After reportedly losing more than 700 of its T-72, T-80, and T-90 tanks during the war in Ukraine, the Russian army appears to have become anxious for operational armoured vehicles.
So anxious was the army in May that it took from long-term storage at least a battalion’s worth of 60-year-old T-62 tanks—possibly 50 in all. Recently, three museum-ready T-62s with homemade armor ‘cages’ on top of their turrets were sighted rolling in the Kherson area of southern Ukraine.
“Their presence on the battlefield highlights Russia’s shortage of modern, combat-ready equipment,” the U.K. Defense Ministry stated, referring to the T-62s.
Some operators hope that the elevated slat or cage-like structures will shield the vehicles from top-down hits by anti-tank guided missiles such as Ukraine’s Stugna-P and the American-made Javelin.
The desire to increase security is obvious. The outdated tanks landed in southern Ukraine, lacking the explosive reactive armor that newer Russian and Ukrainian vehicles have.
“The T-62s will almost certainly be particularly vulnerable to anti-tank weapons,” the U.K. Defense Ministry explained. But there’s no evidence that a welded cage offers any meaningful protection.
However, the cages have several drawbacks. They increase weight, restrict the vision of the tank commander, block turret-mounted machine guns, and make the tank taller, making it easier to locate on the battlefield.
The cages add to the load on crews and maintainers that the aging T-62s impose even in their stock form. The Russian army maintains the majority of its around 10,000 surplus tanks, including potentially thousands of T-62s, in enormous outdoor vehicle parks exposed to rainy weather.
Rust has long rendered the majority of the storage tanks worthless. Due to the overall T-62’s absence of complex and delicate optics and electronics, the T-62s may have withstood the harsh circumstances better than subsequent variants. However, nothing made of rubber enjoys sitting out in the open for ages.
Each of the T-62s Russia has delivered to Ukraine is likely fueled by unstable automotive systems that might malfunction under extreme conditions. Overheating is another major problem.
A photo of a broken-down T-62 on the side of the road somewhere in southern Ukraine has already gone viral on social media. Still, there is presently no evidence that the T-62s were involved in the battle in Ukraine. They are, however, near Ukrainian battalions heading towards Kherson with T-72 and T-64 tanks, which are relatively modern.
It is only a matter of time before analysts start adding T-62s to the long list of Russian tanks lost in Ukraine.