Russia replaces T-90M tank ‘cope cage’ with two armor plates

A cutting-edge Russian T-90 Proryv tank has recently been spotted in Ukraine. While the photo captured isn’t of the best quality, it highlights a notable change: the removal of the cope cages from the tank’s turret. In their place, there are now two symmetrically arranged armor plates flanking the turret of the T-90M. 

Russia replaces T-90M tank 'cope cage' with two armor plates
Photo credit: Telegram

Currently, there is no definitive information on whether this T-90M is part of a newly delivered batch or if the entire batch has received the same updates. Interestingly, these armor plates appear to be factory-made rather than custom-fabricated. 

Western observers speculate that this could be a solitary tank undergoing a test for the latest modernization efforts. Military analysts suggest that Russia is in the process of testing another upgrade to the T-90M in an active combat zone. Likely, this newly updated version will soon be produced in larger quantities and deployed as the standard model.

UVZ sent one trainload of T-90M Proryv tanks to the Russian Army
Video screenshot

Purpose

These enhancements to Russian tanks are aimed at countering the rising threat of drones and munitions increasingly deployed in modern warfare. Interestingly, a similar design also shields the engine and transmission areas. 

Naturally, this would be a welcome upgrade for Russian tank crews—assuming it proves effective during testing. It’s worth noting that this design is much more durable and less prone to damage, particularly in forested regions. 

UVZ workers enjoy concert while loading T-90 tanks for Russian Army
Video screenshot

Incorporating this extra layer of ranged protection, which can mitigate the cumulative impact on primary armor, offers several benefits. It doesn’t obstruct visibility or hinder machine gun operation, protects the dynamic protection units from shrapnel, and allows easy crew boarding and disembarking. Moreover, this solution will enable quick production of additional armor plates at every UVZ plant, with the possibility of implementing similar upgrades to T-72B3 tanks soon.

The last T-90 delivery

The last batch of T-90M tanks was delivered to the Russian army on May 15. According to a report by BulgarianMilitary.com, this shipment included 23 tanks. This delivery marked a rare instance where the Russian Ministry of Defense disclosed the exact number of units delivered. 

UVZ workers enjoy concert while loading T-90 tanks for Russian Army
Video screenshot

Interestingly, this delivery happened just 10 days after a previous one featuring the same model. Although the number of tanks in the earlier shipment was not officially announced, photos suggest that the quantity was similar. Video footage from May 6 shows approximately 10-11 T-90M Proryv tanks. 

Uralvagonzavod, the manufacturer, seems to be working non-stop. Another batch was produced in March, although the number of tanks was not disclosed. This batch coincided with a musical concert organized by the Nizhny Tagil plant management to celebrate their workers.

Tank’s cope cage role

The turret cope cage on the T-90M tank provides extra protection from anti-tank guided missiles [ATGMs] and rocket-propelled grenades [RPGs]. Often called ‘slat armor’ or ‘bar armor,’ this cage is engineered to either detonate or deflect incoming projectiles before they strike the tank’s main armor. 

By creating a physical gap between the incoming projectile and the tank’s primary armor, the cope cage significantly lessens the impact of shaped charges. These charges focus explosive force into a narrow area to penetrate armor, but with the cope cage, this process is interrupted, causing premature detonation or deflection. 

This type of armor is particularly effective against older, less advanced ATGMs and RPGs, as they are more likely to be disrupted by the cope cage. However, it may not be as effective against more advanced weapons, especially tandem-charge warheads specifically designed to bypass such defenses.

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