Russian tank production ramps up five-fold, Vladimir Putin says

Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, has announced a fivefold increase in Russia’s main battle tank production since the commencement of its “special military operation in Ukraine”. This is how Russia refers to its invasion and war in Ukraine. Putin made this statement at the “All for Victory” forum. 

Western Military District of Russia will receive T-90 Proryv tanks
Photo credit: Aleksey Mayshev

In his declaration about enhancements in both civilian and military industries, Putin drew attention to the significant increase in tank production. “Since the operation began, the supply of various types of drones and artillery ammunition to troops has surged, including a tenfold increase for personal armor, sevenfold for automotive equipment, and, notably, a fivefold increase for tanks. A fivefold increase in tanks is quite significant,” Putin stated. 

However, Putin didn’t provide precise figures to represent this fivefold rise in tank production. BulgarianMilitary.com refers to a report from December last year issued by the Ministry of Defense that was circulated by the TASS news agency. This report reveals that in 2023, 1,500 tanks, and 22,000 drones were provided to the Russian army. The report also noted that 22,000 armored fighting vehicles and 1,400 missile and artillery systems were delivered. 

Soviet-era unique T-72M1 tank was spotted near Camp Dodge, Iowa
Photo credit: Twitter

UK Defence Intelligence

British defense intelligence recently announced that the number of tanks Russia is producing every month is almost equal to the number of tanks being destroyed in Ukraine—averaging around three tanks per day. Nevertheless, this intelligence report refers to the monthly production of tanks by the Russian defense industry. Other analysts speculate that this increase doesn’t necessarily mean entirely new tanks are being built. Rather, it could involve producing new equipment and upgrading older tanks from the Russian military’s stockpile. 

It is suggested that the production of the advanced Russian T-90M Proryv tank presents significant challenges. According to these sources, only 130 units of this modern armor were produced and supplied to the Russian army in 2023. The remaining supplies were sourced by upgrading T-72 and T-80 tanks, which Russia has in large quantities remaining from the Soviet Union era. 

Russia began equipping T-80BVM tanks with a laser target designator
Photo credit: Twitter

Putin might not be emphasizing the production of the technologically advanced T-90 tank but, instead, the revival of production lines that were scheduled for cessation. 

T-80 is back

In September last year, news surfaced about Russia restarting the T-80 tank production. This initiative involves more than just refurbishing or upgrading existing models; it stands for full-scale manufacturing of these battle vehicles from scratch. Alexander Potapov, the esteemed director of Uralvagonzavod concern, revealed this key news. 

Upgraded Russian T-80 tank may get 125 mm gun of T-14 Armata
Photo credit: Dzen.ru

Potapov stated that this order came directly from the military, necessitating negotiations with the Ministry of Industry and Trade due to the requirement for more capacity to restart production. 

The T-80BVM, a modern version of the tank, is powered by a robust gas turbine engine with an impressive 1250 horsepower. This innovative feature has been part of the Russian military’s armored divisions since 2019, marking a significant advancement in military technology. 

Soviet era

During the frosty Cold War era, the Soviet Union had an extensive tank industry, producing more tanks than any other nation at a staggering rate of over 4,000 tanks annually in the 1980s. This production volume was shared across five main factories, notably the Malyshev, Omsktransmash, and Uralvagonzavod—the main manufacturers of T-64s, T-80s, and cost-effective T-72s. 

Despite most of these tanks being designated for the Soviet Army, the USSR also exported more tanks than any other country. However, after the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, domestic tank orders plummeted drastically. In fact, during the 2010s, only about 10 orders were placed domestically per year. Nonetheless, the annual production remained around 100 tanks for the next three decades, with the majority being exported. 

In the aircraft industry, China was a key customer of the Soviet Union during the 1990s. However, in the case of armored vehicles, India and Algeria have been the main purchasers. Before 2022, these two countries had deployed more new T-90 tanks than even the Russian Army. 

T-90M's thermal camera matrix is Russian-made under French license
Photo credit: Reddit

It’s also worth mentioning that Iran was a significant buyer during the 1990s. However, Moscow was forced to terminate its T-72 export contract with Iran prematurely due to extreme pressure from Washington. 

‘1,500 tanks’ Medvedev said

The conflict in Ukraine which began in February 2022, led to severe losses for the T-72 troops early on. This triggered a sudden increase in production to compensate for the losses incurred during the conflict. 

Finally, Dmitry Medvedev, former president and current Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council, affirmed in March 2023, “We plan to build 1,500 tanks just this year, imagine the impact this will have on our adversaries, even under the best scenarios.” 

Moscow: T-90M tanks fire cutting-edge shrapnel-exploding shells
Photo credit: Topwar

Medvedev’s strong statement came shortly after he praised the capabilities of the upgraded T-90M variant, which was developed from the T-72 and incorporated key lessons learned from the Ukraine warfare. This suggests a possible large-scale production plan for the T-90M.

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