Between Feb. 24, 2022, and Jan. 25, 2024, the Russian Ground Forces are estimated to have lost approximately 2,600 main battle tanks (MBTs) and 4,900 armored combat vehicles (ACVs) in Ukraine – 40 percent fewer in 2023 compared to 2022, according to an update from the British Ministry of Defence (MoD).
The report said the decrease in losses was in part due to the “increasing positional nature” of the war, where Russia was on the defensive for the majority of 2023 before resuming an offensive in eastern Ukraine, particularly in the town of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region.
It added that Russia could probably produce “at least 100 Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) a month” to replace recent battlefield losses.
However, there is a wide range of discrepancies between different estimations, and the calculation is more nuanced.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 29 January 2024.— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) January 29, 2024
Find out more about Defence Intelligence's use of language: https://t.co/J67zk0ezE3 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/RF9DtQco9r
Here's a breakdown of how many tanks Russia lost in its invasion of Ukraine and how the numbers were calculated.
Total Russian Tank Losses
The numbers quoted by the British MoD are close to those posted by Oryx, a Dutch open-source intelligence defense analysis website.
As of Jan. 30, Oryx placed the number at 2,678, where 1,753 MBTs were destroyed – not accounting for other military equipment losses such as artillery systems and light armored vehicles.
However, Oryx’s estimations are extremely conservative, with the website acknowledging that the “amount of equipment destroyed is significantly higher than recorded” on the site as their methodology only accounts for those with photo or videographic evidence with no duplication.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry – using undisclosed battlefield footage – placed the number at 6,300, which is significantly higher than the estimations from both Oryx and the British MoD.
Based on Oryx’s figures, Russian armed forces seem to have lost fewer tanks in Ukraine in recent months, while it's the opposite according to Ukrainian data.
Since early October, just a few days before the Russian military launched a major offensive against Avdiivka in the Donetsk region that tallied the highest Russian casualties to date, Oryx placed the number at 2,362 while Ukraine placed it at 4,821.
Compared to the latest figures at the time of writing, this means that in recent months, Russian forces lost around 90 MBTs per month based on Oryx’s figures and approximately 422 based on Kyiv’s figures.
In September, a Kyiv Post report placed the estimations at a minimum of 130 tanks per month using Oryx's figures and more than 250 tanks a month using Kyiv’s official figures.
However, Ukrainian military sources previously interviewed by Kyiv Post have confirmed that while Russian troops continued to conduct armored assaults around Avdiivka, they have been committing fewer MBTs compared to the early days of the full-scale invasion.
The decrease in number could be caused by a lack of MBTs in the Russian forces, or it was simply a shift in Russian tactics to prevent heavy armor losses from Ukrainian drone and missile strikes.
In one stance, Ukraine took out a $4.5 million Russian T-90A MBT using three drones that cost $1,500 in total.
Russian $4.5 million T-90A destroyed with 3 (three) Ukrainian $500 FPV drones— Slava 🇺🇦 (@Heroiam_Slava) September 10, 2023
The upgraded version of the T-90A, which took the enemy more than 8 years to develop and cost about $4.5 million per tank, was eliminated near Bakhmut by three $500 FPV drones.
You can see the… pic.twitter.com/kc3xMoUkS1
While it is difficult to ascertain the exact number of Russian MBTs out of commission in Ukraine, the Oryx figures, though conservative, could potentially mean that Moscow retains the capacity to replenish their armored vehicle losses.
Russia's Tank Production
The aforementioned Kyiv Post report from September believed the whole of Russian industry is currently delivering 390 tanks a year to combat formations, citing a report from Marseilles-based Institut Action Resilience (IAR).
This is significantly lower than the figures quoted in the British MoD update.
The IAR also reported that, by the end of August last year, Russia’s seven main tank repair and maintenance facilities had delivered 180-360 tanks of all types to the field.
It added that Western sanctions had impacted Moscow's production capability, where it had to use less complex components in newer productions.
“While [prior to the war] T-72B3 and T-80BVM main battle tanks were initially fitted with Sosna-U visible and thermal multi-channel sights, models from November 2022 are now fitted with an old [Soviet era] generation 1PN96MT-02 sight with half the range,” read the report.
However, while it is possible that Russia has ramped up tank production domestically, it is not possible to ascertain whether the claimed numbers were of new or simply refurbished MBTs, which could explain the discrepancies compared to the British MoD's figures.
In September, the IAR believed Moscow had around 6,000 MBTs suitable for refurbishment, while GlobalFirepower, another research group, placed the number at 12,566 vehicles.
However, the IAR pointed out that the majority of the 6,000 vehicles were hulks stored in open fields, which would take a lot of work to be combat-ready.
Captured by Ukraine
In Ukraine, it’s a long-running joke that Russia is the largest tank donor to the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) due to the staggering number of captured Russian tanks in the Ukrainian arsenal – but just how true is that statement?
At the time of writing, Oryx reported that Ukraine captured 541 Russian MBTs, with 235 more simply abandoned by Russian troops.
Meanwhile, among Kyiv’s Western allies, Poland delivered the most MBTs at more than 250 T-72M(R)s and T-72M1(R)s, according to Oryx.
In total, more than 590 MBTs have been delivered to Ukraine, with 280 more pledged by Ukraine's Western allies.
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