‘Cope Cage’ trend also captured the Israeli Merkava Mk3 tank

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Initially deemed ineffective, the tank’s ‘cope cage’ is now progressively being installed on armored vehicles. Introduced by Russia and Ukraine, it can be argued that Russia was the original source of this trend. BulgarianMilitary.com notes that even before the invasion of Russian troops in Ukraine, the first Russian tanks sporting this improvised anti-drone protection were visible in occupied Crimea. 

Not to be left behind in this “fashionable trend”, Israel, currently at war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, has introduced the cope cage on their latest version of the Israeli Merkava Mk3 tanks. A photo shared on X [formerly known as Twitter] captured one such tank. Intriguingly, the cope cage on the tank appears to be factory-made, rather than a makeshift or home-style adaptation.

Israeli “fashion”

Photo credit: Twitter

The construction is slightly different from the usual ones. For instance, Merkava’s cope cage is supported by two metal pylons forming a V-shaped grip base, which protrudes about a meter high from the tank’s dome. There are no nets or bars surrounding the structure, and its roof, made of sheet metal, is slightly sloped. 

Thin steel cables are extended from the base of the cope cage to the tank turret. The Merkava’s cope cage features front sheet metal panels on all four sides, each milled with holes. It’s clearly visible that on one side [the one that aligns with the front of the tank], a camera is mounted. An antenna extends from the roof.

Factory-built

We shouldn’t be surprised if this cage on the turret of the Israeli Merkava Mk3 tank turns out to be factory-built. We don’t have proof of this, but the structure and build quality lead us to believe this could be the case. 

As an example, Russia announced as early as last year that a significant portion of its combat armored land vehicles would be equipped with factory-built cages. At one of the Russian military exhibitions, the latest versions of Russian tanks, armored personnel carriers, self-propelled howitzers, and enemy vehicles were spotted with factory-made drone defenses. 

In essence, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine demonstrates regularly that factory or improvised cages on tanks serve a purpose. They may not always be effective but often, Russian and Ukrainian armored vehicles have been impervious to attacks from enemy kamikaze drones, primarily due to these cages.

Photo credit: MuxelAero / Twitter

Merkava Mk3

In December 1989, the Merkava Mark 3 made its debut and up until 2003, it was actively produced. As recent as 2016, this tank stood proudly as the most widely used in the IDF frontline service. It has proven superior to the Merkava II with significant enhancements in areas like the drivetrain, powertrain, weaponry, and electronics. 

Perhaps, the most noticeable upgrade was the integration of the locally crafted IMI 120 mm gun. This addition, coupled with a more powerful diesel engine outputting 1,200 horsepower [890 kW], pushed the tank’s overall weight up to 65 tonnes [143000 lb]. Despite the added weight, the tank’s maximum cruising speed is increased to 60 km/h [37 mph] thanks to the engine upgrade. 

Photo credit: IDF

Another impressive change was the modification of the turret for independent movement from the tank chassis, this way, it could keep track of a target regardless of where the tank is headed. Various other modifications were implemented, such as the installation of an external two-way telephone, thus promoting secure communication between the tank’s crew and infantry on foot. 

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