Russian tanks aren't obsolete. They're being used wrong (2024)

Introduction

*NOTE* - This is a re-upload of a previous video

Russian tanks have taken heavy losses in Ukraine. Countless images of decapitated turrets and burnt-out wrecks have made headlines around the world with some proclaiming the death of the tank altogether. They argue that the threat of artillery, drones, and man portable anti-tank missiles makes them extra vulnerable on the modern battlefield and an unsustainable risk to their crews. But is that really true? It turns out that, rather than the tank itself, Russia's tactics may be to blame for these losses.

IWM's free photography display 'Ukraine: Photographs from the Front Line' opens at IWM London on 3 February: www.iwm.org.uk/events/iwm-london-ukraine-exhibition

Licence the archive clips used in this film: film.iwmcollections.org.uk/mycollections/index/2740

For information about licensing HD clips please email filmcommercial@iwm.org.uk

Creative Commons Attributions:

Russian footage by Mil.ru (CC BY 4.0) creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Ukrainian footage by armyinform.com.ua (CC BY 4.0) creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Photograph of destroyed T-72 no turret by Kyivcity.gov.ua creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Photograph of destroyed T-72 with turret by Enno Lenze creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Photograph of destruction in Bucha by www.president.gov.ua creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Photograph of M777 Howitzer www.mil.gov.ua creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Photograph of CAESAR Howitzer www.mil.gov.ua creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Video

This is the t72.

You may recognize it as one of the tanks which has suffered so heavily during the war in Ukraine.

Countless images have decapitated, turrets and burnt out wrecks have made headlines around the world with some proclaiming the death of the tank altogether.

They argue that the threat of artillery drones and manned portable anti-tank missiles make them extra vulnerable on the modern Battlefield and an unsustainable risk to their Crews.

But is that really true well to find out? We first need to take a closer look at the t-72 first entering service in the early 1970s is one of the most widely used main battle tanks in the world and for good reason weighing just over 40 tons.

It's quick and maneuverable.

It also has an extremely low profile achieved by reducing the crew to just three.

The gun is very powerful, 125 millimeters much larger than its contemporary NATO tanks.

However, it struggles with accuracy when fired on the Move.

Most importantly, though, the t-72 is cheap.

This is a tank designed for a conscript Army.

It's rugged, reliable and easy to produce our tank here at iwm.

Duxford is a t-72m.

An export version with thinner armor, but most of the t-72s in Russian service in Ukraine are modern, t72 b3s featuring improved thermal imaging and sights an upgraded gun and explosive reactive armor.

But if they've had such major upgrades, why are they taking such heavy losses? I think there are a few things to note about the t-72, one of which is its increasing vulnerability in the face of much more modern uh weapon systems that have been used to defend against it.

Some of the Man portable anti-armor weapons, such as the javelin and the end law, will actually Arc from a higher angle down to strike the top of the tank where it's least armored alongside these anti-tank, guided missiles which are infantry carried, there's also been extensive use by Ukraine of drones.

These unmanned aerial vehicles have proved very effective, especially against slow-moving, Russian armored convoys.

These new weapons have exacerbated one of the t-72's major design flaws, its ammunition storage, while Western tanks have tended to store their ammunition in the back of the turret away from the crew.

The ammunition in the t-72 sits directly beneath the turret and the crew.

If the storage compartment gets hit, it can cause a chain reaction, blowing the turret clean off for the Soviets.

This was a question of priority.

Storing the ammunition here kept the vehicle, smaller, lighter and cheaper.

That's helpful for a cold war, conscript Army, but it does leave modern, Russian Crews very vulnerable, given how much Russian armored forces have suffered attrition in the invasion of Ukraine.

Questions are, of course, being asked as to whether the tank is now dead, and the answer is most certainly no, but had the Russians used their tanks in a more coherent, combined arms operation to begin with, then, perhaps we wouldn't be saying the tank is dead.

Perhaps we may actually be seeing Russian tanks in the center of Kiev, not the carcasses of t-72s being paraded as a Triumph by the ukrainians of having vanquished the Russian assault on Kiev and having defended their Capital instead, rather than the tank itself.

The problem is the way the Russians have employed their armor at the core of modern offensive.

Warfare is an approach known as combined arms.

It was first developed by the allies during the first world war, who successfully deployed infantry tanks artillery and aircraft together in concert to break the trench deadlock in 1918.

before becoming standard practice during the second world war in German, Blitzkrieg and Soviet deep battle doctrines, the main battle tank was designed to be used in this way, working together with other units to overpower the enemy, but in Ukraine combined arms Warfare has been largely absent.

We don't really see this kind of tight, combined arms operations being mounted by the Russians.

They really struggled to do this.

Instead, what we saw were quite disconnected Russian elements, and that meant that often the Russians were moving into positions.

It was still very well defended that hadn't been softened and which is why, as the war has moved on sixth seventh eighth month, the Russians have changed tack very much to I, guess quite brutal in discriminate bombardment of the cities that they want to take to basically reduce them to ashes before Russian forces roll in to pick off those Defenders that remain.

There are no Mass tank battles for which the Cold War t-72 was designed.

In fact, engagements in Ukraine are on a much smaller scale with platoons and companies clashing together rather than divisions and core.

There has also been an absence of close air support, a crucial tool for supporting tax as part of combined arms operations.

There was a lot of aerial activity, there's a lot of dog fighting as well early on in the in the invasion, but the aerial defense systems that both sides have gotten can deploy uh to cover their their more fixed positions, are effective enough that the attrition rate amongst combat aircraft has risen and the Russians, interestingly appear to be husbanding the resource of of their Air Force.

We haven't really seen close air support for either side and last seven or eight months.

The final part of Russia's combined arms failure is their severe crisis of Manpower in the early months of the war, Russia had little infantry with which to protect its tanks, particularly in urban settings that that allowed small groups of ukrainians to mount.

What almost seemed like Guerrilla operations getting in close to Russian armor and taking them out with anti-tank guided missiles before they knew what was happening.

Russia has now launched a much larger mobilization of manpower to try and fix this problem, but with many of its best troops and Equipment already expended.

There are questions about the quality, Supply and morale of these new soldiers, so, whereas the Russians are stealing Ukrainian land, the ukrainians are stealing Russian military equipment.

The fact that the ukrainians are actually able to capture intact or largely intact t-72s is a testament to the Russia Logistics, meaning that you find in captured Russian equipment, low supplies, some Russian pows, complaining of a lack of lack of proper support from their headquarters and have simply given up or run away, even as Russia has moved on to the defensive tanks are still a crucial part of the fighting, though the threats they face are very different.

New long-range artillery donated to the ukrainians, has made Russian armor setting docks even miles behind the front line.

Of course, the main battle tank is well known, as well as for its offensive properties for its use as a defensive weapon that old-fashioned infantry technique of the trench parking a tank.

So its turret is perhaps the only visible part.

The downside of doing that in Modern Warfare is the aerial sensory apparatus is so much more advanced than drone.

Warfare has moved forward so much that I think a simple trench which the Russians perhaps are relying on, won't be much protection against a more sophisticated, combined arms operation, and this brings us to the most powerful evidence that the tank is not obsolete.

The Ukrainian forces are using main battle, tanks like their t-64s to great effect as they've recaptured territory in both the south and east of the country.

It just goes to remind you that it's not the necessarily the piece of equipment, it's how it's being employed and perhaps not only the strategy, but also the wider political context within which weapons of war are being used and I.

Think the main battle tank from Ukraine's perspective is actually quite a useful tool in that regard, because you can imagine, as you take new territory, what better way to Anchor that new territory than with armored forces that are able to dig in and to show that the flag has been raised again over Ukrainian soil and that Ukraine possesses the ability to defend it.

Against Russia's attempts, perhaps to to push back against Ukrainian games.

Russian tanks aren't obsolete. They're being used wrong (2024)

FAQs

How many tanks has Russia lost? ›

Moscow has now lost a total of 4,078 tanks, in addition to 7,964 APVs, since February 24, 2022, the General Staff of Ukraine's armed forces said on Sunday.

Why did Russia lose so many tanks? ›

Experts believe Russian overconfidence resulted in significant tank losses early in the conflict, particularly during the failed offensive on Kyiv, when a huge number of tanks and armored vehicles were obliterated on routes to the north of the city. As the assault failed, numerous tanks were captured.

Are military tanks becoming obsolete? ›

Predicting the demise of the tank is premature. It is true that tanks have recently become vulnerable to high-precision fire and highly portable Western anti-tank weapons like the Javelin. Russia's T-72 and T-80 tanks have come off worse in most battles in Ukraine.

How many confirmed Russian tanks destroyed? ›

Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia has lost 2,002 tanks – and these are only documented equipment losses. Details: According to the monitoring group, 1,239 tanks have been destroyed, 106 damaged, 113 abandoned, and 544 tanks have been captured.

What is currently the best tank in the world? ›

The top ten tanks today are the German KF51 Panther, the American Abrams M1A2, the Russian T-14 Armata, the Korean K2 Black Panther, the Chinese T-99, the German Leopard 2, the French Leclerc XL, the British Challenger 2, the Israeli Merkava V, and the Japanese Type-90.

How many tanks do USA have? ›

Number of main battle tanks in NATO in 2023, by country
CharacteristicNumber of main battle tanks
United States5,500
Turkey2,229
Greece1,365
Poland569
9 more rows
Mar 30, 2023

Is Russia running out of tanks? ›

The Kremlin's stocks of its most numerous tank, the Cold War-vintage T-72, are running out fast. The worsening T-72 shortfall helps to explain why the Russians increasingly are equipping their newly-mobilized battalions with obsolete T-62 and T-80B tanks.

Does Russia have more tanks than the US? ›

Russia. Numbering 12,556 tanks, the Russian Federation has the largest fleet in their arsenal by far, from the workhorse T-72 series to the ultra-advanced T-14 Armata. This is more than the combined total of the number two and three spots, North Korea (6,645) and the U.S. (5,500).

How many troops does Russia have left? ›

In terms of active-duty personnel, they are the world's fifth-largest military force, with 1.15 million and at least two million reserve personnel. Russia plans to expand its active personnel force to 1.5 million by 2026, which will make it the third largest in the world, after China and India.

Why do Marines not use tanks? ›

Last year, the Marine Corps got rid of the last of its active duty tank units and most of its traditional tube artillery as part of FD2030. This was Berger's plan to reshape the Marine Corps primarily to fight a prospective long-range, high-tech, over-water war with China.

Are Abrams tanks obsolete? ›

While tanks have been declared obsolete many times since their first use in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, the latest high-tech upgrades to the legendary M1 Abrams make it more reliable, effective and lethal, allowing the Abrams to be a key asset in the land portion of the evolving multidomain battle. It can't fly.

What is the lifespan of a military tank? ›

The Army Abrams Main Battle Tank has an engineering-based service life of 6,000 miles, and the Marine Corps Abrams has a service life of 3,000 miles.

How many tanks does China have? ›

In 2023, it was estimated that North Korea had approximately 6.6 thousand military tanks, followed by China with an estimated strength of around five thousand military tanks.

How many tanks does NATO have? ›

There are roughly 200 tanks in service for each tank type, making a total of 800, plus roughly 1500 Leopard 2's and roughly 2500 M1 Abrams, the majority of which are M1A2's and the rest M1A1's.

How many Russian tanks did Ukraine steal? ›

The report states that since the beginning of the war the Ukrainian armed forces have allegedly stolen at least 440 Russian tanks and about 650 other armored vehicles.

Has Russia lost 40% of its tanks? ›

Russia's army is estimated to have lost nearly 40% of its prewar fleet of tanks after nine months of fighting in Ukraine, according to a count by the specialist thinktank the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS).

How many T 72 tanks does Russia have? ›

Thus by the beginning of 2022, when the Russian Army fielded approximately 2900 tanks, approximately 2000 of the were T-72s - of which around 1400 were of the recently modernised T-72B3 and B3M variants. Of an estimated 10,000 tanks in storage, around 7000 of these were also T-72s, for a total of around 9000 tanks.

How many T-90 tanks does Russia have? ›

How many T-90 tanks does Russia possess? Since 1992, around 1,000 T-90s with various variants have been manufactured. In 2022, Russia owned approximately 350 T-90As, up to 100 T-90Ms, and an additional 200 T-90s in storage. The military said in 2018 that all T-90s would be upgraded to T-90Ms by 2025.

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