The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Russia has lost nearly half its main battle tanks, report estimates

A damaged Russian tank and an armored personnel carrier sit in a field after attempting to attack in Vuhledar, Ukraine, in February. (Ukrainian Armed Forces/AP)
2 min

Russia is estimated to have lost nearly half its main battle tanks in its war in Ukraine, according to a new analysis by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Almost a year of war has “significantly” changed Russia’s inventory, with losses of around 50 percent of its T-72 tanks, the London-based institute said. Its assessment said the Russian army has lost nearly 40 percent of its broader prewar fleet of tanks, including models older and more modern than the T-72, with the fog of war making it difficult to determine figures beyond estimates. The T-72 is by far the most common tank in Russia’s arsenal.

Despite the losses, Moscow maintains a sizable reserve of older tanks that could allow its forces to press on.

“Industrial production continues but remains slow, forcing Moscow to rely on its older stored weapons as attrition replacements,” IISS chief executive John Chipman said Wednesday, launching the annual Military Balance review of armed forces around the world.

Ukraine’s arsenal is also changing, and its fleet of tanks, which is notably smaller, has sustained combat losses in the past year. Some of those losses have been offset by Soviet-era tanks that Kyiv has secured from allies, including Poland.

Who’s sending what to Ukraine: A new wave of Western weapons explained

A steady stream of weapons from Ukraine’s Western backers has been key to sustaining, and updating, its inventory. Western-designed guns and rocket artillery for Ukraine “mean its army can now strike at long range with more precise projectiles,” according to IISS.

And after months of pleas from Kyiv, Ukraine’s allies have pledged to send dozens of modern heavy tanks, including the M1 Abrams from the United States, German-made Leopard tanks and Challenger tanks from Britain.

Ukraine’s allies rush to send more equipment, risking logjams

The sophistication and lethality of weapons supplies for Ukraine have evolved during the war, with Kyiv now shifting to asking for fighter jets. But Western officials say those are unlikely to come anytime soon.

The pace of the fighting is also rapidly depleting ammunition stocks, pushing NATO countries to focus on boosting production. As Kyiv braces for a renewed Russian offensive and plans to launch a spring counteroffensive, its allies expect battles to intensify.