Russia definitely continues to scrape the bottoms of drawers.
The Russian military is said to have dug up its old T-54 tanks, as well as their upgraded version of the T-55s, designed at the end of World War II.
Several experts and observers have indeed pointed out, with supporting videos, and not without surprise, that these ancestors were transported by train to the west of the country from the Russian Far East.
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The T-54 and T-55 are among the most produced tanks in military history with the entry into service of approximately 100,000 units.
Operational in the Soviet army from 1948, then in the armies of the members of the Warsaw Pact, they were also widely exported by the USSR in the 1950s, and produced in Poland and Czechoslovakia until 1983. This are the direct successors of the emblematic T-34 which equipped the Soviet army during the Great Patriotic War against the Panzer tanks of Nazi Germany.
I call it the 'survivor' because you can still find it in many theaters of war, in Ethiopia, Yemen, Syria
," reports armored specialist Marc Chassillan.
The T-54 has the particularity of resisting the ravages of time due to its great simplicity of design and use.
There is zero electronics on board, everything is purely optical, it's agricultural mechanics from the 1950s
,” explains Marc Chassillan.
It's also a tank that you can maneuver after a day of training and that's why you find it in many resistance or guerrilla movements: it was Commander Massoud's favorite tank
And the T-54 can also boast of high reliability due to maintenance that does not require a lot of expertise or spare parts.
A massacre against a Leclerc
With its 100mm rifled gun, its maximum speed of 51km/h and its 36 tons, the T-54 is nevertheless of a completely different generation than the Western Leopard 2 or M1 Abrams expected in Ukraine, and that is the least that one can say.
These last tanks of the NATO armies were designed to acquire technical superiority over the Soviet T-72 and T-80, themselves two generations older than the ancestral T-54.
Two damaged T-55 tanks of Commander Massoud near Kabul in October 1996. TERENCE WHITE
Despite their dilapidated state, will the T-54s be able to be useful for the Russian forces in Ukraine?
Faced with a Leclerc, or an American M1, it would be a massacre
", confirms Marc Chassillan.
But it can be used as a mobile infantry support gun, for indirect fire, it adds tubes, as they say
The T-54 could also be used, from a defensive perspective, as a sort of mobile blockhouse.
Camouflaged and buried in such a way that only the turret protrudes, the T-54 can skillfully defend a position.
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But unlike the Slovenian M-55, an ultra-modernized version of the T-55 delivered to Ukraine, the T-54 does not have a night firing system and thermal cameras, which is a very big drawback",
nuance Marc Chassillon.
Running out of stocks
After having lost at least 1900 tanks since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine according to the count of the serious
blog , Russia had already dusted off its emblematic T-62s which were known to be sidelined from the official reserves of the Russian army.
This time, is the great return of the T-54 a sign of a real depletion of Russian stocks?
The Russian losses in any case greatly exceed the capacity for renewal of the fleet, which was estimated at 300 new tanks and 300 old modernized tanks per year before the war
", explains Marc Chassillan.
And if Russia has opened new repair shops, it is difficult to know exactly their capacity.
With its very modern T-90M sent to Ukraine, the Kremlin plays in any case on all fronts.
An exceptionally reconstituted company of T-34s during a parade in Red Square on the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.
Alexander NEMENOV / AFP
But the Defense sector is proving unable to set in motion a production chain that can replace its most modern tanks with roughly equivalent units.
The Russian arms industry did not produce any of the highly anticipated T-14 Armata,
but instead began introducing hundreds of refurbished or upgraded variants like obsolete T-62s or even T-54s from the 1950s in an unmodified state
”, Oryx analyzes for his part in a note entitled
The army of dad: list of the equipment of the Russian army deployed in Ukraine, older than our parents.
In addition to combat tanks, there are therefore other post-war armored vehicles, such as the BTR-50 tracked vehicles, whose presence in Ukraine has recently been confirmed by analysts.
Russia has lost at least 10,000 armored vehicles in a year of war and therefore does not skimp on digging up its historic devices.
Will the Russian army go so far as to find iconic T-34s or perhaps even small T-26s from the 1930s?
These models had, in their time, their hour of glory, but there are no more today
,” says Marc Chassillan.
In 2019, Moscow had managed to recover around thirty T-34s from Laos in order to parade them on Red Square on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the 1945 victory.