Russians ‘designed’ a ‘turtle’ tank, all encased in a shell

A recent development in the Russian military landscape involves the potential deployment of various Russian tank models – specifically, the T-62, T-72, T-80, or T-90 – leading a Russian ground combat brigade in the direction of Donetsk. Identifying the exact version of this armored warfare asset proves challenging, as it is entirely concealed by its protective casing, akin to a turtle’s shell. 

Russians 'designed' a 'turtle' tank all surrounded by a 'shell'
Photo credit: Twitter

In the past day, the “turtle shell” tank has gained substantial attention on various Ukrainian platforms, as a drone operator’s footage reveals. The entire tank, including a significant part of its armament, appears to be shielded behind a formidable metal shell. Further intrigue ensues as a subsequent video offers a glimpse into the workshop where this remarkable tank modification took place.

The construction

Welding together a metal profile framework, uniquely tailored to the tank’s measurements, solidifies the structure at each of its four corners. At the front of the chassis, these profiles are securely fastened to the chain fender, right at the top of the tank. Achieving comprehensive coverage of the tank’s chains requires a detailed process where profiles are meticulously welded at a 45-degree angle. This practice is mirrored at the rear of the unit. 

Once the frame is in place, sheet metal is skillfully welded onto the structure, lending an eclectic aesthetic to the overall design. In certain areas, the sheets are intentionally shorter – perhaps an indication of the expert utilization of available materials or those specifically provided for the purpose. The tank’s rear becomes particularly noteworthy, showcasing an extra layer of profiles and sheet metal — a testament to the design prowess of these ‘Russian field designers’. It’s posited that this addition is not a random design choice, but a deliberate insulation measure, given that the engine is located here. The designers, it seems, have gone the extra mile to ensure added protection for this vital component.

The challenges

Russians 'designed' a 'turtle' tank all surrounded by a 'shell'
Photo credit: Twitter

After thoroughly analyzing the design and strategic incorporation used in the construction of such a tank, it’s clear that the crew faces certain unique challenges. Take, for instance, the structural limitation that inhibits the tank’s turret from rotating a full 360 degrees. Simply put, the tank can only fire in the direction it’s moving. The design prioritizes protection from attacks from drones on multiple fronts [whose effectiveness is still under discussion], but this comes at the cost of the tank’s capability to fire to its left, right, or rear due to the rigidity of the turret. Rotating it would destabilize the tank’s structural integrity. 

Another potential issue stemming from this design is the confined space around the exit. Previous tank designs provided crews with plenty of room to evacuate from multiple directions, but this grid-like structure essentially seals off the escape hatch’s surrounding area. Hence, if a successful Ukrainian drone attack immobilizes the tank, these confined spaces could limit the crews’ evacuation routes, potentially leading to a lethal gas poisoning situation. The gas, which could be a side effect of an explosion, might have difficulties dispersing due to the high concentration within such a constrained space. 

Lastly, the Russian “T” tank’s agility is a contentious topic. The additional weight of the metal framework and plating could negatively impact the tank’s performance. The tank that was once considered lighter than its Western equivalents now carries extra weight, possibly affecting its functions, maneuverability, and ability to quickly evade unfavorable situations.

Watch: 2 FPV drones faced Russian tank's cope cage and failed
Video screenshot

The idea

The intent behind this recent innovation is undoubtedly clear to us – it’s a definitive solution to kamikaze drones, FPV drones, and possibly disarming anti-tank projectiles. We’re seeing that contemporary tank shells can explode after piercing armor to a specific minimal depth, which leads to the question – can this protective casing effectively deal with such a projectile? 

When it comes to kamikaze and FPV drones, there’s a chance that this shell could make a significant difference, effectively safeguarding both the vehicle and its crew. We’ve seen cases where drones in places like Ukraine become trapped by tank turret cages. If such a rudimentary design can stop these aerial threats in their tracks, it’s reasonable to propose that a reinforced metal casing could likely achieve the same, even if it means the casing’s destruction in the process. 

Russia puts 'anti-drone grills' on every mass-produced combat vehicle
Photo credit: @MuxelAero / Twitter

The efficacy of this innovative shell, concerning the “T” tank, is something that we’ll have to wait and observe how it performs under real conditions. If given the chance, the tank will undoubtedly be targeted, and the results of these attacks will be shared among Ukrainian resources. However, it’s important not to forget that it was the Russians who initially brought tank cages into warfare, even before the conflict began.

History remembers

The Russian “turtle”, so-called due to its protective shell-like exterior, is impressively not an original invention. Historical records reveal interesting parallels with similar designs, reinforcing the notion that unconventional appearances don’t necessarily indicate ineffective functionality. However, the effectiveness of this particular design is largely questionable. 

Russians 'designed' a 'turtle' tank all surrounded by a 'shell'
Source: Twitter

Consider, for example, the Civil War era ironclad, Merrimack, later renamed CSS Virginia. Its design and buoyancy bear an uncanny resemblance to the “turtle”, complete with a similar metal exterior. Unfortunately, this protection didn’t yield the benefits as expected. Reflecting on the historic duel between the Merrimack and the Union Monitor, the first ironclad clash, the Merrimack was woefully degraded to a submerged hulk, its rooftop barely visible above the tide. 

Fast forward to 1916, British engineer William Tritton introduced an innovative tank design that he optimistically believed would shield the crew against the biggest threat on the World War I frontlines: artillery. The Flying Elephant tank, as it was referred to, was essentially a gun-equipped heavy tractor, meticulously wrapped in steel plating up to three inches thick. Much like the protective exterior of an elephant’s ear enveloping its skull, the armor enveloped the tank’s chassis, seemingly inspiring the tank’s peculiar moniker.

Failures teach

Top 5 of Russian weapons that failed with a 'bang'
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Historically, Russia has embarked on various ambitious military projects that initially seemed promising, but ultimately proved to be failures. A prime example is the submarine Papa K-222. Designed to rival US submarines, it currently holds the record for being the fastest in the world with a speed of 44.7 knots. However, its titanium construction led to skyrocketing costs and eventually brought about the termination of the project. 

Another interesting, though failed, endeavor is the monstrous contraption known as the Caspian Monster. This unique creation was a cross between an airplane, a seaplane, and a hovercraft. Created before 1987, this behemoth measures an impressive 243 feet long and 62 feet high, with a wingspan of 114 feet. Not only was it capable of carrying a hefty payload of up to 100 tons, but it was also equipped to hold at least six Mosquito anti-ship missiles. Unfortunately, this project was not brought to fruition and now stands as a melancholic reminder of a failed historical expedition. 

Lastly, let us examine the Soviet “Slipper,” an orbital spacecraft concept from the 1960s, officially named the MiG-105. Due to its remarkable resemblance to fairy-tale footwear, it was dubbed the “slipper”. This project experienced an interesting sequence of transitions. Initiated in the 1960s, then put on hold, before being revived in the ’70s, it was designed in the vein of the American space shuttles and was intended to achieve hypersonic speed. Russian engineers developed a working prototype and conducted several tests, but surprisingly, they once again halted the project. This was due to a shift in Russia’s aerospace priorities towards building spaceships that used liquid rocket fuel instead of a ‘liquid propellant accelerator and hypersonic jet.’ 

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