March 21, 2023

From Hibernation to Humiliation? Russia Brings T-54 Tanks Out of Retirement 

The CIT team has obtained photographs of a train transporting military vehicles from Russia’s Far East. We identified the vehicles as Soviet-era T-54/55 series tanks: T-54s as well as tanks which may be either late T-54 or T-55 tanks were both on that train.

As we have established, the filmed train has recently departed from the town of Arsenyev, Primorsky region, where the 1295th Central Tank Repair and Storage Base is located. We had already documented shipments of military vehicles from that base: for example, in October, in Yekaterinburg, a train carrying T-62M(V) tanks was captured on video, and the point of departure of the train was also Arsenyev. Note that deployment and use of T-62 tanks by the Russian Armed Forces during the current invasion has been documented since the summer of 2022, but it is the first recorded instance of T-54/55 tanks withdrawal from storage.

We examined publicly available archive photographs of the 1295th Base and found out that, in addition to relatively modern T-80BV and T-72B tanks, it also stored a significant amount of T-62M(V) tanks. We also managed to find photographs of the T-55 and T-54 tanks.

Furthermore, we analyzed satellite images of the 1295th Base and established that between June and November 2022, at least 191 tanks had left the base (most likely T-62s). In reality, this number can be much higher, since the most combat-ready vehicles, as a rule, are stored in special hangars, and it is impossible to spot their shipment based on satellite imagery.

The earliest T-54 series tanks were adopted by the Soviet Army back in the mid-to-late 1940s, and the T-55 series entered service in 1958. Even an outdated tank is more useful than no tank at all, but we consider the lack of rangefinders and ballistic computers (not to mention fire control systems) to be the key disadvantages of these series, as well as primitive sights and (in T-54s) an inferior gun stabilization system.

We find it difficult to determine the possible uses of these tanks, but in any case, along with the removal of BTR-50 armored personnel carriers from storage and the modification of MT-LB multi-purpose AFVs with naval anti-aircraft guns, this clearly indicates severe issues with military vehicle supply in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.