Untrained Russian Troops Struggling to Fit Tank Armor, Causing Losses: U.K.

Russian troops are struggling to properly fit their tanks with Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA), adding to "heavy attrition" in combat, according to Britain's Ministry of Defense.

Russia has become bogged down against Ukrainian defenders, with the U.S. estimating they have suffered 70,000-80,000 casualties in just six months.

According to the latest U.K. Defense Intelligence report: "The heavy attrition of Russian Main Battle Tanks in Ukraine is highly likely partially due to Russia's failure to fit and properly employ adequate Explosive Reactive Armor [ERA].

"Used correctly, ERA degrades the effectiveness of incoming projectiles before they hit the tank. This suggests that Russian forces have not rectified a culture of poor ERA use, which dates back to the First Chechen War in 1994.

"It is highly likely that many Russian tank crews lack the training to maintain ERA, leading to either poor fitting of the explosive elements, or it being left off entirely.

"These deficiencies probably contribute to the widespread incidents of turret ejection, which are well documented in eye-witness videos from Ukraine."

Russian tanks not fitted with reactive armour
Russian T-72 tanks during the International Army Games at the International Military Technical Forum 'Army 2022' at Alabino Polygon on August 16, 2022 in Patriot Park, outside of Moscow, Russia. According to the U.K. the failure to properly fit Explosive Reactive Armor is partially responsible for heavy Russian tank losses in Ukraine. Contributor/GETTY

The intelligence report added the inability to fit ERA is just one example of "failures by Russian commanders to enforce low-level battle discipline".

Taken cumulatively this "is likely a significant factor behind the poor performance of Russia's forces."

ERA is designed to detonate outwards when a tank is hit by a high-powered projectile, working to counterbalance the incoming blast and reducing its power.

It is particularly effective against shaped charges, a way of designing an explosive device that concentrates its power on a very small point in the hope of punching through armor.

Mike Martin, a visiting war studies fellow at King's College London, told Newsweek this is "just the latest example" of Russia struggling with its "largely conscript army" who generally "don't want to fight."

He explained: "Conscript armies don't lend themselves to technical competence because you're not conscripted for a very long time, so stuff that takes time and skills to develop – by the time you've developed them you've finished up your one-year term of service and you've left.

"This is why professional armies are good at highly technical forms of warfare and conscript armies are only really good at attritional warfare, which is what the Russians practice because you don't need much training to be cannon fodder."

Martin added even if you have ERA properly fitted "you're not going to be defended against a Javelin," a type of anti-tank missile that has been donated to Ukraine by western powers in large numbers.

On Wednesday Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a "dormitory" in Kharkiv had been hit by a Russian missile, causing a large number of civilian casualties.

He commented: "The building was completely destroyed. We are establishing the exact number of dead and wounded.

"A vile and cynical attack on civilians that has no justification and demonstrates the powerlessness of the aggressor."

Also on Wednesday the Ukrainian military said at least 24 Russian planes and 14 helicopters had left bases in Crimea, after a series of explosions hit key Russian positions—including the Saki Airbase—causing widespread damage.