Ukraine’s new ‘Frankenstein’ tank will put the fear of God into Putin


Since the first great tank battle at Cambrai on November 20, 1917, the great and the good have foretold the end of these armoured beasts. Yet over 100 years later, the metal box with tracks and a gun is still tearing up the battlefields of eastern Europe. The adaptability of the basic tank platform is as valuable today as it was at Cambrai.

Ukraine has upended assumptions about the future of warfare. In the West, we “armchair generals” have viewed technology as the route to victory. Our own Ministry of Defence may have taken this too far, and a new government will need to address it as a matter of urgency. Ground war in Europe with Russia is still a possibility, but hardly a reality with our 100 tanks and 70,000 soldiers.

The new scourge of mass drone attacks is focusing minds. Our Defence Science and Technology Laboratory seems to have an answer with its “Dragon Fire” laser system, which can shoot down multiple drones at £10 a shot, but not for a few years. The Germans, masters of armoured warfare development, may have come up with a viable solution: the “Frankenstein” tank which is apparently already on its way to Ukraine.

This modified Leopard 1 tank, with a 35mm Skymaster automatic machine gun, will strike fear into Vladimir Putin’s heart. Most importantly it is ready soon, can shoot down multiple drones at low cost, is highly mobile, and provides a high level of protection to the crew. We have also already seen 35mm calibre guns on other vehicles take out Russian tanks on multiple occasions.

Using expensive missiles to shoot down thousands of cheap drones is unsustainable, and has been exploited by the Russian invaders. But this tank, with thousands of rounds of cheap ammunition, can take on the task. Another important element is that Rheinmetall, the tank manufacturer, has opened a workshop in Ukraine. This is a vital step towards giving Kyiv what it needs to win: producing and repairing weaponry in-country, rather than relying on costly, sometimes delayed, imports.

This could tip the balance in Ukraine’s favour as much as any weapon in the coming months. It seems likely that, “he who wins the drone battle will win this war”. At the moment Ukraine seems more adept and innovative in this area, and the advent of this tank could not only help spur on the ground forces to victory but also protect the towns and villages which are so often indiscriminately attacked by Russian drones.

The Frankenstein tank makes complete sense on the modern battlefield; it may be not a tank in the purest sense, but we tank men down the ages like to think we are flexible and adaptable. We did after all get off our horses in the First World War, to the huge chagrin of many.

Let us hope the designers of our “new” model army and our “new” Challenger 3 tank are taking note in Whitehall and Westminster.

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