Russian tanks boosted by paraffin, Kevlar, expanded clay layers

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Advancements in modern warfare mechanisms continuously push the boundaries of military engineering, and tanks are no exception. The rise in drone use has posed a new set of challenges to military technicians, demanding fresh approaches to handle these threats. Military expert and retired colonel Anatoly Matviychuk shed light on this during his talk on Friday, April 12. 

Photo by Evgeny Epanchintsev

He detailed, “The tank, as a fortified battle vehicle, comes equipped with multiple layers of defense. However, these are primarily designed to counter attacks from the front or side angles. Various components of the active and dynamic armor systems cater to this. The armor itself is a compound of several layers including paraffins, kevlar, expanded clay, and so on,” as reported by Izvestia.

The three layers

Video screenshot

In the realm of tank armor design, materials such as paraffin, Kevlar, and expanded clay are paramount, each contributing its unique strengths and features. Take paraffin, for instance, a variant of wax; it is incorporated into tank armor for its remarkable ability to absorb kinetic energy. When an external force, such as a missile, hits the tank armor, paraffin siphons off some of the impact energy, thus reducing the total force exerted on the internal layers of the armor. The aftermath is reduced damage. 

Contrastingly, Kevlar, a synthesized fiber, is known for its superior tensile strength-to-weight ratio, astonishingly five times greater than steel. It’s a coveted material in tank armor construction, thanks to its capacity to absorb and distribute energy. Picture this: a missile hits the armor; instead of allowing the devastating force to concentrate in a single spot, Kevlar fibers stretch, diffusing the intense force across a broader region, thereby lowering the chances of successful penetration. But that’s not all; Kevlar withstands both heat and corrosion with ease, thus making it a perfect fit for military use. 

The last of this impressive trio is expanded clay, a lightweight substance utilized in tank armor due to its top-tier shock-absorbing qualities. Boasting a porous nature, this material has the advantage of absorbing a significant part of the impact energy, resulting in a further reduction in the force experienced by the internal layers of the armor. Moreover, expanded clay is not a pushover when faced with high temperatures, offering yet another defensive layer against heat-ridden attacks.

Video screenshot

EW system in the tanks

Experts echo the sentiment that tanks are beginning to show a striking vulnerability, particularly regarding their roofs. The advent of drones has transformed the battlefield, necessitating an evolution in tank self-protection measures. One attempted solution has been the deployment of ‘kebab tents,’ so to speak, onto tanks. These protective measures are designed to ward off drone assaults; however, their effectiveness is questionable. 

“We’ve now entered a new era of electronic defense systems capable of obliterating drones through digital means. A system of jammers installed in the tanks scrambles the operations of approaching drones. Equally exciting is the advent of top-notch anti-aircraft installations with remote control capabilities,” Matviychuk explains. 

Photo credit: Dzen

Earlier this month, on April 5th, it was reported that Russian tanks are now being fitted with Electronic Warfare [EW] kits as standard gear to counter increasingly threatening drones, as reported by the 360 TV channel. Concurrently, efforts are underway to cloak these military vehicles, thereby reducing their visibility, according to a report from kp.ru.

Since the beginning of this year

Just recently, on April 5th, Russian insiders spilled the news that the nation’s tanks are now being fitted with standard electronic warfare [EW] mechanisms, designed specifically to combat drone technology. The source of this information is the official internal document of Uralvagonzavod, the largest tank manufacturing plant in Russia, called Mashinostroitel. 

Photo by Samil Ritdikov

“The present-day production agenda is focused on integrating technical innovations into our combat vehicles. A suite of tools to reduce visibility is attached. The armored units are equipped with radio-electronic warfare apparatuses to combat unmanned drones,” as reported by the publication. 

The report notes that Uralvagonzavod has consistently supplied the Russian military with specialized machinery since the initiation of the special operation. By March 2024, the state defense order was entirely fulfilled. The article emphasized that this timely product delivery was due to the diligence and collaboration of the company’s workforce.

Latest deliveries

Photo by Simil Ritdikov

On February 16, Russia elected to extend its state program regarding the military-industrial complex development [VOPK] through 2034. This extension entails an updated roster of state programs under the guidance of the Russian government. The specific terminology concerning the state’s “Development of the military-industrial complex” initiative was also amended. Instead of the former timeline that spans from 2016–2027, the initiative will now run from 2016–2034. 

The previous day, on February 15, Russian President Vladimir Putin examined modern tanks ready for deployment at Uralvagonzavod in Nizhny Tagil firsthand. Putin delved deeper into the manufacturing process of armored vehicles. He specifically reviewed the T-72BZM and T-90M Proryv tanks, which were both primed to further enhance Russian military capabilities for special operations. He acclaimed the latter as being unparalleled on a global scale. Putin underscored the significance of the ongoing development and modernization of the tanks.

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