Russia has been forced to turn to 60-year-old tanks because it is suffering heavy losses in its war against Ukraine, the UK has said.
An official intelligence update from the Ministry of Defence said the country’s military had taken 800 T-62 main battle tanks (MBTs), first introduced in 1961, out of storage “to make up for previous losses” in the ongoing conflict.
Moscow has also deployed an unspecified number of Russian BTR-50 armoured personnel carriers, first used in war in 1954, in Ukraine for the first time and the update said it may bring more of both these types of vehicles into service as the war continues.
While some of these vehicles “have received upgraded sighting systems which will highly likely improve their effectiveness at night,” the intelligence update said, “both these vintage vehicle types will present many vulnerabilities on the modern battlefield, including the absence of modern explosive reactive armour”.
“There is a realistic possibilitiy that even units of the 1st Guards Tank Army (1GTA), supposedly Russia’s premier tank force, will be re-equipped with T-62s to make up for previous losses,” it added.
It comes as the head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary force pleaded for ammunition for his troops around the eastern Ukrainian city.
“If Wagner retreats from Bakhmut now, the whole front will collapse,” Yevgeny Prigozhin said on the weekend.
“The situation will not be sweet for all military formations protecting Russian interests,” he warned.
Meanwhile, it also comes amid reports that Russian soldiers are likely using “shovels” in hand-to-hand combat because of depleted stock.
The British defence ministry described how in late February Russian troops were ordered to attack a Ukrainian position armed just with “firearms and shovels”.
Russia has lost at least 1,780 tanks since the outset of the conflict in February 2022, according to an analysis by open-source intelligence platform Oryx.