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Ukraine shows that even the strongest tanks can no longer wage war without cage armor to protect them from exploding drones


  • Recent photos emerged online showing a US-supplied Abrams tank with cages for protection against drones.

  • Both sides in the war in Ukraine have welded cages to their battle tanks.

  • As drones reshape modern warfare, tanks will have to adapt to survive on future battlefields.

The heavily armored M1 Abrams tank is widely considered one of the best and heaviest tanks in Ukraine today, but even it can’t drive out without cages protecting it from drones.

The overwhelming presence of dronesincluding military vehicles flying and exploding or bursting into flames, have become a defining element of the war in Ukraine, and both sides are working quickly to adapt to this growing threat.

Main battle tanks and other armored vehicles, including US-supplied Abrams and Bradleys, other Western tanks such as the German Leopard and top Russian tanks such as the T-90M, have sometimes fallen prey to drones for one-way attacks. In many cases, elite weapons worth millions are taken out by systems worth only a few hundred dollars.

What started as unusual has become commonplace. Main battle tanks are often fitted with large, welded ‘cope cages’ to prevent exploding drones from taking them out. Some looked crude and ineffective, but more recent models seemed sturdier and more refined.

The growing consensus is that these types of cages and defenses are not going anywhere, because unmanned systems like those in Ukraine are the future of warfare.

“It is absolutely here to stay,” said Mark Cancian, a retired Marine Corps colonel and senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“The idea has been around for a while,” he said, drawing attention to the fact that the US deploys cages around its Strykers in Iraq and Afghanistan to protect against enemy rocket-propelled grenades. And now”, with the ubiquity of dronesIt has gained momentum and I think it is now a permanent part of armored vehicles,” he added.

Photos shared online last month showed a US-supplied M1A1 Abrams tank with improvised cages.

Like previously documented examples, the cages appear to have been built around the sides and top of the turret, providing the tank with an external defense. protect it from exploding unmanned aerial vehiclesespecially small first-person-view drones.

The recent photos suggest even the Abrams were thinking about it the best tank that Ukraine has received from its Western allies, needs some extra help to stop drones and other anti-tank weapons, but that’s not necessarily a shocking development.

Mick Ryan, a retired Australian major general and strategist who tracks warfare trends, said that “it shouldn’t be surprising that we see a drone cage on an Abrams, just as we see a drone cage on every other tank right now.” He added that when he saw the photos, he thought, “Well, of course that would happen.”

The “Ukrainians,” Ryan said, “are smart, they are adaptable, and they are coming up with better ways to protect themselves and maintain fighting power.” However, the Ukrainians in particular are not the only ones adapting. The Russians do that too and implement things like the so-called ‘turtle tank’.

Images of Ukrainian and Russian tanks and armored vehicles with cages have been seen more often as first-person drone strikes become more common. Some photos online in June 2023 showed a Russian MT-LB and a T-72B tank with a large counter-UAV screen. A video from July explained one Ukrainian M109L SPH with extended anti-drone cage armor.

And while exploding drones continue to threaten virtually everything that moves on the battlefield, the world has seen T-64s, additional T-72s, T-80s, T-90s rocking cages, as well as some Western tanks. In some cases, both sides have also used electronic warfare equipment to jam or disrupt incoming drones. This is also considered an important part of the fight against drones.

Some cages have appeared more advanced than others And proved more effective in battle. Early models seemed to cover only specific parts of the vehicles – the top, for example, while the sides and rear were visible. These cages have also been seen in other conflicts, such as Israel’s war in Gaza.

Ukraine’s new Abrams tank cage looks like it could be designed more purposefully to add an extra layer of protection and potentially increase crew survivability.

It’s not surprising to see designs improving as both sides try to innovate and keep their vehicles and crews in the fight. “It’s been happening all war, they’ve responded,” Ryan said. “I look at these types of adjustments and they are interim steps as we figure out different ways to counter the drone threat.”

The mesh-like cages that Ukraine and Russia place on their tanks and armor appear to be one last ditch effort against anti-tank missiles and artillery also. Notably, Russia used cages before the widespread use of drones to stop US-supplied Javelin weapons.

But right now, drones are by far the biggest threat, and the effects on the battlefield in Ukraine are changing the way many militaries think about warfare.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military was able to adapt to the threat of improvised explosive devices that destroyed the undersides of vehicles. Now, learning from drone use in Ukraine improve the coming Abrams and future Bradley replacement is critical.

Cancian explained that because drones, as well as anti-tank weapons, will be a growing and enduring presence in war, cages or similar protective devices will become a permanent part of a vehicle’s equipment.

“In the future,” he explained, “you’ll see that the tanks will already have it built in, or there will be a standard kit that you put on it.”

Read the original article Business insider

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