Russia’s military falsely claimed to have shredded a Leopard tank. It looks more like abandoned farm equipment.


This is the German-made Leopard 2, the tank Russian officials falsely claimed to have struck in Ukraine.

This is the German-made Leopard 2, the main battle tank Russian officials falsely claimed to have struck in Ukraine.Armin Weigel/Getty Images

  • Russia’s military claimed a prize hit in Ukraine: the German-made Leopard 2 main battle tank.

  • But the video Russian officials released to prove it doesn’t show a Leopard tank.

  • The recording does offer clues about what they attacked.

A Russian attack helicopter fired a missile at a vehicle lurking in a Ukrainian field. Footage shows a direct hit, a whoosh of fire and smoke. Russia’s Ministry of Defense then released a video compiling two views of the hit and claimed a major prize: a first strike on a German-made Leopard tank.

But that was no Leopard 2, or even a tank for that matter.

Ukraine recently received the Leopard 2, a third-generation main battle tank whose 68-ton hulk is carried by two metal tank tracks that run the vehicle’s length and carry it over terrain impassable by wheeled vehicles. In between them is an armored glacis plate built to protect against mines and missiles.

The vehicle seen in Russia’s video lacks these features, as well as other distinctive elements like the real Leopard’s 120mm barrel, or the secondary armament of a mounted machine gun that a crew member can fire from the hatch.

Beyond the visuals, the video also offers another indication this wasn’t a Leopard tank.

Samuel Bendett, a Russian-speaking military expert at the nonprofit research group CNA, pointed out that an operator says, “Let’s test on this.” That’s not the sort of thing any warfighter would likely say about targeting a top-tier tank thought to rival Russia’s best.

So what did Russia destroy? We’re not sure yet, but the Russian video offers clues. Fields, rounded elements at the vehicle’s low corners. Maybe an abandoned tractor or combine with a lowered ladder, another victory in Russia’s war against Ukrainian wheat?

 

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