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Putin has a Problem: Russia can barely build any tanks to fight in Ukraine

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Russian Tank Losses in Ukraine Exceed Production Capacity. In wartime, it is often impossible for any military to replenish its losses quickly enough. Yet, during the Second World War, the Soviet Union was able to produce some 1,000 tanks monthly – with many rolling straight out of factories and into action.

In its war in Ukraine, Russia’s losses are outpacing production by a factor of 10.

The Economist reported this week that the Kremlin can at best produce around 20 main battle tanks (MBTs) at its single factory, while it has lost thousands in the fighting.

According to recent estimates from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, Russia has already lost nearly 3,400 MBTs along with more than 6,600 armored combat vehicles.

The open-source intelligence platform Oryx has placed the numbers a bit lower but still reports that Russia is losing around 150 tanks monthly. Russian forces have apparently not learned from past mistakes on the battlefield, and as a result, losses have continued to mount.

This has included tankers bunching up on narrow roads, and driving across open fields unprotected by supporting infantry. The Ukrainian MoD has even claimed that in a single day, a sole Ukrainian soldier used the American-made FGM-148 Javelin to destroy five Russian tanks in a single battle. The footage was shared on social media showing the destruction of the Russian tanks.

Related: US warns China to not send weapons and ammo to Russia

UralVagonZavod can’t keep up

A UralVagonZavod building in Nizhny Tagil, Russia. A T-34 tank is on display on the left. (Wikimedia Commons)

Russia is home to the largest main battle tank factory in the world. UralVagonZavod – located in Nizhny Tagil – is also one of Russia’s largest scientific and industrial complexes.

Fortune magazine estimated that the facility employs some 30,000 workers – but it is still struggling to produce more than a dozen tanks. It was built in the early 1930s to manufacture railway freight cars, and during the Second World War began to produce tanks – mainly the T-34.

For its services in the war, UralVagonZavod received several honorary awards from 1941–1945, including the Order of the Red Banner of Labour (1942), Order of the Red Banner (1943), Order of Lenin (1944), Order of the Patriotic War (1945). Though it now produces other kinds of machinery, it is the primary tank manufacturing center for the Russian military. Yet it can’t meet the demand. 

One factor is that today’s main battle tanks are far more sophisticated than those employed in the Second World War, and are thus more complex to produce. Another factor is a shortage of key components, notably semiconductors, while the UralVagonZavod facility also hasn’t been properly modernized due to a number of issues including financial mismanagement and debt.

All of this has resulted in the Kremlin becoming increasingly reliant on restoring older tanks, Business Insider reported. Even that has failed to address the shortage of tanks as only a few dozen older models can be refurbished monthly.

Ukraine is also struggling – for now

The good news for Moscow has been that Ukraine has also struggled to produce any new tanks, as its only tank factory was destroyed at the start of the war.

However, in the coming weeks and months, Western main battle tanks including the German-made Leopard 2 and British Challenger 2 could begin to arrive in Ukraine, while the U.S. has pledged to send at least 31 new M1 Abrams.

Though it could take a while for those Western tanks to reach the frontlines, they could arrive long before Russia can replenish its own stocks.

Feature Image: A destroyed tank in Ukraine. (Social media screenshot)

This article by Peter Suciu was originally published by

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