New tactic: Russia launched Vietnam War-era tank as kamikaze

An old T-54/55 tank from Russia’s military history is being converted into a powerful, explosive weapon. They’re filled with explosives and remotely detonated against Ukrainian forces on the battlefield. A new video seems to verify this unusual tactic. It’s the initial visual proof of a T-54/55 tank used as a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device [VBIED]. But the effectiveness of this explosive method is still in question.

Stalin's T-54/55 tanks will die in Ukraine to give birth to T-90Ms
Photo by Alexey Kodenko

The Russian Ministry of Defense reported a significant incident on its Telegram channel over the weekend. They used an unmanned tank carrying 3.5 tons of TNT and five FAB-100 bombs to attack a Ukrainian stronghold. The explosives were detonated remotely, causing a shockwave on the battlefield. 

The same Telegram post included comments from a Russian tank commander, “Bernaul”. This individual was reportedly responsible for the explosive attack, demonstrating tactical skill and the harsh reality of warfare.

A tank operator 300 meters away from the enemy manually controls his old Russian T-54 tank towards the enemy line. He quickly jumps off, leaving the tank to its fate. “From my viewpoint, I watched as the unmanned tank approached the enemy base. I triggered the detonator at the right time, resulting in a massive explosion. The explosion was incredibly effective, causing heavy casualties to the enemy. Their losses were significant,” stated the commander.

New tactic: Russia launched Vietnam War-era tank as kamikaze
Video screenshot

The drone footage shows an old tank, possibly a T-54 or T-55, moving across a war-torn area, likely toward the Ukrainian front line. Suddenly, the tank stops, caught in a fiery explosion. Some sources, including pro-Russian bloggers, suggest the explosion may be due to a hidden mine.

The old tank explodes loudly, causing a large fire and smoke. A light flashes from the Ukrainian side just before the explosion, possibly from an anti-tank missile or rocket-propelled grenade. This was likely an attempt to stop the tank. It’s unclear if this shot caused the large explosion, or if it was a previous mine or remote-controlled explosion. Based on the timing and video evidence, it’s highly probable that the Ukrainian strike caused the tank to catch fire.

Picture this: an unmanned explosive tank, full of TNT, heading toward Ukrainian targets in Mariinka. This scenario is from Voennyi Osvedomitel, a prominent Russian military blogger. Unfortunately, the tank’s mission was stopped by a random mine. 

Mariinka, in the Donetsk region, is familiar with the sounds of war. Although we can’t confirm if the explosive tank ended its trip there, we can say this part of Ukraine has experienced continuous conflict since the counteroffensive started.

The Russian Ministry’s initial reports about the effectiveness of the tank bomb seem to be contradicted by video evidence and various accounts. Regardless of the results, transforming a tank into a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device [VBIED] indicates a major change in military tactics. 

Armored vehicles turned into VBIEDs offer advantages such as increased survivability, the ability to carry large explosives, and maneuverability in challenging terrains.

The attack on the Kerch Bridge last October involved unconventional warfare tactics. Speculations suggest the use of a unique Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device [VBIED] by pro-Ukrainian forces. The mystery remains if the driver was knowingly involved or an unwitting participant. 

On the other hand, Russian forces have also been active. Reports imply the use of an armored fighting vehicle transformed into a VBIED against Ukrainian forces. Warfare continues to develop in unexpected ways.

Stalin's T-54/55 tanks will die in Ukraine to give birth to T-90Ms
Photo credit: Twitter

The Russian Ministry of Defense recently announced that they modified an MT-LB armored vehicle into a VBIED, loaded it with FAB-100 bombs and UR-77 mine-clearing charges, and used it against a Ukrainian position. The ministry’s video evidence does not confirm the result of this attack, leaving the success of this bold action unknown. This unconventional use of VBIEDs may indicate a new direction in Russian military strategy, especially as Ukrainian forces continue to counter their advancements.

It’s interesting how old T-54/55 tanks can be repurposed into a Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device [VBIED]. 

New tactic: Russia launched Vietnam War-era tank as kamikaze
Photo credit: Reddit

The War Zone earlier reported potential signs of these vintage T-54/55 tanks being directed toward Ukraine. It was unclear then if these old tanks would join the Ukrainian conflict frontline. However, it indicated Moscow’s desperate measures due to their significant losses of fighting vehicles in the conflict.

The T-54/55 tanks were originally outmatched in their battle roles, especially against modern anti-tank weapons and advanced Western main battle tanks in Ukraine. A month later, it appears Russian forces are using the T-54/T-55 series tanks in Ukraine’s battlefield, with one seen in the southeastern part of Ukraine.

Could the T-54/55 and slightly improved T-62 tanks be repurposed as mobile artillery or backline guardians? Their use as stationary artillery might also be beneficial. 

New tactic: Russia launched Vietnam War-era tank as kamikaze
Photo by Olga Maltseva

Imagine T-54/55s turning into Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices [VBIEDs]. This could become common. Why is this plausible? Russia’s large stock of these old tanks is suitable for repurposing. Plus, the shift into this explosive function is simple and cheap.

Consider a battlefield where old Russian munitions like the FAB-100 are combined with new drone technology. This enhances targeting precision and damage assessment. 

However, there’s a limitation. The outdated T-54 tank, without remote controls, can only be directed at the target, and remotely detonated. It’s mainly effective against static objectives, making it vulnerable. The video above shows this. 

But, there’s hope. Basic remote controls could greatly improve these VBIEDs’ effectiveness, allowing for dynamic maneuvering. This increases their survivability and target range, making them a powerful weapon.

Despite the simplicity of Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices [VBIEDs], their use shows Russia’s willingness to use basic tactics. This is particularly the case when there’s a shortage of more advanced options such as long-range guided missiles. Another tactic is to upgrade old bombs with range-extending wing kits, which presents issues for Ukrainian air defense units.

Given these circumstances, it’s not surprising that Russia is using T-54/55s this way, even if they were originally deployed for other purposes. It’s surprising to think about using an old T-54/55 tank in contemporary war. Despite lacking modern protection and speed, these tanks can still be effective as vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices [VBIEDs]. Their outdated weapons and optics don’t matter in this role. 

Given the number of T-54/55 tanks and available aged explosives, Russia may be willing to lose these tanks. If used as VBIEDs, their loss could be a strategic move against Ukraine’s expected counterattacks.


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