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"Soviet Armor By The End of the Cold War?" Topic

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crazycaptain15 Sep 2018 10:46 p.m. PST

I have been casually browsing information on Soviet Armored Vehicles built during the cold war. I have always assumed that soviet tanks, especially in the 80s, were at a disadvantage to the Abrams, Leopard 2, Challenger, etc. However I read the following on wikipedia:

"The July 1997 issue of Jane's International Defence Review confirmed that after the collapse of the USSR, US and German analysts had a chance to examine Soviet-made T-72 tanks equipped with Kontakt-5 ERA, and they proved impenetrable to most modern US and German tank projectiles. A U.S. Army spokesperson claimed at the show, "the myth of Soviet inferiority in this sector of arms production that has been perpetuated by the failure of downgraded T-72 export tanks in the Gulf Wars has, finally, been laid to rest. The results of these tests show that if a NATO/Warsaw Pact confrontation had erupted in Europe, the Soviets would have had parity (or perhaps even superiority) in armour"[47] KE-effective ERA, such as Kontakt-5, drove the development of M829A3 ammunition."

The footnoteis: "Jane's International Defence Review 7/1997, pg. 15"

Do others share the same opinion as, supposedly, presented in this article? I understand that not every soviet tank would have been state of the art in the European theater, but could soviet armor in general offer up a fair game for those interested in wargaming the cold war set in the 80s?

Mark Plant15 Sep 2018 11:47 p.m. PST

KV tanks were basically impregnable at the start of Barbarossa. Does that make them good tanks?

The Arabs in the Israeli wars had perfectly serviceable tanks. Does that make them good tank units?

Wargamers love technical details. Like they're what really matters.

I'd be more concerned that the crews of those Soviet tanks were too often conscript Kazakhs. That the Soviet system was about counting tanks, not about counting battle-ready tanks. That the Soviet battle doctrine would be followed oto the letter, making predicting it rather too easy.

But yeah, the huge percentage of their budget they poured into weapons did come up with some good stuff.

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP16 Sep 2018 1:39 a.m. PST

IIRC, few of their tanks had Kontakt-5.

M-1 of the Cold War wasn't as good as after the end of it. It was constantly being upgraded with more armor protection.

Gennorm16 Sep 2018 2:10 a.m. PST

After unification ex-NVA tanks were tried out on NATO firing ranges and achieved scores western tanks were getting 20 years before.

McWong7316 Sep 2018 2:40 a.m. PST

Their tanks were better than we were led to believe in the mid eighties, but then the wests tech curve was accelerating far faster than they could catch up to.

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP16 Sep 2018 2:47 a.m. PST

From what I learned, they were far from being dum, far from being rigid and stupid. Same mistake as Germans in 1942. Hey?
Just very happy we did not fight.
Also their reserves were trained, fast to mobilize and the category one 2-3 had little to do with equipment age but time of use and locale.
And more, but nowadays very little interested in ex moderns.
On the other hand recently saw their still not top notch firing ranges and results.
But they thought ( probably right in Europe) that most shooting would be close. Unlike desert like Germany we often see on tables. Maybe the last place they intended to go actually be that famous Northern plan? Fortunatelly all this remains as accurate as pre ww2 predictions.
I remember at the time we comfortably saw the apalling results of arab warfare vs Israel. Well like in 1990 saying French hardware was crap and training, as some were used by Irakis.
Training and use linked to the mindset and society bias did it, not the weapons.

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP16 Sep 2018 4:01 a.m. PST

Really, only once they started using laser rangefinders, and 125mm cannons.

Prior to that, their accuracy beyond 1,500m was questionable, and not up to NATO standards.

115mm on the T-62 improved, once a laser RF was added, in later variants.

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP16 Sep 2018 4:18 a.m. PST

They thought 90% of engagements would be under 1500. From terrain studies. Which makes me think they would not seek wide open areas. Just like when I play 1870 not looking for open places to atrack with my Germans.

Personal logo 28mm Fanatik Supporting Member of TMP16 Sep 2018 2:17 p.m. PST

Kontakt-5 ERA first appeared on the T-80U as early as 1985 but was not standardized on the T-72B until 1989, when the Soviet Union was about to collapse. Most of the ERA on Soviet tanks before 1989 were first-generation Kontakt-1.

Generally speaking, western tanks were superior in protection to their Soviet counterparts, with their advanced composites and Chobham armor, throughout the '80's. Except for the French, that is, who did not replace their AMX-30's with Leclercs until well into the '90's.

Lion in the Stars16 Sep 2018 4:34 p.m. PST

@28mm: Hey, the French had the advantage of having all of Germany for a fighting withdrawal!

Personal logo 28mm Fanatik Supporting Member of TMP17 Sep 2018 8:59 a.m. PST

I'm not knocking our French friends at all. The AMX-30 was a fine tank. I am also a fan of those sleek, sexy Mirages. Dassault's delta-winged designs are very pleasing aesthetically.

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP18 Sep 2018 5:45 a.m. PST

Amx 30 with 20mm coax had it jam continuously unless firing single shot with care. Gearbox was not up to the Leo quality. Armor very thin. Gun intended to shoot heat rather than later amo. Only superior thing was the high 360 vision from the commander even if buttoned up.

Legion 418 Sep 2018 7:53 a.m. PST

A couple of things …

A weapon system is only as good as the troop/crew using it. Plus their leaderships' proficiency …

AFVs[or any weapon for that matter !] without proper resupply and maintenance are just very big paper weights …

And something else to remember the USSR/WP still had many, many very serviceable, combat ready AFVs, FA, etc., etc., at the end of the Cold War.

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP18 Sep 2018 7:03 p.m. PST

Actually, the armor on the AMX is very, very thin.

Similar to the original Leopard.

Thanks for the details, Jcf

Fred Cartwright23 Sep 2018 4:05 p.m. PST

Gearbox was not up to the Leo quality. Armor very thin.

The B2 had an upgraded transmission and the Brennus had ERA. The armour was marginally thicker than the Leopard I. Both being built when it was believed that the gun was superior to armour and a hit meant a kill, so armour was sacrificed for speed and agility.
Good looking tank though.

Lion in the Stars23 Sep 2018 6:43 p.m. PST

I can't really fault the Germans or the French for the thin armor of the Leo1/AMX30. We hadn't invented armor that would protect against a shaped-charge at any reasonable weight, you needed battleship armor thicknesses to not get punched by an infantry-portable rocket!

And it's just not practical to try to move 18+" of armor around…

Frontovik04 Oct 2018 2:40 a.m. PST

Soviet tank guns were optimised for accuracy at ranges under 1,500m and anybody who still believes that they were inflexible needs to buy a copy of this.


Mark Plant13 Oct 2018 10:23 p.m. PST


The Soviets had Tukhachevski leading the way prior to WWII, with advanced breakthrough theory. Cutting edge stuff. But when the war started, the Soviets turned out to be inflexible.

You can't have flexible people in a system designed to kill any original thought or risk taking. Literally kill in some cases.

So with with their necks on the line, Soviet commanders did not dare disobey orders, or vary from the approved approach.

Virginia Tory16 Oct 2018 7:35 a.m. PST

Well, the purges in 38 put paid to a lot of innovation (and Tukhachevskii himself, who was probably a victim of a German Intel op frame-up.

The RKKA was still in the middle of transformation in 1941…they were short mid-grade officers (this was a problem going back to the mid 30s). Hence you have captains commanding battalions and, eventually, formations like the 41/42 Rifle and Tank brigades (nobody around at division level, or at least not enough of them.

Soviet divisional commanders in the Cold War actually had quite a bit of flexibility, in keeping with what their mission was. There's still a lot of mythology out there about their "rigidity."

As for rigidity, I guess nobody saw a 1980s US exercise. Whew. Talk about scripted.

Legion 417 Oct 2018 8:27 a.m. PST

That was true in some cases … Everybody likes a "Dog & Pony Show!" … evil grin

RudyNelson17 Oct 2018 10:29 a.m. PST

I was an officer in the 1970-80s. I even had Soviet tanks and AFV on my property books. I have some photos of them on my Facebook page.

It was not the individual tank that gave us concern in the Cavalry and armor but the masses of enemy tanks coming at you that was scary.

Legion 418 Oct 2018 6:56 a.m. PST

It was not the individual tank that gave us concern … but the masses of enemy tanks coming at you that was scary.
Yes, it was a described as a flood of USSR & WP AFVs rolling across the IGB. huh?

Frontovik22 Oct 2018 6:33 a.m. PST

It wasn't Tukhachevsky's theory. It was Triandafillov's…and Svechin of course.

While the purges removed around 40,000* out of an officer corps of around 120,000 as Virginia Tory says it's main effect was to promote people beyond their experience and then leave them to learn in the worst situation of all – an actual shooting war. This is partly why Rifle Brigades have an oversized HQ element (officer education) and surviving ones were upgraded to Divisions during the war.

*as roughly three quarters of them were not executed they were, of course, available to return to the colours as people like Rokossovsky and Bogdanov demonstrate.

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