Russian troops installed an ATGM on a rural ‘cherry picker’ truck

The Russian forces have consistently been at the forefront of ‘military innovation’. After being pioneers in fitting cope cages on tanks and other armored vehicles, implementing car tires on bombers, and undertaking the massive task of painting nearly an entire air fleet at its Engels-2 base, they have now incorporated agricultural machinery into their arsenal. 

Recently, a Russian team was observed operating an anti-tank weapon from an aerial boom lift, also known by the colloquial term “cherry picker truck”, within Ukraine. The lifted basket serves as a vantage point for the team, offering a commanding view of the surroundings for surveillance of Ukrainian tanks, armored vehicles, and vehicle convoys. 

At first glance, this tactic may seem unconventional and uniquely “Russian.” However, the concept actually has its origins in Cold War-era Germany, although the battlefield dynamics were quite different during that period. 

Russian troops installed an ATGM on a rural 'cherry picker' truck
Video screenshots

Back then, an elevated anti-tank guided missile [ATGM] platform—preferably unmanned—provided a significant advantage, as it was challenging to combat these installations due to their positioning above the terrain or treetops. 

It’s not practical

To understand why this German innovation may not be effective in Ukraine, let’s delve into the underlying logic. The primary benefit lies in the expanded field of view for the ATGM operator, allowing for coverage of a much larger area compared to a position on the ground. 

Additionally, an elevated ATGM can utilize its full operational range to target an enemy unit, vehicle, or tank hidden from ground-based visibility. The aerial perspective also eliminates obstacles and natural camouflage such as bushes, trees, and undulating terrain. 

Russian troops installed an ATGM on a rural 'cherry picker' truck
Photo credit: Defense Express

However, in the context of modern warfare, particularly given what we’ve witnessed in Ukraine over the past year and a half, the operator is at a significantly greater risk of being shot down than during the Cold War era. 

The prevalent use of unmanned drones in current conflicts has effectively dispelled the notion of a “fog of war”, making the “transparency of the battlefield” a primary factor. Therefore, the advantage of the elevated structure’s ability to overcome terrain irregularities becomes negligible. 

The emergence of First-Person View [FPV] attack drones equipped infantry with a tool that far exceeds the range of ATGMs. The only protection for a portable ATGM lies in its invisibility and relative maneuverability, both of which are nullified when operated from a stationary lifting boom, rendering it an easy target—akin to a “sitting duck”.

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