Armor: What’s Old is New Again


February 20, 2024: A picture of a Russian T-64 tank in Ukraine recently appeared. The tank's identification number, 320, was clearly visible. An astute reader noted that there was also a T-64 tank seen in Hungary after the brief but violent 1956 rebellion against Soviet Russian domination and occupation. T-62s and similar T-64s entered service in the early 1960s and some eventually joined the Russian tank units occupying Hungary. One of those T-64s featured an ID number of 320 on the side of the turret. In 2023 Russia lost so many tanks during the initial months fighting Ukrainians that they had to obtain older tanks from long-term storage sites in Russia. Many of these tanks were T-62s and T-64s. One of those T-64s had the id number 320 on its turret and looked remarkably like the relatively new T-64 seen in old (1960s era) photos of Russian tanks belonging to the occupation forces in Hungary.

There were a lot of Russian tank divisions in Russian controlled Eastern Europe during the 1948-1991 Cold War. These divisions were among the best in the Soviet army. The divisions were at full strength and had the latest weapons and best officers available. These Group of Forces divisions were meant to intimidate NATO forces and, if necessary, go to war with NATO. That never happened and by the 1980s the NATO forces were becoming stronger, with more modern tanks and other equipment than their Russian adversaries. In 1990 Russian agreed to withdraw their armed forces from Eastern Europe and the Cold War ended. The T-64 number 320 had already retired and most of the Russian tanks in Eastern Europe were T-72s. Three decades later Russian decided to invade Ukraine, losing most of its modern tanks during the first few months of combat. By the end of 2023 Russia is bringing much older tanks, like T-62s and T-64s out of retirement. One of those T-64s, with 320, was seen in Ukraine. A 1960s photo of a relatively new T-64 in Eastern Europe also had 320 on its turret and appears to be the same T-64 seen in 2023.



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