Armed Forces

What Are The Equipment Reserves Russia Has At Its Disposal? [ANALYSIS]

Photo. Alf van Beem/Public Domain

Since 24th February 2022, when the Russian Federation launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, analysts have been asking questions regarding the heavy equipment reserves inherited by Moscow from the USSR. There is no simple answer to those questions.

First, one should note that even though the present article goes to great lengths to minimize the risk of errors, the listed numbers are just estimates. The data provided here may not be accurate. A serious margin of error should be taken into account here, and data as such should be treated carefully.

This stems from multiple factors. First, both in the USSR, as well as in the Russian Federation, information on these matters was always kept in secrecy. Thanks to the vast Russian territory, the equipment could also be stored in less densely populated areas. As long as the equipment was stored east of the Ural mountain range, it was not subject to the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE).


It is nothing new - the USSR was focused on quantity. The state was operating several factories manufacturing main battle tanks and other armour, at a huge scale. Furthermore, after WWII, weapons systems of different types were kept in storage, thus giant reserves were available. On the other hand, one needs to remember that anything can be put in writing. The technical condition of main battle tanks or other armoured vehicles was far from perfect, especially when it comes to legacy types.

Furthermore, in the late 1960s, a weird situation occurred in the USSR, when it came to the procurement of armour. Manufacturing was launched concerning three similar main battle tank types, with similar specification sheets, but with different logistics and training support chains: T-64, T-72, and T-80. These main battle tanks were competing, in essence, even with the communist economy in place. The same could have been said about design bureaus and manufacturing plants involved.

Not only did those main battle tanks use separate spare parts supplies, and require separate training processes, but they also differed from the legacy designs like T-54, T-55, and T-62. Not to mention the munitions. As the legacy main battle tanks fired the 100 mm and 115 mm single-piece rounds, most of the new generation main battle tanks were fitted with 125 mm main guns, firing separate-loading ammunition. The situation also was not much better in the area of IFVs, APCs, or self-propelled artillery assets. Even though the effort was made to have one system of the given class manufactured, the multitude of types was vast, and the levels of unification were low, or non-existent.


How did the fleets of military assets look, during the dawn of the USSR? Here, we may use I. Drogovoz’s publication, entitled „Armoured Might of USSR - 1945-1991”. The author claims that in 1991, the Soviet Union had the following equipment numbers at its disposal:

  • Main battle tanks – 54,400
  • Infantry fighting vehicles – 28,000
  • APCs - 50,000
  • Self-propelled artillery – 9,000
  • Towed artillery – 33,000

On paper, this was a huge potential. However, not much of the available equipment could have been considered to be modern. The aforesaid numbers are confirmed by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in its 1991 „Military Balance”. The challenge was to determine what portion of that equipment was usable, how many of them were just empty shells, and how many were used for parts, or as target practice aids.

The 1990s - the Yeltsin’s era - are a big unknown. This period entailed a major economic decline in Russia, which was detrimental to the defence industry. However, one cannot rule out with a 100% degree of certainty that the stored spare parts and finances secured in the late period of the USSR’s existence by the Russian defence industry were not used to manufacture the final lots of military equipment of varied types. The possible products may include T-72B and T-80U main battle tanks, BMP-2 and BMP-3 IFVs, or BTR-80 APCs. If this is the case, the scale of production remains unknown, but it most probably was nowhere near the era when the USSR was at its peak.

Furthermore, following the dissolution of the USSR, a large portion of the military equipment that remained in storage was inherited by the newly born, sovereign nations. For instance, Ukraine reportedly received 4.7 thousand main battle tanks, Kazakhstan took over ca. 5 thousand examples, and 3,287 were received by Belarus. Just those three nations alone inherited around 13 thousand main battle tanks out of the grand total of 54.4 thousand, not to mention other types of military equipment.

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How many main battle tanks remained in Russia in 2022, right before the full-scale war in Ukraine broke out? The author would like to refer to the 2022 „Military Balance” here. The researchers suggest that the Russian Federation had 13,127 main battle tanks at its disposal at the time. This would mean that 28,286 vehicles were unaccounted for. There are several possible, non-exclusive scenarios here. First, the legacy platforms, dating back to WWII and the 1950s (T-34-76, T-34-85, T-44, IS-2, IS-3, IS-4, T-10, some of the T-55, T-54, and T-62 main battle tanks) were sent to scrapyards, used as targets at training ranges, or exported. Light main battle tanks dating back to the Great Patriotic War, and the more modern designs like the PT-76 amphibious tanks may have faced a similar fate.

Another scenario would see some of the new types being used for spares. Not only could those be used to keep the active part of the Russian military fleet maintained, but they could have been utilized for commerce. It is rather certain that during Yeltsin’s term, and also in the early days of Putin being in charge, legal and illegal export sales regarding spares for armoured platforms were happening. This could have had an impact on the quantitative status of the whole fleet. One cannot be entirely certain what the reason for reduced equipment numbers was. Was it really that significant? We also cannot be 100% certain, when it comes to the actual number of manufactured platforms.


How do the Russian reserve stockpiles look today, after two years of a full-scale war, during which the Russians have lost huge numbers of vehicles? Let us start with numbers, when it comes to the active fleet of the armoured assets Moscow had at its disposal, before the invasion:

  • Main battle tanks – 2,927
  • Infantry fighting vehicles – 5,180
  • Armoured personnel carriers – 6,050
  • Self-propelled artillery – 1,968
  • Towed artillery – 150

What losses did Russia suffer from, as a result of the fighting in Ukraine? Here, the grand totals are unclear, as it is impossible how many of the damaged, and recovered vehicles were used as a source of spares, or were just removed from the inventory. One may only use data on destroyed vehicles derived from IMINT. In early April this year, the numbers were shaped as follows:

  • Main battle tanks – 2,878
  • Infantry fighting vehicles – 3,709
  • Armoured personnel carriers - 418
  • Self-propelled artillery pieces – 710
  • Towed artillery – 357

The Russians have already lost 98.3% of the active main battle tanks fleet, when numbers from before the invasion are considered, along with 71.6% of infantry fighting vehicles, 6.9% of armoured personnel carriers, 36% of the self-propelled artillery, and 238% of the initial number of the towed-artillery assets. Whereas, in the case of the latter category, a major stockpile is available, while towed howitzers and guns are quickly repaired and restored.

What is the Stockpile That Russians Have at Their Disposal? Of course, we cannot use data available to NATO intelligence here. However, various OSINT Groups, like „Covert Cabal” for instance, are acquiring satellite imagery of well-known storage facilities, and making attempts at counting the equipment pieces visible on the images. Of course, this only means that assets kept outdoors can be counted. It is impossible to count how many main battle tanks may be kept in large garages located within those facilities. When it comes to the main battle tanks, the data recorded on 27th October 2023 is as follows:

  • Base no. 22 - 490
  • Base no. 103 - 710
  • Base no. 111 - 700
  • Base no. 349 - 725
  • Base no. 769 - 900
  • Base no. 1295 - 700
  • Base no. 1311 - 575
  • Base no. 2544 - 400
  • Other facilities – 250
  • 5,450 in total.

This stockpile has been depleted already, due to the Russian losses. The equipment is being continuously pulled out of storage, overhauled and upgraded if possible, and then sent to the frontline, or to units that are restored. The number of known vehicles stored outside the garages, and platforms remaining in active service prior to the invasion comes down to a total of 8,377 vehicles. If the number of 13,127 main battle tanks that were supposedly owned by Russia in 2022 (as mentioned by „Military Balance”) is correct, this means that ca. 4,750 platforms were kept in garages, or storage facilities overlooked by the researchers. That means that the Russians had around 10,200 vehicles kept in the pre-war stock.

One should also remember that the main battle tanks kept inside the garages were usually in a better technical condition. We do not know whether these are the vehicles that are drawn from storage to fill in the gaps emerging after losses, or whether the MBTs stored outdoors are the first to undergo restoration and overhauls.

And how do things look for the IFVs? Before the war broke out, the Russian Federation had the following numbers of BMP and BMD platforms at hand:

  • BMP-1 – 7,470
  • BMP-2 – 4,470
  • BMP-3 – 640
  • BMD-1 – 2,000
  • BMD-2 – 1,500
  • BMD-3 – 137
  • BMD-4 – 341
  • Total – 16,558

Less BMP and BMD vehicles remained in active service. As already mentioned, out of the fleet of 16,558 IFVs, 5,180 examples remained in active service. What about the reserves? The following numbers of IFVs were counted at the known storage locations (late October 2023):

  • Base no. 22 - 254
  • Base no. 94 - 252
  • Base no. 103 - 304
  • Base no. 111 - 778
  • Base no. 120 – 7
  • Base no. 349 - 305
  • Base no. 769 - 587
  • Base no. 1295 - 170
  • Base no. 2544 - 496
  • Base no. 3018 - 521
  • Other locations – 3
  • 3,677 in total.

Considering the above data, 7,701 IFVs of different types are missing. This may have multiple explanations. First, the initial data on the general condition of the IFV fleet was erroneous. Secondly, the numbers do add up. However, some of the vehicles were sent to scrapyards, or to training ranges, to serve as a target practice aid. Thirdly, the missing vehicles are stored indoors, in garages. The fourth issue may stem from the fact that the vehicles were not identified correctly on the images.

Furthermore, there is a chance that many more IFVs were lost in combat, but not all of them have been identified in photos or videos. The more vehicles are participating in combat, the more can be potentially overlooked. It is also plausible that a much higher number of IFVs has already been mobilized. Some of them were sent to the frontline, while some were used to refill the inventory gaps at units stationed within the Russian territory. Some may be present at industrial plants, undergoing overhaul and upgrades.

What Are The Russian Artillery Reserves? The number of modern self-propelled artillery assets, like the 2S19 Msta-S howitzers, is relatively limited, compared to other, legacy systems. Nonetheless, the tube artillery reserves owned by the Russians are nothing short of impressive, compared to the Western European armies. Nonetheless, most of that equipment can be viewed as obsolete. The shape of the self-propelled artillery stockpile (early February 2024) is as follows:

  • Base no. 80 - 702
  • Base no. 94 – 1,613
  • Base no. 120 - 254
  • Base no. 216 – 67
  • Base no. 744 – 85
  • Base no. 7020 - 138
  • Other facilities – 102
  • 2,961 in total.

The following towed artillery assets in storage were identified, during the equivalent period:

  • Base no. 80 – 1,613
  • Base no. 94 - 35
  • Base no. 109 - 147
  • Base no. 120 - 581
  • Base no. 243 - 289
  • Base no. 7020 - 111
  • Other facilities – 4,191
  • 6,786 in total.

Unfortunately, the Russian Federation remains in possession of major heavy military equipment reserves. However, one should note here - these are just numbers. They are impressive. But we have no actual knowledge of the technical condition of those vehicles and artillery pieces. The estimates regarding the capacity of the Russian industrial complex to restore the combat readiness of that equipment are also burdened by a significant margin of error. The stockpiles of key spares and the manufacturing output of numerous plants responsible for the spare parts are unknown.

Thus, one should not overlook the threat posed by the Russian Federation, also in the medium- and long term. The Russian Federation also exemplifies how important it remains to create a large pool of personnel available for mobilization, backed by a major equipment stockpile. Not to mention the matter of creating a proper base of storage facilities for military equipment, and also establishing the industrial capacity in the realm of maintenance, overhauls, modernization, and broadly understood restoration of combat readiness.

The author would like to encourage the readers to compare the Russian equipment reserves with the NATO potential. One should be direct here, except for the USA, possibly Greece and Turkey, the NATO member states practically lack a serious stockpile of heavy military equipment.

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Thus, it remains so important for the Polish decision-makers to consequently continue procurement of high numbers of military equipment, not just to fill in the existing inventory gaps, but also to create relevant reserves. Should an armed conflict begin, that form of insurance policy would allow the Polish military to quickly recover from any potential losses and carry out effective mobilization.