A peculiar Ukrainian military buggy has been spotted being used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to fight off Russian tanks. How do we know that these all-terrain vehicles are blowing up tanks? Well, it has a Stugna-P anti-tank guided missile mounted on top of it. The resourceful Ukrainians are at it again with their unique weapons, with this Stugna-P mounted on a buggy.
It’s no secret that the Ukrainians have been using their ATGM systems to deadly use. The number of tanks destroyed by Ukrainian forces has been well-documented thanks to the internet and military experts who devote their time to identifying each one. A reputable source of these destroyed tanks is Oryx. So far, they have recorded that some 312 Russian tanks have been destroyed during the almost 3-month-old war, with another 17 damaged, 49 abandoned, and a whopping 222 captured. More so, the Russians aren’t looking too good as their tank manufacturer Uralvagonzavod had halted production and servicing due to a low supply of parts and foreign components and they are forced to draw tanks from repair depots and put them back into operational condition.
That being said, it is unknown which tanks were destroyed by which ATGM as Ukraine operates a number of them, among them the Javelins, NLAWs, and the Panzerfaust 3. These weapons have gained national popularity among the normal populace of Ukraine. Both the Javelin and the NLAWs have received “sainthood” status as Ukrainians created imagery of Mary Magdalene carrying a US-made Javelin and another version carrying the British NLAW as symbols of resistance among Ukrainians. This led to a cult following of St. Javelin, a play on sainthood in Christian doctrines and the western weapon that sends their Russian enemies to the afterlife.
While the Ukrainians are 87% affiliated with some form of Christianity, it seems that they pair their prayerful hands with Western ATGMs to destroy their enemies. But of course, while we do have pride with our own Javelins, the Ukrainians do hold their very own Stugna-P in high regard as well.
The Stugna-P or the “Skif” is a Ukrainian-produced anti-tank guided missile that can pierce through modern armored targets, including explosive reactive armor. Utilizing the automated fire-and-forget missile guidance, these weapons carry either 130mm missiles or 152mm missiles and have a range of 3 miles. They have also been employed against helicopters, with reports that a Stugna downed a Russian Kamov Ka-52 attack helicopter.
But with the fighting moving to Donbas, a less wooded area and more open, the Ukrainians do lose some of the stealth tactics they previously employed when destroying Russian convoys, notably the 40-mile Russian convoy that was stuck a few miles outside of Kyiv. One look at the Stugna and you know that it is a heavy and cumbersome weapon to lug along with an infantry squad. This thing is a crew-served weapon requiring 3 people to move and set up and it can’t be much fun to do. The Stugna is not a munition that is discarded after use like a Javelin. It is a recoilless rifle that can be reloaded and fired over and over. It’s really designed for static anti-tank defense from a dug-in position. The crew can remotely operate it from a distance using a hardened laptop tethered to the weapon with a 50-yard cable. The Ukrainians are going over to the offense now and want to bring this weapon with them on the march as they are assured of encountering Russian tanks in superior numbers to their own.
So what did the Ukrainians do? They mounted their Stugna-Ps onto an ATV to enable their troops to hit-and-run Russian armored columns and get away just as fast from their initial firing positions. Pretty resourceful and pretty creative, if we do say so ourselves!
Photos of the military buggy that have surfaced on the internet are likely Polaris Rangers or the MRZR Alpha, two-seater buggies that enable the Ukrainians to move swiftly in and out of firing positions. These little buggies may be small, but it does pull their weight quite literally. The MRZR Alpha built by Polaris has a range of 225 miles with a payload capacity of 1,400 lbs. Users can also get a 2WD variant or a 4WD one. The Polaris Ranger has only 44hp but has a reported towing capacity of 1,500 lbs for just under $12,000.
So, let’s do some basic math: If a Polaris Ranger costs $12,000 and the Stugna-P is at $20,000 (compared to the Javelin at $178,000 per set), you have a very mobile tank killer at just $32,000. The Ukrainian military will be saving a huge ton of money by destroying these Russian tanks, which have an estimated price of around $2,000,000 per unit depending on the variant and the contract.
The first of these Ukrainian military buggies were spotted in 2019, where various Ukrainian ATVs were seen with 9M113 Konkurs ATGM upgraded with an Archer TSA-9 thermal scope as per Abraxas Spa on Twitter.
We see some obvious advantages to this system right away. The ATVs are small and light and while they may not do as well off-road as a tank, they can be more easily extracted from the mud than a tracked vehicle for sure. They are also quite having a small displacement gas or diesel engine that could be made more so a couple of mufflers packed with steel wool added to their exhaust tips. These Stug-Buggies can also dismount their Stugnas for static defense and a lower profile and use the buggie as a scout or to evacuate casualties and bring back supplies.
Now, along with these advantages, there are some limitations as well. For one, while it’s ideal for hit-and-runs attacks at a distance, the moment a tank or an armed drone spots these buggies, they are in trouble offering zero protection for the crew and no countermeasures smoke dispensers, or reactive armor. In the flat country of Donbas, they will also stick out like a sore thumb out in a field and will have to stick to roads and trails with vegetation to hide and conceal them. The Russians will get used to looking for them in certain terrains.
Some of our military vets and servicemen would recognize the familiar military buggies. These are quite similar to the Desert Patrol Vehicles (DPV) (or the Fast Attack Vehicles) used in combat during the Gulf War in 1991, specifically during Operation Desert Storm. If you’d remember correctly, these DPVs were used by the Navy SEALs to enter Kuwait City. However, these were armed with .50 caliber M2 Browning machine guns, two M60s, and 2 M136 AT4 anti-tank weapons.
We also marvel at how fast these things came into use. In the US, it takes years of testing, redesigns, and tweaks to get something like this into operational units at the target cost, but Ukraine is at war and things tend to happen much faster with that kind of urgency.
That being said, US Special Forces have been advising and training Ukrainian Special Forces units for years and these Stug-Buggies bare the unmistakable marks of this influence. It isn’t talked about very much but this war is an incubator for Special Forces weapons and tactics as an entire population tries to defeat a large conventional forces invasion, something that army Special Forces was initially created to assist other nations with.
As this war goes on, we should expect to see other special adaptations of weapons and tactics in unconventional warfare as Ukraine plays to its strengths against Russian disadvantages.