tanks (MBTs), such as the German-made Leopard 2 or British-made Challenger 2 could be employed in the anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive.
We can likely expect Russia’s tank losses to only climb this summer.
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Author Experience and Expertise
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.