Amid claims by Russian media on annihilating Ukraine’s Leopard-2 tanks, there are reports that Kyiv has lost about 50% of its Leopard-2R mine-clearing vehicles (MCV) in its latest counter-offensive.
Russian troops appear to have destroyed three Finnish Leopard tanks in Ukraine, Finnish media Helsingin Sanomat reported. Russians shared photos of the destroyed wagons on Telegram channels following the battle.
Helsingin Sanomat’s fact-checkers have reportedly verified the losses.
The outlet stated that the tank vehicles were easily recognizable as Finnish because the Leopard-2s provided to Kyiv by Helsinki are essentially mine-clearing armored vehicles with a mine plow installed. This makes them distinguishable from other Leopard-2 Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) in Ukraine’s arsenal.
Finland announced it would transfer at least six Leopard-2Rs to Ukraine earlier this year. The wagons had reportedly been used sparingly in Finland since moving them around the country during the winter was challenging.
John Helin, a fact-checker for Helsingin Sanomat, noted that, for instance, the image published by the Telegram channel Sotilasilmantaja appears authentic. In a Telegram channel message, it was claimed that the photo was from the Zaporizhia region, which Helin also authenticated.
Ukraine has now lost half of its entire fleet of German Leopard 2r tanks. pic.twitter.com/B67yQRIGdN
— Jackson Hinkle ?? (@jacksonhinklle) June 12, 2023
In the said counter-offensive launched in the Zaporizhia region last week, the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) also suffered their first Leopard-2 MBT loss on June 7, along with several Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs).
Since then, Russian sources have claimed to have annihilated many Leopard-2 tanks.
However, according to the current data updated by Oryx, a Dutch open-source intelligence (OSINT) defense analysis website, Ukraine has lost just five Leopard-2 MBTs. Out of these, a Leopard-2A4 and a Leopard-2A6 were destroyed, while three Leopard-2A6 were abandoned. This analysis is based on visual evidence.
— ?? Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) June 8, 2023
The Russian number, however, could also be influenced by the number of decoys they destroyed using their popular Lancet-3 loitering munition. For instance, a video published on social media showed that Ukrainian forces used a wooden Leopard-2 decoy to bait a Russian Lancet loitering munition.
The “defense breaching” operation undertaken by Ukrainian troops last week has been referred to by the experts as the most dangerous, especially as it was accompanied by virtually no aerial support and inadequate artillery fire for cover.
According to some experts, the Russians sent their drones to collect the exact coordinates of the Ukrainian brigades, after which Russia attacked Ukrainian Bradley IFVs and Leopard-2 MBTs with artillery and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs). Some, of course, were lost to a meticulously laid minefield by Russians.
However, the loss of three Leopard-2R mine-clearing vehicles is significant. Unlike the Leopard-2 MBTs, these Finnish vehicles play a different role on the battlefield.
What Is A Finnish Leopard-2R?
These vehicles, equipped with mine plows and rollers, guide tanks and infantry fighting vehicles through minefields by plowing and rolling a path through the mines so the tanks and IFVs may get past enemy defenses.
The Finnish company Patria converted a 69-ton, diesel-powered Leopard 2A4 tank into the Leopard-2R, a specialized breaching vehicle.
The turrets were removed, and the hulls were modified with a full-width mine plow. The three-person Leopard-2R pushes the plow with the help of its 1,500 horsepower. The churn safely destroys any mines, opening a path to the trenches and berms that militaries frequently construct behind minefields.
Additionally, the vehicle has a rear-mounted cleared lane marking system. As the machine advances, pennants are spread out and planted on the earth. Over the engine deck towards the back, sizable containers are fitted with additional specialized equipment.
A front-mounted dozer blade can be quickly added in place of the mine plow to perform various combat engineer responsibilities. Additionally, the driver controls it. The vehicle can clear barriers from the battlefield, set shooting positions, and prepare areas for bridge operations once the dozer blade is fitted.
More protection is provided by the Heavy Mine Breaching Vehicle than by the original Leopard-2A4. Internally, more floor has been added to increase crew resistance against anti-tank mines.
For added durability, the crew seats are all secured to the roof. The vehicle has an NBC protection system. Many forward-facing cameras and passive night vision devices are also part of the vehicle.
A Leopard-2R that has just cleared a minefield can push past nearby berms by dumping mud into the trenches, building an earthen bridge. After breaching the fortification, tanks and troops can advance. The mine-clearing vehicles are equipped with machine guns rather than tank guns.
The Leopard-2R is believed to be the best breaching vehicle in the world and is the Finnish equivalent of the Assault Breacher used by the US Army. However, despite being the best in the world, experts say the vehicles suffered severely in the current counter-offensive as breaching frontal enemy defenses is the costliest maneuver in ground warfare.
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