In a video shared on social media on last Thursday by the open-source military analyst @front_urkainian, a Slovenian M55S main bank tank (MBT) could be seen in service with the newly created Ukrainian 47th Mechanized Brigade.
Just a year ago, the unit was formed as the 47th Assault Battalion, with volunteers from Kyiv, Dnipro, Odessa, and Lviv. Since being created in April 2022, it has already participated in the Battle of Vuglegirska in the Donetsk region, fighting around the coal-fueled thermal power station.
It underwent a period of restructuring in October-November 2022 to become the 47th Mechanized Brigade, which was equipped with the Slovenian-supplied M55S, Panthera T6 light armored personnel carriers (APCs) from the United Arab Emirates, and U.S.-made M2A2 Bradley fighting vehicles.
In addition to three mechanized battalions, the unit now has its own tank battalion – likely equipped with those M55S MBTs.
The tank unit will be supported by the brigade’s artillery group, a reconnaissance company, a logistics battalion, and an engineer battalion.
More Than an Upgraded T-55
The video on social media had erroneously identified the MBT as a T-55S, but in fact, it is only based on the Cold War-era Soviet T-55. The M55S is actually a newly built, modernized version of the Soviet-era design. The highly upgraded M55S is armed with a more powerful 105mm Royal Ordnance L7 main gun that is equipped with a thermal insulation jacket – one of the most successful tank guns of all time. In addition, its digital fire-control system has three modes of operation, automatic, semi-automatic, and manual.
The M55S is further equipped with a digital ballistic computer, gun stabilization, a Fotona SGS-55 sight with a laser rangefinder, a Fotona COMTOS-55 commander’s sight, an improved engine, and new rubber-metal tracks. Even Russia’s most advanced T-55s fall short of the capabilities of the M-55S.
Late Model Tanks
Whereas the production of the T-54/55 series tanks actually ended in 1981 in the Soviet Union, the M55S was produced until 1999. However, the Slovenian Army in the early 2000s opted to replace it with the new M84, and the fleet of M55S MBTs was put in storage.
It was last fall – before Germany agreed to send its Leopard 2 MBTs and before the U.S. opted to supply the M1 Abrams to Ukraine – that Slovenia worked out a deal to supply the M55s to Kyiv. As part of that deal, Germany supplied Slovenia with 40 military trucks, while Slovenia in turn supplied twenty-eight M55S tanks to Ukraine.
As David Axe, writing for Forbes.com, reported, it was enough tanks to form a single battalion and hence coincided with the 47th Mechanized Brigade’s new training.
Another video, posted by Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) in December showed the arrival of the first M55S tanks when they arrived in Ukraine. Those vehicles are now apparently on the move and could be employed in the expected Ukrainian counteroffensive.
⚡️The ????????Slovenian T-55S tank is in service with the newly created 47th separate mechanized brigade of the Armed Forces of ????????Ukraine pic.twitter.com/JRHwdzuaSG
— ????????Ukrainian Front (@front_ukrainian) May 4, 2023
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.