Ukraine To Get 90 T-72B Tanks From Czech Republic

The U.S. and Netherlands will split the $90 million cost to refurbish the Czech tanks as part of a $400 million aid package announced Friday.

byHoward Altman| PUBLISHED Nov 4, 2022 6:34 PM
Ukraine To Get 90 T-72B Tanks From Czech Republic
Ukraine MOD
Share

Ukraine will receive 90 badly needed T-72B main battle tanks from the Czech Republic, with the U.S. and Netherlands sharing the $90 million cost to refurbish them. Part of a $400 million Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) arms package announced Friday, it marks “the first time we are paying for these tanks to be used in Ukraine,” Sabrina Singh, a Pentagon spokeswoman, told reporters, including from The War Zone, Friday afternoon.

An undisclosed number of these tanks, which will be equipped with upgraded optics, communications, and armor packages, are scheduled to arrive in Ukraine by next month, with the rest next year, Singh said, without providing details about exactly what systems the refurbished tanks will have when turned over to Ukraine.

In addition to paying to refurbish the tanks, the package also includes 1,100 additional Phoenix Ghost loitering munitions, 40 armored riverine boats, funding to refurbish 250 M1117 Armored Security Vehicles (ASV) and an undisclosed number of missiles for the medium-range Homing All the Way Killer (HAWK) air defense systems provided to Ukraine by Spain. It's worth noting that months after their delivery was announced, we have still not seen a Phoenix Ghost loitering munition, at least that we know of.

The package also includes unspecified tactical secure communications systems and surveillance systems; and funding for training, maintenance, and sustainment. Unlike Presidential Drawdown authority (PDA), which DoD has continued to leverage to deliver equipment to Ukraine from DoD stocks at a historic pace, USAI is an authority under which the U.S. procures capabilities from industry.

Ukraine, which is pushing offensives in the Kherson, Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, has long been asking for additional tanks to sustain its fight against Russia.

Both sides have taken heavy tank losses, through destruction, damage, or capture, during Russia’s all-out invasion. 

A captured Russian T-72 tank is loaded on a truck by Ukrainian soldiers outside the town of Izyum on Sept. 24. (Photo by ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images)

It has been visually confirmed that Ukraine has lost 341, tanks, of which 188 have been destroyed, 12 damaged, 14 abandoned and 128 captured. Russia has lost 1,420 tanks, of which 814 were destroyed, 61 damaged, 53 abandoned: and 492 captured, according to the Oryx OSINT research group’s latest figures. Once again, these are not actual loss numbers, those are likely much higher, but it counts strictly vehicles that can be visually confirmed to have been lost, damaged, or seized.

The trilateral agreement between the U.S., Netherland and Czech Republic to provide the tanks "is a direct outcome of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group," Singh said. Singh did not offer details about where the ammunition for their 125 mm cannon will come from.

While the first to be funded by the U.S., these are not the first T-72 tanks sent from the Czech Republic to Ukraine. When asked why the U.S. is not providing more modern tanks, like the M1 Abrams, Singh repeated a frequent Pentagon talking point.

“These are Soviet-era tanks,” she said. “These are tanks that the Ukrainians know how to use on the battlefield. Introducing a new main battle tank is extremely costly, it’s time-sensitive, and it would be a huge undertaking for the Ukrainian forces. So we do continue to consult with our allies and partners to assess our ability on what we can provide in terms of Western armor platforms, but these tanks we believe will make a difference on the battlefield.”

Ukraine is familiar with Soviet-era weaponry, like this Ukrainian Army T-72 tank. (Ukraine Defense Ministry photo)

The U.S. had already pledged 700 Phoenix Ghost loitering munitions to Ukraine. Singh on Friday did not have a timeline on when this latest tranche will be delivered, but said “a portion of these have already been delivered to Ukraine. And we've seen success already on the battlefield.”

Ukraine has little in the way of a navy, with many of the vessels it has before the full-on invasion either scuttled, sunk or captured, including at least four of the seven Gyurza-M class armored artillery patrol boats that had in its fleet. On Friday, video emerged of one of those class of vessels being struck by a Russian Lancet loitering munition.

Singh did not say what kind of riverine armored boats Ukraine will receive, but a previous tranche of 18 such vessels included two 35-foot, Small Unit Riverine Craft (SURC), 10 34-foot Sea Ark Dauntless-class patrol boats and six 40-foot maritime combat patrol boats. You can read more about those vessels here.

Ukraine continues to need armored vehicles aside from tanks in its advances as well. The M1117 Armored Security Vehicles, the first of these models to be sent to Ukraine, will come from existing Army stocks under the Excess Defense Articles program, under which military materiel can be provided to partner nations either at a reduced cost or as a grant and are frequently transferred to aid foreign governments in their modernization plans.

M1117 ASV. Spc. Micah E. Clare, U.S. Army

While Ukraine has asked for a lot of different types of arms, it is most urgently seeking air and missile defense systems to counter the barrage of missiles and drones being launched by Russia, largely against power and water infrastructure and other civilian targets.

The missiles for the HAWKs come from existing stocks that the U.S. no longer uses because it no longer fields that system, Singh said. .

The HAWK system, first introduced in 1959, has been updated several times since. The last version, the Improved-HAWK (or I-HAWK), came out of U.S. service in 2002 without ever being used in combat. Spain has agreed to provide four such systems to Ukraine.

The I-HAWK system comes in three different phases designated as Phase I through III, and Spain possesses the MIM-23B I-HAWK Phase I and Phase III. 

The I-HAWK’s technical specifications vary between phases, but the improved version overall uses an M192 launch unit and features a 163-pound blast-fragmentation warhead and an M112 rocket motor with a boost and sustain phase on top of the improved guidance package noted earlier. The new motor increased the I-HAWK’s engagement envelope, with the missile boasting a minimum range of just under a mile and a maximum range of just under 22 miles. You can read more about the HAWK systems and their transfer to Ukraine here.

In addition to the arms, Singh announced the Pentagon is establishing the Security Assistance Group Ukraine, a "dedicated headquarters element in Wiesbaden, Germany, and under a U.S. European Command to coordinate our efforts. This headquarters will ...ensure we...continue supporting Ukraine over the long term."

It will be led by a three-star-level senior officer and have about 300 personnel who will monitor the weapons assistance and training programs, said U.S. Army Europe spokesman Col. Martin O’Donnell.

In total, the U.S. has now committed more than $18.9 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration. Since 2014, the United States has committed more than $21 billion in security assistance to Ukraine and more than $18.2 billion since Russia launched its full-on invasion Feb. 24.

Given the difficult fight Ukraine still faces despite its recent battlefield successes, it remains to be seen how quickly and effectively this latest aid package can make a difference, especially since a lot of the equipment has to be refurbished before it can even be delivered. It is something we will be tracking as this equipment gets fielded.

Contact the author: howard@thewarzone.com

stripe