Putin’s army can’t figure out how to use tanks, and the battlefield in Ukraine is littered with burnt wrecks

Mar 4, 2023

The Ukrainian army fires a captured Russian tank T-80 at the Russian position in Donetsk region, Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. 
  • Russia’s tank force — once seen as formidable — is being ripped apart by the Ukrainian military.
  • Western officials say Russia has likely lost up to half of its tanks on the battlefield, if not more. 
  • Military experts told Insider that this is because Russia doesn’t know how to use them properly.

Russia’s tanks were once seen as fearsome, formidable threats, but the war in Ukraine shows it doesn’t know how to use them.

The Russian tank force has taken a beating. US officials have said on more than one occasion that Russia has likely lost as many as half its main battle tanks while fighting in Ukraine, if not more. According to an open-source intelligence analysis by Oryx, more than 1,780 Russian tanks have been destroyed, damaged, captured, or abandoned since Moscow launched its invasion in February 2022. 

Russia’s staggering tank losses — which include the T-72T-64T-80, and T-90 tanks — can be attributed to its failure to provide adequate fire support in combat, military experts told Insider. The Russian tank force has also shown extremely little adaptability and common sense.

These problems were underscored during a recent tank battle near the eastern Ukrainian town of Vuhledar, where Russia lost scores of tanks and armored vehicles. Moscow repeated detrimental mistakes it made during its assault on Kyiv in the early days of the war: it sent columns of tanks straight into Ukrainian ambushes. 

This image provided by the Ukrainian Armed Forces and taken in February 2023 shows damaged Russian tanks in a field after an attack on Vuhledar, Ukraine.
This image provided by the Ukrainian Armed Forces and taken in February 2023 shows damaged Russian tanks in a field after an attack on Vuhledar, Ukraine 

Just like like last spring — where the long columns were assaulted by the defending Ukrainians — this tactic proved unsuccessful for the Russians in Vuhledar, where it lost over 100 armored vehicles. Moscow’s troops appear to have botched the use of their tanks on the battlefield in other instances as well. 

Russian tanks have fallen prey to Ukrainian soldiers using anti-tank Javelin missiles because they’re hanging out aimless in open fields, with little to no support or protection. At the same time, they’ve been seen driving straight through minefields and exploding. Due to the design of many of Russia’s tanks, a hit can cause the ammunition to detonate, killing the crew as the overpressure blows the top off.

Russia can’t seem to integrate its tanks

One serious misstep by Russia’s military has been its failure to protect its tanks with a combined-arms approach that provides additional support and integrate its armor with other units. 

“There’s the structural problem of not having enough dismounted infantry to provide security for tanks,” Jeffrey Edmonds, a Russia expert at the Center for Naval Analyses and former US Army armor officer, told Insider. “I’m just not seeing units do what you expect military units to do.” 

Russia is mostly relying on artillery but would likely benefit from having more air superiority so it can avoid carrying out complicated maneuvers on the battlefield, Marina Miron, a postdoctoral researcher at King’s College London’s Department of War Studies, told Insider. And it’s “questionable” how well Russia’s tanks are integrated into its overall operations. 

Ukraine Javelin anti-tank missile
Ukrainian troops fire a Javelin anti-tank missile during drills in Ukraine, February 2022. 

“I think that they are kind of fighting a war that they were not prepared for, in tactical and operational terms,” Miron said. “They have lost a lot of tanks. A lot of them — probably most of them — just because of negligence. And the tanks they are using are in no way superior to what the Ukrainians are using.”

Russia and Ukraine have often squared off against each other using the same Soviet-era military equipment, encompassing everything from tanks and infantry fighting vehicles to aircraft. Ukraine has lost less than 500 tanks throughout the conflict, according to an Oryx tally. Russia started off with a larger tank force and thus had more to lose.

A destroyed Russian tank covered by snow stands in the village of Kamyanka, Kharkiv region, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023.
A destroyed Russian tank covered by snow stands in the village of Kamyanka, Kharkiv region, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. 

At the moment, Ukraine is waiting for a wave of advanced Western tanks, including German-made Leopards and British Challenger 2 tanks. These modern systems are better equipped than those that have largely dominated the battlefield so far.

‘It seems like they just don’t care’

Even without these advanced systems, Kyiv’s military has still been able to inflict significant damage on some of Russia’s elite tank forces. One prestigious unit, the 1st Guards Tank Army, has suffered heavy losses on multiple occasions while battling against Ukrainian troops. 

“The Russians are not very good at using the tanks, and they’re not very good at integrating the tanks,” Miron said. “They could have used mechanized infantry to protect tanks, but it seems like they just don’t care.” 

Another issue plaguing Russia’s tank force has been its lack of creativity or maneuverability. For example, Edmonds explained, Russia has a problem with minefields, as was seen recently in Vuhledar.

Ukrainian servicemen of the 3rd Separate Tank Iron Brigade take part in a drill, not far from the frontlines, in the Kharkiv area, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023.
Ukrainian servicemen of the 3rd Separate Tank Iron Brigade take part in a drill, not far from the frontlines, in the Kharkiv area, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023. 

Clearing a minefield is a slow, complicated, and deliberate process that involves several steps, but Russian tanks appear to drive right through them. Some of the tanks blow up, some retreat, and some are hit with anti-tank guided missiles like the Javelin, and the process just repeats itself when the Ukrainians lay more mines.   

“It’s just dumb,” Edmonds said. “And you just see them do this over and over again.”

“I’m not seeing any tactical-level adaptability,” he continued. On one hand, there’s no display of basic levels of training, like knowing how to react to contact. Additionally, there’s no development or innovation from the Russians, which he attributes in part to Russia’s style of warfare — a top-down type of leadership as opposed to something like the ground-level “upwelling” of initiative seen in Western militaries.

“You would think at this point maybe you would see the better application of maneuver and combined arms,” Edmonds said of the Russian tactics. “But I’m not seeing it.” 


  1. Russia by tradition does not know how to use tanks. This goes back to WWII. There were no known ruskie tactics in tank battles that one could acknowledge being good tactics. They pretty much always did the same thing with slight variations. They consistently lost a lot more tanks than the Germans did. This is not only due to their inferior tanks – only the later Panthers and King Tigers were better than the T-34s – it was their sheer numbers in tanks and artillery that carried them to victory in many battles, but still leaving the battlefields sowed with their smoldering hulks.
    Things are the same to this day. They rely on sheer numbers, not well-thought-out planning and top-notch training. We read recently of a ruskie medic driving a tank. This only guarantees a high loss rate. For sure, clearing a minefield by willingly driving through it is not the smartest thing to do. This is akin to the meat wave tactics for their infantry. One thing is different toady when compared to WWII; the hand-held anti-tank weapons of today have become far deadlier than those of yesteryear, making ruskie strategy in tank warfare even deadlier for them. And, once Western tanks arrive on the scene, expect exploding numbers of destroyed ruskie tanks. Pun intended.
    Finally, we don’t really mind their mindless way of fighting, do we?

  2. The commanders of these murderous scum are highly likely to be psychopaths, like most of the regular orcs. Psychopaths are notoriously good at learning from their mistakes. Hence prisons become universities of crime.
    Therefore the info in the article might help the bastards.
    Also, no one should laugh if they have rusty old relic tanks and guns; they can still kill in huge numbers. Besides, as countless videos prove : orc tank tankers deliberately drive at apartment complexes and fire straight into them.
    Therefore the allies need to provide much more advanced weaponry; the type that can take out out 3000 fucking orcs per day. Once that happens, they will be finished.

    • I agree with everything you say except the learning part. If one year of war hasn’t taught those psychopaths any lessons, the second year of war won’t either. And, with all the experienced tankers already burning in hell, who will teach the new ones?

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