November 30, 2022

An ex-Russian T-90 in Ukrainian service.
The Russian army has been losing 10 tanks every day on average since the Ukrainian army launched twin counteroffensives in eastern and southern Ukraine six weeks ago. The Ukrainian army’s own tank losses have been much lower—just two a day.
The gap is startling. An attacking army usually loses more equipment than a defending army does, as the attacker has to cross terrain and the defender can just hunker down in trenches and bunkers and open fire.
Moreover, the Russian army in theory still has a firepower advantage over the Ukrainian army, although that advantage has declined as Russian losses pile up and the Ukrainians induct more and more equipment from foreign donors—and from the Russians themselves.
No, Russia’s accelerating tank losses are the result of leadership and morale problems more than they are any technological imbalance on the battlefield. Half of the tanks the Russians have written off since early September were abandoned by their crews and seized by the Ukrainians.
The Ukrainian army is blowing up plenty of Russian tanks. It’s capturing just as many … and adding them to its own order of battle.
The Russian army’s losses were staggering even before the counteroffensives began in late August and early September. By Sept. 1, the Russians had lost 994 tanks that outside analysts can confirm: 614 of which were destroyed. That’s five tanks a day since Russia widened its war on Ukraine in late February.
A thousand tanks is more tanks than most armies have in their entire inventory. Heavy losses of fairly modern T-72s, T-80s and T-90s compelled the Kremlin to pull old T-62s—some dating to the 1970s or earlier—out of storage, replace rubber seals and polish their optics and haul them to the front lines.
The aging T-62s did little to slow the Ukrainian brigades that attacked in the south and east six weeks ago. Indeed, the geriatric tanks now account for a significant proportion of Russia’s armor losses. As of Sept. 1, the Russians had lost just one T-62. By Oct. 19, they’d lost 34—30 of which were intact when Ukrainian forces overran them.
Total Russian tank losses on Oct. 19 were a whopping 1,392, of which 801 were destroyed.
By contrast, the Ukrainian army as of Sept. 1 had written off 249 tanks, mostly T-64s. That’s a little more than a tank a day for the first six months of the war. The Ukrainians’ loss rate ticked up only slightly, to two tanks a day, as brigades advanced in the south and east. By Oct. 19 the Ukrainian army had lost just 320 tanks: 176 of them destroyed.
The Ukrainians in the last six weeks have lost 71 tanks and captured 194. In other words, the counteroffensives have resulted in a net gain in armor holdings for Kyiv. As the war grinds into its eighth month, Russia has fewer modern tanks by the day—and Ukraine has more.

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