On the Russian Tank Damaged by a US Missile in Syria

Two Russian tanks stand on a military training ground in an undisclosed location in this undated photo. (Getty Images)Two Russian tanks stand on a military training ground in an undisclosed location in this undated photo. (Getty Images)

The incident involving a Russian-made T-90 tank that was struck by a U.S.-made TOW missile in Syria is making headlines again after a picture surfaced allegedly showing the damage.

Last month, a YouTube video was published that depicts a Syrian rebel in Sheikh Aqil, a town near Aleppo, firing a BGM-71 TOW (for tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided) missile at a T-90 tank apparently operated by Syrian forces. The T-90 is Russia’s main battle tank and entered service in the 1990s.

Last week, as reported by War is Boring and The Washington Post, an image was posted on Twitter by a user identified as Qalaat Al Mudiq that appears to show the damaged tracked vehicle.

Indeed, one of the two light boxes affixed on either side of the main gun as part of the “Shtora” electro-optical active protection system is visibly dislodged and dangling from its mount. As readers of this blog pointed out, it appears the frontal reactive armor on the T-90 did more to disrupt the missile than anything else.

And to clear up any confusion, the TOW is wire-guided by the operator and does not need a laser designation. After launching the missile, the operator keeps the sight pointed at the target and two wires trailing the projectile control its trajectory using information from the guidance system.

That means the Shtora as it’s currently known wouldn’t necessarily activate against the wire-guided TOW, but it would against laser-guided AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, MK-80N-series bombs and AGM-65 Maverick missiles.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.