TechUkrainians use tanks and drones to thwart Russian advances in Awdiyivka's intense combat

Ukrainians use tanks and drones to thwart Russian advances in Awdiyivka's intense combat

A Ukrainian tank cooperating with a drone and infantry during the clearing of buildings from Russians.
A Ukrainian tank cooperating with a drone and infantry during the clearing of buildings from Russians.
Images source: © X (formerly Twitter) | Ukrainian Front
8:38 AM EST, February 1, 2024

Russian forces have attempted to capture Awdiyivka for several months using diverse strategies. They have repeatedly failed to seize areas in the north, including the village of Stepowe. Nevertheless, more than a hundred Russians, making the most of the city's canal system, managed to infiltrate the Ukrainian defense lines in the south and occupy a portion of the city district.

In a strategic retaliatory measure, Ukrainians deployed infantry forces supported by tanks and drones to regain control over the Russian-occupied buildings. Usually, the idea of deploying tanks in urban warfare is conceived as impractical. However, when combined with drone support, the potential drawbacks are notably reduced. The tanks' powerful 125mm cannon, loaded with fragmentary-demolition ammunition, enables rapid and efficient destruction of the occupied buildings, as documented in video recordings.

Combination of tank and drone: A highly effective duo

The Ukrainians employ tanks from the T-64 or T-72 series, which are 1960s and 1970s Soviet designs. These tanks, weighing about 44 tons, are equipped with a 125mm cannon. The design, which doesn't isolate the ammunition from the crew, poses an explosion risk if the armor is penetrated.

However, this layout reduces the crew to three members and results in a significantly lower tank silhouette. Although these benefits are useful for open terrain ambushes, they present challenges in urban warfare where attacks can originate from any direction.

Generally, tank armor is most robust in the front, while its sides, rear, and top are comparatively thinner. In certain conditions, even a 30mm automatic cannon, which is generally mounted on infantry fighting vehicles or armored personnel carriers, can significantly damage these tanks. Handheld anti-tank weapons, especially modern double-cumulative (tandem) warhead grenade launchers like the German RGW90, are particularly threatening.

It should be noted that Russian forces often utilize outdated weapons like the RPG-30 and relics from the USSR era, such as the RPG-7/27/29. These weapons also pose a significant threat, as Ukrainian tanks, unlike the Israeli Merkava tanks used in the Gaza Strip, do not possess an active protection system.

In these scenarios, the crew's only recourse is to identify the threat and preemptively strike. This task is challenging considering that the crew's vision is restricted to narrow periscopes and viewfinders, which are susceptible to damage. However, the incorporation of drones significantly alleviates this problem. The drone operator continuously relays information about the surrounding environment to the crew, who can then respond appropriately by launching fragmentation-demolition projectiles. These projectiles, containing around 6.6 lbs of explosive material, have a lethal range of about 131 feet.

Clearly, Ukrainians have implemented an effective strategy of uniting drone and tank operations. This is a concept that is also projected to be incorporated into the future European tank MCGS.

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