Ukraine’s tiny power of six Finnish-made Leopard 2R mineclearing automobiles has the tragic distinction of struggling one of many highest loss-rates of any single automobile group in Russia’s 17-month wider warfare on Ukraine.
However the survivors of the Leopard 2R platoon nonetheless are within the combat.
In a single failed assault throughout a Russian minefield south of Mala Tokmachka in southern Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Oblast on June 8, the forty seventh Assault Brigade—the only real operator of all six Leopard 2Rs—deserted a minimum of three of the two-person mineclearing automobiles, together with dozens of different automobiles.
TM-62 anti-tank mines disabled a few of these automobiles south of Mala Tokmachka. Russian helicopters and artillery hit others.
The disastrous assault left the forty seventh Brigade with simply three Leopard 2Rs, that are 69-ton, diesel-powered Leopard 2A4 tanks that Finnish agency Patria reworked into specialised engineering automobiles by eradicating their turrets and including British-made mineplows. Finland solely ever ordered six Leopard 2Rs, and gave all of them to Ukraine.
It was price questioning what was left of the forty seventh Brigade’s engineer battalion after the debacle of June 8. Along with dropping the three Leopard 2Rs, the battalion—or a companion engineer unit from the adjoining thirty third Mechanized Brigade—additionally misplaced a German-made Wisent mineclearing automobile and an ex-Soviet BMR mineclearer.
It now’s obvious that the battalion nonetheless is unbroken. A video that circulated on-line on Saturday depicts a convoy of forty seventh Brigade engineering automobiles on the transfer in Zaporizhzhia. The convoy features a Leopard 2R, two Soviet-style armored tractors fitted with UR-77 rocket-propelled mineclearing costs and a Wisent.
It’s a combined platoon, however one that may mirror the best way the battle-hardened engineer battalion fights, both by itself or in cooperation with sappers from adjoining brigades. Known as in to clear a lane by way of a Russian minefield, the UR-77s clearly would go first—firing their rope-like explosive costs out to a distance of a number of hundred ft.
The ensuing blast ought to start to clear a lane. The Leopard 2R and Wisent would go subsequent—digging their plows into the identical lane and gunning their engines. No matter mines the UR-77s missed, the plows ought to dig up and detonate. Tanks and infantry preventing automobiles can observe behind.
Except, after all, one thing goes fallacious—prefer it did on June 8.
A Leopard 2R and Wisent have an identical mineplows from British agency Pearson Engineering. The large variations between the 2 varieties are armor safety and horsepower. A Wisent 1 has a Leopard 1 tank chassis with a 1,000-horsepower diesel engine. A Leopard 2R has a heavier and better-protected Leopard 2 tank chassis with a 1,500-horsepower engine.
A Leopard 2R can soak up extra injury than a Wisent can do, so should you’re making an attempt to clear a minefield whereas beneath hearth, you’d ship your Leopard 2R first. However with simply three Leopard 2Rs left after June 8, forty seventh Brigade engineer officers may not all the time have that choice.
Germany has donated scores of Wisents to the Ukrainian warfare effort—and possibly may ship extra. There might come a day when the Leopard 2Rs are extinct, however the Wisents nonetheless are thriving.
That day isn’t at present. The forty seventh Brigade finally discovered a approach by way of or across the Mala Tokmachka minefield. Restoration crews final week started towing away among the automobiles the forty seventh Brigade deserted, presumably after clearing the remaining TM-62 mines.
It’s not clear how lots of the broken Leopard 2Rs are repairable. It’s potential they all are—and the forty seventh Brigade’s engineer battalion quickly will likely be again to full power with all six of the automobiles.
Within the meantime, the battalion clearly is snug mixing and matching ex-Finnish, ex-German and ex-Soviet mineclearing automobiles. And staying within the combat.