Ukraine’s foreign tank saga ground ahead last month with reports Germany approved the delivery of 100-150 Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine starting most likely in March and then in batches through Spring and Summer.

The long-awaited by Kyiv announcement will place for the first time place a NATO-standard tank massively outclassing any Russian tank that might oppose them - excepting the rare but fielded T-90 tank and the probably vaporware T-14 Armata and Terminator tanks – in the hands of the Armed Forces of Ukraine’s (AFU).

Which begs the questions, how many tanks does Russia actually have, how many are likely to be deployed to Ukraine and particularly, after a year of fighting a very capable AFU, how many tanks does Russia actually have left in Ukraine?

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Military analysts and armchair generals watching the conflict generally agreed in February 2022 that Russia had about 3,300 main battle tanks of late Cold War or early 2000s vintage assigned to combat units, and somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000 in storage.

The Dutch military analytical group Oryx as of Jan. 30 estimates Russia has lost at least 1,661 tanks to all causes. The actual numbers are certain to be higher because Oryx uses only independently-confirmed information, usually open source photographs of a destroyed or captured Russian tank, to register a loss.

Ukraine’s Army General Staff (AGS) per its Jan. 30 morning situation estimate reported AFU units have to date claimed they knocked out, destroyed or captured 3,601 Russian main battle tanks since the start of the war – literally more tanks than the entire active duty Russian army had operational at the start of 2022. The actual number of Russian tank losses in Ukraine is a Kremlin military secret, as is Russian industry’s capacity to replace them.

ISW Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 12, 2024
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ISW Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 12, 2024

Latest from the Institute for the Study of War.

Russian state-controlled media as recently as December claimed Moscow will soon field the T-14 Armata tanks to fill the gaps, but the reports of Armatas going to Ukraine were hooted down by independent military analysts and Russia supporters alike.

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On Jan. 13 Ukrainian military news platforms reported the first capture of a T-90S -  Russia’s most modern confirmed operational tank and a weapon heavily promoted for export markets - in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region. Russia reportedly had 200 T-90 tanks with its own units at the start of the war, and was fulfilling a contract to send components to India for the manufacture of about 1,000 more. According to Oryx, by end of January the AFU had destroyed or captured 45 Russian army T-90s.

Most military analysts estimate Russia might be able to manufacture 20-30 modern, T-90 grade tanks month - as long as the Kremlin manages to source of sanctioned foreign-manufactured components like thermal sights for the vehicles.

A Russian reserve tank model whose deployment to Ukraine has been confirmed - the T-62 – is an obsolete vehicle developed in the mid-20th century, and in recent years upgraded by the Russian arms industry with a view for export to African states.  

The first T-62 tanks heading towards the war were spotted and widely reported by Ukrainian military intelligence and social media in late May 2022. According to Oryx, the AFU has since then written at least 63 T-62 tanks off Russian arm equipment balances.

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Commitment of obsolete T-62 tanks – and absence of serious numbers of more modern ones - to battle in Ukraine is strong evidence that of the 10,000 tanks in reserve the Kremlin supposedly had in reserve, many if not most are too dilapidated to be useful for anything except as a source of scrap metal, a May 27 British military intelligence situation estimate said.

Additionally, Russia has lost at least 175 T-80 tanks of various types.

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