On 30 September, the milestone of 1,200 Russian battle tanks destroyed, damaged, abandoned or captured by the Ukrainians was passed. In addition to this, the capture of the very recent Russian T-90M is almost intact, which will be very interesting to analyze. On a broader spectrum, Russia remains the leading supplier of combat vehicles and artillery to Ukraine since 24 February, with, for example, more than 400 tanks captured.
Resumption of movement
Since the Kherson offensive and the surprise breakthrough in Kharkiv, Ukrainian troops have advanced within Russian devices. The surprise breakthrough in Kharkiv, following the collapse of the Russian lines, resulted in the capture of much Russian equipment for the Ukrainians. The losses are also human, hence the mobilization of about 300,000 reservists.
In terms of equipment, the International Institute for Strategic Studies estimated that in 2020, the main battle tanks in service in the Russian Army were:
- T-72: 2.030 (738 lost in Ukraine)
- T-80: 450 (261 lost in Ukraine)
- T-90: 360 (27 lost in Ukraine)
In fact, Russia would have lost the equivalent of 42.7% of its battle tank mass. This figure is potentially higher since the Russian Army needs to keep a battle tank force along certain borders, such as on its western border with the Baltic States and Norway to deter a possible threat from NATO forces (according to Russian strategic thinking). The Russian Army also reportedly has reserves:
- T-72: 7,000
- T-80: 3,000
- T-90: 200
However, a significant number of these tanks have not been maintained for many years, some of them even being stored outside or even rusting. As a result, their combat capability is greatly diminished, not to mention the need for higher maintenance in the field. In addition, trains carrying old T-62s were clearly identified in June (tweet attached). By the way, the Russians already have 3 destroyed T-62s, as evidenced by the confirmed losses in the graphs below.
The crown jewel
The T-90 is a recent battle tank in the Russian Armed Forces. However, of the 11 captured, only one is to T-90M standards. Thus, on September 18, the Ukrainians announced, with a photo, the capture of a T-90M in the Kharkiv region. The tank is almost in working order since only the left track has been removed for some unexplained reason. The Ukrainians did not attempt to repair it as it was spotted later in the day being towed by a Ukrainian T-72B3 tank.
This tank is of inestimable technological value: as the T-14 Armata is not used in Ukraine, it is therefore the most modern tank model used by the Russians in Ukraine. Uralvagonzavod delivered the first 10 units only in spring 2020. It is a modernized T-90 with in particular:
- an upgraded 2A46M-4 cannon
- an upgraded turret
- the new PNM-T sighting system (developed to be industrialized with fully Russian materials)
- a remotely operated roof-top machine gun
- Relikt explosive reactive armor (reduces the penetration potential of anti-tank projectiles)
The T-90M captured was also covered with a radar-absorbing tarp that reduces the heat signature, infrared and radar signature of the tank against guided anti-tank weapons.
The capture of this tank may be of great interest to potential Western experts, especially to analyze the tarp but also the effectiveness of the PNM-T targeting system.
Russia remains an excellent supplier of equipment... for Ukraine
As explained at the beginning of this article, the Russians have left quite a bit of equipment on the ground. In fact, and despite significant international support for Ukraine, Russia remains the best supplier of combat vehicles to the Ukrainians (graphs below), namely:
- armored vehicles, namely
- artillery, both towed and self-propelled
- multiple rocket launchers
The graphs show only confirmed captured Russian vehicles as well as vehicles donated by other countries whose numbers have been formalized. In fact, France only appears in the number of 18 artillery pieces (all 155mm CAESAr self-propelled howitzers) while Ukraine, for example, received an unconfirmed number of French VAB (Véhicule de l'Avant Blindé) armored personnel carriers. The graphs also do not include combat vehicles purchased by Ukraine.
Even more surprising, comparing the graphs below with Ukrainian losses:
- the 405 Russian tanks captured bring the total of tanks in the Ukrainian Armed Forces to a positive result (captured minus losses) of 128 additional tanks.
- in addition to the tanks received from countries supporting Ukraine, the Ukrainian Armed Forces would have a surplus of 434 battle tanks in service.
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