So-called “Monday morning quarterbacks” once stood around the water cooler telling of how they would have played Sunday’s matchup differently. Today there are now countless YouTubers, podcasters, and social media pundits that make a living sharing their respective wisdom.
The same is now occurring with the conflict in Ukraine, but the difference is that instead of discussing the losses on the gridiron, these “open source intelligence analysts” look to videos and photos posted from the frontlines to attempt to offer perspective on how the war is going at a truly micro level. This includes the posting of videos of a vehicle’s destruction or the aftermath.
Though this has been common since the war started more than 15 months ago, it has been this week that all eyes were directed to sharing the “first” confirmed destruction of the German-made Leopard 2 main battle tank (MBT)—a platform that first entered service with the West German military in 1979. The third-generation MBT is considered among the most capable in service today.
It is also not indestructible, as noted by reports that the Ukrainian Army lost one while failing to breach Russian defenses in Southern Ukraine this week. Video footage shared on social media confirmed that the Russian military had destroyed the first Leopard. As David Axe of Forbes reported on Friday, an attempt to cross a minefield failed and a Leopard 2A6 and as many as nine U.S.-made M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles came under fire. The vehicles took damage and the crews and passengers were forced to bail out.
The “breach” targeting prepared enemy fortifications failed.
The Dutch-based open-source website Oryx, which has tracked the losses on both sides since the fighting began more than 15 months ago, and which unlike many of the other social media pundits has done so without much commentary, did offer confirmation this week.
“Ukrainian forces abandoned one Leopard 2A6, four M2 Bradleys (three of which damaged) and one BMR-2 Mine-Clearing Tank during an attack in the Zaporizhzia Region,” Oryx (@oryxspioenkop) reported via Twitter.
Losses Are Going to Happen—Even Of Leopard 2s!
To some of the “armchair generals” on social media—notably, those propagandists who openly support Moscow—this was essentially confirmation that the Western-made vehicles won’t be the magic bullet Kyiv was hoping for. Others suggested Ukraine squandered its expensive resources, perhaps not realizing—or more likely simply ignoring—the fact that offensive operations can be costly.
As a matter of timely context, this week also marked the 79th anniversary of the D-Day landings during the Second World War. The Allies’ casualties greatly exceeded that of the Germans, while 185 M4 Sherman tanks were lost in the initial landings and subsequent efforts to secure a beachhead.
Ukraine was always going to lose some of the Leopard 2 MBTs and other tanks, and as Axe noted, “Breaches are the most difficult and usually costliest phase of any armored offensive.”
Axe also suggested the attack could have gone worse. At least one battle-damaged Leopard 2A4 MBT was recovered and could be repaired—while it also speaks to the toughness of the vehicle—and some of the Bradley IFVs can likely be recovered as well.
“It is absolutely insane to get overly worried or downright hysterical that Ukraine is losing modern Western weapons to Russia on the battlefield,” explained Harry Kazianis, president of Rogue States Project and a senior editor for 19FortyFive.
“History cries out to us to remember that every weapon of war has some way it can be defeated—there is no perfect weapon or unbeatable weapon,” Kazianis said via an email. “Are the Leopard 2 or U.S. M1 Abrams some of the best tanks on Earth? Yes. However, they can be beaten and destroyed.”
There will always be losses in war. However, this time, it is simply being tracked in real-time on social media.
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