Procurement: Tanks Sent to Ukraine


October 7, 2023: Currently the number of Russian tanks available is shrinking faster than the Ukrainian tank force. The key factor here is the inability of Russia to manufacture enough tanks to cover losses, much less increase their tank force. Russian manufacturing in general is suffering from Western sanctions which Russia tries to mitigate with substitution or smuggling. This is an imperfect solution and is not w0rking. Another problem is that their one tank manufacturing plant, Uralvagonzavod, can only produce about 300 tanks a year. This assumes they have access to the needed components, which is currently not the case. Fixing crippled but repairable tanks is also disrupted by not having enough tank transporters to carry damaged tanks to a rail road that will take them to a repair facility. These facilities are still busy refurbishing elderly (1960s) T-62s for infantry support duties. Production of the 115mm main gun of the T-62 ceased production decades ago while many of the stored T-62s have 115mm guns that already have a lot of use and cannot fire many more shells before the barrels need replacement. Artillery barrels in general can only be fired a certain number of shells before they become unreliable and inaccurate. Tank guns fire higher velocity shells than the shorter barreled field artillery and so become unreliable much faster.

Ukraine has access to lots of imported Western tanks as well as more tank repair facilities. Most of the imported Western tanks are more capable than anything Russia has. Older tanks donated to Ukraine, like Leopard 1A5s, are superior to the T-62. The Leopard 1 entered service in 1961 and began getting replaced by Leopard 2s in 1979. The original Leopard 1 was first upgraded in the 1970s to the Leopard A1. The A2, A3 and A4 upgrades were implemented in the 1970s and the A5 upgrades in the 1990s. Some 4,700 Leopard 1s were built between 1965 and 1984. In the 1990s major users of more capable Leopard 2s retired many of these tanks. Germany had 2,100 Leopard 2s and retired most of them by selling them off, at very attractive prices, to friendly countries. Despite this flood of low cost Leopard 2s, many nations kept their Leopard 1s. The 42-ton Leopard 1 and its 105mm gun can deal with any Russian tank, but not as efficiently as a 61-ton Leopard 2 and its 120mm gun. Ukrainians have been building tanks for nearly a century and know these combat vehicles quite well. A hundred Leopard 1A5s will overwhelm the Russians faster than a few dozen Leopard 2s and Challengers 2s. There are more Leopard 1A5s available from European nations that realized their values and put them in storage rather than scrapping them. Most NATO users want to hold on to most of their Leopard 2s, just in case. That means more Leopard 1s are available and Ukraine is eager to have them. About a hundred American M1 began arriving in Ukraine during September 2023. Earlier 31 were made available to train Ukrainian crews and mechanics. The U.S. built over 10,000 M1s since it entered service in 1982. The M1 and Leopard 2 are roughly equal in capability although the M1 has more combat experience. Both cost about the same at $6 million, which is twice what a new Leopard 1 cost. Meanwhile, Ukraine believes a hundred Leopard 1A5s arriving first can get most of the work done.




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