Ukraine Situation Report: Russian Tanks Reverting To Cold War Thermal Sights

A near-antique Russian T-62M was seen sporting a decades-old thermal sight as Russian forces scrape the barrel for capable armored vehicles.

byStetson Payne|
T-62M Russia New Optical Sight
57th Kish Otaman Kost Hordiienko Motorized Brigade/wikicommons


Nearly sixty-two years since the first of the Soviet Army’s T-62s entered service, the Russian Army has once again modified the now obsolete tank. The “T-62M Obr. 2022” as shown in this Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) tweet appears equipped with a thermal sight only about half as old as the tank itself.

Russia has deployed its aging T-62s to Ukraine since last spring, and in October announced a plan to "modernize" 800 of the type for service.

The base T–62M dates to 1983, and NATO intelligence first observed the upgraded model during the Soviet Union's war in Afghanistan. It represented a considerable improvement over the original tanks, ironically built at the famed Malyshev Factory in Kharkiv, Ukraine, with upgraded armor and fire control systems, as well as a new diesel engine. It also featured the capability to fire 9K116-2 "Sheksna" (NATO: AT-10 Stabber) anti-tank guided missiles. 

That 1PN96MT-02 thermal sight, however, has its roots originally in the early production run of BTR-80 armored personnel carriers in the mid-1980s. This T-62 isn’t the first Russian tank to gain this aging optic. A late-January tweet from Tank Diary (@TankDiary) shows a train full of T-72Bs with the simpler, older sights equipped. 

Forbes also reported earlier this month that Russians had equipped a number of T-80s with the inferior 1PN96 system. Given that many T-62s had to be reactivated from storage, the modification is likely a necessity brought on by battlefield losses of more capable types and especially sanctions that have impacted Russia's ability to generate modern electronics. Many systems, such as armored vehicles' sensors, were imported from Western countries prior to the war.

While the modern Sosna-U panoramic optics found on contemporary T-72B, T-80BVM, and T-90 variants vastly outclass the 1PN96, they rely upon a French-made Thales thermal imager. Invasion-related sanctions obviously foreclose replacing those Sosna-Us lost in combat or making additional units to retrofit reactivated tanks. 

Former Russian leader Dmitri Medvedev threatened the arrest of defense industry officials at a tank factory visit last year as supply chain problems snowballed. Furthermore, each passing day is another day closer to modern western tanks and armored fighting vehicles arriving on Ukraine's side with their own superior optics. Modern armored warfare depends largely on who can fire the first shot, so having a better or worse set of eyes can prove decisive. 

Before we head into the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up on our previous rolling coverage here.


Saturday’s intelligence update from the British Ministry of Defense noted a lull in attacks by Iranian-made kamikaze drones since February 15, but that quiet is expected to end once Russia can replenish its stocks. 

Heavy fighting continues in eastern Ukraine as reports say Russian forces are storming the town of Ivanivske, a settlement on the vital supply line road between the besieged city of Bakhmut

Footage shows Ukrainian soldiers firing a Carl Gustav recoilless rifle in the trenches somewhere along the eastern frontline. 

A year ago, Russian forces poured over Ukraine’s northern border with Belarus both in and around the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Now Ukraine is putting a serious defensive line between its capital and Russia’s client state, with two kilometers worth of landmines and anti-tank fortifications.

In the south, the Ukrainian General Staff reports that Russian forces have evacuated riverine forces from the Konka Island area of the Dnieper River delta immediately south of Kherson. 

Croatia has reportedly begun readying a fleet of 12 Mi-8MTV-1 and two Mi-8T “Hip” helicopters that were recently retired from the Croatian Air Force for transfer to Ukraine. 

A report in Jutarnji detailed the operation, with technical work preparing the helicopters underway at the Aviation Technical Center in Velika Gorica outside the capital of Zagreb. The Hips will join the Ukrainians’ considerable fleet of Mi-8/17 variants frequently seen flying at extremely low altitudes on combat missions near the frontline. 

Lastly, the latest long-range strike on Mariupol apparently destroyed a few Russian armored vehicles with dozens of casualties, adding to the intrigue of what exactly Ukraine has to reach targets so far behind the lines.

That's it for now. We'll update this story if we have more to report.

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