In a video posted on social media Monday morning, a Russian MT-LB, a light towing vehicle, could be seen trying to take cover near a line of trees when it is targeted by a Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicle. The commercial, off-the-shelf drone proceeded to drop a small bomb, which destroyed the vehicle.
The 30-second clip was posted on Twitter by @NOELreports, which regularly tracks conflict zones.
The video hasn’t been independently verified, but the vehicle would be just the latest out of dozens of MT-LBs destroyed in recent weeks.
Russian forces continue to use the vehicles close to the front lines without adequate support, even though the MT-LBs are lightly armed and armored.
Russia’s Light Towing Vehicle
Russia has operated its light-purpose towing vehicles since the early 1970s and has thousands in service. Interestingly, the vehicles were initially produced at the Kharkiv Tractor Plant, now in Ukraine. The MT-LB was designed to tow a trailer or a weapon of up to 6,500 kg, or to carry up to 2,000 kg of equipment. Alternatively, a total of 11 soldiers can be carried inside the hull. They can enter and leave the vehicle through two doors at the rear.
However, it was not really designed as an armored personnel carrier, and instead was developed as a multi-purpose tracked carrier that could be adapted to provide a number of armored support vehicle roles. The vehicle has a hull of all-welded steel armor, while the MT-LB was designed to be fully amphibious and can be propelled in the water by its tracks.
A number of variants of the MT-LB were produced, and most were equipped with a turret from the Soviet BTR-80. The main armament typically consisted of a 7.62mm PKT machine gun, while some variants could also be armed with an AGS-17 30 mm automatic grenade launcher.
During the Soviet era, the MT-LB served in various roles. It was first employed in combat in the Soviet-Afghan War, where it was used as a frontline load carrier for anything from ammunition to fuel, as well as a mobile platform for numerous weapons systems. It served as the basis for a self-propelled 122 mm howitzer. In Ukraine, Russia has primarily used it as an APC, although it was reported earlier this year that the Kremlin’s forces had welded a few World War II-era gun mounts — originally built to arm patrol boats — on the MT-LB chassis to employ it as an assault vehicle.
It is unclear how the MT-LB seen in the recent video was being employed, but it likely was serving as an APC to move troops near the front lines.
Ukraine Special Forces Hit Back
Ukraine’s elite 73rd Naval Special Purpose Center conducted the drone strike seen in the video. This is a military intelligence unit that is structurally part of the Ukrainian Special Operations Forces. Often referred to as Spetsnaz, the same as Russia’s elite forces, the unit is broadly equivalent to the United State Navy SEALs or the British Special Boat Service.
The elite forces continue to use drone attacks to hit Russian vehicles near the frontlines. They also engage in other special forces operations. Troops from the 73rd Naval Special Purpose Center were responsible for the attack on occupied Snake Island last summer.
The 73rd Naval Special Operations Center destroyed a Russian MTLB. pic.twitter.com/V3UnbytfrQ
— NOELREPORTS ???????? ???????? (@NOELreports) May 8, 2023
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.