Ghosts of World War II and Cold War in the fields of the Russian-Ukrainian war

Ghosts of World War II and Cold War in the fields of the Russian-Ukrainian war

The Cold War ended more than 30 years ago, but the “ghosts” of its hot phase, which should have been exhibited in museums for decades, are actively used in the fields of the Russian-Ukrainian war.

Moreover, the combat vehicles that fought in World War II can be spotted on the battlefield.


Our war is unusual: modern high-tech combat vehicles, such as the Leopard 2A7, are in the same formation along with “relics” from long ago, such as the M-55S and Leopard 1.

On the other hand, the situation is mirrored: alongside the T-90M and BMP-3 are the T-55/54 and T-62.

Of course, some of these vehicles are modernized. They are equipped with modern navigation and communication systems and optical daytime and night channels, which prolong the life of old combat vehicles.

Modernization of electronics does not compensate for protection that does not meet modern requirements, but opens up new uses, for example, for shooting from indirect positions.


World War II Echo

The Russian-Ukrainian war did not start on February 24, 2022, but earlier – in 2014, with the annexation of Crimea and the start of the anti-terrorist operation in Donbas, so it would be appropriate to consider the use of such combat vehicles at that time.

One of the combat vehicles in the hands of pro-Russian terrorists was the IS-3 tank that was positioned in the village of Oleksandro-Kalynove. Starting in May 2014, militants of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” inspected the combat vehicle, and later managed to start it up and send it to Kostyantynivka for repairs.

The D-25T 122mm gun was disabled during the tank’s demilitarization, and therefore, its use was not possible. The militants installed an NSV 12.7mm machine gun on the tank.


The militants claimed that on June 30, IS-3 fired a machine gun at a Ukrainian checkpoint in the village of Ulyanivka, allegedly killing three Ukrainian soldiers and wounding three others, but there is no evidence of this.

After the liberation of Kostyantynivka, the militants left the tank behind. Ukrainian forces sent it to Kyiv, from where it was transported to the Mykolaiv region to the Museum of Strategic Rocket Forces.

In February 2014, militants of the Kazachya National Guard group, subordinate to the so-called “LPR,” removed the T-34-85 tank from the pedestal near the Antratsyt town hall. The fighting vehicle was installed in memory of the city’s liberation from German troops.


The KNG terrorists installed anti-accumulative grilles on the sides of the tank, which additionally covered the rollers, welded additional protection to the fuel tanks, and installed tracks on the frontal projection of the tracks.

Propaganda resources of the so-called “LPR” presented the T-34-85 tank driving the streets of Antratsyt and stated that the fighting vehicle was ready to engage. However, this was the end of it, there was no information about the use of this tank in combat operations, and it was later returned to its place.

The Ukrainian defenders also used the legendary Kharkiv T-34-85 tank during the full-scale Russian-Ukrainian war. During the battles for Lysychansk, the T-34-85 was removed from the pedestal No. 227. The tank was presumably used by Ukrainian forces to obstruct the road but not as real firepower.

Another interesting moment in the Russian-Ukrainian war was Pz. Kpfw. IV tank near Kreminna. The tank is equipped with tracks from the BMP-1/BMP-2, so, most likely, it was operational. Judging by the photos, it hit a mine or was hit by a drone.

It is not known which unit used the tank and what it was used for, but it can be assumed that it was a decoy for Russian drones and artillery or an armored transporter.

Return of T-62

The Russian use of T-62 tanks in the Russian-Ukrainian war was first reported in May 2022. It is worth noting that these tanks participated in the war in Georgia and went into storage about a decade ago.

Earlier, in October 2021, there was evidence of the use of T-62MVs by units of the Southern Military District. It is also reported that in August 2018, during the Vostok-2018 exercises, the Russian military took at least several dozen T-62M and T-62MVs out of storage.

During the Russian-Ukrainian war, tanks started to be equipped with “grills” on the turret and engine compartment to protect them from munitions and FPV drones. There were “tsar grills” that covered the tank in all projections.

However, such upgrades give an additional load on the weak V-55 engine, the problems with which were not solved during the USSR time.

In October 2022, it was reported that the 103rd Armored Plant near Chita received an order to repair and improve about 800 T-62 tanks within three years.

The Russians plan to equip the T-62 with modern thermal imagers and night sights and strengthen their protection by installing add-on armor, protection against missile systems, and stern protection against grenade launchers.

According to the OSINT service Oryx, the Russians lost 37 T-62s of various modifications as destroyed, and 45 were captured by Ukrainian troops.

Some of the captured T-62s are converted into armored recovery vehicles and fire support vehicles.

The T-62 was adopted by the Soviet army in 1961, and in the 1980s, it was recognized as completely obsolete and began to be put into storage. A number of tanks remained in service with the Russian Federation until the 2000s and were gradually decommissioned, but then, around 2018, they began to be returned to service.

Return of T-55

After the introduction of the T-62 on the battlefield of the Russian-Ukrainian war, users online were joking about restoring the T-55/54. Within a short time, the jokes became a reality, but with a “twist.”

In September 2022, Slovenia announced that it would transfer M-55S tanks, which are an upgraded version of the Soviet T-55, to Ukraine.

STO RAVNE and Israeli Elbit carried out the Slovenian modernization. The tank was equipped with an improved fire control system with a digital ballistic computer and gun stabilization on both axes. The M-55S also received a L7 105mm gun similar to the Leopard 1.

The gunner received a new Fotona SGS-55 sight with a laser rangefinder, and the commander received a Fotona COMTOS-55 with an independent stabilization line of sight. In addition, the tank received the LIRD-1A laser warning system and the associated IS-6 smoke grenade launcher, which can operate in automatic mode.

In addition, the engine was modernized, and its power was increased from 520 horsepower to 600. M-55S was also equipped with new rubber-metal tracks.

The first evidence of the M-55S in Ukraine appeared in December 2022, and a little later, it was reported that they were in service with the 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade.

In fact, Ukrainian defenders started to use T-54 much earlier, during the defense of Mariupol. It is known that the tank was removed from the pedestal on the territory of Azovstal and, most likely, was towed and used to strengthen defensive positions.

Later, in March 2023, it was announced that the Russians were transferring an echelon of T-55/54 tanks from the city of Arsenyev, in which the 1295th Central Reserve and Tank Storage Base was located.

In April, the Russians released a video from the war zone that captured a tank similar to a T-54 or T-55.

Destruction and damage to the T-55 is quite a rare event. Damage to one T-55 was recorded on August 5, 2023, and the destruction of an unspecified type of combat vehicle, which might have been T-54 or T-55, was recorded on June 18.

The destruction of the T-55 was confirmed recently, as reported on January 4, 2024.

The Russians were most likely using T-55/54 and T-62 tanks to fire from the indirect position. However, it is worth noting that combat vehicles of two types were destroyed during offensive operations.

Leopard 1

The first information on the supply of Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine was reported in April 2022, when it was announced that Rheinmetall was preparing 50 tanks in the A5 version.

The company’s CEO, Armin Papperger, announced the intention to transfer those tanks to Ukraine. At the time, about 100 combat vehicles were in the company’s depots.

It was later reported that the German government received a request from Rheinmetall to supply 88 combat vehicles to Ukraine with a total value of more than 2 billion euros. The itemized list of equipment was not released, but it can be assumed that it included Leopard 1.

In early February 2023, it was reported that the German government intended to approve the transfer of Leopard 1 tanks from industrial stocks to Ukraine. Germany was then joined by Denmark and the Netherlands, who also stored a large number of tanks after decommissioning.

In April, it was reported that the Ukrainian military started receiving these combat vehicles, while representatives of the German government claimed that Ukraine would begin to receive tanks in the second half of 2023.

Finally, the first Leopard 1A5s were transferred to the arsenal of the Ukrainian Armed Forces later in the fall. In total, Ukraine is to receive about 180 vehicles.



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