Russian tank losses are almost 19 times those suffered by the USSR

Ukraine vs Afghanistan: the military losses of the USSR in ten years and those of Russia in two

Today marks two years since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a good time to measure the invaders' losses.

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The Afghanistan War ended in failure for the USSR

On September 27, 2022 I published here a comparison between Moscow's military losses in Afghanistan and Ukraine. Let us remember that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was a failure that ended with the withdrawal of the USSR in 1989 and the weakening of that communist dictatorship, which ended up falling two years later. And in view of the figures that we are going to see, Putin's regime could have the same end in Ukraine, but in less time.

A Soviet T-62 tank destroyed in the Panshir Valley, Afghanistan (Photo: Reddit).

Soviet losses in the Afghanistan War (1979-1989)

For the Soviet losses in Afghanistan I will take as reference, again, the most complete work on the matter: "The Soviet-Afghan War: How a Superpower Fought and Lost", a complete study written by 16 military analysts belonging to the Russian General Staff and which was translated to English in 2002 from the University of Kansas; and also "The Soviet-Afghan War: Breaking the Hammer & Sickle", published in 2006 by VFW and written by Army Lt. Col. (ret.) Lester W. Grau of the US, and by Colonel (retired) Ali Ahmad Jalali of the Afghan National Army, who fought against that Soviet invasion.

These were the Soviet loss figures in those 10 years of invasion in Afghanistan, indicated by those two works:

  • Dead soldiers: 14,453.
  • Wounded: 53,753.
  • Airplanes: 118.
  • Helicopters: 333.
  • Tanks: 147.
  • Armored infantry and personnel carriers: 1.314.
  • Artillery systems: 433.
  • Trucks: 11.369.

Russian losses in the invasion of Ukraine (2022-2024)

Regarding Russian losses in Ukraine, there is no data on Russian casualties from official Russian sources since September 2022. On those dates, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu put the casualties of Russian soldiers at 5,937, without specifying whether they were dead or the figure also includes those wounded. Almost a year and a half has passed, so that number will already be much higher.

The Russian cruiser Moskva, sunk in April 2022 by a Ukrainian anti-ship missile attack.

On Russian casualties in Ukraine, the BBC and the independent Russian media MediaZona published a report this Wednesday based on open sources. The report only includes death tolls. I add that figure to the following list along with the data published by, which has been documenting the material losses with images since the beginning of the invasion:

  • Dead soldiers: 45,123.
  • Manned airplanes: 104.
  • Helicopters: 135.
  • Unmanned aircraft: 314.
  • Tanks: 2,754.
  • Armored personnel troops transports: 5,140 (3,474 infantry fighting vehicles, 1,214 armored combat vehicles, 399 armored personnel carriers and 53 MRAPs).
  • Artillery systems: 1,635 (346 towed guns, 679 self-propelled howitzers, 350 multiple rocket launchers, 48 anti-aircraft guns and 212 SAM).
  • Trucks and utility vehicles: 3,123.
  • Ships: 20.
A Russian T-80BVM destroyed near Kupiansk, Kharkov region (Photo: Ukraine Weapons Tracker).

Russia is suffering many more losses in Ukraine than the USSR in Afghanistan

Having exposed the data, I make some notes below:

  • In 2 years Russia has lost three times as many soldiers in Ukraine as the USSR in Afghanistan in 10 years, and this is not counting the wounded.
  • In 2 years Russia has lost almost 19 times more tanks in Ukraine than the USSR in Afghanistan in 10 years. Let us remember that Before the invasion of Ukraine, Russia had 2,849 tanks in its active army. It has lost 2,754 tanks, and that is why it is having to resort to old T-62, T-55 and T-54 in storage, without the modern T-14 Armata tanks having appeared on the front, due to the problems suffered by that model.
  • In 2 years Russia has lost almost 4 times more armored personnel carriers in Ukraine than the USSR in Afghanistan in 10 years. Soviet losses in Afghanistan in this chapter were very high, and it is clear that Moscow learned nothing from the vulnerability of these vehicles and the misuse it makes of them. In Ukraine he has repeated the same mistakes but on a much larger scale.
  • In 2 years Russia has lost 3.7 times more artillery systems in Ukraine than the USSR in Afghanistan in 10 years. As in the case of tanks and armored transports, here we can see the good use that the Ukrainian forces are making of drones.
  • The Russian fleet in the Black Sea is being decimated. Being a landlocked country, the USSR did not lose any ships in Afghanistan. One wonders what the result would have been if the Red Army had then attacked a country with a coast. Significantly, many of the ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet were already used by the USSR before its withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Once these data have been presented, it is worth remembering that there are still people who think that the USSR is prepared for a war of attrition. In fact, judging by Russian losses, it is that kind of war Putin is waging in Ukraine. The question is: are the Russian people willing to take this high rate of casualties and losses for much longer? At this rate, Afghanistan will end up looking like a side trip to Ukraine.


Main photo: A Russian T-73B3 tank destroyed in Ukraine in May 2023.

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