The war in Ukraine showed how vulnerable main battle tanks are. But without them, no offensives are possible. The star spoke to British military expert Nicolas Drummond about modern land warfare and why there will be no victory without heavy tracked vehicles.

This is the second part of the interview with military expert Nicholas Drummond. Part 1 can be found here: “To retake territory, Kyiv must master modern blitzkrieg”

Ukraine was able to repel the Russian invasion because it offered little resistance on open ground and held Russia’s mechanized troops in the Kyiv suburbs. Certainly the lack of infantry accounted for the Russian losses. But confusing built-up areas are always unfavorable terrain for heavy equipment. What does this mean for Ukraine?

We have seen in Ukraine that the war in the cities is mainly waged by dismounted infantry fighting from street to street, from house to house and from room to room. Any defender who knows what they’re doing will set up obstacles that will prevent armored vehicles from advancing. That’s exactly what the Ukrainians did in Mariupol. It was like Stalingrad.

A so-called “rat war” and yet armored vehicles were not also used in Stalingrad and Mariupol to support the infantry?

Tank guns and armored personnel carriers with 30mm guns can be very useful, for example to eliminate snipers. You don’t have to figure out which window a defender is shooting from, you just destroy the entire building. The Americans used this tactic extensively in Iraq.

8×8 wheeled tanks find their place in urban warfare. They are much quieter than tracked vehicles. They cause less damage to the roads and can be used to quickly reinforce crucial areas by avoiding obstacles. Heavy tanks can still come in handy when an army needs to clear a city. They can negotiate debris better than wheeled vehicles. Armored vehicles equipped with mine plows and bulldozers are good at clearing debris and obstacles. When clearing a path under fire, protection is likely to be important.

Should Kyiv receive the Leopard II, the question arises as to which variant it will receive. It’s tempting to only give out the oldest models. But wouldn’t it be important to deliver new models?

The leopard would be of great importance to Ukraine. Even if older Leopard 2A5s or A6s are donated, these early versions are still excellent main battle tanks. All Leopard upgrades are modular, older vehicles can easily be upgraded to the latest build standard. So it doesn’t really matter which versions are donated. It would be relatively easy to add new modular armor, improved fire control systems, and other improvements.

High fighting power of the Leopard 2

How do you rate the fighting power of the Leopard 2?

The Leopard 2 is currently the best main battle tank in the world. The latest A7A1 variant with the Trophy Active Protection System is far more survivable than any Russian tank, including the T-90M. It has been suggested that the T-14 might be superior to Armata, but so far the T-14 is little more than a prototype. The M1 Abrams is every bit as good as a Leopard in terms of firepower and protection. But its gas turbine is still extremely thirsty. Despite the addition of an auxiliary power unit, it remains a tank that is difficult to maintain.

But we also saw that the Leopard 2 is not invulnerable.

After the destruction of the Turkish Leopard 2A4 in 2018, Leopard was said to be vulnerable at the front. But where the cartridges are stored is the most protected part of the tank, especially on the A6 and up models that have extra side protection.

The Leopard 2A4s were deployed unprotected in Syria. The crew is also said to have left important protective sheets open. Is there an alternative to the Leopard 2? There are only a little more than 200 copies of the Challenger 2.

Ultimately, only the M1 Abrams can match the mobility, firepower and protection of the Leopard 2. As I said, the Abrams’ problem, which Poland has yet to discover, remains that its gas turbine is so extremely thirsty. This means a much greater logistical effort and higher operating costs.

With almost 2000 liters in the tank, the Abrams does not manage 150 kilometers off-road. Mr Drummond, earlier you recalled a quote from Stalin: “Quantity has its own quality”. Take a shot in the dark: how many main battle tanks and armored personnel carriers does Kyiv need to be able to conduct major offensives in the spring?

Kyiv has said it needs 300 main battle tanks to launch its own offensive. With this number, Ukraine would have two armored divisions or six armored regiments of 44 tanks each, plus one training regiment. Ukraine has already rededicated about 500 Russian tanks, so it appears that they need a total of 1,000 tanks. The superiority of Western and NATO tanks over Russian T-72s means that 300 Leopard, Challenger and other tanks are likely to suffice.

Decisive counter-offensive

We are talking about the period from spring to early summer in Ukrainian offensive operations. And Russia is also preparing an offensive. Will there be a clash of armies, a “Clash of the Titans”? Or will Ukraine wait for the chance of a counter-offensive to launch a “backhand strike” in the style of the German strategist von Manstein?

I believe that in March or April this year Russia will launch a major spring offensive. Moscow will mainly use inexperienced troops with older T-62 and T-55 tanks. Ukraine must withstand all attacks. It will be Putin’s last gamble. Everything on one card. Putin will press with whatever he has left. In other words, I see this as a defensive battle for Ukraine, not an offensive battle. This means that at the moment artillery and ATGM are more important than tanks.

In this first phase, Kyiv would have to keep their nerve and hold back their own offensive forces. So that they can attack in phase II.

Yes, if Ukraine can successfully repel another Russian attack, it will be in a good position to launch its own counteroffensive. For this they need our tanks and armored personnel carriers. Our tanks, or for your readers, your Leopard 2, will finish Putin off. It will be a defeat for Russia. If Ukraine can retake Crimea and Donbass, and this phase claims another 50,000-70,000 Russian casualties, it will hurt Putin personally and politically. He will be forced to retreat. He might even be overthrown. Or there could be an uprising in Russia.

In all likelihood, if Putin falls, a peaceful government with completely different values ​​will not succeed.

The problem is that whoever comes after Putin will come from his current inner circle. These people will share the same values, the same beliefs, and the same goals. Yes, Russia will want to conquer Ukraine even without Putin. It will use any peace deal to regroup, rearm, retrain and then try again. Russia will continue to pose a threat to Europe until it is a fully democratic state. We have ignored this – and so we are in danger.

This is the second part of the interview with military expert Nicholas Drummond. Part 1 can be found here: “To retake territory, Kyiv must master modern blitzkrieg”

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