There are many videos online showing Russian tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and assorted other vehicles being hit and destroyed by anti-tank weaponry, much of which is supplied to Ukraine by the UK and the US and sundry other NATO countries. Heavily armoured vehicles such as tanks are designed to be able to withstand the impact of armour-piercing rounds from other tanks. Top do this, Russian tanks have what is called explosive reactive armour (ERA). At the impact of an anti-tank shell the armour explodes outwards, hopefully destroying the incoming shell. However, the new anti-tank weapons (for example NLAW, a joint development of the UK and Sweden1) have worked out how to overcome this. They use ‘direct-attack’ for unarmoured or lightly armoured vehicles, where the missile hits the side of the vehicle, and blows it to smithereens, often killing everyone inside. For tanks, especially those with ERA, the new missiles have the capability of what they call Overfly Top Attack (OTA), where the missile goes up over the tank and comes down on top of it, avoiding the ERA1 and striking it where the other armour is thinner. The result is the same; everyone inside dies. The US-made Javelin anti-tank missile operates much the same way2.
Given that each Russian tank weighs about 42 tonnes and, when hit, some of them end up in bits, often with the turret blown off, these anti-tank weapons must be extraordinarily powerful. What most people don’t actually seem to register is that there is a crew of three inside each tank and, in these videos, when an anti-tank missile hits that tank, there are three families in Russia who will never see their father, husband, brother, son or nephew ever again. What remains of them will be an unrecognisable blackened, burnt lump inside their metal coffin.
Someone online said that they ‘rejoice at the death of every Russian in Ukraine’. I don’t. The dead are just the pawns for the malevolent, murderous kleptocrat Putin. Russia has admitted that about 1,300 of its troops have been killed, while reports from the UK estimate that 15,000 have been killed, and Ukraine estimates that number may be as high as 22,0003.
One of my interests is military history and I have read extensively on that topic extending from Wellington’s Peninsular War through to Vietnam, with all the horror of so many shattered bodies and shattered minds. I suppose this interest was a way for me to try to understand what some of my relatives went through in both world wars, and some of my acquaintances and colleagues went through in Vietnam. Whatever understanding I have obtained simply makes me angry at politicians who seem to go to war at the drop of a hat, or at the request of a powerful ‘friend’. It brings to mind American spymaster William Donovan’s famous quote: “I know too much about war to glory in it. But wars are made by politicians who neglect to prepare for it”4.
I hope Putin lives long enough to regret the death and destruction he has caused, and that he suffers long and hard for it.