While estimates differ, Russia has lost around 1,000 tanks in Ukraine since its invasion on February 24, according to the Oryx database. There are no reliable figures on how many tanks the Ukrainians have lost, but it would be significantly fewer because they have been used in more limited ways during the war.
Some analysts think the Ukraine war spells the end of tank warfare altogether. Others see this as a triumph for superior tactics using modern portable anti-tank weapons, particularly the US Javelin and the Swedish-British NLAW (New-generation Light Anti-tank Weapon).
Many Russian tanks have fallen to well-executed ambushes by foot soldiers using NLAWs, Javelins and other man-portable weapons, leading to criticism of Russian armor operations and tactics.
Interestingly, it was the Russians who pioneered the combat use of anti-tank weaponry when, in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Egyptian Army made heavy use of Russian Sagger anti-tank weapons. While Israel’s hard-pressed tank crews worked to knock out Saggers, the Egyptians used RPG-7 anti-tank rockets with which a soldier could blast a tank at very close range.
After the 1973 war, the US led the way in developing tanks with more sophisticated armor. The most important breakthrough was Chobham armor, a steel-ceramic matrix between standard armor plates designed to absorb the shock of anti-tank weapons. The US Abrams M1 and the British Chieftain adopted this armor, and it was improved over time.
Russia followed developments in the UK and the US with its own composite armor called Combination K. It was inserted between layers of steel, like Chobham armor. It is said to consist of fiberglass/plastic and ceramics in three layers.
Combination K was used in some of the production of T-72s. Russia improved composite armor for its T-90A tanks, which are said to have successfully stopped RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) anti-tank weapons in the Chechnya war.
Read the rest at Asia Times.
Stephen Bryen is a Senior Fellow at Yorktown Institute.