Ukrainians turn worthless Russian tanks into invaluable engineering vehicles

Ukrainians turn worthless Russian tanks into invaluable engineering vehicles

A Ukrainian BREM-1 recovers a Russian T-72.

Via social media

The Ukrainian army finally has found a good use for at least some of the dozens of ancient Russian army T-62 tanks it has captured. The Ukrainians have begun converting some of the 1970s-vintage tanks into engineering vehicles.

It’s a great idea. Tracked, armored engineering vehicles—“armored recovery vehicles,” or ARVs, in this case—are really useful and almost always in short supply. A T-62-based recovery vehicle is far more valuable than a T-62 tank is. Especially to the Ukrainian army, which went into the current, wider war with far too few ARVs.

There’s evidence on social media of at least two captured T-62s undergoing conversion into ARVs at workshops in Ukraine. The process involves metalworkers lifting off the tank’s eight-ton turret and fitting, in its place, a heavy-duty winch.

ARVs follow tanks into battle. When a tank gets immobilized—either from enemy fire or an unhappy encounter with mud or a ditch—the ARV crews brave gunfire and artillery barrages to winch the tank to safety. Fitted with dozer blades and other equipment, ARVs can help out with other engineering tanks, too. Preparing fortifications. Repairing damaged vehicles.

Tanks in particular tend to get damaged rather than destroyed in battle—owing, of course, to their tough armor. A pitched fight between armored forces more often than not litters the terrain with recoverable tanks. So the army with the most responsive ARVs collects the spoils: damaged tanks that the army can repair and send back into battle.

The U.S. Army for one greatly appreciates the high value of ARVs. The Americans have 2,700 front-line M-1 tanks and 1,200 M-88 recovery vehicles. That’s slightly more than two tanks per ARV.

The Ukrainian army, on the other hand, had only around three dozen BREM-1, BREM-2, BREM-M, BREM-64 and BTS-4 ARVs when Russia widened its war on Ukraine a year ago. That’s 36 or so ARVs for a pre-war tank force with nearly a thousand T-64s, T-72s and T-80s.

Put another way, the Ukrainians had just one ARV for every 25 tanks. The Ukrainian army never had enough ARVs to recover its own tanks—to say nothing of also recovering the roughly 2,800 Russian vehicles the Ukrainians so far have captured.

It’s not for no reason that one of the iconic images of the war is a Ukrainian farm tractor dragging away a damaged Russian tank. Think of those tractors as do-it-yourself ARVs.

So it made sense, once captured T-62s started piling up, to convert some of them into a new kind of heavy ARV—a BREM-62, if you will.

The four-person T-62 with its outdated optics and 115-millimeter main gun is no match for modern tanks and missile-armed infantry. But a BREM-62 doesn’t need to fight to contribute to the war. Every T-62-based ARV could recover several derelict T-64s, T-72s, T-80s or T-90s.

We don’t know how many BREM-62s the Ukrainians are converting. The Ukrainian army has captured at least 43 T-62s. Some of the aging tanks at least briefly equipped a Ukrainian battalionpresumably in southern Ukraine where Russia has deployed its own T-62s.

That battalion doesn’t contribute much to an army that’s also getting hundreds of new Western tanks. It’d be smart for the Ukrainians to convert all of the T-62s into engineering vehicles.

The need is clear. While Ukrainian forces have captured a couple dozen Russian ARVs and Ukraine’s allies have donated to the war effort at last 25 of their own ARVs, Ukraine also has lost at least seven of the specialist vehicles to Russian action.

At best, the Ukrainians have around 40 more ARVs than they started the wider war with—still too few for an army that could recover hundreds of vehicles every month.

Follow me onTwitter.Check outmywebsiteor some of my other workhere.Send me a securetip.

Read More