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Combat potentials of USSR and NATO units, from Soviet/CIA documents

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#1 bobtuskins



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Posted 22 July 2014 - 11:42 AM



Found this little tidbit around the net, you probably might have seen it already, maybe not. Either way, this is a declassified CIA document, dated 1977-1980, translating two Soviet source documents assessing the capabilities ("combat potential", as they refer to it) of NATO and Soviet weaponry. According to the document, the Soviets determined these statistics via "computer", using the T-55 tank as a basis for comparison for similar units like tanks and AFVs.

It's interesting to see the Soviets' assessment of their own weaponry aginst NATO, as well as seeing their opinion on NATO and Western weaponry compared to their own. Apparently, there wasn't a single NATO tank capable of going toe-to-toe with the T-80, not even the then-experimental M1 Abrams! On the other hand, the F-14 was given a whopping 11.9, well above the highest scoring Soviet fighter, though strangely the Su-27 isn't listed here...

Lastly, it's nice to see what the Soviets thought of the British military divisions - a piddly 0.77 for a whole UK armoured division (compared to their own 1.21 for a T-72 division). Cheers, lads!

Then again, they didn't think much of their own allies as well; 0.75 for an East German Motor Rifles division. Their most powerful threats based on their own assessment would have been the Bundeswehr and US Army... no surprises there, really, though the US would have only posed a threat with no less than a full Armoured division.


Now, while this document makes for an interesting read, it's tantamount we take the lot with a grain of salt; the document could be partly or wholly made up by either the Soviets or the CIA, either through deliberate disinformation or completely arbitrarily made up numbers. Assuming it was the Soviets who derived these numbers, there is no established criteria for what they mean or how they were determined. From a cursory glance, it seems that "combat potential" only evaluates effective capability of firepower, not any other factor such as armour, movement range, etc. Hell, based on numbers alone, the Tu-22 is superior to the MiG-23, which is nonsense.

So take it as you will, and enjoy dreaming up scenarios based on these findings as suits your fancy.

#2 AlexWood



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Posted 15 November 2014 - 10:48 PM

Apparently, there wasn't a single NATO tank capable of going toe-to-toe with the T-80, not even the then-experimental M1 Abrams!



Biut late to this but in the time frame this is about right. Speaking to people who had the job of assessing the threat back n the day it came as a huge surprise that the T80 (and more recent T72s) was invulnerable to the then current penetrators in all NATO APDS rounds. It kicked off a flurry of redesign work.

Oh, and Iraq means nothing. When the US Army tested an Iraqi T72 against an NVA one they found that the Iraqi one was worse in every category - Armour, FCS, NBC, Optics, Penetrator used etc. In fact it was roughly equivalent to the ex-Syrian T62s they had.

#3 bobtuskins



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Posted 16 November 2014 - 01:51 PM

Indeed. It was due to the impressive performance of the T-80 that the armament of the M1 tanks was upgraded from the standard 105mm guns to the better performing 120mm guns, not to mention improvements to the composite armour. In any case, this just reflected the difference between Soviet methods of military acquisition and NATO.
The Soviets often fielded brand new experimental craft (even with considerable flaws or disadvantages in the design) and improved them in the field after delivery. Case in point, some of the early BTR series were open topped at first delivery and then given a roof as an afterthought as part of a continuing design improvement process.
NATO would instead take a very long time to deliver a finished product, but by then the Soviets would have already improved their original design by several orders.

As to the performance in Iraq, it's very true that it's not entirely an accurate assessment of NATO tanks: the poor performance of Iraqi armour is for a whole host of reasons, the downgraded T-72s being only a part of it. The crews were poorly trained and motivated to begin with, suggesting that even if they'd had the most advanced T-72s available to them, they wouldn't likely have fared much better.

#4 Heide


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Posted 17 November 2014 - 10:09 PM

Soviet doctrine always ran true to Stalin's observation that "quantity has a quality all of it's own".

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