​russian T-62 Could be Used as 'Mobile Firing Points' But Instead Find Themselves Abandoned

T-62 tank / Open source illustrative photo
T-62 tank / Open source illustrative photo

An officer with a "modern mindset" is nowhere to be found in the russian armed forces, to make good use of a Khrushchev-era tank in year-2022 warfare

russian armed forces crumble under the pressure of the Ukrainian defense forces in the Kherson region, a stronghold on the right bank of the Dnipro river in Southern Ukraine. As the Ukrainian forces continue their counteroffensive, they pick up more archaic T-62 tanks left by russians on retreat.

And there’s a point in why it was the T-62 that received so much attention from the media. The appearance of these obsolete tanks which had seen their best days back in the 1960s, led to an idea that russia was going to fight in Ukraine frantically, "to the bitter end", until they used literally everything they had moving and firing.

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Especially since the T-62 was equipped with a gun of 115mm caliber that puts this tank somewhere in between the BMP-3 (100mm gun) and the 2S1 "Gvozdika" howitzer (122mm) in terms of firepower. But there’s a catch: the sights and fire control system on T-62 is the very same as back in the old days of Khrushchev; and there’re not so many tank crews who know how to operate such "ancient" equipment.

Abandoned T-62 in the Kherson region
Abandoned T-62 tanks in the Kherson region / Photo credit: Ukraine Weapons Tracker

It looks like the core of the problem is that among the officers of the russian army, no one could adapt the tactics of use of T-62 to the realities of modern war, to the war of 2022 against Ukraine in particular.

In other words, how to use these old tanks in defense or offensive against a well-equipped infantry of the regular army, that has a huge variety of anti-tank weapons at disposal.

And the thing is, russian (read: Soviet) army remembers only one and fundamentally different tactics for the use of T-62 – against poor-equipped non-regular armed forces with little to no anti-tank weapons. And even this way they managed to make critical mistakes. Let’s look deeper.

Abandoned T-62 in the Kherson region
One more abandoned T-62 in the Kherson region / Photo credit: Ukraine Weapons Tracker

The first "big war" for the T-62 in service with the Soviet army was the War in Afghanistan. Together with T-54 and T-55 of the motorized rifle or tank units, these tanks were used as "self-propelled" firing points on checkpoints or for the support of assault forces. Another purpose is to escort logistic supply columns.

The Afghan mujahideen of the 1980s did not have so many kinds of anti-tank weapons to choose from, nevertheless, they managed to destroy 147 Soviet tanks which was a significant success.

Soviet T-62 in Afghanistan
Soviet T-62 in Afghanistan / Open source archive photo

The production rate of the T-62 at that time was comparable only to the poor reliability of this vehicle. The Soviet Union produced as many as 20,000 tanks of this type, but just around 2,000 "survived" to these days (even if we take into account those gifted to the countries of the Soviet Bloc). Out of these, about 1,000 units were received by the russian federation as a heritage.

Predictably, the T-62 also made it to the Chechen Wars. However, interestingly, russian media only focus on how these tanks were used during the Second Chechen War in the 2000s. The officers of russian army at that time still had enough wit to realize that the T-62 was not that effective anymore even against poor-equipped infantry. So they grouped these tanks with ZSU-23-4 "Shilka" vehicles.

russian T-62 in Chechnya, early 2000s
russian T-62 in Chechnya, the early 2000s / Open source archive photo

During the First and the Second Chechen Wars, russian army lost "only" about 220 tanks, most of the losses were suffered in the New Year's Eve defeat near Grozny in 1995.

At this point, we should draw the line: the Kremlin was trying to fight against a non-regular force and still lost 147 tanks. The russians did not learn from their mistakes, so their tank losses in Chechnya grew by another 33%. Again, russians did not reflect on that, therefore they’ve lost in Ukraine already 10 times as many tanks as during both Chechen Wars combined.

russian T-62MV\
russian T-62MV / Open source illustrative photo

Let’s note one more thing. The russians have two variants of "serial" modernization for the T-62: the Soviet variant T-62MV and the 2021 russian T-62M. Instead, russians use only "handmade" means of protection for their T-62 somewhat resembling a cargo cult. And this factor points out two issues.

First, the russian defense budget is actually quite limited, it’s affected by inflation; that’s why the Kremlin cannot afford to spend money on the modernization of the "disposable" T-62.

Secondly, when planning operations, russian generals do not take into account such a factor as the lifespan of a particular tank in real combat conditions.

A variant of a mass-produced
A variant of a mass-produced "serial" modernization of the T-62, presented at the "Army-2022" forum in russia / Open source photo
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