The open source intelligence (OSINT) site Oryx says that Russia has captured at least six Ukrainian T-72AMT tanks, the Kyiv Armored Plant’s 2017 upgrade of the T-72 main battle tank (MBT).

Video footage posted on social media shows Russian forces experimenting with what appears to be a remotely controlled tank. Military commentary sites such as The Warzone and Army Recognition say it is a captured T-72AMT MBT.

It is not clear when or where the footage was taken, how authentic or capable the remote-control system is, or what Russian forces would use such converted tanks for.

Footage suggests that the tank has been set up as a “First Person View” (FPV) vehicle. It begins with a forward-facing view from inside the crew compartment which zooms out to show the same view on a headset display worn carried by a Russian soldier.

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The view then switches to show the soldier standing next to what appears to be an elevated mast on the edge of a field and apparently using a commercial remote controller to move the vehicle backwards and forwards and then to rotate the turret. It is unclear from the footage if any weapons on the tank can be fired remotely.

Potential purpose of the modified tank

It is not clear if the addition of the remote-control capability is anything other than an experiment to prove it can be done or whether Russia has some operational use in mind.

The FPV capability suggests it might be used for basic, if dangerous, tasks such as being filled with large amounts of explosives to charge a defensive position or then be detonated on command. This has already been tried with manned vehicles, but the driver/operator had to jump out at a safe distance allowing the tank to be intercepted.

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The Sun newspaper suggests it shows desperation on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s behalf who recently acknowledged for the first time the level of manpower and equipment losses during “meatgrinder” situations on the front line. If this type of conversion proves successful, it could be applied to other tanks and armored vehicles in the future.

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It could also signal yet another example of how Russia has had to adapt its way of doing things because of the impact of drones, loitering munitions and mines in its disastrous full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Past use of remote-controlled tanks

Remote-controlled tanks have been used in the past. The Soviets deployed two battalions of “Teletanks,” somewhat unsuccessfully, during the 1939 winter invasion of Finland.

Remote-controlled armored vehicles like the Slovakian Bozena and Germany’s Minewolf have been used in landmine-clearing operations, but they were specifically designed for that task and are fitted with flails or tillers to clear mines as they advance. The tank shown in the video seems to be otherwise unmodified and is still fitted with its main armament.

The US army modified M60A3 tanks for mine clearance in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq, fitted with mine clearance rollers and plows and could be operated by an on-board crew or remotely in highly dangerous locations.

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