Footage Confirms: Russian Soldiers Capture German Leopard 2 Tanks and American Bradleys in Ukraine

Russian personnel have captured at least one Leopard 2 tank and multiple Bradley infantry fighting vehicles in Ukraine’s Zaporozhye Region, as confirmed by new footage released by the Russian Defence Ministry. The footage shows Russian personnel inspecting the Western supplied armour, with one seemingly excited soldier circling them and remarking that some of them had their engines still running. “This [explicit] hardware is not as scary as it seemed,” he was heard saying. While it was previously speculated that Russian personnel may have only accessed the vehicles briefly, before returning to their defensive positions, Russians on the sources have since reported that the assets were captured. Sharing the footage on social media, the Defence Ministry referred to the Western vehicles as “our trophies,” adding that their condition“indicates the rapid pace of the engagement and the abandonment of the battle-ready hardware by the Ukrainian armed forces.” While Ukraine has previously deployed only older armour to the frontlines primarily Soviet T-64 tanks which it inherited in 1991, new generations of tanks supplied have begun to appear far more frequently in major offensives initiated in early June.

The Leopard 2A6 captured in this case is one of the most capable classes fielded in NATO, with these supplied to Ukraine in very limited numbers alongside larger numbers of much older and less capable Leopard 2A4 and Leopard 1 tanks. The Leopard 2A4 previously proved highly vulnerable even against non state paramilitary forces when deployed by Turkish forces in Syria and Iraq. This vulnerability is thought to be a reason why Germany was initially highly hesitant to allow the provision of Leopard 2s to Ukraine, lest its most high profile defence product be further discredited. In response to the heavy losses Ukrainian armour has taken, the United States has pledged to replace Bradley fighting vehicles lost and to provide depleted uranium ammunition – joining Britain which announced in March that it would also be supplying the highly controversial munitions to improve the anti armour capabilities of Ukrainian tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.

In the battle that saw a Leopard 2A6 disabled and abandoned a second tank of the same class was shown in close up aerial footage burning and completely destroyed. While the destruction of multiple Leopard 2s has been reported, it remains uncertain whether more of these have also been from the relatively modern A6 variant or whether others were from the more widely used Leopard 2A4 class. Russian Vikhr-1 missiles launched by attack helicopters such as the Ka-52 Alligator have reportedly been responsible for a large portion of Ukraine’s armour losses.

The value of capturing a Leopard 2A6 remains questionable, as while it could potentially allow the Russian Military to better develop means of countering the vehicles, the repeatedly demonstrated limitations of the German design mean Russia can likely be confident that its existing assets are more than able to neutralise it. Furthermore, with the exception of Poland’s newly acquired South Korean K2 tanks, while Russia does not face any serious disadvantages in its armoured warfare capabilities compared to NATO, particular since it has now belatedly put its modern T-90M tank into very large scale mass production, the primary challenges Russia faces from NATO remain in the air and in space. Demonstration that not only the Leopard 2A4, but also the new A6 variant, are limited in their survivability against modern Russian anti armour capabilities, may well spur NATO members including Germany to accelerate work on future generations of tanks. Russia has already developed a next generation tank under the T-14 program, although serious delays in development mean that this is not yet fielded on a meaningful scale despite having made initial deployments to Ukraine in April