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Sep 23, 2022
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Whom the military registration and enlistment office will call for first: the Russian army desperately needs tankers

Whom the military registration and enlistment office will call for first: the Russian army desperately needs tankers

Photo: Sergey Karpukhin / TASS

Let’s start with the most important thing – who is most needed today in the Ukrainian theater of operations. Now tankers, snipers, artillerymen and rocketmen are required. Preferably with combat experience. Tankers are desperately needed. This is the main striking force, and the main helpers of the infantry. The peculiarity of this profession is that they practically do not need to be retrained. But it takes a long time to train from scratch.

– The standard educational process of training a driver, gunner or tank commander lasts at least six months – recalls the former tank sergeant Sergei Protasov. Sergei at one time served for two years in a specialized tank training center in the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, not far from Potsdam. We talked with him about the specifics of the current partial mobilization.

“SP”: – Sergey, why is there such a shortage of tankers in our belligerent army now?

“That’s the way he’s always been. Russia and Ukraine have the largest tank armies in the world. We have over twenty thousand tanks. Ukraine has four thousand. We now have thousands of tanks on conservation scattered around the landfills. And T-54, and T-64, and T-72. And it’s not rubbish. Engines are replaceable. Put another turret on him, change the armored capsule (we also have a lot of them) – and forward, for orders. At one time, we sold tanks right and left – like a Kalashnikov assault rifle. Half the world is driven by our cars. And yet we still have them – darkness.

Kharkov was generally a tank Mecca of the Soviet Union. There was a tank school, tank building and tank repair plants. Judging by the videos, our good old T-64s and T-72s are being used to their fullest in Ukraine. And what, the same T-72 has an omnivorous engine – even on a solarium, even on gasoline it will go. The T-80, of course, is more modern, with a helicopter gas turbine.

In our country, it was sealed and sealed, and we, conscripts, were not allowed to see it. During the repair, the tanks were driven into the hangar, and experienced officers and ensigns came to repair them. But I don’t see something T-80 in the theater of operations in Ukraine at all. Neither we nor the Ukrainians.

“SP”: – In your opinion, who masters the tank best and fastest?

“Practice shows that those who know how to drive a tractor learn to become drivers very easily and quickly. A more or less experienced tractor driver will be able to move around in a tank after a couple of weeks of training. But this is only when his head sticks out of the hatch. In a combat position, when the head rests against the hatch, you can turn the wrong way and fly into the pit.

After three months of active study, the “intelligent” tractor driver will already have fun flying around the training ground. But this is about movement. Then begins the development of turns. After all, the tank will not be able to turn at every speed. And on the spot you need to be able to turn around. In combat, this is extremely important – especially in urban areas.

In addition, the crew must be able to “change shoes” on the tank right at the training ground – if the caterpillar is killed. It is necessary to drive up to it correctly in order to transport it without any problems. You need to be able to change the active pyrotechnic protection. A lot of things are needed. A modern tank is full of instruments. And there is an anti-aircraft machine gun – to shoot down helicopters, and missiles. And the tanker must be able to use all this.

But the gunner needs to study longer than the driver. Here you need to learn how to work with a rangefinder sight, a night vision sight. It’s complicated. A tank commander is generally an officer’s position. Although at our monthly training camp in the Kantemirovskaya division, many former mechanical drivers and gunners managed to retrain as commanders.

“SP”: – And the representatives of what nations and peoples can be considered born tankers? Is there any pattern here?

— Traditionally, there were many Ukrainians in our school. A quarter of the personnel – for sure. So, at such a rate of mobilization, they probably still have no shortage of driver-mechanics, gunners and tank commanders. I fully admit the idea that the mechanics and gunners from Ukraine, with whom I served, are now at war. Someone may have already died. The guys from the Volga region — Tatars, Mordovians, Maris, Chuvashs, Udmurts — were well versed in the profession of a driver.

And in the second year of my service, the entire North Caucasus came to us – from Ossetians to Kabardians. All daring, hot, with temperament. We called them “the freak set”. Back in Soviet times, a large tank regiment was quartered in Gori. There, too, the continuous North Caucasus served. So theoretically they should also have a lot of tankers.

But for the most part, only Russians were trained for tank commanders.

But still six months of study, in my opinion, is not enough. Near the training center, we had a battalion of combat training tanks – abbreviated as BUBT. And accordingly, “Bubtyan” served there. Among them, by the way, there were quite a few Buryats. These were the masters of driving! After a year and a half of constant training, the “Bubtyan” on their tanks cut through the tankodrome like dudes. On one caterpillar they turned around with the wind. Of the officers, not every graduate of the tank school was so able.

The tank is generally an interesting, exciting thing. And he flies through the fields, and jumps over obstacles quite fervently. Gas turbine machines generally fly like an arrow shot from a bow. And silent. He will drive up to you from behind across the field – you will not hear.

“SP”: – Are there any restrictions on health and dimensions for service in tank troops?

– They try not to take high-ranking tankers – the space is limited. The height limit is 176 centimeters. I had a bust – 178. But I served in the training center, and these two centimeters were forgiven me. And those who were smaller were sent to the troops.

“SP”: – Can we compare our tanks, the American “Abrams” and the German “Leopards”?

– Here it is necessary to compare a whole range of tactical and technical data. In some ways we are stronger, in some ways they are stronger. At one time, our designers, for example, put a 125-mm cannon on the tank. It was just a plague. The bourgeoisie did not have such weapons on their tanks. They had two guns – 105 and 122 millimeters each. For many years they could not create something adequate. And only recently, heavy tanks began to install 155-millimeter guns.

In addition, the Abrams and Leopards are heavy tanks. 30-40 tons each. Their armor protection is powerful, of course. We are weaker. But in the yard today or tomorrow – autumn thaw. “Abrams” and “Leopards” will simply get stuck in our mud. In addition, now both they and we are in a race against time, and the Vushniks do not have the time and opportunity to retrain to Western technology. Therefore, they, most likely, will bet on old Soviet trouble-free cars. And if they now rush to the offensive, there will be not only a counter-battery fight, but also tank attacks.

Therefore, we now need experienced tankers like air … Although, in my opinion, the relevance of using tanks in the last months of hostilities has fallen sharply. Tank columns were good when we entered the Donbass in the first days of the operation.

On the one hand, the tank, of course, is a good thing. You are protected by armor, where you want to go, shoot, drive around, drive off … It is a pleasure to drive infantry on it. And then the Ukrainians got anti-tank Javelins. And they began to burn through tank armor. And we take care of our people. Therefore, the initiative passed to the gunners. And the counter-battery struggle began on the principle of aiming-point-sight-shot-movement.

By the way, Vushniks don’t abuse tanks either — they know that we will burn them down. Pay attention – near Kharkov they cut our defenses with almost one infantry, on light armored vehicles – infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers.

Although – if tankers are recruited, it means that the command has some special plans for them. What – we will soon find out.

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