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Putin Looks Desperate: The Old T-62 Tank Rides Again

T-62 Tank
T-62 Tank. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The T-62 is an early Cold War tank. Despite its age, it is reportedly seeing active use again to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia continues to draw upon its large pre-war reserves of T-62s, which are deeply outdated on the battlefields of Ukraine, even in comparison to other Soviet-era vehicles fighting on both sides of the battle. 

History of the T-62

The T-62 itself is a descendant of the T-54/T-55 series of tanks. After development in the 1950s, production of the T-62 began in 1961 and continued until 1975. While the T-55 and T-62 look very similar and can be difficult to distinguish, the newer tank has a slightly larger turret, and it was the first tank in the world to possess a smoothbore main gun. 

The T-62 challenged the central role of heavy tanks in military thinking at the time of its construction, as the tank was far more maneuverable than older, heavier tanks but possessed similar armament. The development of the T-62 did not stop with the end of its production and the introduction of subsequent models such as the T-72. A modernized variant known as the T-62M, which was initially accepted into service in 1983 and included armor, a targeting system, and engine upgrades, was joined shortly thereafter by the T-62BV, which featured the addition of explosive reactive armor, as well as further engine upgrades.  

The T-62’s main gun is a 155mm 2A20 cannon, which has a fire rate of three to five rounds per minute. With a crew of four, the T-62M has a maximum speed of 45 kilometers per hour and is propelled by a 620-horsepower engine. The T-62M is visually characterized by the large blocks of armor adjacent to its gun embrasure. Also equipped with one 7.62mm PKT coaxial machine gun and one 12.7mm DShK machine gun, the T-62 was inherited by many post-Soviet republics, and Soviet client states around the world.  

Old tanks in Ukraine

In May, video footage of Russian T-62s moving by rail began to circulate. Speculation held that these tanks were on their way to Ukraine. Russia reportedly owned 2,500 of the tanks on the eve of the invasion, but they were all in reserve storage at that time. Before long, it became clear that the tanks observed on a train near the occupied Ukrainian city of Melitopol had arrived to take part in combat in southeastern Ukraine. There, they would help make up for heavy Russian combat losses.

Many of the Russian T-62s now deployed to Ukraine are not T-62BVs, and thus do not possess the explosive reactive armor that modern tanks rely on. This makes them very vulnerable to Ukraine’s modern tanks, or even to its less-modern but still more recent Soviet legacy armor. However, since then, only one Russian T-62M tank has been confirmed as destroyed in Ukraine by the open-source intelligence blog Oryx.

Russia was probably forced to haul out its reserves of T-62s to make up for significant armor losses endured by Russian troops in the first months of the invasion. But it is not yet clear that Russia will elevate its T-62s to a central role in its operations. Instead, the tanks are likely to support more modern armor still in operation. As such, they do not appear to be taking the massive losses that one might have expected.

Wesley Culp is a Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. He regularly writes on Russian and Eurasian leadership and national security topics and has been published in The Hill as well as in the Diplomatic Courier. He can be found on Twitter @WesleyJCulp.

Written By

Wesley Culp is a Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. He regularly writes on Russian and Eurasian leadership and national security topics and has been published in The Hill and the Diplomatic Courier. He can be found on Twitter @WesleyJCulp.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Fluffy Dog

    August 12, 2022 at 5:50 pm

    “The T-62’s main gun is a 155mm 2A20 cannon,”
    Typo? 115 mm

    T-62 of any variant is not likely to be used in offensive mode; it can’t survive even a frontal hit by today’s ammo. I read its deployment as building defensive fortifications. Dig them in behind a ground berm, and they can function.

  2. Ulf Larsen

    August 12, 2022 at 6:44 pm

    This statement:

    “The T-62’s main gun is a 155mm 2A20 cannon, which has a fire rate of three to five rounds per minute.”

    -is wrong. According to Wikipedia the caliber of the main gun is 115mm:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-62

  3. Putin is a loser

    August 12, 2022 at 7:28 pm

    Buy more body bags, ruskies. You’re going to need them after Putin put you in a war of total humiliation.

  4. Stevo Vujić

    August 13, 2022 at 8:00 am

    Funny article. T 62 has a powerfull 115 mm cannon with range of 36 km!There are no tank battles in Ukraina so russians are using them as self propelled cannons. And why not? Powerful caliber, long range, wery durable, excelent protection of crew and mountains and mountains of cheap ammo for it which they collected during cold war and now they can be spent….
    There is something that is called ” economic of leading war”…snd that’s example..

  5. David Howie

    August 13, 2022 at 2:29 pm

    Stevo Vujić is spot on. The use of the T-62 is a wise move. The old tank is useful as an infantry support tank. Much better than rotting in storage.

    This leaves the more modern tanks for dealing with what armour Ukraine has left and for defence against a Nato assault.

  6. Chris n smith

    August 13, 2022 at 4:53 pm

    You couldnt even find a good picture of a T62, so you used a Video Game screenshot? Come on, that’s patethic along with the other wrong info

  7. Bill Cormack

    August 13, 2022 at 6:33 pm

    36 kilometres? You are having a laugh?!!

  8. ...

    August 16, 2022 at 12:38 pm

    Desperate? Hardly. Now I don’t wanna be like one of those guys that want to make it look like they are better informed than anyone else, but apparently Russia was going to give those (admittedly mostly obsolete tanks) over to the popular militias, who seem to lack somewhat in the armor department, as they have mostly been rolling around in captured Ukrainian armor. And since Ukraine has lost a good chunk of its “modern tanks” since February 24th, the worst thing the militias can face at present are (maybe) the “super-modern” T-64BM Oplot, which, while can somewhat be considered a “NATO-ized” T-64, are still a far cry from the T-72 and the T-80, not to mention there weren’t too many of them to begin with. You can might see how it might give the militias a leg up in combat and make things even more problematic for Ukraine if any of this is at all true.

    Also, as a couple guys already pointed out, your information is factually inaccurate. Next time, you may wanna perform some fact-checking *and* look for some actual photographs while your’re at it. Also, heavy losses? Yeah, I wouldn’t trust too much Western or Ukrainian intelligence, or that Oryx site for that matter, “open intelligence” and all, as the origin of said intel is doubtful at best, made up at worst, and most likely can be attributed to the Ukrainians themselves.

    TL;DR: The Ukrainians may receive a nasty surprise when or if the militias break out tanks of their own, and your article reads both like a wild guess, sounding suspiciously like “T-62s! OMG Putin is so screwed LOL!” AND like you are spouting technical data borrowed from a T-62 manual or Wikipedia, which is surprising as it contains at least one factual error. Yeah, a military analyst you are not (them again, neither am I). Top of a day to you, as they say

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