In an indication that Russia’s armored reserves are dwindling, Moscow now appears to be deploying outdated Cold War-era T-62 tanks.
Recently, videos and photographs emerged on social media claiming that Russian T-62 tanks had been spotted near the Melitopol railway station in southeastern Ukraine.
In a Facebook post, the Ukraine Army General Staff alleged that Putin’s troops have turned to the mobilization of Soviet-era equipment. “As a result of losses during hostilities, the Russian enemy was forced to withdraw T-62 tanks from storage,” the staff noted.
In theory, the Russian military had an overwhelming number of armored vehicles when the conflict started. However, experts believe that these figures were probably inflated by a large number of outdated Soviet tanks in reserve.
#Ukraine: Videos recently appeared showing ancient T-62M & T-62MV tanks being moved from military storage in Rostov Oblast & Crimea, for possible use in UA.
These are stored in the Russian mobilisation reserve- but most were already donated to Tajikistan, LNA (Libya) & Syria. pic.twitter.com/o8WEHsK2CM
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) May 25, 2022
Given Russia’s massive tank losses in Ukraine, reactivating Soviet-era tanks may appear to be a feasible option. The reason for the deployment of these armored vehicles could also be due to the challenges that the Russian defense industry is experiencing as a result of sanctions, which have affected the supply of some critical components.
In March 2022, it was claimed that Russia’s main tank manufacturer, Uralvagonzavod, was forced to shut down production due to a shortage of supplies.
Soviet Era T-62 Tank
T-62, a descendant of the T-55 series, acquired a great reputation in the 1960s. It was designed to replace bulkier, sluggish tanks with a more mobile and maneuverable alternative.
The T-62 was equipped with a powerful main gun and better armor protection than its predecessor. Marking the onset of manufacturing in 1962, an estimated 20,000 T-62s were manufactured.
However, it lacked the potency that Soviet weapon designers desired. The T-62’s poor rate of fire and difficulties aiming the main gun occasionally prevented it from accomplishing its goals, and its manufacturing ended in 1975.
Later, the Soviets began a modification program for the T-62 in the early 1980s. This included enhanced armor, a more powerful engine, and a better fire control system.
A Combat Proven War Machine?
Remarkably, this armored vehicle keeps popping up from time to time. T-62s were crucial in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s and the Chechen-Russian conflict in the 1990s. In 2008, Russian T-62s were also employed in the war against Georgia.
A considerable number of these tanks were last seen leaving Russian warehouses after Moscow dispatched a batch to Syria in 2020.
In a recent Twitter thread, historian Chris Owen explained that many of the nearly 10,000 tanks in reserve are no longer in operating condition. This was primarily due to the impact of weather and time, as well as inadequate storage facilities.
Images from the 227th military storage camp in Ulan-Ude, Buryatiya, which surfaced earlier this year, showed a considerable number of these tanks being housed open-air, vulnerable to Russia’s harsh weather.
Meanwhile, it’s unknown whether the tanks will be deployed by Russian troops or handed over to local separatist factions.
Overall, the appearance of T-62s will not alleviate Russia’s ongoing challenges in Ukraine, but it will offer them the numbers they require to make targeted advances and better protect the territories they presently possess.