Since then, the Russian combat vehicle has been out of service, stuck at a repair site in the Kharkov region of northeastern Ukraine.
Since the start of the war, Ukrainian forces have seized hundreds of what they called “booty”, including Russian tanks, armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles. They have become a valuable asset for Kyiv. The brigade working at this repair site jokingly called them “Lend-Lease” tanks. This is a reference to the World War II program in which the United States provided humanitarian aid and military equipment to Britain, the Soviet Union, and other allied powers.
However, many of these tanks and other vehicles are locked up in hangars like this repair site as the brigade struggles to find the parts they need for repairs. The unit here, the maintenance battalion of the 14th Separation Mechanized Brigade, was unable to find the necessary parts for the BMP-3.
“It’s clear that we have to fight the enemy instead of sitting in a hangar,” said Ruslan, the 47-year-old maintenance battalion commander, on the condition that his last name not be used.
To find parts to repair vehicles, battalions must first find identical parts. Unlike previous models of combat vehicles of this type, the BMP-3 cannot be repaired using parts from similar Ukrainian vehicles.
Ruslan said another brigade may have suitable vehicles, but there is no system for finding parts. He suggested that a program or database to track compatible parts between brigades could benefit the military. “It will save time,” he said. “It will save a lot of resources.”
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A spokesman for the 14th Brigade, the only brigade to have fought on all of the country’s major fronts since the Russian invasion began, joked that it is Ukrainian nature to collect and hoard valuable possessions. Said. It’s not as easy as simply demanding the same trophy tanks and vehicles from different brigades.
In the Donetsk region, Vadim Ustimenko, a member of the tank division of Ukraine’s 25th Airborne Assault Brigade, said he had replaced tanks “six or seven times” in the past seven months as they often needed repairs. He currently fights in a T-80 tank. This is his one of the best models in the Ukrainian arsenal.
The 25th Brigade was the first to enter the city of Izyum after the hasty withdrawal of Russian troops from the Kharkiv region in September, leaving behind huge numbers of tanks and armored personnel carriers.
“As for tanks, there were certainly a lot of them, but only a few were in service,” Ustimenko said. “I can count on one hand the ones that I could start right away or the ones that only took a few minutes of work. Probably another 30% that needed repair but worked in the end. The last 50% was crap that required a lot of work.”
Another soldier in Ustimenko’s unit said he could be a “provider” of needed parts for tanks in poor condition. Ukrainian armament is mostly Soviet-era, so a tank that is over 30 years old can be improved using spare parts from a seized 5-year-old Russian model.
Soldiers from Ustimenko’s unit said they were in occasional contact with other brigades for spare parts. One of his soldiers in a tank unit said he requested tank ammunition from a brigade in the area but was denied.
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Ukraine can often repair its own equipment on or near the front lines with available spare parts, but when Western-provided equipment fails, it typically has to be towed to a NATO facility in Poland. is needed. This could mean removing critical howitzers from the battlefield for weeks.
Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of Ukraine’s Center for Anti-Corruption Action, said: “Weapons being supplied by the United States are not new as they are mostly sourced from stockpiles.” “It is a big delay and a big frustration for the Ukrainian army,” said Kareniuk, who has been lobbying Ukraine to accept its latest fighter jets and tanks.
At a field repair site in the Kharkiv region, maintenance battalion members worked on two Russian tanks and several armored personnel carriers, repairing engines, steering systems, and machine gun turrets. One of the first things he does when repairing a trophy is to remove the Russian former owner’s “Z” symbol and repaint it.
Ruslan says that often the hardest part of repairing a Russian tank is simply identifying the problem. During the counteroffensive in Kharkov, Ukraine, many tanks were seized in the Kupiansk area.
Each brigade has a technical reconnaissance unit that searches the site for abandoned tanks and equipment and transports them to repair sites. The leaves have fallen off the trees and visibility has improved, making it easier to spot tanks and vehicles.
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However, winter also creates harsher conditions for tanks and equipment, causing wear and tear.
Constant power outages create additional obstacles. Power outages occur daily at this repair site, delaying the work of the team. Even generators are insufficient to power all the tools needed to repair equipment. This is part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goals, Ruslan said.
“There’s a reason Russians are doing this,” he said.