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Russia’s unsustainable equipment losses in Ukraine

You could choose almost any army in the world – including the UK, France and Germany – and those losses would exceed their total stocks.

According to the open-source database Oryx, Russia has lost 1,183 tanks and 1,304 infantry fighting vehicles since its invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Even more extraordinary, Ukraine captured a good percentage: 389 tanks and 415 infantry fighting vehicles. , many of which, in both categories, have already been reused for combat against their former owners. These numbers are only the Russian casualties that have been visually confirmed; the actual numbers are likely much higher.

Ukraine has also lost some equipment, but not as much, due to its relative lack of materiel, careful protection of what it has, and the defensive nature of its war so far: 1,627 pieces , including 267 tanks and 244 infantry fighting vehicles. , according to Oryx.

A Ukrainian national guard soldier stands on top of a destroyed Russian tank in the Kharkiv region. (AP/Leo Correa)

At first glance, the Russian losses are unsustainable. But what is even more extraordinary is that his “elite” units are bleeding the most material. After the Ukrainian Kharkiv counteroffensive, in which Kyiv is estimated to have recaptured up to 3,500 square miles, the 4th Guards Tank Division lost nearly 100 of its T-80U tanks. (The 4th Guards Tank Division is the only unit that operates this model.)

Russia proportionally loses more of its more modern tank models than its older ones. For example, the T-72B3 — dating from 2010 — and the T-72B3 Obr. 2016 — dating back to 2016 — are two of the most commonly lost tanks.

We also know that Russia’s casualties are burning in its reserve vehicles. Very old T-62M tanks are increasingly appearing, while Russia lacks newer and more capable tanks. The use of these tanks will also aggravate the Kremlin’s manpower shortages: the T-62 does not have an autoloader, which automatically loads shells into the main gun, unlike more modern Russian types, it therefore needs a crew of four, compared to three. crews required by the T-72, T-80 or T-90 models.

Ukrainian servicemen work on a tank on September 20, 2022, abandoned by Russian troops during their retreat in the northern Kharkiv region.  (Photo by SERGEY BOBOK/AFP) (Photo by SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images)

Ukrainian soldiers work on a tank abandoned by Russian troops during their retreat. (Sergey Bobok/AFP via Getty Images)

Significantly, the Ukrainians captured more tanks than they lost, according to visually confirmed data from Oryx.

Since Ukraine is a former Soviet bloc state, its soldiers also have the advantage of being familiar with how used Russian tanks work, which means Ukrainian crews can often simply paint them over and start using them right away. .

Of course, some captured Russian vehicles are easier to reuse than others; some tanks are left in near-perfect condition, while others are damaged beyond repair.

The Ukrainian ‘Independence Day’ parade in Kyiv featured many captured Russian tanks that appeared to be in working order, but had badly damaged engines or internal mechanics. Many T-80 tanks that were captured by the Ukrainians early in the war apparently simply ran out of fuel. Not only is their turbine engine extremely thirsty, but driving through the rasputitsa – the thick mud that covered Ukraine at the start of the war – further reduces fuel economy. Many crews had to abandon their vehicles and retreat when the Russian logistics corps failed to supply them.

People walk around destroyed Russian military vehicles set up in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

People walk around destroyed Russian military vehicles set up in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

However, even badly damaged armored vehicles can be a useful source of spare parts, and Ukrainian soldiers also remove all working machine guns from these vehicles for use as infantry weapons. There were many instances of Ukrainian soldiers taking captured Russian vehicles and upgrading them themselves; for example, by adding thermal sights, additional armor and even Starlink satellite internet to captured BTR-82 armored personnel carriers, or by bolting an MT-12 anti-tank gun to the roof of an armored personnel carrier captured MT-LB troops, turning it into an improvised but effective tank destroyer. They also took components from destroyed Russian vehicles, such as BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launchers, and added them to civilian pickup trucks to create lightly armed but highly mobile rocket launchers.

Russia’s sophisticated vehicles will be difficult to replace, given Western import restrictions. The Russian T-72B3 uses a “Catherine” thermal imaging system manufactured by French multinational defense contractor Thales. Russia imported these systems because it lacks the capability to build them domestically and because few other sources of this sophisticated equipment are available. China – theoretically Russia’s ally – has cut its exports of microprocessors needed for new Russian missiles, almost certainly for fear of secondary sanctions if it is seen to be powering Putin’s war machine.

This photograph taken on September 14, 2022 shows a destroyed Russian MT-LB armored personnel carrier burning in a field on the outskirts of Izyum, in the Kharkiv region, eastern Ukraine, in the middle of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  (Photo by Juan BARRETO/AFP) (Photo by JUAN BARRETO/AFP via Getty Images)

A destroyed Russian MT-LB armored personnel carrier burning in a field on the outskirts of Izium, Ukraine. (Juan Barreto/AFP via Getty Images)

The Ukrainians also captured a large number of sophisticated Russian electronic warfare systems. These will not only be of interest to Ukraine’s Western partners (especially the United States), but studying these systems could help the Ukrainians more effectively counter Russian electronic warfare efforts. These systems could also be turned against their original owners once the Ukrainians study them. Again, most modern Russian equipment will operate in a manner familiar to Ukrainian military officers accustomed to operating ex-Soviet and Russian military equipment.

In the air, Russia didn’t fare much better, losing a significant number of its most sophisticated and theoretically most capable fixed-wing and rotary-wing platforms. According to Oryx, at least 12 Sukhoi Su-34 attack aircraft were destroyed. Many of them were shot down by man-portable anti-aircraft systems, as Russia’s lack of precision-guided munitions forced its planes to fly low and drop unguided “dumb” bombs, bringing them into the range of these short shoulder-launched bombs. range, surface-to-air missiles. They also lost at least 16 Ka-52 “Alligator” attack helicopters, their most sophisticated and newest rotary-wing aircraft.

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