Book Review: Red Steel: Soviet Tanks And Combat Vehicles Of The Cold War

Red Steel: Soviet Tanks And combat Vehicles Of The Cold War, by Russell Phillips

[Note: This book was given free of charge by the author in exchange for an honest review.]

This is the sort of book that, if you are familiar with Phillips’ work [1], gives you exactly what you expect: a lot of technical specifications, along with data found in the public domain, especially from the internet, a fair amount of organization and some thought provoking examination of a problem facing a particular military. In the context of the author’s works as a whole, the choice of different militaries to focus on is an intriguing one. The Russian military had a focus on mass, maneuver, and mixing different types of units together for maximum effectiveness. Given the Russian success in defeating Hitler despite massive losses, this appears to have been a worthwhile strategy, even if it did not work well in Afghanistan given the type of enemy that they were fighting.

In terms of its structure, the book is written like most of the other books (particularly his book on the WWI Austria-Hungarian navy and the book on the US Military, which are about similar topics). The book progresses from topic to topic, from tanks to infantry carrier vehicles to armored personnel carriers that lack advanced weapon systems to anti-tank weapons and surface-to-air missiles to towed and self-propelled guns to ballistic missile carriers. Within these sections the topics are dealt with in a chronological fashion, looking both at NATO-known details as well as some Russian sources as well that tell about Soviet era weaponry. Where the weaponry had experiences in war, the author comments on these matters as well, with the note that at last sometimes, as was the case for Iraq in the Gulf War, weapon systems that seemed ineffective in combat in Soviet client states were more effective in the Soviet army itself, which is a factor that must be considered when judging the effectiveness of Soviet arms. Nations do not always sell to others their best material, after all, in order to preserve their own advantage, if their client should eventually become an enemy.

There are some questions about this particular book, though. Although the author makes it clear why Russians preferred simple weapons systems that were flexible and easy to maintain and learn, given the intellectual limitations of Russian soldiers and the immense focus on secrecy among the Soviet political and military leadership, there are still some areas about the book that are puzzling. For one, it is a bit strange that the author does not discuss the performance of Iraqi Scud missiles during the Gulf War, directed at Israel for the most part, given the fact that it was one of the most noteworthy attempts at using this particular sort of Soviet weaponry. Likewise, it is not clear what sort of localities were responsible for building which weapons systems and vehicles, although it is possible this information was not available in the Russian sources given Russian secrecy. At any rate, though, this is a good book for forming counterfactual scenarios when compared with American and allied weaponry during the Cold War period, and given present Russian hostility in areas like Ukraine, this may not be an entirely unreasonable matter for militaries to examine in light of Russia’s clear willingness to use their weapons in foreign acts of aggression.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, History, Military History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Book Review: Red Steel: Soviet Tanks And Combat Vehicles Of The Cold War

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