Russia Forced to Create 'Frankenstein' Tanks From Spare Parts: Report

  • A Ukrainian news outlet reported evidence shows Russia is using spare parts to make improvised tanks.
  • An open-source group monitoring equipment losses in the Ukraine war says more than 1,000 Russian tanks have been destroyed by Ukraine's military.
  • A military analyst told a U.K. newspaper that one image of an improvised tank seems to show it was outfitted with a naval turret, which could be due to Russia's navy having more equipment available than Moscow's land forces.

Online photographs appear to show that members of Russian President Vladimir Putin's military forces have been piecing together improvised tanks using leftover parts.

"Some Russian commanders, desperately short of battle-ready tanks, appear to have turned to improvising 'Frankenstein' tanks from spare parts to fill the gap in their armory," the Kyiv Post wrote on Wednesday.

In addition to pictures posted by the Kyiv Post, The Telegraph on Monday shared an image and a tweet containing video of vehicles reportedly stitched-together by Russia for use in its war in Ukraine.

According to February data from the open-source intelligence website Oryx—which has monitored military equipment losses in the Ukraine war since Putin launched his invasion on February 24, 2022—Russia has lost more than 1,000 tanks in the conflict. Oryx also reported that more than 500 have been captured by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's forces, while others have been damaged or abandoned.

On Monday, the U.K. Ministry of Defense (MOD) also reported that Russia has been forced to rely more on 60-year-old T-62 main battle tanks (MBTs) because of its heavy armored losses.

A tank in Ukraine and Vladimir Putin
In the main image, an abandoned battle tank is seen near Yampil, Ukraine, on February 6, 2023. The smaller picture shows Russian President Vladimir Putin taking part in a videoconference at Novo-Ogaryovo residence, outside Moscow on March 6, 2023. New reports say Putin’s military has turned to making improvised tanks out of spare parts due to the country’s tank shortage. Photos by YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/MIKHAIL METZEL/SPUTNIK/Getty Images

The Kyiv Post wrote that evidence from the early stages of the war suggests Russian tank commanders took steps to bolster their vehicles from Ukraine's anti-tank weapons. The outlet said images from that time show Russian tanks and other armored vehicles "fitted with overhead cages, additional scraps of armor and even wooden logs to try to prevent the full force of Ukrainian missile attacks."

However, recent pictures show "bizarre, crudely-engineered vehicles being deployed in Ukraine," according to the Kyiv Post. These images include a picture of "a 1950s-era naval anti-aircraft turret fitted to a Soviet-era MT-LB amphibious fighting vehicle."

Justin Crump of the intelligence and geopolitical risk firm Sibylline told The Telegraph that the Russian military could have used a naval turret because the country's navy has not suffered significant equipment losses like Moscow's land forces.

"I suspect it was improvised from naval turrets as they had access to them and the relevant ammunition," he told the newspaper.

The Kyiv Post wrote that Ukraine's forces also used spare parts on their armored vehicles during the early stages of the war, but Zelensky's military is beginning to receive better equipment.

"While Ukraine receives modern tanks and other latest technology weapons systems from its Western partners, Russia cannot expect such external assistance," the newspaper wrote.

"In my professional opinion, Putin's army is being annihilated by the Ukrainians, and his armor is one place where this is particularly obvious," Guy McCardle, a U.S. Army veteran and managing editor of Special Operations Forces Report (SOFREP), told Newsweek.

McCardle added, Russia's tanks "are being destroyed at a much faster rate than they can be rebuilt, which forces Russians "into making 'Frankentanks.'"

However, former U.S. Marine Corps captain and State Department officer Matthew Hoh told Newsweek that Putin's military has plenty of other military resources at its disposal.

"My understanding is that Russia still has many regular army units, plus mobilized troops and units, as many as 500,000 men, in reserve still," Hoh, who is an associate director of the Eisenhower Media Network, said.

He added, "The consistent reports of Russia running out of missiles, rockets and artillery shells do not seem to ever come true, while the US/NATO are facing shortages in their own stocks, and are meeting the requirements for the Ukrainian army, but not in any way that gives medium or long term confidence."

Newsweek reached out to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment.