Armor: Where Have All The Red Army Tanks Gone?


September 28, 2007: At the end of the Cold War, Russia had about 53,000 tanks in service (about 40 percent of them relics from the 1950s, or earlier). Now there are only about 12,000, and less than ten percent of them are modern. Back in 1991, about half of the tanks were of questionable serviceability and usefulness, but that still left the Russians with 25,000 modern tanks, ready to roll west. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, 80 percent of the troops were sent home, and, in the next decade, only a few hundred new tanks were purchased. Most of those 50,000 tanks ended up as scrap.

The current tank fleet has about 500 T-90s and T80s (VIDEO). These are roughly equal to early model U.S. M-1s. Most of the current Russian tanks are late model T-72s, some of them upgraded with excellent electronics (fire controls systems and thermal sights). Of the 12,000 tanks the Russian army says it has in inventory, only a few thousand are ready to roll, and go into combat. In effect, Russia has lost use of some 90 percent of its tanks since 1991. Back then, nearly all those 50,000 were assigned to a combat division. OK, most of those were reserve divisions, but if most of the reservists showed up in wartime, they would know how to get their tanks operational. That reserve system collapsed along with the Soviet Union, so now, the Russians could get about 5,000 tanks operational on short notice. That's a big drop from the 1980s.


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