‘Challenger’ To Abrams, Leopard MBTs, Russia “Moves” Its Mothballed T-54 Tanks To Ukraine War Zone

Rumors have begun to go viral that Kremlin has begun drawing mothballed T-54 and T-55 tanks from a storage base in Russia’s far east and is moving them to the war front in Ukraine, according to Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT), an open-source intelligence organization based in Georgia. 

These vintage battle tanks are said to be loaded onto train rakes and moved westward, likely for deployment in the Ukraine operations, according to the OSINT group. 

Images and videos of a train transporting T-54/55 series tanks surfaced on social media. According to the CIT, the tanks were reportedly seen leaving the city of Arsenyev in the far eastern Primorsky Krai region of Russia.

A significant number of T-54/55s were put in storage after the Cold War, primarily in the Far East. This was because these old tanks were no longer needed for Russia’s conventional forces and were replaced by more modern tanks. 

Although CIT has positively identified T-54s, it is unclear whether T-54s or T-55s from a later generation accompany the other tanks.

Some old videos of similar tank movements that popped up in 2022 have reappeared on social media, purporting to depict T-54s or T55s tanks on their route to the front lines.

The main difference between the two tanks—typically regarded as belonging to the same broad series—is the T-55’s inclusion of additional radiation protection for use in the Cold War’s predicted nuclear warfare. 

The CIT stated that employing the vintage T-54 is preferable to not having tanks but cited several problems with the now-obsolete equipment, such as basic sights, a lack of rangefinders, and poor gun stabilization. 

The OSINT team said the tanks were being moved “westward,” but whether these old tanks would be used in the fight in Ukraine is still unknown. 

In any case, the T-54 entered low-rate production in the Soviet Union in 1946 before being replaced by the more advanced T-55, which began production in 1958.  

During the early stages of the Cold War, the T-54/55 series was the mainstay of the Soviet and Warsaw Pact tank armies. But, in 1962, the superior T-62 entered service, followed by progressively more contemporary models, principally the T-64, T-72, and T-80. 

An annotated photo of a T-54B, transported by rail, showing the muzzle compensator at the end of the main gun. CIT

According to CIT, some T-62s Russia pulled from storage and put back into duty were built at Arsenyev’s 1295th Central Tank Reserve and Storage Facility. 

The group also previously tracked a train carrying a shipment of T-62M(B) tanks as it moved through Yekaterinburg, hundreds of kilometers to the west.

Russia has already been observed attempting to take ground while using ancient armor. Following the destruction of more modern tanks, an elite Russian battalion was observed deploying 60-year-old T-62 tanks.

In February, a monitoring group that keeps tabs on Russian weapons losses said that Moscow had lost at least 1,500 tanks in Ukraine. Another report published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies last month estimated that Ukraine had probably lost more than 2,000 tanks. 

T-54 Tank

Soviet-Era T-54/55 Tanks

Soviet tanks never engaged the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) during the Cold War. 

However, Syria utilized the T-54/55 in its conflict with Israel during the Six-Day War, but American M48 Patton and British Centurion tanks outperformed the Soviet-made armor in every way.

The T-54/55 also saw action in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Uganda throughout the 1970s. These tanks were extensively exported and are still used by many militaries worldwide today. But they are now being superseded by more contemporary tanks in the Russian Army.

The Kremlin continued to maintain thousands of T-54/55 tanks after the fall of the Soviet Union. Over 400 of those tanks were still in service in the 1990s. It seems doubtful that the Russian tanks can make a substantial difference in the conflict, given their losses thus far.

Russia was not the only country that kept a sizable number of these tanks after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But most former Warsaw Pact countries that used the T-54/55 tanks have retired them. Poland even used many of them as shooting targets at its testing grounds.

T-54/T-55 – Wikipedia

Additionally, Ukraine had inherited a sizeable number that was still in use as recently as ten years ago. As Russia began its military operations in Ukraine over a year ago, several older systems were still in limited service and used as armored rescue vehicles.

Besides that, Slovenia also supplied Ukraine with 28 M55S tanks in October last. Despite sharing a similar design to the original T-55 from the Cold War era, the improved M55S had a more lethal 105mm Royal Ordnance L7 main gun fitted with a thermal insulation jacket, making it one of the most effective tank guns ever.