Analysis: Russia has to increase modern tank fleet - take 2

Numerous Soviet tanks posed the main threat to NATO in the Cold War. After the Soviet collapse, Russia decommissioned most of them and sent to warehouses. The tank fleet radically reduced, the Independent Military Review writes.

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T-80BV main battle tank (Picture source: Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

The 2nd in Kalininets in Moscow region and the 3rd in Boguchar motorized infantry divisions of the Western Military District have 150 T-72B/B3 each. The 42nd division of the Southern Military District in Chechnya is armed with over a hundred T-72B3. The 21st heavy motorized infantry brigade of the Central Military District in Totskoe in Orenburg region is armed with 84 T-72B3. Other brigades and bases have 41 tanks each, mostly T-72B/B3. The 200th brigade of the strategic North command in Pechenga in Murmansk region, the 39th brigade of the Western district in Strugi Krasnye in Pskov region, the 38th brigade in Belogorsk in Amur region, the 25th brigade of the Eastern District in Khomutovo in Sakhalin, the 57th brigade of the Eastern District, the 68th brigade in Bikin in Khabarovsk region and the 64th in Knyaze-Volkonskoe in Khabartovsk region, and the 69th brigade of the Eastern District in Babstovo in Jewish region had T-72 replaced with T-80BVM. Three motorized rifle brigades are armed with 41 T-90A: the 27th of the Western district in Moscow, the 19th in Vladikavkaz and the 20th of the Southern district in Volgograd.

Both air assault divisions (7th in Novorossiisk and 76th in Pskov) and all the four air assault brigades (11th in Sosnovy Bor in Buryatia, 31st in Ulyanovsk, 56th in Kamyshin in Volgograd region, the 83rd in Ussurissk in Primorye region) have recently received ten T-72B3 each. The 40th marine brigade in Kamchatka received ten T-80BVM. At least the same number of T-80BV was supplied to the marine brigade of the Pacific fleet in Vladivostok. Three other marine brigades are likely to receive tank companies shortly.

The Russian armed forces operate 1.3 thousand T-72B/B3, 188 T-80U, at least 325 T-80BV/BVM and 123 T-90A. It is difficult to say how many tanks are in warehouses. The Central district has three of them: the 349th base in Topchikha in Altai region, the 1311th in Verkhnaya Pyshma in Sverdlovsk region, the 2544th in Kozulka in Krasnoyarsk region. The exact number of stored tanks is unknown, but there are thousands of units. The same concerns the 22nd base in Bui in Kostroma region which keeps even T-90 of the first modifications.

Russia cedes to the USA, China, India, Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan and both Koreas in the number of tanks in fighting units. If we add stored tanks, Russia is likely to share the first-second place with China and overtake the USA.

Paradoxically, tanks are constantly doomed. Nothing of the kind is said about other hardware. They are doomed because of vulnerability on the battlefield. There are no other claims to tanks. The doomsday claims have an internal contradiction which nobody sees.

It is true that billions of dollars are invested in antitank weapons. Any other combat hardware is much more vulnerable than a tank. If a weapon can destroy a tank, it will definitely destroy any other ground hardware, as well as aircraft at airfields and missiles in launchers, etc. On the other hand, not every weapon capable of destroying an APC, IFV or self-propelled gun can kill a tank. During the third assault on Grozny in the winter of 1999-2000 one Russian tank survived 11 hits by antitank missiles and grenades. If tanks are outdated because of vulnerability, it means no ground war can be waged at all.

Ground war will always dominate. There is nothing on a par with tank in firepower, mobility and protection. There are no doubts that the current tank concept cannot develop into something new. Increased gun caliber will decrease the round of munitions. Higher protection will decrease mobility and vice versa. Naturally, protection is more important for a tank than mobility. However, it would be inappropriate to create another Maus tank which could not drive by any road or cross a bridge.