Mass Destruction of Invading Russian Tanks
All available information suggests that the destruction of Russian tanks has continued at a rapid and even alarming pace. There are many statistical assessments that, given the well-understood information warfare variables in combat, differ greatly.
All of the estimates, however, tell a similar story, which is that Ukrainian anti-armor weapons, artillery, and tactics are destroying Russian T-72s, T-80s, and T-90s. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense reports that Ukrainians have destroyed as many as 3,702 Russian tanks, though reports from multiple news organizations such as the Wall Street Journal, Telegraph, Business Insider, and The Guardian vary considerably, generally ranging from in count between 1,000-to-2,000 Russian tanks having been destroyed.
One report in the Guardian newspaper cites the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) saying Russia’s existing tank fleet in its Army has reduced from 2,927 to 1,800, a massive 1,100 in tank losses. This count is also aligned with a Russian tank destruction assessment from Oryx open-source intelligence (cited in Sandboxx news) which notes the destruction or capture of more than 1,100 tanks. Finally, the Pentagon is also quoted as suggesting this number, having estimated that as many as 1,000 Russian tanks have been destroyed.
There has been no shortage of analysis, speculation, and factual reporting regarding the mixture of reasons why this appears to be the case. The exact combination of a number of variables may be impossible to assess, yet some of the main reasons relate to the effectiveness of anti-armor weapons such as Javelin anti-tank missiles.
Another widely discussed factor is the tactical ineptitude of Russian attackers, as observed by many. Not only did approaching Russian invasion forces encounter logistical and supply problems, but many expert observers remarked that the Russian military did not appear very skilled in Combined Arms Maneuver.
Finally, perhaps the most impactful reason may simply be Russian morale, as many Russian soldiers may have simply not wanted to kill Ukrainians or impair themselves in support of a questionable cause. There were numerous anecdotal reports of Russian soldiers abandoning their vehicles in an apparent effort to abandon the fight.
In a purely tactical or military sense, Russian tanks may not have been maintained and upgraded to the necessary extent with communications technology, advanced sensors, and weaponry to present the kind of threat Ukraine anticipated.
Russian tanks appear, at least to a large extent, to lack Active Protection Systems capable of tracking and intercepting incoming anti-tank munitions. Added to this vulnerability, Russian tanks are also reported to be disproportionately vulnerable to top-down attacks, as evidenced by many photos of destroyed Russian tanks.
Clearly adept Ukrainian fighters have been using elevated terrain or buildings at key points from which to attack and destroy incoming Russian tanks.
Kris Osborn is the Military Affairs Editor of 19FortyFive and President of Warrior Maven – Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.