Watch: Russia resorts to rudimentary ‘turtle tank’ to protect from Ukrainian drones

A mysterious modified “turtle tank” fielded by Russian forces has emerged on the battlefield in eastern Ukraine.

‌At least three of the corrugated iron-clad vehicles, which resemble a shed, have been spotted on social media over the past few weeks.

The latest version was seen pushing Russian forces into the west of Krasnohorivka, a village in the Donetsk region, under intense Ukrainian artillery fire.

It is fully enclosed in a shell of corrugated metal, meaning its turret cannot move like a standard main battle tank.

The vehicle is mounted with a mine plough, suggesting it is being used as a breacher to break through Ukrainian fortifications during a mechanised assault.

In one video shared on social media, a turtle tank can be seen being supported by several unmodified tanks in an armoured thrust.

An electronic warfare jammer with no fewer than eight antennas in a circle provides 360-degree coverage.

The jammers are used to scramble the links between pilots and their drones attempting to target the tank.

The technique is particularly problematic for first-person-view (FPV) drones armed with improvised warheads because operators rely on a camera feed to steer the weapon to their target.

Eight antennas in a circle, providing 360-degree coverage, can be seen on the tank
Eight antennas in a circle, providing 360-degree coverage, can be seen on the tank

Experts believe the “turtle tanks” are likely modified to offer them protection against these types of drone attacks, which have become increasingly prominent because of Ukraine’s lack of conventional artillery shells.

‌AFV Recognition, an authoritative social media account tracking Russian armour, wrote: “It has coverage at the rear leaving only the front open to drone attack, which in my opinion would be quite difficult to grade an FPV drone into if it’s moving.

“These are easy to point and laugh at but if it can cross open ground whilst being impervious to drones and then open a gap in a line which can be exploited, it has served its purpose.”

The shed-like armour could also serve to “mitigate AI recognition of drones”, the account added in a post on Instagram.

It is not known what tank has been used to create the modified vehicle, but some have speculated that they are manufactured from previously damaged Soviet-era T-72 variants.

The elaborate modifications are part of a wider effort to protect tanks on the battlefields of Ukraine with makeshift protections, often installed by tank crews ahead of operations.

Cope cages, crudely welded to the top of tanks to provide them with an extra layer of protection against drone attacks, are the most common example of these improvised defences.

At first military experts described these as an example of Russia’s unpreparedness for war, but now it is widely acknowledged that improvised defences are needed because of the constant evolution of drone warfare.