Tanks for Nothing? Ukraine Pulls Back Abrams, Leopards, Challengers as Russia’s T-90Ms Roll In  

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

Marking the momentous occasion of Victory Day on May 6, the Russian tank manufacturer Uralvagonzavod announced the delivery of a convoy of T-90M ‘Breakthrough’ tanks to the Russian Armed Forces. This development is significant given the Russian-Ukrainian war.  

The T-90M, a flagship model in the lineup, stands as a testament to the defense industry’s continuous progress. Its exceptional adaptability to combat conditions, comprehensive protection, round-the-clock highly automated fire control system, and enhanced survivability are all technological advancements that inspire confidence in its capabilities.

“It is symbolic that another convoy of the world’s best tanks, the T-90M ‘Breakthrough,’ is being sent to the Russian army on the eve of the great holiday — Victory Day. May 9 is a date of special significance for Uralvagonzavod,” commented Alexander Potapov, the CEO of Uralvagonzavod.

On April 5, the corporate edition of Uralvagonzavod reported that Russian tanks are equipped with standard electronic warfare (EW) means to counter unmanned aerial vehicles.

On February 16, the Russian government made a significant move, extending the state program to develop the defense industry complex (DIC) until 2034. This resolution introduces changes to Russia’s list of state programs, with a new section dedicated to the state program’ Development of the Defense Industry Complex.’ The program’s implementation period, previously set as 2016–2027, has now been extended to 2016–2034, demonstrating the government’s unwavering commitment and assurance to the defense industry’s future.

Before this, on February 15, modern tanks ready to be sent to the front were presented to the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, at the Uralvagonzavod plant in Nizhny Tagil. The head of state familiarized himself with the process of armored vehicle production. In particular, he was shown tanks T-72BZM and T-90M “Breakthrough,” ready to reinforce the ranks of Russian military equipment in special operations. He called the latter the best in the world. The Russian leader noted that the tank needs further development and modernization.

The Shifting Tracks of Armored Warfare in Ukraine

The use of armored forces by the warring parties in Ukraine is showing a startling change as the fighting drags out. Ukraine has lately removed many of the Abrams tanks the United States gave from the front lines. It had already withdrawn the Leopard 2 tanks in part and the Challenger 2 tanks entirely. 

Ukraine’s decision to remove the Abrams tanks, a strategic move that accounts for roughly one-sixth of the tanks supplied by the US, is a clear indication of the changing dynamics of the conflict. The vulnerability of these sophisticated main battle tanks to Russian drone assaults, coupled with their demanding maintenance needs in harsh wartime settings, has necessitated this decision.  

The West and Ukraine are reevaluating how to use Western tanks in combat. This review implies that the tanks might be repositioned or modified to better withstand the threat posed by Russian drones, which are relatively successful against concentrated armored formations. Improving the active protection systems of the tanks could be one of the possible modifications to strengthen their defenses against drone strikes. These kits are costly and may not withstand a swarm. As an alternative, the tanks could be moved to places where there is less drone activity or where strong counter-drone defenses are in place. Although specifics are yet few, it is clear that the main goal is to modify the use of these tanks to the realities of the battlefield, where drone threats have become a significant obstacle to overcome.  

In stark contrast, Russia is resolute in its mission to bolster its armored presence on the front lines. By leveraging its superior tank force, Russia has unequivocally demonstrated its unwavering confidence in the power of its tank forces through this calculated operation.  

The deployment of Russia’s most sophisticated tanks, notably the T-90M “Proryv,” is a deliberate gamble. Although these models constitute the pinnacle of Russian tank design, their small manufacturing numbers prevent them from being widely used. All the same, their presence on the battlefield underlines Russia’s resolve to keep its armored edge.  

It is noteworthy that there is some danger involved with Russia introducing its newest tank variants. Each loss of high-value assets represents a major blow to Russia’s total production capacity and a possible setback in its attempts to keep technological parity with its Western counterparts.

Modern Western technology and Russian-made tank designs are being tested in the armored warfare crucible of the conflict in Ukraine. The opposing armies’ different strategies provide a moving reminder of the difficulties and complexity that characterize contemporary military conflicts as the tides of war change.  


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