It’s A Tractor! Russian MoD ‘Under Fire’ For Bombing John Deere Tractor Instead Of German Leopard MBT

Of the eight German-made Leopard tanks Russia claimed to have destroyed on Monday, one has ‘not shockingly’ turned out to be a John Deere agricultural tractor-sprayer.

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The vehicle’s silhouette in the thermal camera view from a Ka-52 Alligator helicopter that fired an anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) to destroy it matches online images of the tractor.

Therefore, the Russian Ministry of Defense (RuMoD) has come under heavy criticism from its military bloggers for misidentification. 

The RuMod claimed to have destroyed 52 Ukrainian tanks in three days of fighting on June 4, 5, and 6, which it claimed was a part of the latter’s multi-directional long-awaited counteroffensive.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a statement that the attack had failed, with the Ukrainian army now compensating by redeploying units from Kherson. This is “significantly weakening its position” there while it accumulates on the right bank of the Dnieper River. 

On June 5, the Russian army destroyed a total of 28 tanks, including three French-made AMX-10 wheeled tanks and 109 armored fighting vehicles. 

Russian officials and experts also meanwhile claim that Ukraine tried destroying one Leopard tank themselves to prevent it from falling into Russian hands while the Ka-52 Alligator helicopter, armed with three Vikhr ATGM, remained the mainstay of its anti-armor warfare.

This claim aligns with an earlier assessment by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) which claimed that Russia is not relying on its tanks for breakthrough roles or anti-tank combat but as fire support for troops and as indirect artillery. 

It’s A Tractor & Not A Tank!

Russian military analysis forum, Rybar, claimed it was a John Deere 4830 tractor based on the outline of the shape in the electro-optical system and attributed the mistake to the fog war while asking the RuMoD to be more careful and thorough with its battlefield claims.

The thermal image of the claimed German Leopard tank and the John Deere tractor-sprayer in the inset.

“Many questions immediately arose about the footage published today with the alleged defeat of the Leopard 2 tank. Attentive users have noticed that the destroyed machine is much more similar to the John Deer 4830 combine,” Rybar said. 

Rybar says that by zooming in on the frame, the “contours of the object (appear) similar to agricultural machinery.” “Wheels stand out in the outlines, and the ‘trunk’ resembles an auger. And the helicopter crew itself in the negotiations does not call the target ‘Leopard.’

“We wish the authorized department of the Ministry of Defense to check the published materials even more carefully. And statements about the destruction of Leopard 2 should be made only after unambiguous evidence, as was the case with the French AMX-10RC,” Rybar added. 

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The video, purportedly from the Ka-52 Alligator helicopter, showed the John Deere (believed to be a Leopard tank) being observed in a thermal imaging view of the electro-optical system. An ATGM then leaves the launcher and hits the vehicle after a nine-second journey. 

According to Yuri Knutov, director of the Air Defense Museum, the Ka-52 detected the “cluster” of Ukrainian vehicles using the Arablet airborne radar from a distance of 10-12 kilometers. The 9K121 Vikhr (Whirlwind) missiles are then “used in a cunning way” so that they fly further and more accurately. 

“The Vikhr is used to hit targets 6-7 kilometers away but has an actual range of 10 kilometers. At such a distance, helicopters do not enter the effective range of man-portable anti-aircraft missile systems, such as Stingers,” Knutov said in a report on Russian military news publication MK. 

A German Army Leopard-2A5 during a training exercise

Meanwhile, Denis Pushilin, head of the pro-Russian Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), said when Russia tried recovering one of the destroyed German tanks, the Ukrainians attempted to knock it out themselves to prevent it from falling into Russian hands.

“When our tanks moved out to pull him out, two tanks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine appeared. But instead of repulsing our attack, they began to destroy the Leopard tank,” Pushilin was quoted in the same report. 

Wagner’s Prigozhin Still Happy, Still Thinks It’s Leopard Tank

Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of the Wagner PMC, hastened to congratulate the RuMoD on the destruction, maintaining it was a Leopard disguised as a tractor. 

“You can clearly see how the Leopard tanks move in a strange tactical maneuver towards each other. These tanks are disguised as agricultural combines, and their muzzles are bent down, but this did not prevent our ATGMs from seeing enemy equipment. We will destroy everything that has a bent barrel,” Prigozhin was quoted as saying on several leading Russian Telegram channels.