A Canadian-donated weapon might have destroyed a cutting-edge Russian tank in Ukraine

Tank destroyed with the same anti-tank weapon sent to Ukraine by Canada in invasion’s first days

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As Ukrainian forces celebrated their destruction of Russia’s most cutting-edge battle tank, there’s a tiny chance that they did it with Canadian-donated weaponry.

Drone footage released this week by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense purports to show their forces destroying a Russian T-90M tank in the country’s northeast.

While the Russo-Ukrainian War has seen several hundred Russian tanks knocked out of action by Ukrainian forces, the vast majority of those have been outdated Cold War-era machines. The T-90M is different; It first entered service only after the fall of the Soviet Union, and is generally regarded as the most advanced tank in the arsenal of the Russian Federation. Ukraine has only claimed to have destroyed one other T-90 thus far.

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Ukraine’s ambush on the tank was notable in that it wasn’t performed with guided munitions. Ever since Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukrainian on Feb. 24, the conflict has been heavily defined by Ukraine’s strong reliance on soldier-carried “fire-and-forget” anti-tank missiles.

The most famous of these is the US-made FGM-148 Javelin missile. The Javelin guides itself to a target using onboard computers, and is particularly deadly due to the fact that it’s designed to slam into enemy tanks from above, where their armour is thinnest.

But Ukrainian forces have maintained that the T-90’s fate was sealed by a soldier carrying a simple grenade launcher; A weapon whose technology has remained relatively unchanged since the Second World War.

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In an official statement, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense credited the kill to a round from a Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle, a bazooka-like weapon that fires a rocket-propelled shell. Due to the difficulty in aiming the weapon, it typically has to be fired from incredibly close range.

However, Ukrainian forces may have intentionally opted for the more simplistic Carl Gustaf due to the fact that the T-90 is specially equipped with counter-measures designed to confuse an incoming Javelin. The tank is able to jam the missile’s infrared sensors and obscure its profile with smoke grenades; both measures that would have been useless against the “dumb” Carl Gustaf shell, which simply travels in a straight line until it hits something.

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The Carl Gustaf is made in Sweden by the same company that used to manufacture Saab automobiles. It’s why Ukraine noted the T-90’s destruction alongside a public thank you to “the Swedish people and the King.”

While Sweden did indeed send several thousand anti-tank weapons into Ukraine in the first weeks of the conflict, Carl Gustaf rifles were also among the arms shipments sent by other nations, including Canada.

Two Canadian soldiers fire a Carl Gustaf during an exercise in March, 2021.
Two Canadian soldiers fire a Carl Gustaf during an exercise in March, 2021. Photo by Cpl Hugo Montpetit/Department of Defense

Just four days after the Russian invasion, Canada announced its intention to send 100 Carl Gustaf recoilless rifles to Ukraine, along with 2,000 rounds of grenade ammunition. On April 22, Canada announced that among a shipment of M777 howitzers to Ukraine, they would also be tossing in a few extra Carl Gustafs.

Canada is not special in having Carl Gustafs in its armouries; As one of the world’s cheapest ways to blow up an enemy tank, it’s in use by more than 40 militaries worldwide.

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