Russian Tanks By The Numbers

Prior to the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia, it was thought Russian forces were tank heavy and highly mobile. In fact, many thought the Russian tank corps was a killing machine capable of running over its adversaries.

What the Ukrainians quickly revealed was:

 1. Russian tanks were highly vulnerable to modern ATGMs – anti-tank guided missiles – and when hit exploded in a Jack-in-the-Box effect shedding their turrets.

Decapitated Russian tank — Jack in the Box turret.

Using drones to spot tanks leveraged this vulnerability.

The Ukrainians have made excellent use of foreign ATGM systems (Javelin, TOW, NLAW, StarStreak and others) and domestic systems (Stugna-P which has longer range than a Javelin).

In all, the Ukrainians have received and continue to receive more than 25,000 ATGMs.

2. Russian armor was not well maintained. The Russians quickly began to cannabilize other tanks for spare parts.

 3. Russian armor (all armor) was completely held hostage to fuel and when the Ukrainians put fuel trucks at the top of their target list, the Russian tanks suffered.

The number of Russian tanks abandoned because of no fuel became a huge asset — meaning free tanks for Ukraine — for the Ukrainians.

 4. The deployment of Russian armor was not creative from a maneuver perspective.

Becoming road bound just made the Ukrainian ATGMs and drones more effective.

 5. Russian armor took a long time to become sensitive to Old School anti-tank mines.

 6. In general, Ukrainian tankers seemed to have out shot their Russian opponents. Gunnery is a gigantic consideration in a tank fight.

How many Russian tanks, Big Red Car?

The numbers on Russian tanks are a little fuzzy as they have an operational element, a battlefield reserve, a strategic reserve, and mothballed tanks.

 1. Total Russian tanks in the active Russian army seem to have been 4,000 as of the invasion of Ukraine.

 2. The Russians appear to have committed 3,000 tanks to the Ukraine fight. Not on Day One, but since Day One.

The Ukrainians have:

 1. Killed 1,000 Russian tanks — many say this number may be as much as 4-500 low (see why below)

 2. Captured 600 Russian tanks

 3. Seized 100 abandoned Russian tanks

 4. Substantially damaged 100 Russian tanks

The above numbers come from an outfit that takes pictures of dead Russian tanks so I believe the number of actual killed Russian tanks must be much more as they cannot possibly have gotten a pic of every dead Russian tank.

Ukrainian losses have been 500 tanks which means the Russians have supplied more in the way of captured and abandoned tanks than the Ukrainians have lost in battle.

It also demonstrates that the Ukrainians — who have about 1,500 tanks — are efficient in the exchange of tanks. This battlefield efficiency argues for getting more and better tanks into the hands of the Ukrainians.

Tank gunnery

The main weapon on a tank is its gun — typically a 120mm smooth or rifled bore. With infrared sights, a tank gun can reach out 2,500 meters.

To be proficient a tank crew has to go to the firing range and shoot.

American tank crews — amongst the most proficient in the world — fire about 120 rounds a year in gunnery practice which is in addition to dry firing. [This comes from a Brother Rat of mine who spent a career with tanks and commanded at every level from platoon to company to battalion to brigade.]

Russian tanks are reported to fire 0-4 rounds a year.

The Russian tanks that camped on Ukraine’s border for a year fired zero rounds in training.

This may be a substantial element in the rate of exchange between Russia and Ukraine.

Bottom line it, Big Red Car

The Russians have lost more than half of their tanks since the invasion.

The exchange rate between Ukraine and Russia favors Ukraine.

One may be fairly skeptical about Russian armor prowess. This is compounded by the lack of air superiority for the Russians.

Giving Ukraine more modern main battle tanks such as the Abrams, Leopard, Crusader, Leclerc seems to be a good bet given the outcomes noted above.

It worth noting that recent casualty reports indicated Russian manpower losses at: 135,000 KIA and 2X that number WIA. This is more than the entire original manpower Russia deployed on 24 February 2022.

Even if the Russians commit even more tanks, they are going to have a difficult time manning those tanks with experienced, trained crews who can shoot, move, and communicate.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car.