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Ukrainian Soldiers Abandon Leopard 2A6 Tanks Offering Russian Forces a Chance for Recovery

According to a post published on the Russian social network VK, dated December 28, 2023, three Ukrainian vehicles were seen abandoned on the front, presumably following Russian strikes. These vehicles include a Bergepanzer 3 recovery vehicle and two Leopard 2A6 main battle tanks, which were discussed for their quality on Army Recognition precisely on December 28, 2023. This action provides a unique opportunity for Russia to capture this high-tech equipment and to study these vehicles, which are considered to be at the cutting edge of technology.
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Three vehicles, including a Bergepanzer 3 recovery vehicle and two Leopard 2A6 main battle tanks, could be abandoned in Ukraine. (Picture source: Russian social media)

Ukraine has suffered significant losses in military equipment in the ongoing conflict. These images could confirm the loss of these three armored vehicles. However, the subsequent events remain unclear. An overview of these vehicles and the number sent to Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict will be conducted.

The Bergepanzer 3 Büffel, jointly developed by Germany and the Netherlands, is based on the chassis of the Leopard 2 tank. This armored recovery vehicle has a 270° swiveling crane with a 30-ton lifting capacity, a main winch with a 35-ton pulling force, and a support and clearing blade. Its design allows for the recovery of damaged vehicles under armored protection, a crucial asset on the battlefield.

Weighing 54 tons in combat and with a maximum speed of 68 km/h on roads, the Büffel is powered by a 1500 hp MTU MB 873 Ka 501 diesel engine. It is also armed with a 7.62 mm MG3 machine gun for close defense and has NBC protection systems and fire extinguishing capabilities. This vehicle might have been sent to recover one of the two Leopard 2A6 tanks but was also neutralized.

The Leopard 2 is a third-generation main battle tank developed by Krauss-Maffei in the 1970s, entering service in 1979. The Leopard 2A6 is an advanced version equipped with a 120 mm smoothbore cannon and state-of-the-art composite armor.

Weighing 62.3 tons, the Leopard 2A6 can reach a speed of 70 km/h with its V12 MTU diesel engine. Its operational capability and effective armament have made it popular among several armed forces worldwide, including the Ukrainian forces which have recently lauded its advanced capabilities. It has been deployed in various conflicts, including in Afghanistan and Syria.

Available information suggests that Ukraine has received a limited number of these vehicles from its Western partners. The potential loss of the Bergepanzer 3 Büffel, if confirmed, could indicate that Ukraine has lost all the units provided to date.

To date, Ukraine is reported to have received 21 Leopard 2A6 tanks, but according to several OSINT sources, Ukraine has seen 12 of its 21 German tanks neutralized. This means that it has, in operational condition, only 9 remaining. This is still a limited number to significantly impact the battlefield, despite the quality of the tanks.

Strategically, it is preferable to see a vehicle destroyed rather than captured by enemy forces. It's not well understood why Ukrainian forces did not throw a grenade to cause the destruction of the tanks and thus prevent their capture by Russian forces, perhaps in the hope of recovering the vehicles. In any case, this action offers the Russians a chance to capture and conduct reverse engineering on vehicles considered to be at the cutting edge of technology. This could significantly improve future Russian tanks, especially in the design of their armor. This hypothesis is not far-fetched because Russia has previously captured a Swedish CV9040 tracked armored IFV (Infantry Fighting Vehicle) and is now studying it to improve their future equipment.

The abandonment of advanced military equipment on the battlefield, such as the Bergepanzer 3 Büffel and the Leopard 2A6 tanks, highlights the challenges Ukraine faces in the ongoing conflict. These losses, especially those of the recently acquired Leopard 2A6s, could have significant implications for the operational capabilities of the Ukrainian forces.

For the moment, Ukraine continues to receive international support, but this could change in the coming months with events like the presidential elections in the United States, for example. Therefore, the management and protection of these high-tech equipment are crucial for maintaining the effectiveness of the Ukrainian forces in the field and preventing a technological leap for Russian forces. It remains to be seen whether Ukraine will be able to recover these vehicles or if Russian forces will capture them.


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