Because the Ukrainian army was making ready for its long-anticipated counteroffensive, which kicked off throughout southern and jap Ukraine in early June, it doled out to newly-formed brigades a lot of the heavy tools Kyiv’s overseas allies lately had donated.
The military’s new forty seventh Mechanized Brigade bought a fight car windfall, within the type of 90 American-made M-2 infantry preventing autos, all six Finnish Leopard 2R mineclearers and all 28 M-55S tanks Slovenia had pledged to the conflict effort.
The forty seventh Brigade this spring busied itself coaching with its new autos. However then one thing unusual occurred. When, within the weeks earlier than the counteroffensive started, the forty seventh lastly deployed to southern Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Oblast, it deployed with out its M-55Ss.
By now we will say with confidence the place the ex-Slovenian tanks wound up. Simply west of Russian-occupied Kreminna in northeastern Ukraine, with one other new military brigade: the 67th Mechanized. Equipping a small-ish battalion, the M-55Ss combat alongside T-72s equipping the 67th Mechanized’s full-size tank battalion.
The proof slowly piled up. On July 12, Alina Mykhailova, a medical officer with the 67th Brigade, photographed an M-55S inside a treeline west of Kreminna. A couple of days later, one of many 36-ton, four-person M-55S ate a Russian artillery shell that wrecked the tank’s Israeli-made optics—a strike observers geolocated to the world exterior Kreminna.
And on or proper earlier than July 22, a second M-55S took a direct hit—once more exterior Kreminna—and exploded.
Why the forty seventh Brigade would chop its solely tanks to the 67th Brigade is unclear. It’s attainable the Ukrainian normal employees apprehensive that the M-55S—a heavily-upgraded, ex-Soviet T-55 with a British-made 105-millimter gun—is just too susceptible for the form of preventing the forty seventh has endured alongside the Tokmak axis in southern Ukraine.
Sure, the tank has layers of explosive reactive armor. However the metal beneath the ERA is only a couple hundred millimeters thick at its thickest. That’s modest safety by at present’s requirements.
In a single sense, Ukrainian commanders had been proper. Within the south, the forty seventh Mechanized Brigade has teamed up with the thirty third Mechanized Brigade, which operates the all 21 Leopard 2A6 tanks Portugal and Germany donated to Ukraine. The Leopard 2A6 in locations has safety equal to a whopping 1,400 millimeters of metal. Even so, the battalion working the 69-ton tanks has misplaced at the very least two of them. One other 9 have suffered harm.
But when commanders had been hoping to maintain the M-55Ss away from essentially the most intensive preventing, they miscalculated—badly. As a result of it’s west of Kreminna that the Kremlin selected to pay attention its finest out there forces for a countercounteroffensive the Russians clearly hoped would spoil Ukrainian operations farther south.
Russian brigades have superior a couple of miles west of Kreminna. However Ukrainian forces—not simply the 67th with its M-55Ss, but in addition the twenty first Mechanized Brigade with its arsenal of cutting-edge Swedish-made autos—have prevented main advances. Spoiling the spoiler.
The Ukrainians could have tried to avoid wasting the M-55S battalion from a direct conflict with among the finest Russian forces. However the try and spare the unit paradoxically positioned it straight within the path of … among the finest Russian forces.