A train loaded with tanks hurtled through Russia in late March. The woman who filmed everything commented on its passage by saying: “This is the second train, a similar one passed here a while ago.” It is known about Russia that, due to high losses, new technology is sending the old to the invasive war it is conducting in Ukraine. But this one is different, the American CNN writes in its article.
The Russians sent a tank to the front with which they invaded Prague. It can be useful for defense. | Video: Reuters, Associated Press
This is a T-55 tank. The model that the then Soviet Red Army put into service for the first time in 1948, shortly after the end of the Second World War. “It was the first main battle tank used by the Soviet Union in the Cold War era,” historian John Delaney, senior curator of the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, near Cambridge, told the site.
“Until then, there were three very distinct types of tanks, light, medium and heavy, that had different roles on the battlefield,” Delaney said. “From the mid-1950s, there was a concept of trying to come up with a tank that could do a little bit of everything, and that became known as the main battle tank.”
For the Red Army, it was the T-55 tank with many variants, which later became the most widespread tank in the world. More than 100,000 units were produced. It was cheap, reliable, easy to use and easy to maintain.
Soldiers with T-55 tanks invaded Budapest in 1956 and Prague in 1968. In the following decades, they were deployed against Western-made tanks. And they could no longer match these war machines. This has been shown in some Arab-Israeli conflicts. “For example, in the first Gulf War in 1991, American and British tanks were knocking out Iraqi T-55s from a distance of 23 kilometers,” Delaney said.
Dig into a hole and shoot
“By the time Russia started retiring its own T-55 tanks in the 1980s, there were still 28,000 of them left,” Delaney said, adding that they were being preserved rather than scrapped. “The Soviets never threw anything away,” he explained. “Probably a significant number of them are sitting in storage waiting to be refurbished.”
After footage of the tank train surfaced on social media in late March, the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT), a volunteer group using open intelligence sources to investigate the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, was the first to report that the T-54/55 tanks were exported from the warehouse in Arsenjev. Western officials then told CNN in April that a T-55 tank had appeared near the front line.
According to Robert Lee, a former US Marine and senior fellow at the US Foreign Policy Research Institute, the use of T-55 tanks in Ukraine will be limited in scope. “Something will probably be used in the rear area initially. So more for long-range fire,” says Lee.
If that’s their purpose, Curator Delaney believes the T-55 can still prove useful. “Obviously one of the things you can use this tank for if you’re trying to avoid a collision with an enemy tank is to bury it in defensive positions, sit the tank in a pit so you can only see the turret, and then it can be used to defend the front line against a counter attack ” he said. And for undertrained soldiers, the T-55 also provides something that modern tanks don’t: ease of use.
And while tank battles are rare, Ukraine has an advantage when they do occur, according to CNN. “(Against Leopard or Challenger tanks), when it comes to one-on-one engagements, the T-55 always loses,” Delaney adds.
“They started a war against our homeland.” Putin babbled propagandistically at the Victory Day celebrations in Moscow (May 9, 2023)
“A real war has been launched against our homeland,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a military parade. | Video: Associated Press
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