Armor: The Last Tank in Red Square


June 18, 2024: Since World War II ended in 1945 Russia has celebrated the May 9, 1945, surrender by Germany to Russian and Allied forces that had invaded Germany. The celebrations declined after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 but were revived by Vladimir Putin after 2000. A large military parade took place in Moscow and was broadcast nationwide. Until 2022 the parade featured more and more Russian tanks and other armored vehicles. These included new tank models. Most of Russia’s modern tanks were destroyed or captured during the first few months of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in early 2022. Since then Russia has resorted to reviving ancient T-55s, T-62s and T-64s kept in long term storage for an emergency. Unexpectedly heavy tank losses in Ukraine are such an emergency, so Russia is restoring and using these older tanks, mainly for supporting infantry attacks with cannon fire.

For the last two years only one tank has appeared in the victory parade, a World War II era T-34/85 built after the war and restored to operational condition by a Russian military museum. Between 1940 and 1958, 84,000 T-34s were built, most of them armed with an 85mm cannon. Initially T-34s had a 76mm cannon. By 1945 over 57,000 T-34s had been built and production continued after the war mainly in Poland from 1952 to 1955, plus Czechoslovakia between 1951 and 1958. A few countries and some Russian military museums maintain about 80 operational T-34s as of 2024.

Russia has tried to replace its modern tanks but has had problems getting modern components that make their T-72 and T-80 tanks superior to older Russian tank designs and able to confront modern western tanks. Production of T-72B3s proceeds slowly and Russian commanders are uncertain if these tanks will be used in Ukraine because the Ukrainians have a lot of effective anti-tank weapons.




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