According to CNN on January 30, operating among the hills west of the city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Soviet-era tanks of the 28th Mechanized Brigade of the Ukrainian army are helping to protect defense against Russian forces.
After nearly a year of fighting, despite the “old age”, these tanks are still loved by Ukrainian soldiers.
A young tank commander named David saw his unit playing an important role in holding the line and stopping the Russian advance towards the industrial city of Konstantinyvka.
His 28th Mechanized Brigade had endured a long war. They helped liberate Kherson in southern Ukraine, before being deployed elsewhere. They pride themselves on being one of the brigades with the lowest casualty rate of the Ukrainian army.
“As David talked, the atmosphere was split by the sound of gunfire from tanks and artillery. A howitzer was active on the other side of the hill. Their targets were force positions. Russia’s Wagner military forces hold south of Bakhmut, a few kilometers away,” CNN reported.
Video recently identified by CNN as south of Bakhmut shows two Ukrainian tanks moving towards Wagner force positions.
“Depends on the crew of the tank, not the tank”
Much of southern and eastern Ukraine is ideal for a combination of modern Western tanks and armored fighting vehicles to launch a counterattack.
The Leopard 2, M1 Abrams and Challenger 2 tanks all carry heavy machine guns that can destroy infantry on open ground.
However, the immediate challenge is the increased delivery time. Even by the most optimistic estimates, it will take months for NATO tanks to enter the battlefield in Ukraine in sufficient numbers to make a big difference.
In the case of the M1 Abrams, it may take more than a year for Ukraine to deploy this type of tank.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian army relies on Soviet-era tanks. One advantage Ukrainians had when operating Soviet-era tanks was that they were familiar with these tanks.
“Coping with situations depends on the crew of the tank, not the tank,” said David, leaning on his T-64, a main battle tank from the Soviet era. .
He said: “An experienced crew can deal with any situation. Among the tanks from T-72, T-80 to T-90 … the T-64 is my tank. If you like. Everyone can take the place of another crew member. The mechanic can be the commander if I get hurt.”
David added that the crew can maintain the T-64 tank on their own. “If a gun breaks during a combat mission, we have enough experience to fix it,” he said.
Those combat missions are likely to be dense and fast in the coming weeks, before modern Western tanks begin arriving in large numbers this spring.
According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the Russian military began its military operation in Ukraine with 3,000 main battle tanks, while Ukraine had 982. By January 24, Russia had lost at least 1,642 aircraft, and Ukraine lost 449.