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A killing ground for Russian armor.  Are tanks now obsolete?

 | Breaking News Updates

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Despite only having the fourth largest army in the world, Russia is the superpower when it comes to its supply of tanks, with 12,950 in 2020, more than double the number of the United States, which arrived in second place with 6,333 vehicles.

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues into its seventh week, it looks like President Vladimir Putin’s military forces could wreak havoc. Photos of destroyed Russian tanks have been posted and shared on social media since the start of the war.

As of March 24, the Kremlin had lost hundreds of tanks since the war began in February, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said. Russian vehicles suffered heavy losses from Ukrainian troops armed with anti-tank missiles, including the UK’s Next Generation Light Antitank Weapon, or NLAW, and the US Javelin anti-tank missile.

Members of Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces examine new weaponry, including NLAW anti-tank systems, in kyiv on March 9. (Genya Savilov/AFP via Getty Images)

This has led some experts to say that warfare has changed and tanks and armored personnel carriers are now obsolete. “They are too expensive and are easily destroyed with many light anti-tank weapons or drones,” said Anders Aslund, an expert on Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe. wrote on Twitter.

According to the open-source intelligence organization Oryx, Russia lost a total of 450 tanks: 221 were destroyed, six were damaged, 41 were abandoned and 182 were captured. And Russia could lose more with the introduction of Switchblades, American combat drones designed to attack personnel and light vehicles. On Tuesday, defense officials announced they were training Ukrainian soldiers in the United States on how to use weapons to attack enemy tanks and armored vehicles. These 100 drones, carried in a backpack, were part of an $800 million military aid package to Ukraine.

While Russia has lost hundreds of tanks, does this mean that these armored vehicles are now becoming obsolete in modern warfare? According to Scott Boston, senior defense analyst at global policy think tank RAND Corporation, it’s definitely “not yet.”

“The first and most obvious evidence I have for this is that the Ukrainians are asking for more armored vehicles right now,” Boston told Yahoo News. “And they would very much like to get support from the United States and the West with more armored vehicles and more tanks.”

A killing ground for Russian armor.  Are tanks now obsolete?

 | Breaking News Updates

A Ukrainian serviceman stands on the turret of a destroyed Russian army tank on April 3. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images)

Last month Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked NATO to donate or sell 500 tanks to his country. “You have at least 20,000 tanks,” he told the alliance heads of state. “Ukraine has requested that one percent, 1% of all your tanks be donated or sold to us.” A number of countries in the organization use the same Soviet-era tanks and armored vehicles that Ukrainian soldiers already use themselves. However, it is not clear what kind of tanks Zelensky was asking for.

One of the reasons a large amount of Russian tanks were destroyed, Boston said, is that Russia is attacking – meaning the Ukrainians are on the defensive, so they are targeting more enemy munitions. Boston said that was likely to change and more Ukrainian tanks would be destroyed as they transitioned into the offensive.

Another reason for the tank graveyard is that the Ukrainians are smartly targeting Russian logistics, and so the ability to get fuel to the front line has proven difficult. According to Boston, a specific Russian tank division lost many vehicles to abandonment rather than direct enemy action.

With that in mind, Boston told Yahoo News that he didn’t know that “we’re still in the last generation of human-operated tanks.” He explained that this is because infantry will be used on battlefields for many years to come, and protected transport for foot soldiers will also be needed. “It’s an insurance policy for your infantry,” he said. “And the infantry protects the tank. That’s why they call it the “combined arms” team. Without it, the tank is just as useless as everything else.

A killing ground for Russian armor.  Are tanks now obsolete?

 | Breaking News Updates

A Ukrainian soldier inspects a burnt-out Russian tank on April 2 in Dmytrivka, kyiv region. (Alexei Furman/Getty Images)

A former British Army officer, now a military defense analyst, said people should be careful to “avoid drawing the wrong conclusions” about tanks. “Russia’s disastrous tactics were terrible publicity for tanks”, Nicholas Drummond wrote on Twitter. “No artillery support. No infantry support. No air support,” he said, referring to footage showing destroyed Russian tanks. “That’s not how combined arms tactics work. in an age of multi-domain operations.”

But how was there no support available for these tanks? According to Boston, “Russia entered this fight apparently thinking that it had bribed enough Ukrainian officials. And very few Ukrainians really wanted to fight them, and [the Russians] believed they were not going to encounter any serious resistance. They seem to have built their plan of operations around this incredibly flawed assumption.

And so time will tell how tanks will appear in this war, but one thing is certain, according to experts: they will be around for much longer.


What happened this week in Ukraine? Check out this explainer from Yahoo Immersive to find out.

A killing ground for Russian armor.  Are tanks now obsolete?

 | Breaking News Updates

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