AT4 to the rescue: Video footage shared online this week shows Ukrainian forces striking what could be an abandoned T-72B-series Russian tank using an AT-4 AT launcher. The footage, recorded by a rotary-blade drone, starts by showing Ukrainian soldiers walking across a farm field towards a tank located at the edge of a forest.
— BlueSauron👁️ (@Blue_Sauron) September 16, 2022
The soldiers, presumably unaware of whether the tank still posed a danger, then use the AT4 launcher to immobilize the tank.
“Remarkable footage of Ukrainian troops striking a Russian main battle in tank,” war analysis Twitter account BlueSauron writes.
What Is the AT-4 AT Launcher?
In the video, one of the soldiers can be seen disposing of the AT4 weapon after using it, leaving it lying on the ground. While it might look a little odd, the weapon is actually designed to only be used once.
The Swedish-manufactured AT4 is a disposable anti-tank launcher designed to be fired by a single soldier from over the shoulder. The launcher is manufactured by Saab Bofors Dynamics.
Technically, it isn’t a rocket launcher as the warhead fired from the launcher is not powered by a rocket motor.
Since the launcher is designed to be single-use, troops are not required to load the device. It is simply stored and used when necessary. By nature of being single-use, the AT4 can be manufactured using cheaper and less durable materials. It is a cost-effective and convenient anti-tank missile that has been used widely throughout the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
What is the T-72B?
The T-72B is one of a number of variants of the T-72, a Soviet-era tank that has been in service since 1973.
The T-72B variant was originally developed in 1985 and featured a newer, improved gun as well as a stabilizer, fire control system, and sights. In 2010, the T-72B3 model was developed and manufactured in large quantities. This later model included a new digital VGF radio, a multi-channel gunner’s sight, and an improved autoloader.
In 2016, the even newer T-72B3 model was fitted with Relikt explosive reactive armor, designed to protect the vehicle from anti-tank missiles.
It is unclear what model of the T-72B can be seen in the video, but presuming that the AT4 fully immobilized or destroyed the vehicle, it is likely a pre-2016 model. That wouldn’t be particularly surprising given Russia’s continued use of Soviet-era weaponry and inability to manufacture sufficient numbers of newer, more capable weapons.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.