Ukraine Captures Its First Russian Turtle Tank

Videos and images have emerged on social media showing the claimed first Ukrainian capture of a Russian so-called “turtle tank.” These lumbering monstrosities have added improvised armor panels encasing them to protect against drones, especially against highly maneuverable first-person view (FPV) kamikaze types. They first began appearing on the battlefield in April.

A 76-second drone video was shot shortly after Ukraine managed to take the tank, which reportedly happened this morning near Klishchiivka in Donetsk Oblast. It shows the make-shift metal work that goes into adding the outer shell. The video opens up with the drone’s view of the rear of the captured contraption. It had an internal metal mesh across the back, an additional metal screen above it and support bars traversing the length of the tank to support the armor side and roof panels.

The video then cuts to a captured Russian soldier getting his hands tied behind his back. For a moment, he turned his head seemingly to look at the drone. 

A Russian soldier, captured along with his turtle tank, looks up at the Ukrainian drone watching him. Via Twitter

The video then cuts to a wider view, showing the turtle tank backing out of a treeline and motoring down a dirt road. It ends with a closer view, showing the vehicle sporting a Ukrainian flag while a Ukrainian soldier rides atop.

A second video shows another view as it rumbles down the road. You can hear a Ukrainian soldier laughing over the noise as it passes by. Constantine (@Teoyaomiquu) – a Ukrainian combat veteran now living in Texas who posted the video – told us he received it from soldiers at the scene. He added that it is was pretty far from the front lines and unclear how the Russians drove it as far as they did undamaged.

A third video shows a closer view of the tank, which appears to be in some kind of storage area.

A separate image shows four smiling Ukrainian soldiers standing in front of the tank. As you can see, an added metal panel on the front comes down to the barrel, which is enclosed in rows of metal slats that prevent independent motion. This means the entire tank has to turn to change the direction of any round fired. There is extremely limited ability to raise or lower the barrel to adjust for range and elevation, as well.

The way the videos and image were shot, with no clear view of the tank that is completely enclosed inside the added armor, it is hard to ascertain the variant. Constantine and another open source observer suggested it was a T-62.

Russia, as we have noted before, has been using these turtle tanks to lead armored assaults on better-defended Ukrainian positions, including through minefields. The first example that emerged was fitted with a mine plow in front. That trend continued with subsequent models. As such, they became prime targets for FPV drones, absorbing the brunt of the punishment as it made its way across the open battlefield. Some have also been equipped with smoke screens to help obfuscate attempted advances. You can see that in action below.

Omni-directional counter-drone electronic warfare jammers have also been a relative common fixture mounted atop Russian turtle tanks.

As we have previously reported, Russia has produced a number of turtle tank iterations since the first version was spotted and subsequently destroyed in a Ukrainian attack. You can see that vehicle in the image below.

Several appeared in mid-April with a shed-like metal cover on top to help protect against drone attacks and one had the aforementioned EW equipment. The Tweet below shows images of that turtle tank.

By May, video you can see below emerged of Russian troops inside a turtle tank underway. It gives a clear sense of the obstructed forward-facing view for its operators. This is created largely by the addition of the turtle-shell-like steel apparatus that cocoons the tank beneath, restricting the wider visibility of the crew. While some turtle tanks have become increasingly complex in their design, others have appeared extremely improvised in appearance, like the once captured by Ukrainian forces. 

What Ukraine will do with the tank is unclear. However, these are old tanks with armor plates crude welded to them, offering very little real intelligence value beyond what kinds of scrap Russians are using and other building techniques employed to craft the turtle tank. An electronic warfare system would be of much greater value, especially if it is not one that has fallen into Ukrainian hands before, but there isn’t evidence of one seen in the photos. 

Regardless, it the turtle tank is an interesting prize nonetheless, even just for its sheer novelty value.

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