In what is becoming a regular feature of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a weapon billed by the Kremlin as unstoppable has been… stopped.

The latest example is the BMPT Terminator, Moscow’s much-lauded infantry fighting vehicle, a unit of which has been taken out by a swarm of Ukrainian kamikaze drones.

A remarkable video was released by Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) which carried it out the operation in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk Oblast. 

The BMPT is seen firing at unseen targets before being hit by two drones. The crew then appear to flee and a rescue tank is sent to retrieve it – not surprising as it is only one of nine the Russian army still has left in Ukraine and the Kremlin would not want something containing Moscow’s most cutting-edge military tech (more on that below) to fall into enemy hands.

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Unfortunately, the rescue vehicle is then disabled by another strike and further barrage of Ukrainian drones batter both targets as Russian soliders run around trying to work out what to do.

In a post on Telegram accompanying the vehicle, the SBU wrote: “This rare copy of the enemy's defense was burned by just a few hits of kamikaze drones.

“They tried to pull out the downed ‘Terminator’ with the help of a T-80 tank, but... it was also hit by SBU special forces!”

Russian official media narratives had held that the BMPT Terminator, an infantry fighting vehicle built on Russia’s brand-new Armata T-14 tank chassis, was impervious to practically any NATO weapon short of a main gun anti-tank round at close range, and superior to any troop carrier in the world.

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The Special Operations Forces of Ukraine reported that newly developed drones have enabled them to take out four anti-aircraft missile complexes in less than a month, paving the way for F-16s.

According to its designers, the Terminator’s mission is to carry Russian infantry safely into assault and to overwhelm the opposition with superior optics and massive firepower.

Supposedly unbeatable

The Kremlin had held off from committing its advanced Terminator infantry fighting vehicle to combat in Ukraine but, in January, Russian state-controlled media reported a reverse to that policy, it said, because of an upcoming Moscow offensive in the north-eastern Kreminne sector.

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Equipped with paired 30mm cannon, twin automatic grenade launchers, four long-range missiles, a remote-control turret and a machine gun, and named after the cyborg made popular by Hollywood heavyweight actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the fighting vehicle was considered ideal for assaulting Ukrainian infantry deeply dug in the Kreminne sector’s predominating forests and rolling hills, according to Russian state television on Jan. 28. 

In a broadcast across Russia’s 11 time zones, Russian war correspondent Dmitry Kul’ko and Russia’s state-run television channel Pervyi Kanal told its viewers the Terminator was a weapons system the Ukrainians had little chance against.

“Grenade launchers, missiles, cannons, machine guns, all this stuff on the Terminator isn’t there to be pretty in parades, it’s that in these line of attack in heavy woods, this kind of ferocious arsenal is just irreplaceable,” Kul’ko enthused, as twin 30mm cannon chewed away at an open spot in some woods and rock and roll music played in the background.

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“The 7.62mm machine gun pumps out such a wall of fire that the enemy simple has no chance of shooting back. It [the Terminator] can comb an entire wood line on the move, without changing direction. The automatic grenade launchers work at the same time [as the cannon] and can fire from two directions.”

Russia, according to Kremlin claims, began fielding the Terminator in 2018. It has manufactured more than 300 infantry fighting vehicles, and even sold some to Algeria and Kazakhstan.

The Ukrainian defense and security establishment estimated the real number of vehicles manufactured by Russia to be less than 100, and the count of Terminators actually operated by the Russian military at one or two dozen.

The rhetoric surrounding the Terminator and its supposed invulnerability is reminiscent of that surrounding Russia’s ‘hypersonic’ Kinzhal cruise missiles which have been roundly defeated time and time again by US-supplied Patriot air defense systems.

And the latest BMPT video isn’t even the first time one has been knocked out in Ukraine – a combat video made public by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry in February from the north-eastern Kreminne sector showed an apparently unmanned but fully intact Terminator stationary on a dirt road in a forest.

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After two howitzer rounds explode near the vehicle, a direct hit touches off a massive blast, followed by a fire and secondary explosion in the back of the Terminator. Telemetry data on the video are consistent with recordings made by a long-range, military-grade drone.

 Yury Butusov, a high-profile Ukrainian combat correspondent said Ukrainian troops in the Kreminne sector used the drone to call down artillery fire including a NATO-standard M982 155mm precision-guided howitzer shell on the Terminator, ultimately destroying it.

The owner of the first Terminator lost by Russia in combat was an infantry formation in Russia’s elite 90th Tank Division, he said.

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