Russia’s offensive slows as it introduces Soviet-era T-54/55 tanks to the front – ISW

24 March, 02:10 AM
The turret and gun of a Russian tank near Lyman, Donetsk region, photo March 20, 2013 (Photo:REUTERS/Violeta Santos Moura)

The turret and gun of a Russian tank near Lyman, Donetsk region, photo March 20, 2013 (Photo:REUTERS/Violeta Santos Moura)

Replacing damaged and destroyed modern tanks with archaic Soviet-era T-54/55 tanks at the front is unlikely to restore Russia’s ability to conduct mechanized maneuver warfare and may further increase Russian losses, the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) wrote in their March 22 assessment.

This is because Russia’s present losses have already impeded the effectiveness of their offensive operations in Ukraine, which have recently ground to a halt, the report said.

After World War II, the Soviet Union produced tens of thousands of T-54/55 tanks. Due to the shortage of armored vehicles, the Russian military could probably turn to these old stocks, as spare parts for repairing these tanks are available in large quantities and are significantly cheaper, ISW analysts concluded.

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T-54/55 tanks lack the armor capabilities of more modern armored vehicles and have a smaller main gun, though the Russian military may have upgraded some of the vehicles, ISW said.

The deployment of such low-quality equipment to restore the capabilities of the Russian army to conduct mechanized maneuver warfare is likely to lead to further degradation of Russian manpower in Ukraine and even greater losses for the invaders.

ISW is also skeptical that T-54/55 tanks will help Russia exhaust Ukrainian resources, as these tanks are cheaper than some modern anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs).

But every loss of a tank generally also means the loss of its crew. Besides, it is unclear how effective these tanks will be against Ukrainian armored vehicles, as they are vulnerable to many anti-tank systems that Ukraine possesses, ISW notes.

According to Dutch open-source intelligence group Oryx, as of March 22, Russian forces have incurred the following visually confirmed losses:

•          57 T-90 tanks;

•          448 T-80 tanks;

•          1025 T-72 tanks;

•          53 T-64 tanks;

•          73 T-62 tanks.

ISW confirms that Russian offensive operations around Bakhmut have slowed down, with Ukrainian troops carrying out successful tactical counterattacks.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby warned of possible Russian offensives in multiple directions, while the UK Ministry of Defense speculated that Russian forces may be losing strength in the Bakhmut as they redeploy to other areas.

Russian troops are now focusing on offensive operations around Avdiivka, possibly at the expense of Bakhmut and the stalled offensive in Vuhledar. This could explain the change in deployment of Russia’s 136th Separate Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade.

ISW continues to assess that “Russian advances may prompt Ukrainian forces to withdraw from Bakhmut and/or Avdiivka, though neither appears likely at this time.”

“Russian forces may choose to launch or intensify offensive operations in new directions, but these operations would likely produce few tangible results as the overall Russian spring offensive continues to near culmination.”

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