Russia Has Lost More Tanks in Ukraine Than Were Operational Pre-War: IISS

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Russia has lost more tanks on the battlefield in Ukraine than it had operational when Moscow’s forces crossed over to start the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, according to a leading think tank.

Russia has lost approximately 1,120 tanks in the past year in the grueling war in Ukraine, Bastian Giegerich, director-general of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), told the media on Tuesday. Moscow has lost roughly 2,000 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles in the last 12 months, he added.

“Tank losses since the full-scale invasion began now likely top 3,000,” Giegerich said. “To put that in perspective, Russia’s battlefield tank losses are greater than the number it had when it launched its offensive in 2022.”

But Moscow is likely to be able to sustain its tank fleet with lower-quality vehicles for several years, the think tank evaluated.

Unveiling its annual “Military Balance” report, considered an authoritative count of the world’s armed forces, the think tank said Russia now has approximately 1,750 operational main battle tanks of various models, from the now-aged T-55s to modern T-90s. It has several thousand more in storage.

Newyork Verified has reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry for comment via email.

A destroyed Russian tank in Sviatohirsk, Ukraine, on April 22, 2023. Russia has lost more tanks on the battlefield in Ukraine than it had operational when Moscow’s forces crossed over to start the full-scale invasion…


Scott Peterson/Getty Images

With the second anniversary of the two years of all-out war approaching next week, the months of attritional conflict has taken a heavy toll on both Russia’s and Ukraine’s ground forces. The figures from the IISS are the latest indicator of the impact of the invasion effort on Russia’s armed forces as it plugs away with offensives at several points along the front line.

In February 2023, the IISS assessed that Russia had lost up to half of its key combat tanks in the first year of the expanded war. In late January, James Heappey, Britain’s armed forces minister, told U.K. lawmakers that London estimated total Russian tank losses to be more than 2,600, with approximately 4,900 armored vehicles destroyed.

As of Tuesday, the Ukrainian military put Russia’s tank losses at 6,424. Kyiv’s estimates often come in higher than figures put forward by Western analysts.

To backfill extensive losses, Russia pulled tanks from storage and placed its defense industry on a war footing, able to refill its stocks while taking constant hits from Ukrainian forces. Domestic Russian tank production has increased fivefold since February 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier this month.

“Moscow has been able to replenish, but the vehicles that emerged from Russia’s production facilities are, in most cases, not new,” Giegerich said.

Russia has already begun to sacrifice quality for quantity with its tanks, the IISS added. The U.K. government has previously suggested Moscow is able to generate around 100 main battle tanks each month, helping to prop up Russian assaults for the foreseeable future.

Moscow has sustained painful tank and armored vehicle losses in its assault on the Donetsk city of Avdiivka, northwest of the regional capital, Donetsk City, since October 10.

Between early October and late January, Russia lost up to 365 tanks and 700 armored vehicles as the assault on Avdiivka ramped up, the British Defense Ministry said last month. Ukraine has shared images it said offered a snapshot of swathes of Russian tanks and vehicles littering the land around Avdiivka.

Russia has consistently advanced around Avdiivka, a strategically and symbolically important settlement that Ukraine has fought hard to defend. Moscow has gained territory around Avdiivka, hoping to sever the main supply route for Kyiv’s forces in the city.

Ukraine’s tank fleet has morphed in the past two years, Western aid supplementing its Soviet-era vehicles with NATO-standard tanks. Kyiv has around 937 tanks as of the start of 2024, according to the IISS, including several models of the German-made Leopard tanks.

“Overall, we estimate that two years after the full-scale invasion, the number of MBTs (main battle tanks) in service in the Ukrainian armed forces remains near pre-war levels,” with other armored vehicle numbers increasing due to Western military aid, the IISS said.

The quality of Ukrainian equipment has improved through Western aid like NATO-standard tanks, the IISS said, although it has complicated the logistics involved in deploying new sets of equipment.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that Ukraine had lost just under 15,000 tanks and armored combat vehicles in the almost 24 months of war.

Newyork Verified has reached out to the Ukrainian military for comment via email.