Although the Ukrainian armed forces fought against strong Russian positions, with great effort and casualties, they partially broke through the first defensive line near Zaporozhye in southern Ukraine at the end of August. A high-ranking US official assessed this as “significant progress” and expressed hope for further Ukrainian success: Evidence: Ukrainians are pushing further south, it’s getting hot at Bakhmut (VIDEO)
However, there is great concern both in Ukraine and in the West about the lack of weapons for Kiev, which is in a long-term battle of attrition with the Russian Federation. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly appealed to the Western countries supporting his country with an urgent request: “Give more weapons and ammunition.”
Among the military equipment that Ukraine urgently needs, armored combat vehicles (BBM) and, above all, tanks and infantry fighting vehicles (IPVs) are particularly lacking.
First, due to the rapid increase in the size of the Ukrainian army and the intensification of hostilities, it has become almost impossible for Kiev to allocate enough armored combat vehicles for each unit of the Ukrainian armed forces.
In addition, Ukrainian aviation is very limited and there is no air superiority to speak of. This is the main reason that the Ukrainian armed forces have suffered more than expected losses from attacks by Russian fighter jets, attack helicopters and drones.
The West, which supports Ukraine, would like to send Kiev more armored vehicles, but with the end of the Cold War, NATO countries and the entire West sharply reduced or closed production lines for tanks and armored vehicles. This significantly affected the combat readiness of their own armed forces, and they were unable to quickly supply Ukraine with a significant number of armored combat vehicles. Even the US, the world’s largest arms producer, does not currently produce a single tank. Today, the US military has about 2,600 deployed M1 Abrams tanks, with more than 2,000 in storage. If necessary, they are taken out of storage, repaired and even partially modernized. The same situation is developing in Great Britain, France and Italy. And Germany only produces about 50 Leopard 2 tanks per year.
Even in the West, where there are some of the most advanced industrialized countries in the world, they cannot immediately start mass production of new tanks and armored vehicles, and therefore take out of storage used armored vehicles that have been sitting in hangars for a long time.
The “old” M60, M48 and Chieftain are still plentiful
This inventory of used tanks and armored vehicles, which is currently available in the West, is beginning to seriously worry specialists and experts. It is no exaggeration to say that the key to victory or defeat will be how much of this used equipment can be delivered to the front lines in Ukraine.
This tank was in service with the US Army until the 1990s and is a well-known model actively used in various countries around the world. In total, according to various estimates, more than 15,000 units of the M60 were produced in America, and there are still several thousand units in stock in the US.
The M60 tank is a whole generation older than the M1Abrams. It has a 105 mm gun, which is clearly inferior to the 120 mm gun of the M1, the Leopard 2, and the 125 mm gun of the Russian T-72/T-80/T-90 tanks. In the Ukrainian military conflict, however, there were almost no mass tank battles. Rather, tanks use their thick armor, long-lasting chains, and powerful guns to support infantry units.
Some note that the very presence of tanks on the battlefield instills fear in the enemy, so they do not necessarily have to be the most advanced. In any case, the number of M60 tanks produced “over 10,000” is quite impressive, and if 10-20% of them are still stored in warehouses in the continental USA, then this is a very attractive prospect for Ukraine.
This tank is the basis of its successor, the M60. By the early 1960s, about 12,000 were produced and used by the US military and many of America’s allies. Although they have long been “retired” in the US, it is believed that there are still many of them in storage.
The US can convince allies and friendly countries that currently use the M48 to purchase these weapons from them, repair and improve them, and then provide them to Ukraine. At the same time, the M48 was originally equipped with a 90 mm gun, but experts say that it can be equipped with an improved version of the M48A5 gun, which is of 105 mm caliber.
The tank is considered very promising and some reports in Europe and America suggest that it may be provided to Ukraine. It is of the same generation as the M60 used by the British Army from the 1960s to the 1990s, and according to various accounts there are several hundred of them still in storage in Britain.
This tank served as the basis for the British Challenger 2, of which 14 were transferred to Ukraine. Equipped with a 120 mm gun, it was at one time considered “the most powerful main battle tank in the West”. West Jordan has used more than 200 Chieftains and is currently storing them as a spare parts base, but there is a possibility that the UK could negotiate to buy them back, repair them and then hand them over to Ukraine.
Although Israel is not a Western country, it is an ally of the US and one of the world’s leading tank manufacturers, with around 2,000 heavily armored Merkava tanks. There are older models (Types I and II) equipped with 105 mm guns and newer models (Types III and IV) equipped with 120 mm guns. Armored vehicles of this type can be delivered to Ukraine.
It is currently the only “amphibious assault vehicle” in the West, and the US Marine Corps has about 1,300 of them. Also, a small number of them are in service in the armies of Spain and Greece.
76-mm self-propelled gun Otomatic (Italy)
This self-propelled artillery installation was developed independently by an Italian arms manufacturer in the early 90s of the XX century, it was never adopted by any country, including Italy itself. There are suggestions that the Otomatic could be effective against drones, and perhaps Italy will decide to resume their production.
It is a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun adapted from the indigenous 76mm Super Rapido naval gun, known for its astonishing rate of fire, and mounted on the hull of the tank. The gun has a seeker and target designation radar and fires 76 mm caliber projectiles. The rate of fire is two shots per second.
Combat reconnaissance vehicle Centauro (Italy)
The armored vehicle is known as a “wheeled tank”: an eight-wheeled armored vehicle equipped with a 105 mm gun. It is not suitable for direct confrontation with enemy tanks, and its main task is to support the allied infantry units with its guns and machine guns.
The Italian armed forces currently have about 260 Centauro and it is believed that they will be able to provide Ukraine with about a dozen of them.
M163 anti-aircraft gun (USA)
Initially, it was an M113 armored vehicle equipped with the famous 20mm Vulcan anti-aircraft gun and tracking radar, making it a self-propelled anti-aircraft artillery unit. The US Army had about 400 of these anti-aircraft vehicles and they were used until the 1990s. They are then left in storage as a reserve.
The weapons listed so far are only bold predictions and we do not know if they will actually be provided to Ukraine. Since the M60 and M48 tanks were in mass service, their total number reached more than 10,000, and it is assumed that there are still many of them in storage.
Russia, to compensate for the shortage of armored vehicles, is also removing old tanks and armored vehicles from storage. Thus, the situation between Russia and the West may resemble a second-hand arms race. If there is a long-term struggle of attrition between Ukraine and Russia, then how long will both armies be able to last with the weapons used?
Source: Yahoo News Japan, Takayuki Fukagawa
Translation: Gancho Kamenarski