Putin’s war in Ukraine has decimated his tank corp, at one time, was considered one of the most dangerous on Earth.
Russia has, in fact, lost so many tanks that it is now sending tanks from the 1950s and 1960s to fight in Ukraine that it has in storage.
Putin has no way to win this war without more modern tanks. What will he do next? Can he step up tank production?
Armor Goes Boom! Ukraine Footage Shows Russian Tank Hitting a Mine
Back in April, a video on social media by Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) showed the exact moment a Russian tank struck a magnetic influence anti-tank mine in the Donetsk Oblast. The tank appeared to be traveling across an open field and was suddenly engulfed in a massive explosion. A few other mines are seen to be set off in the aftermath – likely the result of parts from the tank being blown across the field.
It is doubtful any of the crew could have survived.
Though this video has not been independently verified, it appeared to be authentic. It was recorded by an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that was operating overhead. The type of tank isn’t readily apparent, but it has been suggested it was a T-72 or T-80 main battle tank (MBT).
Russian Tank Losses
The Kremlin has deployed significant numbers of each of those Cold War-era tanks to Ukraine, but in the past year of fighting has also lost considerable numbers. Recent media reports suggest that Russia may have already seen the destruction of upwards of half of its pre-war tank fleet.
There are several factors at play.
Russia largely didn’t expect to meet such fierce resistance when it launched its unprovoked and unwarranted invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kremlin officials may have even expected that the Russian forces would be welcomed as liberators.
That was certainly not the case.
Moscow also likely didn’t expect that Ukraine would be armed with modern Western-made weapons, notably man-portable anti-tank weapons. Instead, the Kremlin had been concerned about facing a handful of Ukrainian fighters armed with little more than Molotov cocktail gasoline bombs. Weapons such as the American-made FGM-148 Javelin and Swedish AT4 have been employed to great effect against the Russian tanks.
Novice Tank Crews
Another factor has been that Russian forces have failed to learn from past mistakes.
Recent reports from the British Ministry of Defense (MoD) suggest it is employing the same “tactically flawed” methods that had failed before. As a result, Russian tankers are rushing into action with little infantry support – and are then targeted by the anti-tank weapons; or as this recent video highlighted, crossing open fields without any fear of anti-tank mines. The outcome is the same, a destroyed tank and even worse for Moscow, a dead tank crew.
Russia may have lost upwards of 2,000 tanks in the fighting. It has been forced to deploy T-62, and even older T-54/55 series tanks to bolster its numbers. Though it can – at least for now – draw from the massive number of tanks it had in storage, Russia could face a greater problem as it has lost those experienced tank crews.
— ???????? Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) April 11, 2023
It takes time to train recruits on even basic tank operations. The Kremlin is now losing the tanks, and more importantly the crews, faster than they can be replaced.
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.