TechUkrainian army struggles with tank shortage amid escalating conflict, says IISS report

Ukrainian army struggles with tank shortage amid escalating conflict, says IISS report

M1A1 Abrams tanks during training in Germany, before transfer to Ukraine.
M1A1 Abrams tanks during training in Germany, before transfer to Ukraine.
Images source: © 7th Army Training Command
10:51 AM EST, February 18, 2024

"Broadly speaking, our estimates show that two years post Russia's full-scale invasion, the number of main battle tanks in the Ukrainian army's service remains close to the pre-war levels," say IISS representatives in their report.

Ukraine's tank count

Nonetheless, experts indicate that the Ukrainian land forces have about twice as many soldiers as they did in 2022. Should each brigade be equipped with a battalion of 31 tanks, Ukraine would need more than 3,000 units. Given this, the current tank reserve does not merit excessive optimism.

The Ukrainian casualties list curated by the Oryx group includes over 700 tanks. To compensate, approximately 500 tanks were captured by the Russians, a few hundred post-Soviet models were reinstated from storage, and roughly 600 tanks were supplied to the Ukrainian army by allied countries. This amounts to over 1,000 Ukrainian tanks, but IISS refers only to fully battle-ready machines. The others are tanks that are under repair or being upgraded in Ukrainian facilities or overseas. We would like to note, for instance, that the damaged Leopard 2 tanks have been repaired in Poland and Lithuania.

All Abrams still in Ukraine

As Forbes highlights, the third year of war intensifies Ukraine's need for additional tanks. Since the local industry isn't producing any new armoured vehicles, aid from allies recently slowed down their supply will be crucial.

So far, the West, in addition to providing Soviet-era tanks, has primarily supplied various versions of the German Leopard. Britain has deployed several highly regarded Challenger 2 tanks to the front lines, while the United States has donated 31 Abrams M1A1 tanks.

While the Russians have destroyed a considerable number of Leopards, they've only managed to hit one Challenger 2. The scenario with the Abrams tanks is more remarkable. The Ukrainians quickly decided to "hide" these tanks, claiming to be "waiting to use them at the opportune time".

The American machines considerably surpass the offensive capabilities and durability of older German Leopard models, not to mention Soviet-era tanks. They come equipped with robust engines, .47 inch calibre guns, and .50 and .30 inch calibre machine guns. Kyiv has received models with modified armour modules, which use tungsten inserts instead of the standard depleted uranium panels. Images available online reveal the additional application of ARAT-1 armour kits from the TUSK package.

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