The Russian military has reported the seizure of the Bradley IFV and Leopard-2A4 tank after its Ukrainian crewmen abandoned it. This has made it the first documented capture of a German Leopard-2A4 tank in southeastern Ukraine.
According to information provided by the military, the tank belonged to the 33rd Mechanized Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Ukraine received nearly 40 Leopard 2A4s, armed with 120-mm smoothbore guns early this year, donated by Norway, Denmark, Spain, Canada, Netherlands, Poland and Germany.
Videos from early September also showed nearly a dozen Leopard 2A4s with Kontakt-1 Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) at an undisclosed location in Ukraine. Possibly, the 2A4s would be assigned to the Ukrainian army’s newly formed 33rd Mechanized Brigade.
Western armor has largely been ineffective in being able to dislodge Russia from the occupied territory in the east and the south, instead being destroyed themselves in large groups after being bogged down in minefields and coming under artillery fire.
Pictures and videos of hordes of destroyed tanks and infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) have gone on to represent the massive failure of the Ukrainian counteroffensive.
The capture of the Leopard 2A4 also comes in the backdrop of an American Bradley Fighting Vehicle that the Russians captured and was flaunted on local TV.
Video of Leopard 2A4 Capture
Leading Russian Telegram channel ‘SolovievLive’ published footage of soldiers from the 71st Guards Motorized Rifle Regiment and the 42nd Motorized Rifle Regiment posing against the backdrop of an abandoned German Leopard 2A4 tank in the “Zaporozhye direction.” The tank also looks largely intact, as seen in a separate footage aired by Russia TV (RT).
⚡️На запорожском направлении русскими бойцами затрофеен целенький немецкий танк Leopard 2A4!
Наши бойцы обещают пригнать эту "Леопатру" на разбор.😉
Шольцу — привет!😁😁😁
Россия мощь! 💪❤️🇷🇺❤️ pic.twitter.com/tTfdNmWJw5
— Наташа Иванова (@NatasaIvanova9) December 7, 2023
Interestingly, it noted how “blocks of the Soviet Kontakt-1 dynamic protection complex are installed on the turret and sides of the armored vehicle.”
Ukrainians found their Leopards severely unprotected from Russian anti-tank weapons during the counteroffensive in July this year, which possibly led them to install the Soviet-origin Kontak-1 explosive reactive armor (ERA).
The ERA has 314 x 148 mm shaped charge bricks that are fitted around the turret and the exposed parts of the chassis.
It is not clear how the Leopard was hit – whether it ran over a mine, struck by an artillery round, or an anti-tank guided missile (ATGM). The MBT looks clearly intact, which leads to the conclusion that the crew abandoned it in the face of a heavy and insurmountable Russian offensive.
Evacuating Broken Down Tanks from the Battlefield
Another Russian Telegram channel ‘milinfolive’ said it is “(hoped) that this time we will be able to pull out the Leopard” from the battlefield to the rear. Evacuating damaged heavy armor from active battlefields is an immensely complex, logistically tedious, and dangerous task, according to Russian military bloggers (or ‘mil bloggers’ as they are called). This was evident from the recent evacuation of the captured Bradley near Avdiivka.
A report on Russia’s Channel 1 channel featured the captured M2A2-ODS Bradley Fighting Vehicle and the dangerous and near-fatal effort of its retrieval, which saw the Russian soldiers receiving battlefield commendations.
The reporter is in the driver’s hatch and holds up an overlay for all the switches and controls where the instructions are written in the local language.
— EurAsian Times (@THEEURASIATIMES) December 7, 2023
“In Ukraine, they made these overlays and translated everything into Ukrainian. I have a 360-degree view inside, everything is in English,” the reporter said in the coverage. One of the soldiers involved in the Bradley’s capture said how they took advantage of the poor visibility in the night. “Using weather conditions, (he) drove up to him directly and pulled out the car. It was located right in the middle between our positions and the enemy at a distance of 500 meters from him,” the soldier said.
Despite the efforts of its Ukrainian tank crew, Russian forces have been able to capture a German-made Leopard 2A4 tank, intact and operational pic.twitter.com/wtP8nimUY5
— RT (@RT_com) December 8, 2023
According to the Russian military analysis forum Rybar, “transporting the armored vehicle to the rear was fraught with numerous difficulties.” “The area was clearly visible to the enemy from the heights of the coke plant, who detected any activity and opened fire from a tank, as well as launched anti-tank guided missiles and FPV drones. One Armor Recovery Vehicle, in the process of removing the stuck Bradley, hit a mine, and the driver was injured,” Rybar wrote on its Telegram channel.
But the BMP broke down “(and) it was no laughing matter.” “They dragged it about two meters; they had to stand up and start hitting the place where the car had recently been parked,” the soldier interviewed in the report added. It is not clear whether the “hitting” meant striking the part of the engine to force it to start.
Nevertheless, “all participants in the evacuation, which lasted a total of two hours, were awarded for the complex actions.” Russian Telegram channels identified this gallantry award as the Russian Medal of Courage.
Ukraine Tried Damaging Bradley IFV
The video also showed the ammunition belts for the 7.62-mm coaxial gun and the 25-mm rounds for the Bushmaster M242 automatic cannon and instructions in Ukrainian on how to load or insert the ammunition belts into the gun feed.
Several bullet holes seen on the body of the Bradley were claimed by the presenter to have been made by the Ukrainian soldiers to damage the vehicle as much as possible before the Russians laid their hands on it.
It is however surprising how an adversary platform captured for reverse engineering and studying military secrets was displayed before the cameras. Such experiments on rival defense technology go on for years before that equipment is fully decoded.
In Bradley’s case, however, it can be said that propaganda and public relations (PR) goals have taken precedence over general military secrecy.