Ukraine captures tanks from Russians, which you only notice when the shot is fired”

Ukrainian military examine a Russian T-72 tank in the Donetsk region in April 2022

“Russia is competing with Western countries that supply arms to Ukraine,” jokes Colonel Oleksandr Zaruba of the Center for Investigating Captured Weapons of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. It’s about Russian weapons and equipment captured by the Ukrainian military and now being used in the war.

Ukraine currently has more than 800 of these. Among them are artillery systems, tanks, armored personnel carriers, personnel carriers and many other vehicles. Even a mobile sauna is one of the treasures. It also includes equipment used in combat missions, such as electronic warfare and air defense.

However, “small” weapons such as machine guns and grenade launchers, which number in the thousands, are collected the most.

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Most often, such weapons are captured during offensive operations of the Ukrainian armed forces. The faster the Ukrainian army advances, the more likely it is to find equipment with minimal damage. Because the Russian soldiers would often simply leave the device behind, for example due to minor defects, explains Saruba.

According to him, everything depends on the state of a specific weapon: when it is usable, it is registered with the military unit and released for use on the battlefield. Or it will be repaired first. If the military has no experience in handling the weapon, they will be trained accordingly.

Howitzers, ammunition and lots of tanks for Ukraine

During the liberation of Izyum in the Kharkiv region, the Ukrainian 95th airborne brigade captured a Grad multiple rocket launcher system, says a soldier of the brigade, nicknamed “Pirate”. However, the system had to be repaired first and now it is already in combat use. At Izyum, the brigade was also able to get hold of a modernized Russian howitzer of the type 2A65 “Msta-B”, which was still being developed in Soviet times.

More than 300 Russian tanks captured

The brigade also found appropriate ammunition. “Translating across the Oskil River, we looked for possible positions, wheeled around and collected. There were hundreds and hundreds of pieces of ammunition,” says another soldier in the brigade.

Russian tanks make up a significant part of the captured weapons. Currently there are more than 300, which would be enough to supply ten tank battalions, explains the expert Oleksandr Saruba. Several Russian T-72 tanks were intercepted by the Ukrainian 92nd Mechanized Brigade in an offensive near Kupyansk in the Kharkiv region.

Among them are the latest of the T-72 B3M type, which were modernized in 2014 and 2015, reports the brigade’s tank driver, nicknamed “Chicago”. “Compared to our T-64s that we still fight with, their tanks are more mobile and faster. In terms of characteristics, the T-72 is much better, more maneuverable, has more armor,” the soldier said.

In battle, the Ukrainian military uses all the tanks at its disposal, both its own and captured ones. “The T-64 hums so loud you can hear it three to four kilometers away, but the T-72 is quieter so you can get close to the enemy who won’t notice the tank until the first shot,” explains Chicago “.

Looking for the latest technologies

However, trophies are not only captured weapons that can be reused, but also destroyed military equipment, debris, the remains of missiles and combat drones and descriptions of them – that is, everything that allows you to examine the enemy’s weapons and use this knowledge, to develop tactics, means and countermeasures.

This is one of the tasks of his center, says Oleksandr Saruba. The latest technologies that Ukraine itself could use in the development of weapons are also being sought.

In fact, there are also interesting discoveries, such as the Russian “Strelets” reconnaissance system. This is a computer distributed throughout the vest worn by the fighter and linked to a range finder, a transmitter and a digital information transmission system. It can be used directly on the battlefield for target reconnaissance and real-time data transmission to weapon systems.

According to Saruba, the Russian developers claim that with the help of this computer about 40 percent of the targets at the line of contact are detected. Although he considers this information to be exaggerated, he emphasizes that from a technological point of view this is an “interesting find”.

More interesting things can be found not only in electronic devices, but also in Russian armored vehicles. According to Zaruba, since the Russian Federation cooperated with many countries on the technical modernization of their weapons before 2014, today Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers have the latest sights and modern electronics made in other countries.

Russian missiles, too, often contain foreign components — mostly microelectronics, optics, and electric motors, says Saruba. “For example, the Ch-101 missile, which is most commonly used against Ukraine, contains about 53 components, such as microchips and other parts, that are made abroad. This applies to the entire range of cruise missiles and ballistic missiles. Foreign-made components are really in all the enemy’s artillery systems, electronic warfare and air defense means,” Saruba stresses.

Documentation for further sanctions

The Ukrainian Center for Investigating Captured Weapons has noted that the Russian Federation situationally adjusts its production based on the components it owns or receives. For example, programmable logic integrated circuits are used, which are widely used and can be programmed for any device – be it a washing machine or a rocket.

In the meantime, ordinary video or photo cameras, which were actually developed for video surveillance in the home, are also installed in “Orlan-10” type reconnaissance drones.

“As the world is globalized, the elements are standardized and the manufacturers of these electronic components are interchangeable,” says Saruba. His center repeatedly discovers components of foreign origin in Russian weapons and documents this. According to the Center, this is evidence on which the next sanctions against the Russian Federation could be based.

Adaptation from the Ukrainian: Markian Ostapchuk

Author: Daria Nynko

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The original of this article “What weapons Ukraine is looting from Russia” comes from Deutsche Welle.

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