As Russia continues to face setbacks in its unprovoked and unwarranted war in Ukraine, the Kremlin has been increasingly relying on military hardware that can be best described as “antiquated” or even “archaic.” Most notably are the Cold War-era tanks that have been pulled from storage, and are reportedly being deployed to the frontlines.
Over the weekend, a video that circulated on social media showed 60-year-old T-62 tanks lined up on railway cars in Russia.
“Old Soviet tanks taken out of conservation by Russia – with no protection against modern weapons. And new Russian conscripts (also with no protection against modern weapons and a modern army – we’ve seen what they fight in). Perfect combination, doomed for success, I would say,” tweeted Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the Ukrainian government.
It could be argued those tanks belong in a museum, not on the battlefield. Of course, throughout the summer, dozens of Russia’s more modern tanks have been used in a variety of displays in Kyiv and other western cities after being disabled on the frontlines. As a result, many on social media have mocked the Russian military.
However, some military hardware experts still stress that despite being some six decades old, the T-62 is still a viable fighting machine, a point not often addressed via posts on Twitter or Facebook.
“While recent deployments may make it appear that Russia has been reduced to sub-par equipment, no one should underestimate how potent upgraded T-62s can be,” explained John Adams-Graf, military vehicle historian and editor of History in Motion. “The former Soviet Union built more than 22,000 T-62s between 1962 and 1975. That means there are a lot of parts available to service the basic vehicle. More importantly, though, it is a vehicle with which many Reservists are familiar. It is a far easier platform to learn than the later T-72, T-80, or T-90.”
Adams-Graf also added that the versions reportedly deployed to Ukraine include the T-62M and the T-62MV, both extensive modernizations of the original T-62. That includes the BDD applique armor package and mobility improvements as well as the ‘Volna’ fire control system. In addition, the T-62MVs are fitted with the enhanced protective ‘Kontakt-1’ explosive reactive armor (ERA) on the sides of the hull, the glacis plate, and in the front of the turret.
“Even though it might sound reassuring to the West that the Russians are forced to deploy ‘second-line’ tanks to Ukraine, the reality is these T-62Ms and T-62MVs are very lethal weapon systems with protection that will defeat many of the hand-held anti-tank weapons that have proven to be so deadly to Russian armor in the past six months,” Adams-Graf continued.
Movements Noted On Social Media
The fact that a video was widely circulated that showed the tanks being loaded onto a train is also noteworthy. Social media has changed the way that actions on the battlefield are shared with the masses, and it now seems increasingly difficult for a major power to even move any hardware without it going viral online.
The United States has long had to deal with such information not being leaked out, and concealing a trainload of tanks isn’t exactly easy.
“What is different here is that the United States military has a public affairs branch, and it has complex ways to manage the media,” said Dr. Matthew Schmidt, associate professor of national security and political science at the University of New Haven.
“This is necessary for a country where freedom of speech is integral. It has people who value that there is a balance in keeping the public informed with operational security,” Schmidt added. “By contrast, Russia simply doesn’t care, and instead, it has tried to clamp down on what people post.”
As noted by the recent video, however, Russia is failing as badly in those efforts to control the flow of information as it has fared on the battlefield.
“They’re using a heavy hand,” said Schmidt. “But that might just drive people to post more!”