The Russian tanks in the Ukrainian conflict

(To Tiziano Ciocchetti)

The Russian-Ukrainian conflict has brought to the fore the large-scale use of the armored weapon, almost completely abandoned (with some exceptions) by the armies of Western Europe.

Since the times of the Cold War, MBTs under the Warsaw Pact enjoyed little fame, as they were judged by NATO military analysts to be technologically inferior to their Western counterparts. Despite the technological gap, this aroused a certain fear as the numerical proportion was clearly in favor of the eastern bloc. That is why, in the event of a Soviet invasion, the conflict would immediately escalate to the nuclear level (using tactical warheads).

Coming to the current situation, to make a simple comparison, the 1a Armored Guards Army of the Army of the Russian Federation is capable of deploying 12 tank battalions, for a total of 362 MBT (between T-72B3, T-72B3M, T-80U / BVM, T90A / M), theentire Army of the Federal Republic of Germany is capable of fielding only 5 tank battalions, for a total of 220 Leopard 2 A6 / 7.

Sure, the wagons Leopard Germans are more advanced than the T-72/80, even in the updated versions. In addition, the former Soviet tanks, used in the medium-intensity conventional conflicts of the 90s of the last century, provided a poor operational yield. Suffice it to recall the debacle of the Iraqi T-72s (mostly of Polish and DDR origin) in the 1991 Gulf War.

During the battle known as “73 Easting”, in February 1991, a squadron of the 2nd armored cavalry regiment of the US Army, equipped with 9 M-1A1s Abrams Books and 12 M-2 Bradley, destroyed 20 T-50s and 72 BMP-25s in just over 1 minutes.

However, the poor performance of the former Soviet tanks was attributable to poor crew training and mediocre commanders to say the least.

The first battle of Grozny (November 1994 - March 1995), during the First Chechen War, dealt another heavy blow to the reputation of Russian tanks. The Chechen fighters used simple, but effective, urban guerrilla techniques (on the other hand the inhabited centers often turned out to be traps for MBT / IFV), placing themselves on the upper floors of buildings and hitting with light rocket launchers (Rpg-7D, Rpg -22, etc.) the upper part - generally the least protected of a tank - of the vehicles. In the first days of operations, the Russians had 20 MBTs and over 100 BMP-1 / 2s destroyed. Since then, considerable progress has been made regarding the use of tanks, both in terms of tactics and in terms of their protection.

The current Ukrainian conflict sees extensive use by the Russians of T-72B, T-72B3 and T-72B3M tanks. These are not very recent MBTs, although they are coated with reactive plates Kontakt-5. The Russian tankers, to increase their protection against the anti-tank systems used by the Ukrainians (such as the Javelin and the NLAW), applied steel grid turrets to the turrets, with the aim of trying to detonate the hollow charges before they hit the main armor.

The use of older MBTs is probably due to the fact that the Russian General Staff, being aware of the massive supplies of Western anti-tank weapons to the Ukrainians, wants to preserve the most modern equipment and, at the same time, "sacrifice" that less advanced. This is why we have not yet seen an extensive use of the T-90, the most modern tank supplied to the Russians (pending the unlikely cost reduction of the T-14 Armata nor allow mass production).

The latest version was called T-90M (photo), presented in January 2017 and tested during the tutorial Zapad, held between 14 and 20 September of the same year. The new version inherits the mechanically welded turret of the T-90A. Reactive protection Relikt it should have been reinforced by elements of the armor system malachite, already applied on the new MBT T-14.

The T-90M differs from the previous version for the presence of the 2 mm 82A1-125M cannon, the same as the T-14, and for the shooting viewer Irbis-K.

In 2015, in the middle of the Syrian war, Russia sent a company (10 tanks) of T-90A, under the810th Navy Infantry Brigade of the Black Sea Fleet, the same unit currently engaged in the siege of Mariupol, in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

It is also true that, given past experiences, the Russians will never massively use wagons in large urban centers (for example Kiev). Although the 2A82-1M piece is capable of firing ammunition equipped with electronic fragmentation proximity fuses, very useful in urban combat, in addition to laser-guided missiles Sprinter, with a maximum range of 8 km.

In conclusion, compared to the West, the Russians can "afford" to suffer high losses of MBT, especially if they are not very recent models. The fact remains that when they enter large urban centers, they will inevitably have to increase the volume of fire, if they do not want to be in a new Grozny.

Photo: MoD Russian Federation / web / Kremlin