Russians add roof to tanks due to fear of Ukrainian drones

Its creation involves the implementation of a steel armored covering over a tank, extending to the middle of the main gun, in an effort to shield the vehicle against aerial attacks.

Faced with fear of attacks from Ukrainian drones, Russian engineers adapt a tank with superior armor as a protection measure.

At the dawn of the First World War, William Tritton, a British engineer, conceived the design of an armored innovation that promised to offer unprecedented defense to its occupants against the main scourge of the battlefields of the time: the relentless fire of artillery.

This device, baptized as the “Flying Elephant,” was nothing more than a heavy tractor vehicle, formidably armed and covered in steel armor up to five centimeters thick. Its distinctive armor, which wrapped around the chassis in a similar way to the hanging ears of an elephant with a robust skull, gave it its peculiar name.

Fast forward more than a century to the war in Ukraine, and we find Russian engineers leading an adaptation that reflects the same search for protection against contemporary threats in mechanized warfare: in this case, small explosive drones.

Its creation involves the implementation of a steel armored covering over a tank, extending to the middle of the main gun, in an effort to shield the vehicle against aerial attacks.

This design, reminiscent of the “Flying Elephant”, but in a modern key, made its debut in a recent assault on Ukrainian positions in Krasnohorivka, located in the eastern region of Donetsk.

The appearance of this peculiar tank on the battlefield did not go unnoticed by a Ukrainian drone, whose operators, perplexed, spread the image of the modified tank on social networks.

One open-source intelligence analyst compared the unique adaptation to a turtle, playfully suggesting that the “T” in the designations “ T-62,” “ T-72,” “ T-80,” and “ T -90 ” could be interpreted as “turtle,” according to a comment from Astraia Intel.

This anecdote illustrates not only the constant evolution in armored vehicles’ design and adaptation to the battlefield’s changing dynamics but also how technical innovation continues to be a key pillar in military strategy from the Great War to the present day.

Technical challenges of innovative shielding and evolution of responses

Russians add roof to tanks due to fear of Ukrainian drones
T-72

The truly devastating thing about the unique modification applied to the tank lies in its collateral effects: by obstructing the rotation of the turret and, due to the considerable additional mass and volume, severely compromising the mobility of the vehicle.

This supplemental protection is ineffective against the tactics employed by Ukrainian FPV drone operators, masters of directing their two-pound aircraft toward the most vulnerable points of tanks. In the case of the so-called Russian Flying Elephant, this involves maneuvering the FPV drone below the protrusion of the additional armor.

If you doubt the ability of drone pilots to execute such a maneuver, just refer to a recent episode near Berdychi, Donetsk region.

Faced with drone harassment, three Russian soldiers sought refuge under an immobilized tank, only for a drone operator to direct his vehicle towards the small space where the soldiers were hiding, once again evidencing the vulnerability of tanks to these attacks.

It may be tempting to belittle the vicissitudes of the Russian Flying Elephant crew, but it is critical to recognize that battlefield adaptations represent responses to emerging threats. Over time, these responses are refined into standard solutions.

From improvisations to battlefield rules

Russians add roof to tanks due to fear of Ukrainian drones
T-80BVM

With the emergence of drones as primary threats to tanks in Ukraine following the Russian invasion in February 2022, both Russians and Ukrainians adopted armoring techniques seen in Syria, consisting of welding roofs and additional metal structures onto their armored vehicles.

Two years later, cage armor has become standard in the arsenals of both sides and, notably, on Israeli tanks involved in the Gaza invasion.

This tendency toward improvisation is not limited to the area of ​​armor. Russian and Ukrainian military contingents are also integrating various combinations of radio jammers and antennas into their vehicles, seeking to neutralize the drone threat. Despite the unusual appearance of some of these devices, their effectiveness should not be underestimated.

Furthermore, innovation extends to the development of new types of military vehicles through the fusion and adaptation of available chassis and armaments, reiterating the ability to adapt to the changing dynamics of the battlefield.

Constant evolution in the theater of operations

Russians add roof to tanks due to fear of Ukrainian drones
T-90

The broader war between Russia and Ukraine, entering its third year, shows a significant increase in Ukrainian production of FPV drones, exceeding 100,000 units per month, while Russian tank casualties amount to more than 2,600.

Faced with this panorama, Russian tank crews are forced into a survival dilemma: adapt or perish.

“Any element that moves on the battlefield is exposed and susceptible to attack by a drone,” warns Samuel Bendett, ANC advisor in Virginia and specialist in Russian military technology.

In this context, adaptation is not an option but a prevailing necessity that preludes the next phase of mechanized warfare, where each tank must have additional protection against the challenges posed by drones.