Pentagon Claims Russian Military Has ‘Probably Lost Half of Their Main Battle Tanks’

Photo Credit: SERGEI SUPINSKY / AFP / Getty Images
Photo Credit: SERGEI SUPINSKY / AFP / Getty Images

Over eight months since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, the US Department of Defense has released a statement, saying the Russian forces have not only lost tens of thousands of soldiers, but also half of their main battle tanks (MBT). In an ingenious move, the Ukrainian military has been using the abandoned and captured vehicles to aid in their own defensive measures.

Man standing beside the main gun of a damaged Russian tank
Photo Credit: GENYA SAVILOV / AFP / Getty Images

In a recent meeting with the Defense Writers’ Group about the National Defense Strategy, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl called the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War a “massive strategic failure” on Russia’s part and highlighted the progress that’s been made by the Ukrainian forces.

During the meeting, Kahl stated that the Russian military has “probably lost half of their main battle tanks” and expended the majority of its precision-guided munitions. The latter is particularly noteworthy, as international sanctions mean the country’s unlikely to replenish its stocks.

“They are not going to emerge from this war stronger; they are going to emerge from this war much weaker than they went in,” he stated, adding that the Ukrainian military continues to make progress around Kherson and has launched a counteroffensive just outside of Kharkiv.

Damaged Russian tank on a road in Mariupol
Photo Credit: Maximilian Clarke / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

In the early days of the Russian invasion, the International Institute of Strategic Services placed the total number of active service tanks in Russia’s arsenal at 2,800, with an additional 13,000 armored vehicles. The organization also estimated that 8,500 vehicles and 10,000 tanks dating back to the Soviet-era were in storage.

Recent estimates appear to echo the sentiment shared by Kahl. Independent open-source intelligence site Oryx has documented Russian losses since the start of the conflict and says 1,460 tanks have been lost by the country’s military forces, including T-62s, T-72s, T-80s and T-90s, the latter of which Russia considers its most advanced. Of that total, 841 have been destroyed, 54 have been abandoned, 62 suffered damage and 503 were captured by the Ukrainians.

As a result of these losses, Russia has had to turn to pulling older tanks and equipment out of storage, including the T-62, which was introduced in 1961.

Ukrainian soldier standing atop a damaged Russian tank
Photo Credit: JUAN BARRETO / AFP / Getty Images

As aforementioned, the Ukrainian military has been collecting the abandoned Russian tanks and adding them to their own fleet, with the British Ministry of Defence estimating in October 2022 that “over half of Ukraine’s current fielded tank fleet potentially consists of captured vehicles.”

Ukraine’s tank arsenal is also expected to grow, with the US Department of Defense announcing on November 4, 2022 that it would send money to the Czech Republic to upgrade 45 Soviet-era T-72 tanks for use by the Ukrainian military. This followed an earlier announcement by the Netherlands, which agreed to fund the modernization of 45 Czech T-72s. All 90 MBTs are expected to be delivered by the end of the year.

In addition to the loss of much of the country’s tanks, the Russians are also losing a high number of important weapons, which, like the MBTs, are being used by Ukrainian soldiers, along with the weaponry sent by Western nations.

Damaged Russian tank half-collapsed in a large hole
Photo Credit: Leon Klein / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

More from us: Citizens Fleeing Over Russia’s Mobilization Efforts, Conscripts Given Rusty Weapons

At a recent press conference, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that over 100,000 Russian soldiers had been killed or wounded since fighting began in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, a total he says is likely mirrored on the other side. He also added that there have been 40,000 Ukrainian civilian casualties, on top of the 30 million who have been forced to flee their homes.

The casualty numbers greatly surpass those provided by the Russian Ministry of Defense in September 2022, which put the total number of military dead at just 5,937.

Clare Fitzgerald

Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

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