Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute focused on Russian defense policy, has gained a sizable Twitter following throughout the Russo-Ukraine War.
In a new post from March 18, Lee posted four videos along with the caption: “Videos from the past few weeks of Ukrainian SBU Alpha UAVs dropping munitions of Russian armor and a loitering munition strike (likely with a PG-7 round) on a Russian tank.”
The first three videos in the post are all very similar and feature gun-sight footage from Ukrainian drones.
The videos, each in thermal imaging, show a Russian tank held within the drone’s crosshairs.
After a few moments, a munition is seen entering the frame, descending towards the tank.
When the munition makes contact, the tank erupts in a white flash of light.
The fourth video is distinct from the first three.
It is shot from the onboard camera of a loitering munition and shown in standard color vision.
The loitering munition tracks back and forth, two of its rotors cutting into the field of vision.
When the loitering munition sights a Russian tank moving down a snowy road, the munition cuts back and begins tracking the tank.
The loitering munition descends upon the tank, moving closer and closer. The feed cuts out when the munition is just feet away from the tank.
Presumably, the munition struck the tank, killing the feed.
Who is SBU Alpha?
Lee’s caption credits the drone strikes to Ukrainian SBU Alpha.
Who is that? Special Group “Alpha” is an elite Ukrainian Spetsnaz group, a branch of the Security Service of Ukraine that succeeded the Soviet Union’s Alpha Group.
The contemporary Alpha Group is one of the Ukrainian military’s elite special forces units.
Russian Tank Losses
If the videos are any indication, Alpha appears to be making life difficult for the Russian invaders.
Regardless of Alpha Group’s overall effectiveness, the videos support the narrative that Russia is hemorrhaging tanks.
According to a recent Newsweek article, Russia recently lost 21 tanks, 23 armored personnel carriers, and eight artillery systems in a single day.
“By Ukraine’s count, this brings Russia’s total tank losses to 3,532,” Newsweek reported.
“The Kyiv authorities have repeatedly shared footage on social media of Russian tanks being destroyed.” (Footage that Lee has amplified.) Estimates vary of course, and Ukraine’s estimate is probably on the high end.
“Dutch open-source verification outlet Oryx has placed Russia’s visually confirmed tank losses at 1,847.” According to Oryx, 1,101 Russian tanks have been destroyed, while another 550 have been captured.
Whatever the exact number, the pattern is clear: Russia is losing tanks at an unsustainable rate.
According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Russia had “lost up to 50 percent of its key pre-war tank fleet in the first nine months of fighting.” The Institute for the Study of War made a similar report, estimating that Russia had likely “lost half of the tanks it deployed in the war.”
Russia’s former president, Dmitry Medvedev, addressed the tank situation last month, vowing to increase production of modern tanks. “It is clear that in this case, it is natural for us to increase production of various armaments including modern tanks,” Medvedev said. But the question remains: Does Russia have the capacity to produce enough tanks to keep up with attrition rates?
Videos from the past few weeks of Ukrainian SBU Alpha UAVs dropping munitions of Russian armor and a loitering munition strike (likely with a PG-7 round) on a Russian tank. https://t.co/pWAqcbw6Imhttps://t.co/YBHBXgwbaJhttps://t.co/iq52hoJevghttps://t.co/pbqCejRlZd pic.twitter.com/4MSI1qcVkD
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) March 18, 2023
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.