Russia’s elite tank unit was meant to get its most advanced armor. Instead it’s fighting with obsolete Soviet tanks from the ’60s, UK intel says.

Abandoned T-62 tank

This photograph taken on October 7, 2022 shows an abandoned Russian T-62 tank in southern Ukraine.DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images

  • An elite Russian tank unit was meant to be equipped with advanced T-14 Armata tanks.

  • But instead it’s relying on 60-year-old T-62 tanks, per a UK Ministry of Defence update.

  • Russia has retrieved approximately 800 T-62 tanks from storage since the summer of 2022, it said.

Russia’s military is fighting with 60-year-old T-62 tanks, having been forced to bring the retired vehicles out of storage to the frontlines in Ukraine in response to heavy armored vehicle losses, according to the UK Ministry of Defence.

The MOD said in an intelligence update on Monday that even the 1st Guards Tank Army, which has long been considered an elite Russian unit, is being reequipped with dated Soviet-era T-62s.

The 1st Guards Tank Army was due to receive next-generation T-14 Armata main battle tanks – Russia’s newest and most powerful tanks – starting from 2021, the intelligence update said. The T-14 is a high-tech vehicle with defense systems that have the means to shoot down anti-tank rockets, as well as sophisticated sensors, onboard drones, and a high level of automation, as Insider’s Sophia Ankel previously reported.

But, instead, it is receiving T-62 tanks, which were first adopted by the Soviet Union in 1961, and ceased production in the 1970s.

19fortyfive reported that T-62s would be at a “grave disadvantage” in a head-to-head fight against Ukrainian tanks due to inferior sensors, fire control, armor, and armor penetration. The UK Ministry of Defence also noted the absence of modern explosive reactive armor as a potential vulnerability.

Some of Russia’s T-62s have been retrofitted with sighting system upgrades, per the UK Ministry of Defence.

Russia’s tank force, which consists of several powerful divisions, has suffered heavy losses during the war in Ukraine. Across the board, it’s lost at least 1,780 tanks since the outset of the conflict in February 2022, according to an analysis by open-source intelligence platform Oryx.

Insider’s Jake Epstein reported that Russia’s tank force, once seen as formidable, is being torn apart by the Ukrainian military. US officials have said on more than one occasion that Russia has likely lost as many as half its main battle tanks while fighting in Ukraine, if not more.

Russian tanks have fallen prey to Ukrainian soldiers using anti-tank Javelin missiles, with military experts telling Insider that Russia is experiencing heavy losses because it doesn’t know how to use its tanks properly.

Since the summer of 2022, approximately 800 T-62 tanks have been retrieved from Russian storage, the MOD intelligence update said. Speculation that Moscow has tapped into its reserve of T-62s has been around since last spring, with video sightings apparently showing the armored vehicles in Ukraine.

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