In an unusual revelation, the British Chief of Staff told the media recently that his country was examining the Russian armored vehicles captured in Ukraine to develop relevant countermeasures.
Admiral Sir Tony Radakin told Sky News that the battle in Ukraine had served as a “wake-up call” for his forces, forcing them to act more swiftly.
Admiral Sir Tony Radakin and British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace attended a ceremony at the British Army’s Wellington Barracks in central London where these new developments were revealed in a rather unusual practice.
It is hardly a surprise that the UK is employing Russian equipment seized in Ukraine in so-called foreign material exploitation (FME) programs. With the war more than 16 months old now, it is evident that the outcomes of FME initiatives in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, and other allies are already being shared to aid in creating improved defenses against Russian threat systems.
However, information on specific FME programs that benefited from such captures had not previously been made public by UK defense officials.
Admiral Radakin told reporters: “It’s really important because we’re in a club of nations that when we get hold of Russian kit or other nations’ kit that might be a danger to us in the future, we share that knowledge.”
In addition, he went so far as to say, “We also have the scientists that unpick the detail that another nation might have to a forensic level, and that helps us to understand: how does their equipment work? How can we defeat it? How can we have even better armor? How can we disrupt their communications? How can we ensure that we can penetrate their defenses?”
The latest versions of Russian main battle tanks, electronic warfare vehicles, and air defense systems have all been captured during the conflict, despite Radakin not mentioning any specific military vehicles that might be engaged. However, a particular area of study for the British is Russian armored vehicles.
Lt. Colonel Nektarios Papantoniou of the Hellenic Army, who is also Greece’s national coordinator for the European program, Main Battle Tank Simulation and Testing Center (MBT-SIMTEC), told EurAsian Times, “You need to understand that the effectiveness of any weapon system is an outcome of many different parameters. Whereas one might think that, e.g., the effectiveness of a main battle tank depends mainly on the caliber and its armor, this is not the case.
“Numerous factors, such as the exterior and interior design, the armor itself, the weapon it carries, its targeting systems, and even the ergonomics of a vehicle’s interior design, could make a massive difference to its performance.
“The study of the weapon systems of any adversary can be an invaluable source of knowledge as to how one can eventually face and defeat them. Especially because some of the Russian tanks fielded in Ukraine are either newly upgraded or bear improvements never before encountered by their Western counterparts, first-hand knowledge of said upgrades and improvements is crucial to identify potential weaknesses and design flaws, e.g., which are the most sensitive spots, that the Ukrainian gunners should aim for, etc.”
When Russia launched the unprecedented invasion of Ukraine last year, it had a way bigger inventory of armored vehicles and tanks against the Ukrainian forces. However, it has also incurred bigger losses, with several of its revered armored vehicles captured by the Ukrainian troops.
According to the Dutch open-source analysis website Oryx, Ukraine’s troops have captured at least 267 Russian Armored Fighting Vehicles (AFVs), 604 Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs), and 89 Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs), as well as at least 548 tanks.
The Russian equipment captured by Ukraine has been mostly refurbished and fielded by the Ukrainian Army against the Russians with lightning speed. However, at least some of these have been handed over to Kyiv’s allies in the West, including the US and the UK.
Reports previously indicated that Russia’s most advanced T-90M Main Battle Tank (MBT) was handed over to the US by Ukraine. Western scientists examined and decoded them, with a special focus on its specialist armor and targeting systems.
Ukraine has undoubtedly become a testing ground for new and advanced military technology. The British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace correctly pointed out that Ukraine has “tragically become a battle lab” for new war technology. Britain’s countermeasures, however, may also be one of the many.
Papantoniou said, “The study of the adversary’s vehicles is only a small part of nations’ corrective actions to defend themselves against potential threats. On the contrary, said the conflict has shown that some serious “outside-of-the-box” thinking is required to withstand the potential attack of a decisive and inventive enemy, especially an enemy with access to modern technology who can overcome the rigidity of classic warfare and adapt to the fluidity of concurrent conditions.”
What Countermeasures Has Britain Developed?
High-mobility vehicles outfitted with Brimstone anti-armor missiles and infantry riding e-bikes into battle while carrying recoilless guns are just two of the novel ideas created in response to the conflict in Ukraine.
As a result of a rigorous intelligence gathering network at work, British engineers have developed a vehicle with a missile launcher. Developed under Project Wolfram, it was reportedly displayed at Wellington Barracks.
Early on after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, British defense researchers and industry experts pondered whether they could modify the Brimstone anti-tank missile, which is generally launched from fast planes and drones, to be fired off the back of a pickup truck, which is common in Ukraine.
Throughout a single weekend, they had developed a concept using a Toyota car, a generator from B&Q, a borrowed laptop, and some cunning computer code. The rocket was deployed on the Ukrainian front lines in a matter of weeks, according to a report by Sky News. EurAsian Times could not independently verify this piece of information.
Although the UK has supplied Ukraine with many Brimstone missiles, there hasn’t been any official confirmation of a Brimstone HMT Overwatch handed over to the Ukrainian forces. However, reports suggest that the UK did create a new ground-based Brimstone application early in the conflict that involved a missile launcher mounted on a pickup truck chassis.
#Ukraine: Rather rare footage of Ukrainian ground-launched Brimstone 1 missiles in use.
These were supplied by the UK and have seen use since May at least. pic.twitter.com/RoopPeLDWO
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) November 15, 2022
There has been very little visual evidence of the said system in Ukraine. At least one previous video showed the missile being launched from a covert flatbed cage on a truck. EurAsian Times could not independently confirm whether the system was British or Ukraine’s local innovation.
Besides developing this innovative system for firing the potent Brimstone, the British Army seems to have also adopted newer tactics learned from the Ukrainians in the ongoing war.
For instance, at the Lulworth Ranges in southwest England, a live-fire practice area for tanks and other armored vehicles, maneuvers were carried out in front of the media, as shown in the video below.
This includes e-bike experiments for anti-tank strategies, particularly the Stealth H-52 electric mountain bike. A soldier can be seen sneaking up on an enemy tank and engaging it with a shoulder-launched Carl Gustav recoilless weapon by taking advantage of the bike’s silence. The manufacturer claims that the H-52 has a top speed of roughly 50 mph and a range of up to 37 miles.
#Ukraine: Ukrainian ATGM team carrying a British NLAW system on a Delfast electric bike. Ukrainian recon, sniper, and anti-tank teams have utilized e-bikes throughout the Russian invasion to quickly and quietly move towards and attack Russian forces.
(via @ourwarstoday2 on IG) pic.twitter.com/9s4SmSMctF
— POPULAR FRONT (@PopularFront_) May 18, 2022
That is, however, far less than the 230 miles provided by the Delfast e-bikes, which Ukraine has been using in combat with Russian forces. It is no secret that, outnumbered by Russia, Ukraine chose the path of innovation with the support of its allies in the West.
According to Wallace, Ukraine’s “thirst to survive” has caused Kyiv to disregard laws and restrictions during times of peace to test out new weaponry and modifications provided by its partners. The allies of Ukraine benefited as well from this innovation.
Besides the above systems, the British Armed Forces have recently conducted testing with unmanned vehicles. These vehicles have included the German Rheinmetall company’s Mission Master autonomous unmanned ground vehicles (A-UGV), which are intended to support troops engaged in reconnaissance and surveillance operations as well as fire support, medical evacuation, CBRN detection, communication relay, and other tasks.
Another project is the Multi-Utility Tactical Transport, or MUTT, from General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS), an 8×8 battery-powered, remote-controlled vehicle that has also been put to the test for carrying cargo like heavy machine guns as well as for medical evacuation and communication relay.
In addition, a quadcopter-style drone was also shown in the same Sky News video that demonstrated e-bike testing. This system has become a cornerstone for Ukraine’s military operations against the Russians, performing a host of functions ranging from surveillance to armed strikes.
Explaining the innovation taking place on the battlefield, Papantoniou said, “In any case, I think that the ongoing conflict has shown something much more significant; modern military forces are inadequately equipped against threats based on dual-use technologies – these are the technologies that have been developed for both commercial and military use, among others.
“For instance, the Lancet or the Switchblade loitering munitions are threats that cannot really be intercepted by modern tanks and IFVs since (from my point of view) the most effective way to defeat them is active countermeasures and protection systems; the vast majority of modern vehicles are simply not equipped with these types of systems. This has been the case with commercial drones and so on.”
Although Ukraine has been receiving tons of military aid from the UK, the outgoing British Defense Secretary referred to the Ukraine War as a catalyst for change in the UK Armed Forces in his remarks in the run-up to the publication of the Defense Command Paper.
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