Russia relying on old stocks after losing 3,000 tanks in Ukraine, leading military research centre says

By Thomson Reuters Feb 13, 2024 | 4:12 AM

By Greg Torode

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Russia has lost more than 3,000 tanks during its invasion of Ukraine – the equivalent of its entire pre-war active inventory – but has enough lower-quality armoured vehicles in storage for years of replacements, a leading research centre said Tuesday.

Ukraine has also suffered heavy loses since the invasion began in February 2022, but Western military replenishments have allowed it to maintain inventories while upgrading quality, the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies said in its annual Military Balance report.

“Moscow has been able to trade quality for quantity though, by pulling thousands of older tanks out of storage at a rate that may, at times, have reached 90 tanks per month,” said the report, a key reference tool for defence analysts.

Russia’s stored inventories mean Moscow “could potentially sustain around three more years of heavy losses and replenish tanks from stocks, even if at lower-technical standard, irrespective of its ability to produce new equipment,” the report said.

Russia has an active force of 1,750 main battle tanks, ranging from decades-old T-55s to its modern T-80s and T-90s, the Military Balance said. It has a further 4,000 in storage.

“The situation underscored a growing feeling of a stalemate in the fighting that may persist through 2024,” the Military Balance said.

Russia’s defence ministry declined to comment.

The U.S. Senate is poised to pass a further military aid bill for Ukraine this week.

With the conflict about to enter its third year, Ukraine’s commanders have signalled they are prepared to keep grinding down Russia’s forces across a 1,000-kilometre (600-mile) front.

In an interview with Reuters in January, then-ground forces commander Oleksandr Syrskyi said defence remained the priority even as he did not rule out further offensive operations.

“Our goals remain unchanged: holding our positions… exhausting the enemy by inflicting maximum losses,” said Syrskyi, who last week replaced Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, the popular leader of Ukraine’s forces through the darkest days of the invasion.

Some analysts said the situation could test the ability of Russia’s vast arms industry to produce new tanks and other weapons amid Western sanctions.

The Military Balance noted Russian industry executives had boasted of surging military production, while Russian officials have noted plans to resume production of its T-80 tank.

“It’s an astounding figure,” said Singapore-based defence analyst Alexander Neill, referring to the estimate of 3,000 tanks lost.

“Some of those could have been older tanks, so one of the big questions is how many of its most advanced tanks does it have left for any major future offensives,” added Neill, an adjunct fellow at Hawaii’s Pacific Forum think-tank.

More broadly, the report noted that global defence spending is up 9% from 2022 and is poised to rise further in 2024.

(Reporting By Greg Torode; additional reporting by Guy Faulconbridge in Moscow; Editing by Gerry Doyle)