Ukraine Situation Report: Another M1 Abrams Tank Lost (Updated)

Following the first sighting of one of the 31 U.S.-supplied M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks in action on the front lines in Ukraine, as well as the confirmation of a first loss of the type, more evidence is coming to light of the tank being used in combat — and a second combat loss. The photo below, purportedly originating from the village of Berdychi, in the eastern Donetsk region, shows the Ukrainian M1 in question, after it shed its track, apparently when it ran over a mine.

Subsequent imagery and a video indicates that the Abrams was then abandoned before being further damaged, and more likely destroyed, by a Russian one-way attack drone. While that may have prevented it from being recovered by Ukrainian forces and repaired, it may have also deprived Russia of useful intelligence.

The FPV drone just an instant before striking the abandoned Abrams.

The operating unit of the M1 in question seems to have been the 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade of the Ukrainian Ground Forces. This unit saw plentiful action in the fierce fighting for Avdiivka, north of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, and was previously known to operate Leopard 2A6 tanks.

The same accounts suggest that as well as the Abrams, one of the few M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicles (ABVs) available to Ukraine was lost in the same encounter. The M1150 ABV was primarily supplied to help Ukrainian troops clear the hundreds of miles of dense minefields the Russians have built up.

Editor’s Update: 7:37PM EST 3/3/24:

New higher-resolution video of the lost M1 tank has surfaced as has a better view of the battlefield around it. It appears that the first M1 Abrams loss that we first saw evidence of on February 26th is very close by. The damage is the same, as is the turret position and the track marks in the ground in relation to the tank. It appears that both M1A1s were lost art the same time or the second was lost possibly during a recovery operation, but it does not look like an additional M1 beyond the count we already have was lost. This is a cursory examination of the video. The conclusions could change. See the video below:

Before diving into more developments from the conflict in Ukraine, The War Zone readers can review our previous coverage here.

The Latest

Berlin has reacted angrily to accusations from Moscow that it’s planning to go to war with Russia. Today, Germany’s ambassador to Moscow, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry to explain a leaked discussion between senior German military personnel about sending weapons to Ukraine. The 38-minute recording was published by Russian media outlets last Friday.

The telephone conference, which involved four officers, including the head of the German Air Force, Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz, came ahead of a discussion with German Minister of Defense Boris Pistorius. The key topic was the possible delivery of Taurus KEPD 350 air-launched cruise missiles to Ukraine. The officers appeared to conclude that a rapid delivery — and subsequent use — of these weapons would require German personnel to be stationed on the ground in Ukraine. This is also the assertion that German Chancellor Scholz made recently, which you can read all about here.

It would take at least six months to integrate German Taurus cruise missiles onto Ukraine's Su-24 Fencers, but restarting the production line could take even longer and political issues remain a hurdle for the transfer.
Engineers work on a Taurus KEPD 350 air-launched cruise missile. MBDA Deutschland MBDA Deutschland

Also discussed was the possibility of training Ukrainian personnel to use Taurus in Germany, which the officers said would require months of preparation, and the potential use of the missile against the Kerch Bridge that links the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula from the Russian mainland and which Ukraine has repeatedly targeted using different means.

Following the leak, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the discussions provided evidence that Europe’s appetite for war “still remains very, very high,” intending to bring about “Russia’s strategic defeat on the battlefield.”

The former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev went further still, declaring that: “Germany is planning a war with Russia.”

“The recording itself says that within the Bundeswehr, plans to launch strikes on Russian territory are being discussed substantively and concretely. This does not require any legal interpretation. Everything here is more than obvious,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said today.

In response, the Minister of Defense Pistorius said that Russia is waging “an information war” against Germany. He accused Russia of intercepting and then leaking the sensitive meeting that involved high-level German military officers.

Pistorius said that Russia’s reactions were “completely absurd” and were calculated to create distrust and discord in Germany.

Meanwhile, Roderich Kiesewette, a defense expert for the opposition Christian Democratic Party, said that Russia deliberately leaked the meeting at this point to: “undermine a German Taurus delivery.” He also claimed the leak was intended “to divert public conversation away” from other issues, such as the death of Russian opposition activist and political prisoner Alexei Navalny.

As we noted earlier, in our last Situation Report last week, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that he had ruled out providing Taurus to Ukraine since it would involve sending German troops to Ukraine.

Scholz recently explained: “You cannot deliver a weapons system that has a very wide reach and then not think about how control over the weapons system can take place.” He added: “If you want to have control and it’s only possible if German soldiers are involved, that’s out of the question for me.”

The leaked conversation also touches upon the same topic.

During the conversation, Gerhartz explains that the British have a small number of personnel in Ukraine to help with the employment of Storm Shadow cruise missiles, which are only permitted to be used on Ukrainian territory.

While it seems unlikely that the leaked discussion will have any impact on the progress of Taurus deliveries (or lack of them), it’s certainly an embarrassment for the German government. Questions are inevitably being asked about the security of the government’s internal communications as well as about the other conversations that Russia might have listened in on.

Ukraine may have been suffering setbacks on the battlefield of late, but Russian forces only appear to be making progress at great cost in terms of personnel.

In one of its recent intelligence updates, the U.K. Ministry of Defense states that Russian forces suffered an average of 983 casualties per day in Ukraine in February, the highest since the war began.

The U.K. Ministry of Defense claimed that the increase in casualties, which included both killed and wounded soldiers, was likely due to “Russia’s commitment to mass and attritional warfare.”

Likely contributing to the apparent spike in casualties was the Russian campaign to take the town of Avdiivka, where Russian tactics frequently involved “human wave” assaults, to overwhelm Ukrainian positions with large numbers of soldiers, often moving mainly on foot.

An idea of the brutal nature of the kind of fighting here and elsewhere on the front lines can be found in the following video, which shows the bloody demise of a group of Russian soldiers riding on a BTR-80 after they come under withering fire from a Ukrainian M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle. They are mown down by the M242 chain gun before Ukrainian first-person-view (FPV) drones finish them off.

This is extremely gruesome footage, viewer beware, but it is a very raw look at just how challenging and horrific the battlefield has become in Ukraine. These types of scenes play out for both sides, this one just happened to be filmed.

More of Dmitry Medvedev next, with his appearance on Russian television in which the former Russian president stood in front of a map of an imagined future Ukraine, with the borders redrawn in Moscow’s favor. While Ukrainian territory is reduced to little more than a buffer zone around Kyiv, Russia takes the east of the country for its own, while other parts of the west are carved up between Poland and Romania. Exactly what these two NATO members and Ukrainian allies make of such a proposal is not explained, but they certainly wouldn’t be supportive

Another intriguing piece of Ukrainian equipment that we have looked at in the past is a highly accurate replica of the U.S.-made AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel radar system. The latter is used to alert different short-range air defense systems (SHORADS). This particular mockup was captured by Russian forces during recent fighting near Avdiivka.

According to reports, the dummy radar in question was fitted with a threat emitter, producing a similar waveform to the original system to make it a more realistic target.

More fallout from the fighting around Avdiivka next, with a photo showing the reported result of two anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) having hit a U.S.-supplied M2A2 ODS Bradley infantry fighting vehicle. Available accounts suggest that none of the crew of the vehicle were injured, and the vehicle remained in action. The effects of the first ATGM are said to have been defeated by the Bradley Reactive Armored Tiles (BRAT) installed on the front and sides of the hull. The second ATGM meanwhile was mitigated by the BRAT tiles on the turret. You can read more bout these defensive measures for the Bradley here.

NATO is heralding the start of its first exercise that will involve Finland as a regular member nation. Beginning today, Exercise Nordic Response 2024 will involve more than 20,000 soldiers from 13 nations and last almost two weeks. It will take place in the northern regions of Finland, Norway, and Sweden and will include cross-border operations in the Arctic Circle.

“For the first time, Finland will participate as a NATO member nation in exercising collective defense of the alliance’s regions,” the Finnish Defense Forces said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Sweden said that around of its 4,500 personnel will take part in the drill. Last week, Hungary’s parliament approved Sweden’s NATO accession, clearing the last hurdle before that country also joins the alliance — probably this month.

Finland joined NATO in April last year.

Traditionally, NATO held a biannual drill known as Cold Response, focusing on the Arctic extremes of northern Norway.

“Thanks to the NATO expansion with Finland and eventually Sweden, we are now expanding the exercise to a Nordic Response,” the Norwegian Armed Forces said on its website.

“The High North represents an important and strategically located area for NATO” and the Nordic Response 2024 exercise “increases Nordic preparedness and the capability to conduct large-scale joint operations in challenging weather and climate,” NATO said on its website.

Nordic Response is one component of the broader Steadfast Defender 24, which is NATO’s biggest exercise in decades, involving as many as 90,000 troops and taking place over several months in response to increasing tensions with Russia.

More footage next of the U.S.-supplied Hydra 70 rocket in action with the Ukrainian Army Aviation branch. In this case, the rockets are being unleashed by a Mi-24P Hind-F helicopter gunship, which is releasing them in a fairly steep climb. Russia and Ukraine have long used these tactics in the conflict, often ejecting infrared decoy flares at the same time; the combination is intended to counter the man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) and longer-range air defense systems that are prevalent on the battlefield.

More Western rockets could be on their way to Ukraine, in the form of Canadian CRV7s. According to reports out of Ukraine, the Canadian government has called for the rapid transfer of all stocks of decommissioned CRV7s held by the Canadian Armed Forces. Reportedly, as many as 83,000 of the weapons could be involved.

While old, CRV7s, if still serviceable, are a very potent weapon indeed, as one former Canadian CF-18 pilot explained to The War Zone recently: “These rockets could be fired from 9,000 to 12,000 feet away, and would hit the target supersonic. They had warheads that would penetrate and then fragment, destroying bunkers, antennae, and buildings, and killing any personnel on site.”

Last week we reported about how two losses to Russia’s fleet of A-50 Mainstay airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, plus another damaged by a drone strike, might have spurred a recent proposal to restart production of these high-value aircraft. The threat that they are now facing is apparently being taken very seriously by Russia, with reports that they are currently no longer flying missions around Ukraine.

In one of its recent intelligence updates, the U.K. Ministry of Defense states that:

“Russia has highly likely grounded the fleet from flying in support of Ukraine operations. This is likely to continue whilst internal investigations take place surrounding the failure to protect another high-value enabler, and how to mitigate the threat Ukrainian air defense continues to pose.”

“The loss of this capability providing daily command and control to Russian air operations highly likely significantly degrades the situational awareness provided to aircrews,” the ministry adds.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense’s Main Directorate of Intelligence, or GUR, has claimed responsibility for what it says was a cyber-attack launched against the servers of the Russian Ministry of Defense. The GUR says the operation provided access to “a bulk of classified service documents,” but has so far not provided further details.

On the Telegram messaging app, the GUR wrote:

Now the Ukrainian Special Service has the information protection and encryption software used by the morph, as well as an array of secret service documents of the Russian Ministry of War.

These are orders, reports, orders, reports, and other documents that circulated between 2,000 structural units of the Russian military service.

The information obtained allows us to establish the complete structure of the system of the Russian Ministry of Defense and its units.

These claims have not been independently verified.

More embarrassment for the Russian Ministry of Defense next, with reports from the country that the latest T-14 Armata tank will not be deployed for combat in Ukraine due to its excessive cost, something that has dogged it in the past, too, as you can read about here.

In a report from the state-run RIA Novosti, Sergey Chemezov, the head of Russia’s Rostec state defense conglomerate, said that the Armata was not likely to be used in the “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine, since it is easier for the Russian Army to purchase cheaper T-90 tanks.

“In terms of functionality, [the T-14] is, of course, much superior to existing tanks, but it is too expensive, so the army is unlikely to use it now. It’s easier for them to buy the same T-90s,” Chemezov told the agency.

While he championed the T-14, Chemezov went on to say that funds were now needed for new weapons. “Now we need money to create new tanks, new weapons, perhaps cheaper ones. Therefore, if there is an opportunity to buy cheaper ones, why not,” he added.

There had been previous unconfirmed accounts that examples of the T-14 might have been deployed in Ukraine, presumably in a combat-trials capacity. This has never been verified.

Among the most recent dramatic pieces of footage to be brought to us via FPV drone is this video, purportedly showing an attack on Russian infantry by the Ukrainian Azov Assault Brigade. The Russians try and defend themselves with whatever they have to hand but to no avail.

An FPV drone is again at the center of events in the next video, which purports to show the last moments of a group of Russian soldiers who try and take cover in a damaged BTR-series armored personnel carrier. The FPV drone strikes home with accuracy, leading to a catastrophic explosion that sends the turret flying hundreds of feet.

More one-way attack drones are also set to arrive in Ukraine before too long, this time being provided by France. Reports suggest that the first batch of 100 from an eventual total of 2,000 of the kamikaze drones should be delivered to Ukraine this summer.

While drones may be a fairly new development on the battlefield, certainly in the numbers we are seeing in Ukraine, using simple devices to puncture the tires of the enemy’s wheeled vehicles has been a nuisance for military forces since the start of mechanized warfare. Reportedly, Ukraine is now dropping so-called “mini-hedgehogs” from drones, to disrupt the logistics efforts that support Russian troops. More in the video below:

As Ukraine looks forward to receiving its first F-16 fighters, possibly even before the end of this year, there are reports that Ukrainian pilots have begun training against both aerial and ground targets. The nature of this training has not been revealed, but, if the case, it’s evidence of the fact that Kyiv intends to use the aircraft for both defensive and offensive missions. So far, there are no details about the kinds of weapons that will supplied alongside the jets, but you can read more about the various options here.

We finish our coverage for the day by looking back 10 years, with the following video that shows the moments immediately before the first shots were fired in the wider Russia-Ukraine war, on March 4, 2014. Carrying a Ukrainian flag and a Soviet-era victory banner, the unarmed soldiers, led by Col. Yuliy Mamchur, marched toward armed Russian troops who were blocking access to the airbase at Belbek in Crimea.

The Russian troops fired warning shots as Mamchur and his regiment approached and, although the Russian troops eventually withdrew, the fate of Crimea, and Ukraine in general, had been set.

That’s it for now.

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Thomas Newdick

Staff Writer

Thomas is a defense writer and editor with over 20 years of experience covering military aerospace topics and conflicts. He’s written a number of books, edited many more, and has contributed to many of the world’s leading aviation publications. Before joining The War Zone in 2020, he was the editor of AirForces Monthly.