TechRussian forces deploy antique T-54 tanks in Robotyne battle

Russian forces deploy antique T‑54 tanks in Robotyne battle

Russian tank T-54B or T-54-3M.
Russian tank T-54B or T-54-3M.
Images source: © X (formerly Twitter) | Jarosław Wolski

6:09 PM EDT, May 31, 2024

The Russian crew most likely attacked Ukrainians in the village of Robotyne using one of the oldest tanks still in service—the T-54B, which was introduced in the USSR in 1956. We explain what this 68-year-old relic was doing on the front line.

Jarosław Wolski, a defense analyst, published an intriguing photo showing the T-54 tank on his X profile. The photo most likely originated from the Robotyne region, where Russian T-54/55 family tanks were seen in action. The tank in the photo appears to be a T-54B, identifiable by its characteristic infrared illuminator next to the cannon. This model was produced starting in 1956, but it could also be an older T-54-3, later modernized to the T-54B standard.

T-54 tanks - useless hunks of iron vulnerable to virtually anything

The T-54 tanks and their successor, the T-55, were developed based on experiences gained during World War II. The Russians aimed to create a modern medium tank, which evolved into the main battle tank after abandoning the development of heavy tanks.

Initially, the Russians tried to adapt the T-34 tank for a larger cannon, but it did not yield the desired results. A similar fate befell the T-44 tank, which preceded the first T-54 tank prototypes unveiled in 1946. Serial production of the T-54 began in 1949 after multiple modernizations.

Several variants have since been created, differing in elements such as turret shape and armor thickness. The armor made entirely of armored steel, can virtually penetrate any handheld anti-tank weapon today with a shaped charge warhead.

The armor only protects against machine gun fire and some automatic cannons. For instance, the CV90 fighting vehicle might penetrate even the frontal hull armor, making the weaker sides even less noteworthy.

The only arguable advantage of T-54 tanks is their rifled D-10 3.9-inch cannon. Although ineffective against the frontal armor of T-72 or T-64 tanks, it is sufficient against fighting vehicles. Thus, their only potential use is as support vehicles shelling an area with high-explosive fragmentation shells.

However, this role is complicated because the T-54 lacks a ballistic computer, and night vision appeared only in the T-54B model and its modernized versions. This first-generation system requires an infrared illuminator, which is easily noticeable like a flashlight in other night vision devices. Essentially, it is a blind and armored four-man coffin on today's battlefield.

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