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Sunday, March 27, 2022

Tanks for the Memories

 Christopher McFadden at Interesting Engineering:

According to Oryx, at the time of writing, Russia has lost somewhere in the region of 279 tanks, of which 116 have been destroyed, 4 damaged, 41 abandoned. Some 118 have been captured. That might sound like a large amount, but the Russian Federation has access to 12,240 battle tanks.

However, most of those 12,240 are old Soviet-era designs, like the T-72, which is more than 50 years old. If this figure is accurate, then losses to date of actual tanks are closer to a couple of percents, not 10.

One also must be careful about numbers, as both Russian and Ukrainian sources will either under-report or over-report losses for propaganda purposes. Ukrainian military forces will also be using very similar. Often identical, military hardware was leftover from their time as part of the Soviet Union. After all, it wouldn't take much to plant some Russian flags uniforms or paint the now-famous "V" or "Z" icons on wrecked vehicles.

Why is Russia losing so many tanks in Ukraine?

As pointed out by many military experts, the main problem appears to be Russia's inability to supply and maintain its stockpile of hardware suitably. So far, most fighting vehicles we've seen in action are poorly maintained, and supply lines appear to be stretched to breaking point.

Not only that, but large units like tanks appear to be left exposed without infantry support or air support—a critical weakness for these powerful weapons of war.

Tanks, even older ones like the T-72, are technically obsolete when compared to modern tanks, like the U.S. M1A2, but that doesn't mean they are not deadly when kept in peek performance and used effectively.

The United States, for example, lost some of its most advanced tanks to obsolete T-72s during the Battle of Medina Ridge in 1991.

Modern anti-tank missiles and, most interestingly, drones are making a significant impact. And it is the use of drones that has drawn the interest of military analysts through the Ukraine conflict.

Turkish drones, like the TB2, have been to excellent use by Ukrainian forces. These can either directly attack tanks or be used as spotters for artillery.

"We're actually seeing the Ukrainian military employ drones, the Bayraktar TB2, and smaller drones, to significant effect against Russian armored vehicles," said former U.S. Army Ranger Paul Scharre, to Insider. "Drones can be very effective in contested airspaces, in part because they can fly lower and in part because you're not risking a pilot."

In their aspect of warfare, the role of tanks will likely need to adapt - like every other weapon of war, or face extinction on the battlefield.