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It is reported that thousands of tanks are currently being used in the Ukraine War. To help Ukraine, Britain is sending 14 Challenger 2 tanks and America is sending a few (50) Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, which seems like a small number compared to the total number of armored vehicles in the current war. Meanwhile, according to some estimates,

Russia may have around 17,300 tanks produced between the late 1950s and now.

Why is this considered to be a significant event, given that the number of armored vehicles being sent is in the double digits?

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    The question is framed in a one sided way that fails to establish any reason why any particular amount of military equipment should be sent to Ukraine. There is no such thing as "such a low amount" or "such a high amount" until you have some baseline to compare it to.
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 16, 2023 at 20:40
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    "...you have some baseline to compare it to." We could take the existing amount of tanks as baseline. 14 sounds indeed as rather low in that regard. I guess one could also formulate the question as: why not more and not sooner if more and sooner would have been possible. Of course with hindsight everything is a bit easier. Jan 16, 2023 at 22:41
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    @stackoverblown you're right and wrong at the same time. Numbers still matter. Twice as many tanks of the same type are roughly twice as valuable. Jan 17, 2023 at 18:53
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    @stackoverblown in relation to the number of atomic bombs currently in use in the war, 1 is a huge amount. In relation to what it would help Ukraine, one is probably irrelevant. So for the sake of argument, yours wasn't exactly on point.
    – DonQuiKong
    Jan 17, 2023 at 20:05
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    @TimurShtatland It doesn't seem all that reasonable to compare the total number of tanks a country produced in the last 70 years, with no idea how many of those are still in operation, to the number of tanks actively being used in a particular war. (I see you edited that statistic into the question.)
    – NotThatGuy
    Jan 18, 2023 at 9:11

6 Answers 6

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Well, first, there are only 200so Challengers II in the UK army, so 14 isn't a lot, but it also isn't "14 out of thousands". In the same way, Canada donating 4 measly 777 howitzers seems the stinginess of stinginess. But we only had 37 of them to start with. (Keep in mind some of those are training vehicles/guns as well, further reducing the combat-available count.)

(NATO countries typically don't have 100s of obsolete tanks sitting around waiting to be loaded with untrained ATM fodder. And NATO countries, except for the US, all individually have small militaries compared to Russia's. Any time you see donations being made you need to take that into account.)

Second, the Challenger 2 isn't the goal here. The goal is to break the taboo.

Ukraine is confident Britain will announce it plans to send about 10 Challenger 2 tanks to Kyiv shortly, a move it hopes will help Germany finally allow its Leopard 2s to be re-exported to the embattled country.

A handful of Challenger 2s, taken from the UK’s existing fleet of 227, would not in itself make much difference on the battlefield, but it would be the first time any western country has agreed to send its own heavy armour to Ukraine.

Once a modern Main Battle Tank has been donated, the hope is that Germany will lift its veto on Leopard 2s being donated by countries other than Germany that also operate them. There are lots of L2s in Europe to go around, but someone has to be the first to donate a modern MBT.

Throughout this war the West has gradually ramped up the weapon systems it provides Ukraine to help it rein in its obnoxious invaders. Each time it's stated as a mini red line for Russia. But at the end of the day, while MAD means NATO can't have NATO-on-RU combat, the same works in the other direction. Next? Grippen jets? ATACMS - 300k range HIMARS-launched? What's the big problem, provided they don't attack Russian territory? (Besides escalation risks, large scale Ukrainian attacks on Russian territories with NATO gear run the very real risk of facilitating the sale of Putin's big lie: "NATO is attacking Russia!". Russian troops with a real, not made up, reason to fight would probably fight better).


Last, what does a Challenger bring to the table? L2s, M1s and Challengers are Gen 3 tanks, 60-70 ton beasts. They were designed after advanced composite armor was found to be able to stop shape charged shells/missiles entirely, so Gen 3 got beefed up to take advantage of that.

T72 T80 T90 (a spruced up 72) are Gen 2 tanks, before the advent of composite armor. If you can't stop shaped charges from piercing your armor, might as well privilege speed and small size instead to avoid getting hit. Gen 2 tanks (and that includes Western Leopard 1s and AMX-32s) are all in the 40t weight class. Crucially, they don't stand a chance against Gen 3s because they can't really penetrate their armor.

  • about that armor wrt HEAT: Due to the extreme hardness of the ceramics used, they offer superior resistance against a shaped charge jet and they shatter kinetic energy penetrators (KE-penetrators). The (pulverised) ceramic also strongly abrades any penetrator.

  • and its resistance to kinetic hits: several MlAl crews reported receiving direct frontal hits from Iraqi T-72s with minimal damage.

Is it going to be a walk in the park then? Not necessarily. That 60t weight is a liability in an area where bridges are built to support up to 40t tanks. And are Gen 3s sufficiently protected against topside armor attacks like what Javelins do? Israel lost some Gen 3 Merkavas in Lebanon in 2006, to Russian Kornet ATMs. Then again Ukraine still has its old T64s and 72s in the fight and UA's leadership is generally well-regarded in how well they are able to use the vehicles they do have.

We'll see.

p.s. I don't agree that particular amounts don't matter. 14 tanks is a really small amount, about a US Army's company's worth (which in regards to the comments gives you a baseline of sorts). But it will still require setting up the training of the combat and maintenance personnel. This a sunk cost, whether 14 tanks get donated or 140. Then you have to provide the logistical tail in the field. If you have multiple weapons types being delivered at low volumes: duplication of effort! Chasing after multiple low-volume production run AFVs is one factor that lost WW2 for the Nazis. That's what makes unblocking the much more numerous Leopards attractive.

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    Even for leopards the number being discussed is less than 30
    – D J Sims
    Jan 16, 2023 at 21:17
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    I wouldn't know. I do know Poland is buying 200 M1s from the US, operates about 200 L2s, loathes Russia in general and has been pretty generous to date. Regardless, you aint going to be be seeing Kursk rehappening anytime soon, that's true. Jan 16, 2023 at 21:40
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    @JJu: Germany has so few Leopard 2 that the units which operate the Leopard 2 don't even have their own. Instead, there is a centralized pool of Leopard 2s that get dynamically loaned out to the units on demand for a limited amount of time. And Germany doesn't even own all of those, some of them are in turn on loan from other countries. Saying that the number 30 is a low number is meaningless without saying what you are comparing it to. Jan 16, 2023 at 21:42
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    "Crucially, they don't stand a chance against Gen 3s because they can't really penetrate their armor." I doubt that very much, given that composite armor is designed against HEAT charges, not kinetical impactors. I mean, no doubt those modern tanks are way better, but it's optics and self-stabilizing weapons which makes the advantage, not invulnerable armor. And as you well mention, Russia has ATM who can work through composite armor too.
    – Rekesoft
    Jan 18, 2023 at 9:21
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    Another issue with 60T tanks is if you have recovery vehicles designed to retrieve damaged 40T tanks ... Jan 18, 2023 at 10:14
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+50

Quantity vs. Quality

Russia has always outgunned NATO in terms of raw numbers. Russia's military strategy for decades, possibly centuries, has been to throw lots of warm bodies at any problem. This is why RU has more than 10,000 tanks, allegedly. Frankly, having this many tanks is borderline silly. Almost nobody can afford to operate this many tanks simultaneously, and keeping a large reserve is basically an admission that your tanks have low survivability. Not really an inspiring message to send to your tankers. Just for perspective, consider that RU built more than 80,000 T-54s in its history. By comparison, the US has built barely more than 10k M1 Abrams.

Active vs. Reserve

The reality is that RU invaded with ~2000 tanks. As has widely been reported, this was likely almost their entire fleet of operating vehicles, due to widespread corruption in the RU army. So two critical questions that must be asked are:

  1. How many reserves can be made operational?
  2. What is the quality of the reserve vehicles?

Unfortunately, we don't have any reliable sources to tell us how many stored T-72s are unusable because of raided engines, barrels, and optics. But it is not hard to find intercepted calls where RU tankers complain they were sent into battle with defective tanks with multiple problems that rendered them nearly unusable in battle. If these are the ones being actively pushed into the front line, you can imagine that there are thousands more sitting in warehouses and fields which simply cannot drive onto the battlefield, or fire any rounds at the enemy.

What we do know is that RU is deploying T-62s to the front lines. We know that because UA has captured them and documented the fact. This would be comparable to the US being so desperate it started deploying M60s to a front line instead of M1A2s. So when we say: "Russia has 10,000 tanks", it is quite obvious that this does not mean "RU has 10,000 T-90" or "10,000 T-80" or even "10k T-72". It is pretty obvious by now that every operable RU T-90, T-80 and T-72 is already fighting somewhere in Ukraine. Whatever reserves are left are older and less capable.

That is not to say that T-62s and T-64s are harmless and no threat to UA. But merely to emphasize the fact that the RU military explicitly values quantity over quality. NATO, on the other hand, values quality over quantity. This is why RU started the war with more tanks than all of NATO combined.

Survivability

RU designed its tanks for massed action, and prioritized offense over defense. This is why the T-72 has an autoloader which sits on top of a carousel of rounds, leading to the famous "turret toss" when one gets hit by a penetrating round. The designers knew full well that this was a risk, but it was deemed an acceptable price to pay so that the tank could fire quickly in a fast-paced offensive push. The M1 Abrams, on the other hand, stores rounds in a compartment at the back of the turret, isolated from the crew compartment by a firewall, and featuring blow-out doors so that if the turret is penetrated, the blast explodes away from the crew, rather than obliterating them.

One way to describe these differences are that NATO prioritizes the survivability of its tank crews, while RU prioritizes the offensive capability of its armor.

Actual Combat

Unfortunately, we do not have any big tank battles involving the Challenger 2 and RU tanks. The closest we have is the Battle of Medina Ridge, during Desert Storm. Here, the US 1st Armored Division, with almost 350 M1 Abrams, faced off against the Iraqi 2nd Al Medina Armored Division, with 270 tanks (mostly T-72), operated by the Republican Guard, and considered to be some of the most competent forces in the Iraqi army.

The end result was that 186 Iraqi tanks were destroyed compared to 4 Abrams. Now, this isn't a fair comparison, because the US had a numerical advantage of about 4:3 in tanks, as well as air support (AH-64 gunships and A-10 tank busters), which destroyed 38 of the Iraqi tanks. That still leaves 148 kills for the Abrams. If the tanks were perfectly matched, the 1st AD should have gotten 4/3rds the kills of the 2nd AD, just based on raw numbers. So the Iraqis should have gotten at least 111 kills. Using these adjusted figures, we see that the Abrams still got a nearly 28:1 kill ratio. On top of that, the Iraqis got the element of surprise by positioning their tanks below a ridge line, where they could not be targeted from a long distance by Abrams crews (and where the Abrams is most deadly). They had to clear the ridge line and being descending to target the T-72s, while the Iraqis could start shooting the moment they crested the ridge.

Conclusion

There's no guarantee that Challenger 2 will enjoy an 28:1 kill ratio over RU T-72 in UA. But if it did, then sending just 14 of them would be comparable to sending Ukraine almost 400 T-72s. And that's no joke. However, there is some chance that UA tank crews could see big numbers, due to the fact that many experienced RU tank crews are dead or captured, and many tankers now in UA are conscripts with barely enough training to drive the tank, let alone engage in combined-arms tactics. The biggest benefit of survivability is that one crew fighting in 10 engagements is going to gain far more experience than 10 crews each surviving just 1 engagement. Which means, the longer the war goes on, the better the high-survivability tank crews get. It doesn't even matter if the tank itself survives or is repairable. Ensuring that the crew can step out and live to fight another day carries a tremendous amount of battlefield value all by itself.

While the Challenger 2 is not the Abrams, they share many advanced technologies and design decisions. We have plenty of reason to believe it will perform more like an Abrams than a T-72. And if it is joined by the Leopard, and eventually the Abrams, then RU T-72s are likely to become an endangered species within the borders of Ukraine.

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    It's also worth noting that the "T-72" is really a large range of tanks. Even with the best maintenance, a 1970s-level T-72A or T-72M is vastly less capable than a modern T-72B3M, which has a different engine, armour, gun, autoloader, fire control system, and radio, among other things.
    – cjs
    Jan 18, 2023 at 2:08
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    @cjs Sure, all tank models have been upgraded substantially over the years, and each line has a "current" upgrade. So T-72s from 1991 are not directly comparable to T-72s in 2023. Apparently, RU upgraded about 2k of them to B3, no counts for B3M. On the other, we have seen RU tanks with cardboard and bricks in the ERA boxes, so I wouldn't bet my life on the "upgraded" tanks. At any rate, UA has been destroying, disabling, and capturing every model left and right without modern Western tanks, so I'm not sure pedantry changes the calculus. Jan 18, 2023 at 7:18
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    Gotta love how this part sounds: “Unfortunately, we do not have any big tank battles involving the Challenger 2 and RU tanks.” ;) Jan 18, 2023 at 7:43
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    I'm not trying to be pedantic here. I think that early and late T-72s are effectively different tanks is about as important a point as how well the tanks are maintained: a fully intact 1980s/90s T-72 may be nearly as ineffective as post-2010s T-72 that's been "raided" for some parts.
    – cjs
    Jan 18, 2023 at 7:44
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    Unfortunately this answer did not age well... Dec 13, 2023 at 23:18
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Modern weapons may mean also in small numbers. The count of HIMARs is also not very big, yet by hitting precisely and over larger distance than artillery, they made they difference. Challenger II has been designed in 1993. Until now, Ukraine has relied primarily on Soviet-era T-72 tank variants (source), designed in 1973. This is 20 years of development.

Russia is now putting T-62 tanks first fielded in 1954 into the battle (source). Challenger will have near 40 years of additional development behind against these. At some point, old weapons become hopelessly inefficient against the new weapons.

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  • You've got smoothbore and rifling backwards. The L30 is a throwback. Most modern tank guns abandoned rifling decades ago and are now smoothbore. Smoothbore works better with extremely high velocity kinetic (ie. the damage is done by how fast you can slam the projectile into the target) armor piercing ammunition. And it works better with HEAT which you don't want to spin. Rounds are typically stabilized with fins. In contrast, the British like their HESH.
    – Schwern
    Jan 19, 2023 at 17:57
  • As of my source, with HEAT, T-72 and T-90 can only reach 3000 m. Challenger has 3350 meter distance advantage to strike first.
    – Stančikas
    Jan 20, 2023 at 8:49
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Tanks don't equate military equipment by and large. The amount of Western tanks Ukraine has been promised indeed has been small, but that doesn't equate with other military equipment. They received far more artillery and anti-tank missiles for instance. (By one account Ukraine has received at least 264 Western tube artillery pieces, for instance, and "hundreds of thousands" of shells for those. And at least 5,000 Javelins.) Or even many more short range anti-air, but not so much longer range anti-air, at least not of Western make, like Patriots.

TBH, I personally find somewhat questionable linking [Challenger 2] tanks to somehow stopping the Russian Kh-22 (cruise missile) bombardments. Even if Ukraine takes back 100% of the territory they claim [using their new tanks], it's not too clear to me that would stop Russian cruise missile attacks. As one retired US general said, giving ATACMS to Ukraine to hit back much further into Russia would be more of a levelling plan, in that regard.

Yeah, there's the reluctance in some Western political circles of what equipment to give to Ukraine without aggravating Russia too much, and possibly causing them to hit the nuclear button and what not. This is reflected in some NATO think papers on the topic.

As for tanks in particular, as was the case with artillery before, it appears that planners preferred to first exhaust the stocks of former Soviet equipment, before sending Western made ones. According to France24 "Ukraine's European allies have sent Kyiv more than 300 modernised Soviet tanks since Russia invaded more than 10 months ago." The most recent, sizeable batch so ordered appears to have been from the Czech Republic, back in November (some 90 T-72s).


And it takes none other than Ukrainian journalists to point to the scale and relevance of Russian armored losses in Ukraine:

According to the 2022 Military Balance report published by the International Institute of Strategic Studies, Russia started the war with 3,417 functional tanks, of which 2,357 were built after 2000 and more or less modern.

Military journalist Yury Butusov, in a Nov. 21 morning Facebook analysis, estimated that of those tanks lost to the Russian military, at least 516 were expensive and relatively up-to-date models like T-72B3, T-72B3M, T-80BVM, T-90A, and T-90M, equipped with high tech thermal sights and, because of western sanctions, almost impossible to replace.

So according to that analysis Russia lost about 20% of their modern tanks in Ukraine. And this resulted in a change of tactics:

Volodymyr Lysovsky, a fighter and anti-tank gunner in a Kyiv regional territorial defense battalion, told Kyiv Post in a November interview the Russian military entered the war using World War II tactics of massed tank columns that, in theory, would deploy overwhelming firepower and impenetrable armor to overrun defenders.

That aggressive, offensive style of war, successful in past Russian offensives against poorly armed infantry in Chechnya, Syria and Georgia, over and over drove the Kremlin’s tanks into ambushes by Ukrainian infantry heavily armed with anti-tank missiles fully capable of blowing up any armored vehicle in the Russian army inventory, Lysovsky said. [...] “The Russians for a long time threw away tanks like they were washrags, but they don’t do that anymore,” Lysovsky said. “Now I guess they are running out.”

[...] The Russian Federation (RF) intended to produce 240 modern tanks in 2022 to add to its fleet but, because of Western sanctions on Russia, “that plan failed completely,” Butusov said.

And that Russia is apparently looking to refurbish a further 800 T-62 to more modern standards is also discussed therein (based on Russian sources). However, those numbers are far from the tens of thousands bandied in the OP's post.

That Russian attacks [for] now are dominated by (Wagner) infantry and artillery has been noticed elsewhere. Now one shouldn't read too much into this as carefully marshalling armored reserves for surprise attacks is as old as WW2, and Ukraine's leaders have talked about potential for more serious Russian offensive in 2023.

However, attacking tanks in a defensive position, especially over open country, is rather more difficult than if they come to you, so it is understandable that Ukraine seeks to improve that kind capability now.


As for relevance of UK's MBT announcement... sadly [for Ukraine] it wasn't too consequential as far as Germany goes as they seem to also condition their own provision of tanks on what the US does (and that's relevant because far more Leopard 2's have been produced and sold to various European countries, compared to Challenger 2's), although there have been a number of somewhat contradictory remarks from Germany on that, with the conditionality on US shipments being denied in somewhat vague language more recently.

By the way, those 50 or so Bradleys were soon accompanied by pledges of a similar numbers of German Marders (40 in Q1) and French AMX-10RC. So one might guess Germany is ideally waiting/hoping for a similar kind of agreement on main battle tanks. The US DoD however is keen to point out that while Bradleys (and most European main battle tanks) run on diesel, their Abrams tanks [normally] run on JP-8 aviation fuel, which would be logistically more problematic for Ukraine.

There's no denying however that once a couple of the big NATO players send some sort of equipment to Ukraine, others in the coalition seem to follow. Case in point, Sweden then announced sending some 50 IFVs of their own (as well as 12 Archer artillery systems--one of the most modern in service anywhere, in terms of automation at least). The Western IVF insofar pledged (around 150 now) are definitely superior to the last large batch of Soviet-era IFVs I remember Ukraine got, meaning those former Czech & East German BMP-1s that were mothballed in various places in Europe (Czechia, Sweden, Greece, Slovakia). And in terms of gunnery, the fast moving AMX10-RC [which doesn't carry infantry] is also superior. One should remember that Russia also has some units (paratrooper) that emphasize mobility and don't have that much in the way of heavier tanks, but rely on BMDs. And a bunch of these were deployed to Ukraine.

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    I think needless escalation has always been on the minds of those supplying heavier equipment. Retaliation doesn't have to be nuclear. One way of retaliation could be to attack supply shipments before they even get to Ukraine. And it's somewhat of a double edged sword in that when such an escalation occurs, the West might need some of that equipment for its own defense (e.g. air defense systems).
    – JJJ
    Jan 16, 2023 at 22:58
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    I'm not sure "100% of the territory they claim" is the best phrasing there. They're not claiming that territory... It is legally theirs. That's like saying I'm claiming ownership of my house... No, it's mine. Let's not equate Russia's claims with Ukraine's actual right of ownership Jan 17, 2023 at 19:51
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    @ScottishTapWater Unfortunately, that is a distinction without much of a difference. If there were a disagreement about who owned your house you would still need to prove to someone that you actually legally owned it. The only way it seems countries can prove they "legally" own territory they claim is by diplomatic means and, if those fail, by either taking it or defending it. It would be nice if that were not the case, but that is not the world we live in.
    – user5155
    Jan 18, 2023 at 3:08
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    @JeffLambert - I don't think it is a distinction without much of a difference. Phrasing it one way makes it seem as though both sides have a legitimate claim that must be settled. Phrasing it the other makes it seem as though Russia is taking something that is not theirs. Sure, in terms of practicalities there's little difference, a war is a war but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be cognisant of how we're presenting these things anyway. Jan 18, 2023 at 10:54
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    @ScottishTapWater Fair enough. Legality at the international level just isn't nearly as cut and dry as many people like to think, trying to overstate things in that way I don't think leads to any better understanding. The point still stands though that the claim being pressed is just as legitimate as the will is there to either enforce it or deny it.
    – user5155
    Jan 18, 2023 at 14:34
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Why is this considered to be a significant event [..]?

Not exactly sure, who considers it significant (the British government, the press, somebody else) or what "significant" exactly means here (war-winning, decisive, high impact, measurable, something in between), but the following things are all true:

  • The 14 Challenger 2 tanks from Britain will increase the Ukrainian army combat strength once they are delivered and training on them has been conducted. It's better to have them than not to have them.
  • These tanks can help Ukraine recapture some of their territory that they could not without them because during a stalemate/trench warfare like the current situation only heavy machinery like tanks combined with other arms (artillery, lighter combat vehicles, drones, missiles, airplanes, ...) give a realistic chance of breaking through Russian defensive lines.
  • This is the first time this particular type of especially deadly weapons have been announced to be sent to Ukraine.
  • Challenger 2 tanks are approximately 20 years old. Their combat value is higher than older Russian tank models like for example the T-72 which are still used. Not all tanks in the world are equal and one cannot simply compare numbers only.
  • Talking about this delivery increases pressure on other countries to follow suit and send more tanks (US, France, Germany, ...).
  • Sending a small number like 14 tanks is perfect for testing the Russian response, the logistics, the capability of the Ukrainian army to integrate the equipment in their structure.

but also

  • 14 tanks (whatever the model is) will not change the course of this war significantly. In particular they will very likely not make the difference between a victory or a defeat of any one side.
  • In propaganda during war times positive news (like additional arms supplies) are always amplified beyond their real significance and bad news (for the respective side) downplayed or ignored, not only in Russia, where the government has almost perfect control over the information space but also in the West. Almost all the Western weapon supplies in the past have been greeted by the press enthusiastically as far as I can remember.

And finally:

  • The GDP of say the US, Britain, the EU and Japan (~ 40 trillion USD per year) is more than 20 times higher than that of Russia (~ 1.7 trillion USD per year), so if you equal industrial capacity with military production capacity in a very simplistic picture surely the "West" could easily outproduce Russia and indeed send thousands of modern tanks to Ukraine given enough time without sacrificing tanks at home if it wanted to. E.g. the US used to produce 60 M1 Abrams tanks a month.
  • However, providing this capacity would currently require much time (years) but this war already takes almost one year now and no end is in sight.
  • Nobody knows how many tanks or what other military equipment will follow. It might be the starting point of strongly increased support or it might not.

To answer the question: It's somewhat significant as one of many small steps in a big war. The whole picture will only become visible at the end.

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    I'd like to add, there's no might about Challenger 2s being more effective than the Russian tanks... With the exception of the most recent Russian tanks (that are few and far between), the Challenger 2 could quite comfortably take multiple hits from a Russian tank and keep fighting Jan 21, 2023 at 9:25
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    @ScottishTapWater Not only this. It also has a greater firing range. For example during the Iraq War it was M1 Abrams against T72 and the US troops basically came out unscathed of every single tank fight. Jan 21, 2023 at 17:33
  • If I'm not mistaken the Challenger 2 holds the record for the longest confirmed armour kill in history Jan 21, 2023 at 17:37
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The current number of Russian tanks is difficult to establish.

First of all, no "Russia" did not produce any tanks since 1950s. It was the Soviet Union which did that. And the Soviet industry was spread among all the Republics (with quite a bit of it being in Ukraine).

After the desolution of the Soviet Union, most of the Soviet arms were either put in storage or sold off. There was no money budgeted to maintain the bulk of the military in a working order because the government of the RF was running on a shoestring. Most of the manufacturing facilities closed off and production capabilities were sold off.

After 30 years, only a very small fraction of Soviet tanks remained in a working order. And the number of people who were trained to maintain or repair them was also much smaller. Even the population of the Russian Federation is only about 1/2 of the population of the USSR at the time of the USSR's collapse.

By some estimates, less than 1/10th of the remaining tanks are still functioning.

The quality of the Soviet tanks is largely inferior to the quality of the Western tanks.

One of the largest tank battles after WWII happened between Israel and Syria. Its significance for this question is that because of the terrain it was tanks-vs-tanks, almost exclusively, with very little other military hardware. Syria used Soviet tanks. They outnumbered Israel 5 to 1. Israel lost about half of the tanks while Syria lost almost the entire tank force. So the casualty rate of Israeli tanks to Soviet tanks was 1 to 10.

Soviet doctrine always relied on overwhelming numbers rather than quality or precision.

During "Desert Storm," the US lost 9 tanks. While it is estimated to have destroyed 3000-4000 Iraqi Soviet-made tanks. But this was not a pure tank-vs-tank battle because much of the US military power came from the overwhelming superiority in the air.

Why quality is important.

Inferior quality tanks are effectively sitting ducks. If the other side can shoot further with higher precision, they have little chance of scoring any hits.

Why the delivery is important at all.

Because the Russian capacity to produce any industrial-strength equipment is almost gone at this point, and relies to a large extent on imports, Russia cannot mass produce tanks. So any losses are effectively not replaceable.

While any delivers by the West, if successful at first, would almost certainly be followed up by more deliveries. The industrial capacity of the Western military manufacturers has been maintained in a working order and can be increased on demand.

Why the Russian military might is incomparably weaker than the Soviet one.

During the 1920's and 1930's, Stalin's USSR engaged in a very rapid program of industrialization. It was buying know-how and mass-mobilizing its population to become literate and to engage in a program of attaining technical skills. Because it was a Communist country, the state was effectively the only legal employer for most jobs. So it could control which careers were or were not available to people. The process was very corrupt, but it was still centrally-directed.

This massive industrialization meant that the Soviet Union was able to mobilize large numbers of people to become industrial workers on command.

The same is simply not true in the modern-day Russia. Most government employees are either police (of some sort) or bureaucrats. Most of the education is in the commercially-viable fields. Very few people are educated in the industrial production fields.

So any military industrial capacity which is lost is not likely to be regained rapidly.

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