Despite all of his public bluster, is it possible that Vladimir Putin is getting just a bit desperate in his bid to find some sort of path to something he could call a “victory” in Ukraine? One hint could be found in the fact that he twisted Lukashenko’s arm to pull Belarus into the fighting at this late stage of the game. But another indicator of Russia’s military reaching the bottom of the barrel popped up this week. Yesterday, Tyler Rogoway from The War Zone sent out this alert on social media. It seems that Russia is “modernizing” some of their “vintage” T-62 tanks and taking them out of museum status so they can be sent to replace some of the hundreds of armored units that Ukrainian farmers have towed away for their own army to use.
Russia To ‘Modernize’ 800 Vintage T-62 Tanks Due To Ukraine Losses: Reporthttps://t.co/ijjd95TJnk
— Tyler Rogoway (@Aviation_Intel) October 12, 2022
The full story can be found under Joseph Trevithick’s byline at The Drive.
The Russian military is reportedly set to receive some 800 refurbished and possibly upgraded T-62 tanks in the next three years to try to help make up for severe losses it has already sustained in its ongoing all-out invasion of Ukraine. Many of the nearly antique T-62s have already been pulled out of deep storage and sent to Ukraine, where they have shown to be of debatable utility.
If the situation is as it is reported to be, the decision to reactivate hundreds of these remarkably old Cold War-era tanks offers fresh evidence that western sanctions and other factors are hobbling Russia’s arms industry. It also provides more evidence as to the poor state of Russia’s more advanced armor, with many hundreds of tanks destroyed, damaged, or captured and others sidelined due to being worn out or without high-tech replacement parts after nearly nine months of continuous combat.
To be clear, the T-62 was hailed in its day as a top-rate, heavily armored Main Battle Tank (MBT) in the Soviet military when it debuted. Unfortunately, “its day” was literally in 1961. That was more than sixty years ago and military technology has moved on considerably, with lighter, faster tanks employing modernized shielding being the weapons of choice today.
As Trevithick points out, these T-62s are literally antiques. The rockets that the west has been supplying Russia with this year have been destroying Russia’s more modern T-80s and T-90s with abandon. One recent estimate claims that Putin has lost more than 40% of his operational tank fleet. And since verifiable information on battlefield losses is spotty at best, the number could be even higher.
If the Ukrainians have been able to wipe out that many modern tanks, how well do you think these “vintage” tanks will fare? (That’s such a classy way to put it, isn’t it? It’s sort of like issuing all of the soldiers acid-washed jeans to replace their uniform pants.) There is also a question of who will be operating these ancient tanks when they head toward the Ukraine border. Many of Russia’s trained drivers have been killed or captured. Perhaps some of the new, frequently drunken conscripted troops will be stuffed into the drivers’ seats and asked to simply do their best.
Compounding these worries for Moscow is the fact that the Russians may be facing some even more advanced weapons systems in response. As the Associated Press reports, while Zelensky isn’t getting all of the most advanced systems he’s asking for, he’s about to get some additional upgrades to his weapons systems. And some of them should be quite effective in knocking out the T-62s when they arrive.
The U.S. has already provided 20 of the advanced High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, and has promised 18 more.
And the Pentagon has said it will deliver the first two advanced NASAMS surface-to-air missile systems to Ukraine in the coming weeks, providing Kyiv with a weapon that it has pressed for since earlier this year. The systems will provide medium- to long-range defenses against Russian missile attacks.
The Russians haven’t just been losing tanks, armored personnel carriers, and other hardware. They’re losing troops by the boatload. The latest estimate from the Moscow Times claims that Russian casualties in the war in Ukraine have now topped 90,000. That number reportedly includes all soldier who “have died, cannot be accounted for, or have suffered such serious injuries that they are unable to return to service.” The same report estimates that more than 25,000 have been confirmed killed. The rest, as noted, are either missing in action (some of those are likely dead as well), injured too seriously to return, or simply deserted.
Let’s not take this as an indication that we’re near “the end” of this saga and Ukraine is on the verge of actually defeating Russia entirely. That’s hardly the case. And there is still no indication that Putin will be able to swallow his pride and retreat from Ukraine, particularly as long as he’s still sitting on more than 6,000 nuclear warheads. But his prospects for a victory via “conventional” war aren’t looking great if he’s bringing in early Soviet-era hardware to keep the battle going.