Saturday, 25 March 2017

Captured T-90 used against Syrian Army


More photos of the same vehicle. Note large bags placed around the turret. These will provide little protection and encumber the turret rotation. Perhaps this is a confirmation that the turret traverse mechanism is damaged, as some sources stated.


Syrian rebels have put to use a captured T-90. A video and several photos surfaced yesterday of an attack against Syrian Army positions. The vehicle could belong to the Jihadist  group "Tahrir Al-Sham", an amalgamation of several groups that include the al-Nusra Front.

Previously the Syrian opposition showed 2 captured T-90s, one in April and the other one in July. However, the damage in the Shtora projector does not match...

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

China sells 300 UAVs to Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has acquired 300 Chinese UAVs Wing Loong II. The information was provided by the  Chinese news agency Xinhua at the end of February. This is the largest contract ever signed for a Chinese UAV. No details have been provided on deliveries or cost. In the last few years China has invested heavily in UAVs, showing many new designs at the last Zuhai Air Show (link).

The Wing-Loong II, which bears a striking simularity to the MQ-9 Reaper has a payload of 400 kg, and endurance of 32 hours and a top speed of 370 km/h. The ceiling is 9000 meters.


Sunday, 19 March 2017

Interview with a former NVA/Bundeswehr tanker

Stefan Kotsch had the courtesy of accepting an interview for my site back in 2012. Stefan served as a tanker in both the NVA and Bundeswehr, using a T-55 and T-72 first, and then a Leopard 1. This means he can provide a very valuable opinion on NATO/Warsaw Pact equipment. He is also the creator of the website, a reference when it comes to tanks. This interview was first published in Spanish back in 2012, and then updated this year with some extra questions.

Hello Stefan, could you give a brief introduction about yourself? In which units/tanks did you serve?

I served as a platoon leader tank T-55A in the Panzeregiment 21 in the 9th Armored Division from 1980 to September 1983 . By September 1983 until September 1986 I was a company commander tank T-72M. Then I was until September 1989 an Officer for Operational Work (S3 officer) in the staff of the tank regiment. Starting from September 1989 I was one year at the military academy. Unfortunately I could not lock the 3 year study . The GDR did not give it any longer. I decided to serve in the Bundeswehr and went back into my Panzeregiment 21.

Until 1991 I served as S3 officer in the Tank Battalion 403 in Schwerin . Then I was 1 1/2 year company commander tank Leopard A5 and afterwards 1 year company commander of the NCO training company in the same battalion. 1993 I left the army.

What was your opinion on the T-72?

The T-72 is me as extremely reliable tank in memory. I felt the ergonomics as good and appropriate. Even in the later comparison with the leopard! The sight could quite a stronger magnification. Unfortunately no automatic traverse consideration was available for moving targets . But until 2000 m we always hit our (immovable) targets. A second radio for the tank platoons would have been appropriate. The ammunition under my seat prepared headaches for me...
Did you interact with other Warsaw Pact units?

With other Warsaw Pact unit I never co-operated. That was at all a large lack. The Russians were even very averse! It was called, it had fear to disgrace itself. During a 3 months training course in Moscow it was to be felt however that the Russians spoke much respectful about the East German army.

Did you get any contact with Soviet T-64/80. What was your opinion?

I did not become acquainted with the T-64 and the T-80. The Russians us did not near-let . Secretly!

Did you get any information about new T-72 variants (or other tanks) to be acquired by the NVA before 1989?

No. We received no official information. The Russians held their cards face down.

How did the Leopard 1 compare with other Soviet tanks you used?

The Leo1A5 draws out by its excellent fire control system and also its precise gun. I felt the ergonomics as average. Engine, transmissions and steering are already very modern and good to handle. The suspension was too soft. I would have wanted to drive faster, comparatively with my T-72 experiences.

Did you receive intelligence reports on NATO tanks and development?

Intelligence reports about western tanks did not give it. Only what was rarely taken over from the western press. I assume, one wanted to permit no discussion over technical characteristics of the Soviet tanks.

How did the T-55 and T-72 compare? Was the transition simple? The T-72 has a crew of 3 and automatic loading. This feature has led to many debates. How did the rate of fire compared? Did the reduction of the crew badly affect the maintenance/other duties when operating the tank? What is your opinion on the autoloaders?

The transition was very uncomplicated. Even very easy. The basic concept remained unchanged. Only the loader was gone. The autoloader has proved to be extremely reliable. Zero problems. The concept was user friendly. The maintenance of the T-72 is several times easier. Three men are quite sufficient. This unofficially "maintenance" saying is rhyming in the German language: Oel, Wasser, Licht – Luken dicht (Oil, water, shoe band - maintenance end). The T-72 is really a brave reliable companion. In contrast the T-55 - many many welding drops...
Leopard - the Mecedes Benz.

 T-72 from Panzerregiment 21 (

Did you train in NBC scenarios during your time in the NVA/Bundeswehr? What was the procedure?

NBC training was very important in the NVA. For example. Tighten the NBC protective suit in the tank - Get out - Partially decontaminate tank was constantly trained. In the Bundeswehr in the beginning of the nineties NBC training was not in the program.

What were the typical targets/exercises (distances, speed) when practising gunnery with the different tanks you used?

Typical targets for firing in the move during shooting training

shooting with 14,5 mm training insertion weapon (main gun targets):

tank frontal at 1300 - 1000 m day and night
tank hull down day at 900 - 700 m and night with IR-sight 700 - 500 m
shooting with 125 mm full caliber (NVA: with OF-19 / training time fuse because of safety range): tank frontal, not moved, day an night (with light lit) 1800 - 1600 m
7,62 mm:
target "anti tank weapon" 1 m x 1 m at day 600 - 400 and night at 500 - 300 m
target "recoilles gun on car" 2,50 m x  1,90 m with 15 - 17 kmh flanking moving, day at 900 - 700 m and night at 700 - 500 m, 

What was the maximum distance you could open fire from T-55/72 and Leopard 1? What about the speed of the tank if firing from the move?

T-55 – max was 3500 m (Shooting the company on far away and very important target, only one time!)
T-72 – 1800 m;

Leopard 1A5 1600 m. (but. the targets for the leopard were much smaller, and: also many targets moving in flanks)

Speed T-72: about  15 – 20 kmh; Leopard1A5 analog
When training with T-55/72, what was the procedure for night combat? Did you use flares/image intensifiers/both?

Shoot at the target tank frontal only when the target is lit with white light (training, combat: ??). With Ifrared sight no shooting with 100/125 mm full caliber. In "combat shootings" (unit tactical&firing exercise)  (company and higher), white lit targets, great light rokets and hand light rokets were used.
It is commonly stated that one of the advantages of NATO tanks over Warsaw Pact were the thermal cameras. What was your impression when you first used it?

First impression: overwhelming! An extremely serious difference. That also with the aspect that the NVA only the "World War 2 type" TPN-1 could buy. While the Russians have long used the TPN-3. The passive infrared image intensifiers for the driver were also several times better at the Bundeswehr.

Can you describe the T-72 automatic fire extinguishing equipment? Does it pose any problem for maintenance? (*)

This was for T-72M export version basically the same system as the T-55. In general, there were no problems. The system did not require any maintenance. The exchange of the bottles is rather uncomplicated. But the need to change was extremely rare.

When you were in the NVA, was there any NATO equipment (tank, AT missile...) you found impressive/interesting?

Of course, the main battle tanks.

How did the training of NVA and Bundeswehr compared?
NVA: Lack of training for leadership in combat, that means here reacting to the changes of the tactical situation was absolutely not trained enough - no tactical development of the leaders of the leader level platoon and company. But, continuous practical shooting training. Shooting/weapon training two to three times a week, at least one night. However, not enough shooting in full caliber.
Bundeswehr very much tactical further education. A pronounced demand for willingness to make decisions on all leading levels. Shooting training predominantly with full caliber. Hardly comparable, but also very demanding

When you served as part of the Bundeswehr, did you have the opportunity to train with other NATO countries? What were your impressions on their training/equipment?

Yes, we had a brigade exercise with Dutchmen. But there was no opportunity for personal contacts. Service time was too short for more.

Did the diesel engines cause any difficulties when starting in winter in Germany?

No problems. Also not seriously at minus 25 degrees celsius. Under the condition that batteries were technically ok and the compressed air bottles were filled. External starter cables were always available. And also press air could be handed over from one tank to the other. Press air was the main method to start.

Some countries like the US have integrated turbines in their tanks. Others have stayed with diesels. What is your opinion?

I cannot say anything. Because of lack of comparative experience .

(*) Replacing gas cylinders in T-64 tanks is quite time-consuming, so some of commanders while preparing vehicles for checkup where only replacing pyro cartridge, making electronic firefighting system indicate it is OK and charged (while in fact gas cylinders where empty).


Saturday, 18 March 2017

T-62 in South Ossetia and Abkhazia

When the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia started several T-62 tanks were seen. Back then there was a debate on why such old vehicles were being used. The answer is the same as in Syria. The T-62 is a reliable and simple to use tank, and more than enough to be used in support of infantry and against fortifications. 

In the Caucasus there were 2 units equipped with the T-62, the 42 Motor Rile Division (MRD), and the 100 Division belong to the Interior Ministry. When Georgia launched a surprise attack on South Ossetia Russian units in the Caucasus were amongst the first to intervene.

Graphic 1: T-62 identified in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The graphic offers a summary of all identified vehicles. Not all belong to Russian personnel as local militias in Abkhazia had a few available. Other vehicles carried no number. An attempt to organise the tanks into companies has been performed. A Russian tank company is made up of 10 vehicles, 3 platoons of 3 and a command tank. The result is not conclusive. It is likely these vehicles operated with T-72s.

1) 210, 212, 215, 218       
2) 228, 229,           
3) 231, 232-u, 233-u, 235, 236, 239-u
4) 410, 411, 412, 416       
5) 431, 433       


These photos have been circulating around the internet for a long time, I don't know their authors.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Bulgaria will replace Soviet era combat aircraft


Three offers have been selected:

- Saab Gripen C/D  from Sweden.
- Second hand F-16 from US, to be upgraded in Portugal.
- Eurofighter EF-2000 Tranche 1 from Italy.

Out of these, the Italian option is the most unlikely. The EF-2000 is quite expensive to operate in comparison to the other 2, and the air-ground capabilities are limited. Perhaps a similar deal to Romania's would be the best option, as both countries could cooperate in the maintenance/operations, as it was done with the MiG-23 during the Warsaw Pact era.

The government foresees an investment of 823 million $ to acquire aircraft, ground support equipment, training, and some weapons.


The Bulgarian government has approved the replacement of MiG-29 and Su-25 acquired during the 1980s and 90s. A Western model will replace them. A total of 16 will be acquired. The first phase of the program will take place between 2018 and 2020; 8 aircraft will be acquired for an estimated 580 million $. The second phase will happen in 2020-2023.

Bulgaria Air Force MiG-29 (Unknown copyrigth).

The Air Force has been struggling in the last few years due to budget constraints. It does have a fair number of MiG-29, but it’s an earlier variant, which is more costly to operate. Upgraded Fulcrums are 40% cheaper to operate according to Russian data. On the other hand, upgrading the MiG fleet is not an option because spares would have to be bought in Russia.  

There has been talk of a few candidates. Saab has been proposing the Gripen for a few years and Italy has offered second hand EF-2000 from early blocks. Another option would be F-16 from Portugal.


Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Canada submits Letter of Request to the U.S. government for 18 F-18 Super Hornet

The Canadian government has submitted a Letter of Request to the U.S. government outlining requirements on capabilities, schedule and economic benefits for 18 Super Hornet aircraft. The type would serve as an interim fighter pending the decision on the F-35. Prior to the national elections the liberal government promised to review the contract for the Lighting II.

A few weeks ago former officers –including commanders of the Air Force- published an open letter in which they oppose the Super Hornet acquisition. In their opinion it was too costly for an interim type. Also, it would not solve the existing issues on a medium term. These officers suggested the acquisition of legacy Hornets.



Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Russian Su-27s to be upgraded to Su-35 level?

A few days ago the Russian defence viceminister, Yuri Borisov, stated that 4 Su-27 would be upgraded to "Su-35 standard". This caused a few debates on the internet because it does not make much sense. A Su-35 has too many different features for the upgrade to be worthy. For example, the Su-27 would not be able to receive the Su-35 engines.

Su-27S (Jeroen Oude Wolbers at, 2010).

In the last few years Russia has applied an upgrade to the Su-27s in service. It is designated SM and is based on the MK2 variant sold to China.