A Blog by Jonathan Low

 

Jul 22, 2022

Ukraine's Tank Hunting Drone Crews Require Ingenuity and Skill

The degree of ingenuity and technological skill displayed in these improved Ukrainian drone attacks on Russian tanks is inspiring - and should worry every conventional military in the world. JL 

David Axe reports in Forbes:

Ukrainian drone-operators knock out Russian vehicles in Ukraine illustrate different approaches to do-it-yourself air raids. Both involve commercial drones and improvised explosives. One required a lot more luck than the other. Ukraine figured out that a hand grenade fits inside a $5 plastic bait container. A drone dropped one of these directly through the open hatch of a Russian T-62. A quadcopter hauling a hand grenade is dangerous to infantry on foot, in trenches or in cars. A well-aimed anti-tank grenade can inflict meaningful damage without having to fall through an open hatch.

Separate attempts by Ukrainian drone-operators to knock out Russian vehicles in Ukraine illustrate different approaches to do-it-yourself air raids. Both raids involved commercial-style drones and improvised explosives. One required a lot more luck than the other.

On Monday, Ukraine’s Security Service—the country’s main counterterrorism agency—posted on social media a montage of videos depicting attacks on Russian forces by one or more of the agency’s Autel EVO 2 quadcopter drones.

Dropping American-made 40-millimeter anti-tank grenades with custom-built fins for stabilization, the $7,500 quadcopters struck a T-62 tank, an engineering vehicle and a BTR-82 armored personnel carrier.

An armor-piercing grenade with its high-explosive, dual-purpose warhead should possess just enough explosive power to punch through the thin top armor of a tank or APC and inflict enough damage to knock out the vehicle—especially if the grenade strikes the engine compartment, as happened in the attack on the T-62.

Now contrast the EVO 2 raids with a separate Ukrainian drone attack from earlier this month.

Someone in Ukraine figured out that a hand grenade fits inside a $5 plastic bait container. Someone else used a drone to drop one of these explosive bait bombs directly through the open driver’s hatch of a Russian T-62.

The video of the drone bombing might be funny if it didn’t depict brutal violence. A hovering drone—a hobbyist quadcopter or octocopter or one of the Ukrainian military’s custom-made R-18s—zooms low over a Russian army T-62 tank, presumably somewhere in southern Ukraine where the aging T-62s are known to have deployed.

 

The drone drops an amber-colored plastic container. A grenade is nestled inside. The munition bounces into the tank’s open driver’s hatch and explodes, popping open the two turret hatches and igniting a fire. The drone zooms away as the tank burns.

The munition combines a hand grenade with inexpensive fishing gear. A bait container helps fishermen to cast handfuls of bait without scattering it. The container keeps the bait together mid-cast, then pops open on contact with the water and spreads the bait around.

Conveniently, a hand grenade fits comfortably inside the container. The bait device stabilizes the bomb on its way down and also offers a mechanism for triggering it. Wire the grenade’s pin to the inside of the container, and the force of impact should release the grenade and pull the pin. Three or four seconds later—boom!

But that bombing was an unusually lucky one. It had to be in order to succeed.

A quadcopter hauling a hand grenade is dangerous to infantry on foot, in their trenches or in their cars. But a hand grenade with its fragmentation warhead isn’t normally a serious threat to a tank—especially if the tank is moving and buttoned up, its hatches closed.

A well-aimed hand grenade might damage external equipment such as machine guns or radio antennae, but it’s unlikely to knock the tank out of the fight. A well-aimed anti-tank grenade, on the other hand, can inflict meaningful damage without having to fall through an open hatch.

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