New Russian ‘Turtle Tank’ Emerges On The Battlefield, Features Electronic Warfare System

Russia’s monstrous turtle tank was not a one-off, with the third one now identified and it carries an electronic warfare system.

byJoseph Trevithick|
A new and larger Russian 'turtle tank' has emerged and is also equipped with a counter-drone electronic warfare jammer.
via X


A new example of a Russian 'turtle tank' with a shed-like metal cover on top to help protect against drone attacks, especially by highly maneuverable first-person view (FPV) kamikaze types, has emerged on the battlefield. Three of these field-modified monstrosities have now appeared just in the past week or so, and this one looks to have the largest covering seen to date. This particular example is also equipped with an omni-directional counter-drone electronic warfare jammer with eight antennas, a design that has been increasingly seen on other Russian tanks and armored vehicles.

The newest turtle tank is said to have been involved in an attack on Ukrainian positions near the city of Krasnohorivka in the country's eastern Donetsk region. This is the same area where the first Russian tank configured in this way emerged early last week. Reports subsequently emerged that the initial example was destroyed when Ukrainian forces struck the warehouse it was parked in. A second iteration then appeared just days later, but it is unclear where that tank was spotted. From the pictures and videos that have emerged so far, it is not entirely clear what specific types of tanks are being used as the basis for these conversions, though the first one may have been a T-72 variant.

The sheet metal structure on top of the third turtle tank is visibly taller than the ones seen installed on the the previous two examples, but has a broadly similar trapezoidal shape. It remains unclear if any of the three turtle tanks seen so far have additional protection, like netting or chain link fencing, to help shield the open front and rear ends of their shed-like structures. Not doing so would seem to call into question the utility of installing the additional top covering in the first place, which also severely limits the traverse of the tank's turret and the crew's overall situational awareness. The weight and ungainly structure would also significantly reduce general mobility.

The appearance of Russia's turtle tanks was already preceded by the use of increasingly more elaborate cage-like add-on anti-drone armor, also called "cope cages." These have now become a common fixture on armored vehicles on both sides of the conflict, and have begun to appear outside of Ukraine, including potentially even on submarines. As The War Zone has previously pointed out, if nothing else, the turtle tanks are prime examples of the breakneck speed of the cycle of battlefield innovation, especially when it comes to drones and counter-drone defenses, being observed in Ukraine.

With all this in mind, it is interesting that this latest turtle tank is also sporting an electronic warfare jammer on top of its armored shed. This would give the tank an added layer of protection against Ukrainian drones. The height of the shed-led structure gives the jammer an elevated and unobstructed field of view of view, as well.

By some indications, the Russian turtle tanks with their armored shells are being used to lead armored assaults on better-defended Ukrainian positions, including through minefields (the first example was seen also fitted with a mine plow in front), which would make them prime targets.

The jammer on the new turtle tank is a design that has been increasingly seen on other Russian tanks and armored vehicles since at least March. It has eight antennas arrayed in a circle to provide 360-degree coverage. A four-antenna version has also been seen in use, along with other types of add-on electronic warfare jammers. Ukrainian forces have also been employing add-on vehicle-mounted jammers to protect against Russia's own arsenal of drones, which is understood to be substantially larger now than that of Ukraine. The jammers are primarily designed to break the link between a drone and its operator, if it has one, as well as prevent it from transmitting its video feed or other data. This can be especially disruptive for FPV-type drones armed with improvised warheads where operators rely on the camera feed to steer the drone onto the target.

"Russia has more jamming equipment capable of overpowering Ukrainian signals by broadcasting on the same frequencies at higher power. It also exhibits better coordination among their units," the New York Times reported in March in a piece that included direct first-hand accounts from drone operators in Ukraine. "Though potent, the Russian military’s jamming capabilities are deployed unevenly across the more than 600 miles of frontline, and their armored vehicles are often easy targets because they usually don’t have jamming systems installed, Ukrainian soldiers said."

Pictures and videos that have emerged on social media indicate that the Russians are having mixed success in their use of vehicle-mounted jammers against Ukrainian drones. The jammers also impose additional power requirements on Russian tanks and armored vehicles, and may not even be switched on all the time. Earlier this month, Ukrainian forces notably captured a Russian T-72 with an especially extensive electronic warfare setup. This tank had been abandoned after being subjected to attacks by multiple drones using different frequencies for their control links.

For Ukrainian forces on the front lines, FPV drones, in particular, are increasingly seen as being on par with artillery in terms of how critical they are to ongoing operations. The conflict in Ukraine has, overall, rammed home the very real threats that various tiers of drones pose on and off conventional battlefields, something The War Zone has highlighted repeatedly over the years.

The importance of drones for the Ukrainians has only been magnified by the significant slowing of foreign military aid, especially from the United States, in recent months. This has caused extreme shortages of artillery ammunition and other critical materiel, such as surface-to-air missiles.

“They are now being outshot by the Russian side five to one. So the Russians fire five times as many artillery shells at the Ukrainians than the Ukrainians are able to fire back," U.S. Army Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli, head of U.S. European Command (EUCOM) and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), told Congress earlier this month. "That will immediately go to 10 to one in a matter of weeks," unless there is a change in the flow of aid.

“We’re not talking about months. We’re not talking hypothetically,” Cavoli also warned when speaking about the potential for a broad collapse of Ukraine's current front-line positions if more assistance is not provided soon.

Russia's forces are very clearly looking to exploit the situation and have been making worrisome gains. A small, but apparently growing number of turtle tanks, including ones now fitted with electronic jammers, look to be part of these renewed Russian offensive operations in the face of continued Ukrainian drone attacks.

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