From Popasnaya to Severodonetsk: How the Russian BMPT Drove Polish Tanks Into the Firing Zone in Ukraine

NEW – June 4, 2022

The first combat use of the “Terminators” turned out to be so effective that the UAF will now have to urgently change tactics, otherwise the encirclement in Severodonetsk may be repeated in another city.

BMPT “Terminator” in Donbass

The first information about the participation of Russian tank support vehicles in the special military operation in Ukraine began to appear about a month ago. Two weeks ago, information about the use of these machines in the operation to encircle Severodonetsk was published by the Ukrainian media. The published images clearly show how the BMPT, which can be easily identified by the high profile and paired guns, are in line with the tanks. According to some reports, three different platoons of three vehicles in each could appear in Popasnaya and further in Severodonetsk. This is only half of the opportunities that appeared in 2021: after long tests, two companies of BMPT appeared in the tank regiments of the 90th Tank Division.

The main innovation of the BMPT, which distinguishes the vehicle from tanks, is a mixed fire control system. Its effectiveness was tested two years before the start of Operation Z: even at the “Caucasus 2020” exercises, the machine passed the entire cycle of necessary tests and proved that equipment for suppressing enemy fire is vital for tanks on the battlefield. At the same time, modified versions of the first tank support combat vehicle appeared in Donbass — it is controlled by five people, three of whom are responsible for the use of weapons.

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BMPT in Severodonetsk

They did not spare the unique machines: the first combat task for which the BMPT was summoned was the blocking of Popasnaya and cleansing the suburbs of the armoured vehicles of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. According to available data, a significant part of the combat work of the machines occurred at night. After night fell on Popasnaya, the UAF tried to move equipment and change positions so as not to be destroyed in the morning. However, these raids were stopped by the crews of the “Terminators”. The vehicles themselves did not enter the zone of direct fire contact — the vast majority of the targets of the “Terminator” were hit from five kilometres away, the high silhouette and stabilisation system allow to shoot from behind the knolls and hills, using the terrain as additional protection.

After Popasnaya was cleansed, one of the most dramatic episodes occurred in the history of the combat service of the BMPT. It was largely thanks to these machines that the Russian Army managed to carry out a powerful breakthrough to Severodonetsk. Presumably, in the early morning of May 26, two platoons of BMPT, advancing from different sides, struck the positions of the UAF. According to preliminary data, during the rapid attack, at least eight tanks and three armoured vehicles were destroyed, and the enemy’s protected facilities were destroyed by Russian tanks after the equipment was neutralised.

According to unconfirmed reports, the crew of one of the BMPs later managed to hit a low-flying Mi-8 helicopter that appeared in the area after reports of a breakthrough by two battalions of “vehicles of an unknown type”.

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According to some reports, this became possible due to the use of the same “Ataka-T” missiles via the BMPT as via Ka-52 attack helicopters. A supersonic missile flies to the target from a distance of five to six kilometres for several seconds, and it is almost impossible to react to the approach of such an ATGM.

Terminators in Severodonetsk

The interlocutors of the “Life” news agency in the special military operation’s zone note that one of the most important episodes of the use of BMPT is their fight with T-72M1K tanks. These Polish-made vehicles, in fact, are Soviet tanks with modern Western electronics inside. The key differences from similar Soviet-type machines lie in the installation of a thermal imager and a more powerful engine, which on paper expands the capabilities of the machine.

However, at the beginning of May, it turned out that all secret equipment, including a multi-channel digital communication system and KLW-1 “Asteria” thermal imagers, had been removed from Polish T-72M1R tanks before being sent to Ukraine, instead of which other, simpler surveillance devices were installed. The automated data transmission system was also removed, and satellite navigation remained the only available means of positioning.

The exact date and place of the meeting of the “Terminators” with the Polish T-72M1R near Severodonetsk is unknown, but the battle in the format of “free hunting” led to the fact that one Polish-made tank was disabled from a distance of 4.5 kilometres, and the other managed to escape from the battlefield. However, the flight was short-lived: the crew of the T-72M1R tank got lost and after a while went to the flank of the positions of the tank battalion of the Russian army. The vehicle was immobilised by the first shot, destroyed by the second.

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Russian tanks in Ukraine

The interlocutors of “Life” in the military-industrial complex note that they can act effectively as part of a tank unit of the BMPT for several reasons at once. The first and most important is a clear distribution of roles in each platoon, when all crews sort out the necessary goals and work on them. The second reason is the manufacturability of BMPT. The gunner’s sight and the commander’s panoramic sight provide a wide viewing angle on the battlefield, the same as that of modern tanks, such as the T-72B3, T-90M or T-80BVM, the equipment of which with panoramic sights has increased the effectiveness of the use of vehicles on the battlefield several times.

Sergey Andreyev

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