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US weapons against Russia

On YouTube this Friday a video was posted in which Syrian rebels seem to have filmed themselves firing a US-made “TOW anti-tank missile” at a Russian T-90 tank for the first time. The strike is said to have happened in the Syrian town called Sheikh Aqil, a suburb just northwest of Aleppo. Mountain Hawks Brigade, a Syrian rebel group uploaded the video, they were seen, fighting near the longsuffering city, it shows fighters coming under fire from the T-90(Vladimir). Shots from the T-90’s top-mounted machine gun pop and whistle overhead, the rebels can be seen adjusting and firing the missile which hits the tank head-on. The $60,000 missile does not destroy the tank, but a crew is seen escaping the vehicle after it is hit, suggesting that it was severely damaged in the explosion. Further reports reveal that the alleged T-90 was saved by its reactive armor that uses explosions to disrupt the supersonic jet of an anti-tank warhead and reduce its impact.

The optically-guided missile approached the partially-covered tank, followed by an explosion and smoke. The result of this attack were less spectacular than seen in many other videos, that show direct hits on T-72,a tank used by the Syrian Army. A TOW customarily devastates its target after a direct hit, causing the ammo to explode and killing the crew. it was the first time an anti-tank weapon was used against an advanced main battle tank(T-90).  It is unclear from the copy whether the T-90 tank, (approx. $4.5million), was operated by Russian soldiers or Bashar al Assad forces. Whoever may have been operating that tank, it highlights the perilous proxy-war being waged by America and Russia in Syria, as weapons are exchanged from both sides to be used against each other.

The Russian T-90 tanks that are fitted with SHTORA were spotted in recent months in Syria, operated by Russian crews. SHTORA is a ‘soft-kill’ active defense system The SHTORA is an electro-optical active-protection system designed to disrupt the missile tracking using EO disruptor. they are covered in what is called “reactive armor.” The armor serves an outer shell to the tank’s hull, when hit, counter-detonates to interrupt the flight of the incoming enemy missile. The T-90’s reactive armor is a more advanced version of the various types found on older Russian and Syrian tanks.

Russian involvement in Syria

Russia first began pumping equipment and personnel into northern Syria in September 2015. The arrival of the T-90s was the first shipment of its kind in the almost five year-old war. Following in November, the tanks appeared to the east of Latakia, near Aleppo. Almost simultaneously a report from Al-Masdar Al-‘Arabi news indicated that a small detachment of T-90s was given to a Syrian Army mechanized unit to aid the current offensive setups in the region. The presence of Russian T-90 tanks in Syria was first reported by Turkish and Iranian media and was later confirmed by sources in the Russian Defense Ministry. This tank, is one of the newest pieces of military hardware to come into service with the Russian armed forces, and is having its initiation by fire in Syria. “Syrian officers have been shown how the new T-90 anti-missile system causes rockets to veer off course only yards from the tanks when fired directly at them,” Robert Fisk wrote.

The Russian T-90A tank came into service in the year 2004. The T-90A is an advanced version of the T-90 model, known as Vladimir that was created in the 1980-90s on the basis of the T-72B tank. It was termed Vladimir in honor of the tank’s chief designer Vladimir Potkin.

The BGM-71 TOW is a senior wire-guided anti-tank missile system that the US has been supplying to CIA assessed Syrian rebels. After its  first appearance in 2014, the missiles have popped up all over the battle-weary country, often in videos showing rebels attacking Syrian troops and government-backed militias.