Nizhny Tagil on the edge: Russia cannot catch up with tank losses
PANAGYURISHTE, BULGARIA — Nizhny Tagil, the city of tank production will increasingly have to accept the challenge of war. Although the fighting is currently mostly in Bakhmut, the upcoming counteroffensive will most likely put Nizhny Tagil on edge.
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The Russian city is home to the UralVagonZavod, the largest among other Russian tank factories. Currently, its capacity is the production of 20 tanks per month. For at least a year, the tanks have been only one model – the T-90M Proriv. Annually, this makes 240 tanks. Let’s round them to 250 because there are circumstances that can go either way.
This is extremely insufficient for the intentions expressed by the Kremlin – 1,600 tanks per year. This is insufficient compared to the monthly losses of the Russian army in Ukraine. According to Ukrainian sources, Russia loses 150 tanks per month of all models and types. There is no way that Nizhny Tagil can load production to the scale of 50 tanks, let alone 150 tanks.
Circumstances have also changed in the last year. Moscow issued an order that pushed military production to full capacity. They no longer work eight hours a day, but 12, sometimes 14 hours. Moscow gave freedom to anyone who wanted to work – to do so, including the night shift.
However, Nizhny Tagil does not have such classified personnel. The population of the city is over 300,000 people. Moscow is forced to appoint people from other parts of Russia. But these are additional costs – accommodation, gas, electricity, water, food, and transport. Salaries at UralVagonZavod are not high, especially after the war started.
There is a shortage of personnel and their import from other regions leads to their rapid qualification. This is not good, because in this way the quality at UralVagonZavod in Nizhny Tagil will drop drastically. We will not be surprised if in the following months of the war, especially towards the end of the year, reports of a larger number of destroyed tanks become more frequent. At the same time, not only T-72 or T-80, but we are mainly talking about T-90M Proriv – the pride of the Russian army at the moment.
Low wages, extended working hours, and highly unqualified newly hired staff will face another problem – Western sanctions. At the moment, things are not the same as they were a year ago. At the time, the US and Europe were imposing sanctions in rather ill-advised moves, suggesting that some doors would be opened to Russian imports. Now that is not the case. The high prices of iron available to Russia rose. Components and electronics are now manufactured in Russia because of the sanctions. This is good for the Russian economy, but how effective is it for the Russian military?
Low-quality electronics and Russian electro-optical converters, which are necessary for commanders and gunners, do not guarantee the accuracy of shooting. The lack of access to key elements and components weakens the armor of the T-90M.
Of course, let’s not forget the repair of damaged tanks coming from Ukraine. Yes, Russia is building two new factories just to repair such equipment. There is an unwritten agreement between the defense industry that smaller engineering plants undertake the repair of Russian armored vehicles, while the UralVagonZavod in Nizhny Tagil is engaged in the production of tanks only. But will Russia be able to do this?
If the amount of destroyed tanks is maintained, likely, UralVagonZavod will also have to be involved in the repair, which will affect the monthly tank production. The concept of a multi-thousand tank fleet of the Kremlin is great, but will it be able to be implemented in wartime?
The dispatch of Stalin-era T54/T55 tanks as well as T-62 tanks is clearly intended to be spent “as cannon fodder” at the front. This should give UralVagonZavod time to incorporate the additional production it received in recent months. yes, UralVagonZavod has built new production halls. Their goal is to increase tank production. But they still won’t be enough for Nizhny Tagil to “spew” 150 tanks a month.
But let’s not forget one more fact – UralVagonZavod does not only produce tanks. Civil train sets, counter-trains, and subway cars are made here. I.e. this production cannot stop at the expense of Putin’s war. There is also something else that passes between the drops of everyday life, but it affects everything very much – UralVagonZavod is being pursued by lawsuits from private Russian corporations engaged in civil transport.
Wrong orders, low-quality wagons, and trains, as well as poor production of metro wagons, have been haunting the lawyers of UralVagonZavod since last year. There are already effective fines that the company will have to pay due to breach of contracts. Yes, against the background of the large sums that are being spent, some 250,000 or 300,000 USD are not such a problem. However, only if they were isolated cases, and the cases are piling up. No matter how much they delay the court decisions, at some point, the management of the plant will accumulate a large debt from civil orders.
All of these small, minor, or medium-sized problems begin to indicate an impact. Both on the motivation of people who are forced to work harder for less money, and on the quality they can produce.
BulgarianMilitary.com followed very closely the supply of tanks from UralVagonZavod last year. There was a period in late 2022 when, for almost three months, every week the Kremlin proudly announced a new delivery of T-90M tanks. But as proudly as he announced the delivery, he silently never once said what quantity was being delivered. Because one batch of tanks can mean 20 tanks, but it can also mean three.
222/223 tank losses
There is no exact information on how many tanks Russia lost. Today, everyone counts, everyone claims, but in reality, it is difficult to count the losses based on the same photo from ten perspectives. Therefore, some agencies are cautious in their statements. Here, for example, CSIS cannot commit to an exact figure, because its estimated number of Russian tanks is in a wide range – between 1,845 to 3,511 tanks. Most are T-72 tanks.
If we take the average figure this makes about 2,670 tanks. That makes an average of 222/223 tanks per month. This tank production was possible in the years of the Soviet Union when all production facilities were at full capacity. Then there were no idle businesses or idle people. Today, half of Russia’s notorious military-industrial industry has been destroyed. Today, Moscow is rebuilding the other half.
Nizhny Tagil is on the brink – this city cannot cope with the losses of the Russian army. Even if a second replica factory were to spring up as if by magic, this production is hardly possible.
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