New footage has emerged of Russia’s most expensive and modern tank being destroyed by Ukrainian soldiers in the Donbas conflict. The T-90M, a £4 million latest-generation war machine, exploded after being hit during the struggle for Stary Saltiv, north of Kharkiv, last week, according to drone footage released by Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense today. More footage then reveals what appears to be the same tank’s burned-out husk, which has a massive hole in the tracks on its right side and traces of an explosion at the rear, with its armor plating stretched outwards.
The tank was shot down using a Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle, a Swedish-made rocket launcher that costs roughly £18,500, including the rocket, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense. ‘The Swedish hand-held anti-tank grenade launcher Carl Gustaf destroyed the glory of the Russian tank industry,’ the ministry tweeted. ‘We appreciate the assistance of the Swedish people and the King.’
The wreckage shows that the rocket smashed through the T-90’s wheels, evading the T-90’s superior armor and defense systems. It then burst inside the engine compartment, ostensibly detonating ammo along the route, resulting in a massive blast. The film was released as Ukrainian soldiers launched a massive counter-offensive against Russia from Kharkiv. After retaking Stary Saltiv from Putin’s forces on May 3, Ukraine’s soldiers have now advanced six kilometers along the road to Rubizhne, bringing them within 10 miles of the Ukrainian border. It’s unclear when the T-90M tank was destroyed, as Russia launched a failed counter-offensive on May 5, which coincides with the release of the video.
The T-90M is an updated variant of Russia’s most common combat tank, the T-72, which has been at the forefront of action in Ukraine, and is equipped with technology that makes it harder to destroy. Shtora, or ‘curtain,’ is an electrical jammer fitted to T-90 tanks that fires smoke grenades and infrared lights to ‘dazzle’ the guiding system and throw it off aim when the tank is being targeted by a missile. The T-90s are also equipped with reactive armor tiles, which, like Russia’s other tanks, are meant to detonate when hit, deflecting oncoming rounds.
It also has composite armor that is said to be more durable than its predecessors, as well as an enhanced engine that allows it to maneuver more easily. The T-90 entered service in 1992 and has been updated multiple times since then, with the T-90M becoming operational in 2016. The T-14 Armata, its replacement, has yet to commence production, making the T-90M Russia’s most modern tank. After footage of the tank exploding originally surfaced, the UK MoD said, ‘The T-90M was released in 2016 and boasts increased armour, an upgraded cannon, and enhanced satellite navigation capabilities.’
‘Around 100 T-90M tanks are currently in duty among Russia’s best-equipped regiments, including those engaged in the Ukraine conflict.’
Without the help of other force elements, the system’s improved armor, meant to counter anti-tank weaponry, remains susceptible. Since Russia began bolstering its forces on the border late last year, Western nations have supplied Ukraine with thousands of anti-tank missiles, which have been used to destroy thousands of vehicles since the invasion began.
According to the Institute for Strategic Studies in Kyiv, Russia has lost 1,170 tanks, or slightly more than 40% of its entire tank force. According to Oryx, which has been analyzing war photographs to corroborate losses, Russia has had at least 643 of its tanks blown out, accounting for 12% of the total.