Ukraine’s defense force has found an unusual logistical ally. Military experts around the globe—after analysis of abandoned-vehicle photos—claim cheap Chinese tires slow the Russians.
Poor weather, off-road conditions too muddy to drive around disabled vehicles and lack of major paved highways compound the situation. Failure rates in the “China bombs”—as experienced RVers call the sub-par tires—increase dramatically in the colder, northern region of Ukraine. Rubber remains more pliable in the warmer southern portions of the war front, and aggressor gains on that front reflect the fact.
A Twitter discussion started by Trent Telenko, a retired Pentagon staff specialist, first noted the lack of maintenance as the primary culprit. “Military trucks need to be turned over and moved once a month for preventative maintenance reasons. In particular you want to exercise the central tire air inflation system (CTIS) to see if lines have leaks or had insect/vermin nests blocking the system,” he wrote. “When you leave military truck tires in one place for months on end. The side walls get rotted/brittle such that using low tire pressure setting for any appreciable distance will cause the tires to fail catastrophically via rips.”
“There is a huge operational level implication in this,” he added later. “If the Russian Army was too corrupt to exercise a Pantsir-S1. They were too corrupt to exercise the trucks & wheeled AFV’s now in Ukraine. The Russians simply cannot risk them off road during the Rasputitsa/Mud season.”
“Those aren’t Soviet-era heavy truck radials,” Tweeted government advisor and economist Karl Muth after reviewing images. “Chinese military tires, and I believe specifically the Yellow Sea YS20. This is a tire I first encountered in Somalia and Sudan; it’s a bad Chinese copy of the excellent Michelin XZL military tire design.”
Muth added, “Yes, all the things in the original thread are valid, but these Chinese tires simply don’t have the load ratings needed for equipment like what’s shown. They are poorly-constructed and barely-inspected truck radials. The equivalent Michelin product is inspected and x-rayed.”
How the Cheap Chinese Tires Slow the Russians
When “rubber on the road” goes down, the infantry, vodka, support troops, gas, stroganoff, equipment, and ammo carried by other vehicles behind stack up in visible-from-satellite traffic jams. As noted by the experts above, going off-road and around that roadblock is risky due to lack of quality and maintenance.
Not only do those cheap Chinese tires slow the Russians’ advance, they also make it easier for Ukrainian marksmen to hit the bullseye. When a China bomb goes off there’s no need to enter target velocity in a firing solution calculation.
*Reputable tire companies manufacturing in China maintain tight quality control and maintain multiple inspection points in the process. Those from reputable brands are high quality. Thankfully, Russia’s oligarchs decided to go budget and pocket the difference.