A few months ago, a strange-looking large Russian tank was spotted in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine’s battlefields are dominated by drones, cheap, unmanned ground/air vehicles carrying several thousand dollars worth of tanks. Russian forces, one of the world’s largest and most advanced, have been forced to strategize their operations to counter air threats from Ukraine – a much smaller force backed by NATO.

A few months ago, a strange-looking large Russian tank was spotted in eastern Ukraine. Covered in thick armor sheets, the modified T-72 and T-90 are Russia’s answer to Ukrainian drones. Russians call them ‘Tsar Mangal’ and Ukrainians call them ‘Turtle Tanks’.

Innovation on the battlefield

The threat from drones became inevitable. Inexpensive UAVs emerged as an economical option to the expensive US Javelin heat-seeking anti-tank guided missiles.

First-person view (FPV) drone videos of attack tanks began to emerge last year after Russian T-72s, T-80s, and T-90s main battle tanks became targets of these small-armed aerial threats. Drones are used not only for limited offensive operations but also for surveillance and precision artillery fire.

The ‘Zar Mangal’ has a thick metal sheet that protects the roof, sides and rear of the tank. Tsar Mangal has another layer of metal grill protecting the metal sheets.

This thing is huge. If its role is purely to plow through mines, it might work. However, it is clear that his aim may not be correct.

The tracks are still very weak. However, FPVs are very difficult to target in runways, due to the high probability of losing control of the drone… pic.twitter.com/JdIfLlPGzX

— ✙ Constantine ✙ (@Teoyaomiquu) May 5, 2024

Space between hull and turret is weak due to thin armor plating. Meanwhile, the rear of the tank is vulnerable to attacks due to the engine compartment and armor box.

On April 9, the tanks were first seen in Krasnohorivka, Donetsk, eastern Ukraine. A Ukrainian FPV drone attacked the tank, which was eventually repelled. According to reports, the ‘Turtle Tank’ or ‘Zar Mangal’ has radio jammers for electronic warfare. Electronic jammers have proven effective in combating approaching FPV drones.

The Tsar Mangal is also used for infantry fighting vehicles and mine-clearing operations for infantry units, but the metal roof limits the turret’s 360-degree movement, limiting tank maneuverability and Reduces visibility for driver and gunner.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine shared a video of a drone attack on a ‘Turtle Tank’ and said that ‘the occupiers built a ‘Turtle’ tank but forgot to close a hatch… Drone pilots do not forgive such mistakes.

The occupiers built a ‘turtle’ tank but forgot to close a hatch…
🇺🇦 Drone pilots do not forgive such mistakes.

📹: 93rd Mechanized Brigade pic.twitter.com/rHNxGbqgSk

— Defense of Ukraine (@DefenceU) June 5, 2024Lessons from Ukraine

A few months ago, Russia added metal cages on top of the tanks to protect its roof, but it proved ineffective. Also known as ‘coop cages’, metal roofs were first used during the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. Lessons from various battlefields spread, and Israel attached ‘coop cages’ to its Merkava IV tanks during its operations in Gaza. Even the Indian Army has installed metal roofs on its tanks in Ladakh.

The Black Raven Battalion in Ukraine’s 93rd Mechanized Brigade, considered one of the most effective units in the military, has carried out numerous drone strikes.

Ukraine has set a goal of producing 1 million drones by the end of the year as the war drags on for another year and Washington faces a shortage of weapons and ammunition amid funding cuts.

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