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Putin Has A Serious Problem: Russia Might Have Lost 4,000 Tanks in the Ukraine War

Now that Kyiv’s counter-offensive is in full swing and these more advanced Western MBTs are set to be delivered by the Fall, Moscow’s remaining tank fleet is surely in for a rude awakening. 

A T-72 B3 tank operated by a crew from Russia jumps during the Tank Biathlon competition at the International Army Games 2020 in Alabino, outside Moscow, Russia September 2, 2020. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
A T-72 B3 tank operated by a crew from Russia jumps during the Tank Biathlon competition at the International Army Games 2020 in Alabino, outside Moscow, Russia September 2, 2020. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Collecting accurate data surrounding Russia’s ongoing invasion is difficult, considering both sides actively skew numbers to prop up their respective war efforts.

Additionally, the U.S. and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies have provided Kyiv with billions of dollars worth of military aid over the last year and a half, making the quantity and quality of weapons on the front lines very challenging to track.

For this reason, open-source intelligence trackers have become a critical asset for analysts and industry experts alike. 

Russia Tank Losses in Ukraine 

The Dutch defense analysis website Oryx (Oryxspioenkop) is perhaps the most widely used intelligence source on the internet today.

Since the onset of the invasion, Oryx has meticulously tracked and calculated weapons losses and gains in Ukraine. From main battle tanks (MBTs) to munitions to air-defense systems, the Dutch website is considered to possess some of the most reliable figures surrounding the front lines of the conflict. 

Last month, Oryx estimated that Moscow lost more than 2,200 tanks since February 2022.

However, since the intelligence group only includes visually verified losses in their estimates, this number is likely much higher.

Ukraine’s General Staff said Moscow could have lost more than 4,000 tanks.

Although Kyiv has a strategic reason for bolstering Russian losses, its estimation is probably more on the money.

More than six months ago, the International Institute for Strategic Studies released its estimates regarding Russia’s tank losses.

According to the London-based think tank, at least 2,000 Russian MBTs had been lost as of February of this year.

Particularly, more than half of Moscow’s modern tank fleet, including T-72s, had been obliterated, in addition to at least two-thirds of the country’s inventory of T-80 tanks. 

Soviet-era Tanks Have Struggled on the Front Lines

For more than a year and a half, the Kremlin has poured all its available resources into its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

The majority of the West and the international community has slammed severe sanctions on Russia, crippling the country’s economy and military-industrial production even further.

In fact, Moscow has had to rely on storage-ridden stockpiles of Soviet-era MBTs just to fulfill the staggering tank losses on the front lines.

In addition to the antiquated T-62s, Russia has even pulled the T-54 World War II relics out from storage.

Not surprisingly, these MBTs have been decimated by the advanced anti-tank weaponry employed by Ukrainian forces- including the Javelin and HIMARS provided by NATO. 

Compared to the better equipped and more advanced MBTs sported by Ukraine’s forces, Russia’s aging MBTs have not fared well. Earlier this year, the U.S. pledged to deliver 31 M1A1 Abrams to aid Kyiv’s defensive efforts in the war.

The UK and Germany also vowed to send over its Challenger and Leopard 2 tanks.

Now that Kyiv’s counter-offensive is in full swing and these more advanced Western MBTs are set to be delivered by the Fall, Moscow’s remaining tank fleet is surely in for a rude awakening. 

Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin

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Written By

Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.