For several weeks now we’ve tracked the interesting phenomena of Russia’s tanks equipped counter-FPV shells, known by many names – Tsar’s BBQs, assault sheds, Blyatmobiles or Turtle Tanks. These vehicles began to appear in April around Krasnohorivka but since then have spread to numerous other sectors. Most recently they have played a role in the Russian offensive towards Kharkiv.

Check out our earlier articles/videos on the Turtle Tanks

They combine a number of features including the large characteristic sheet metal shells, electronic warfare systems to jam drone control frequencies to protect against first person view (FPV) suicide drones. They also often feature devices such as mine plough and rollers to enable them to act as breaching vehicles.

Since other last video there have been even more interesting variations on the ‘turtle tank’ concept and also a fair amount of imagery showing them being successfully engaged. Which raises the question: has the tide turned on the Turtle Tanks?

On the 8 May photos of a Russian T-72B3 being fitted with a counter-FPV shell were posted. OSINT account Naalsio noted that while the tank had tactical markings denoting the 68th Guards Tank Regiment, 150th Motorised Rifle Division, 8th Guards Combined Arms Army, Southern Military District, the original Telegram post said that the work was carried out by the 104th Separate Tank Battalion of the 7th Guards Airborne Assault Division. In the photos we can see the assembly of a frame projecting from the tank’s sides with slightly angled sheet metal being welded to the frame.

Ukraine’s Presidential Brigade shared some FPV footage of what may be another ‘Turtle Tank’ near Vuhledar. The resolution of the footage is low but the vehicle appears to have an EW module on top of its counter-FPV shell. Its unclear if the shell is solid s heet metal or if its is a mesh screen which covers the top part of the vehicle and has been shrouded in camouflage netting.

On 13 May, photographs of a pair of tanks fitted with shells were shared, with at least some of the work seemingly being completed in the field with a welder hooked up to a generator. The first vehicle has a visible framework and the sheet metal used to have surface rust. A possible second tank has a less angled shell and horizontally orientated metal sheeting. Markings visible on the first tank may suggest it tank belongs to the 3rd Motor Rifle Division’s 752nd Motor Rifle Regiment.

Also on the 13 May, the 3rd Assault Brigade claimed that the 3rd along with the 66th Mechanized, and 77th Airmobile Brigades had engaged Russian forces on the Kharkiv front and struck a ‘turtle tank’ with FPVs.

Footage of a recovered damaged ‘turtle tank’, which may be the tank which was immobilised during the initial assaults on the Kharkiv front, shows the tank’s shell badly damaged and its left-side track lost, however, its KMT-6 mine plough is still present.

The clearest imagery of of a knocked out ‘turtle tank’ which has appeared so far also emerged on 13 May. Three images taken by an observation drone show a T-62 which shares a numerous construction characteristics with the earlier ‘porcupine turtle’ seen on 5 May. It has similar protective grills made from cages which completely cover the outer metal sheets of the counter-FPV shell. However, its rear is not enclosed by sheet metal but a combination of sheets and grating.

The tank doesn’t have any visible electronic warfare equipment but is fitted with what appears to be a BTU-55 dozer blade mounting point (H/T – Ross) which is no longer present and not visible in the available imagery (although what appears to be a KMT-6 mine plough can be seen on the ground behind the tank). The tank clearly has signs of fire damage along its side and rear and the front portion of its shell as been blown inwards and warped, cause unclear though it may have been an artillery strike, ATGM hit or an FPV. Intriguingly, inside the shell appears to be an earlier pre-existing ‘cope cage’ shelter on the turret which does not not a part of the outer shell structure.

Further examples of tanks equipped with counter-FPV shells, which both sides increasingly refer to as ‘сарай’ or sheds, have been shared. Drone footage of a Russian T-72B3 equipped with a ‘shed’ was shared early on 14 May showing the vehicle on fire, with smoke billowing from its roof, and under attack by FPVs. The footage has reportedly been geo-located to Novovodyanoe, in the Luhansk region. Again the shell is made up of sheet metal with a rear hatch and an additional mesh roof screen. The tank has a broken track and one shot from the footage appears to show the vehicle surrounded by TM-62 anti-tank mines suggesting the vehicle entered a mine field. The vehicle does not appear to be fitted with a mine plough or roller.

Additionally imagery of another T-62-based ‘turtle tank’ were also shared, date and location unknown, but the now standard construction of a rough internal framework made from box metal and then sheet metal welded onto the frame. From the photos it appears it may be fitted with a mine plough. Only one side of the shell has been completed but there is also a small ladder welded onto the frame at the rear for access to the engine deck. Intriguingly, we can also see that the frame itself has been welded to the tank’s turret with two angled struts meaning that the tanks turret cannot be traversed at all.

On the 14 May, footage of another knocked out ‘turtle tank’ emerged showing a burning tank near Andriivka in Donestsk. The tank appears to have been part of an armoured assault which may have been halted by artillery fire. The tank appears to be a T-62 fitted with KMT-6 mine plough. The vehicle is on fire with a significant portion of its shell blown off on its right side. The video also shows an FPV drone striking the tank from the rear. A further video appears to show an FPV able to enter the rear of the shell. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense attributed the destruction of the tank to ‘Javelins and FPV drones’ deployed by the 93rd Mechanised Brigade.

On the evening of 14 May, the 79th Air Assault Brigade shared video of another Russian attack in Novomykhailivka, in Donetsk. This showed several intriguing vehicles including a hybrid-turtle which had a layer of tyres under some cage armour and a camouflage net. [Additional footage here] Another brief shot showed a tank, with no visible main gun, moving across open ground. It is equipped with a KMT-7 mine roller and a counter-FPV shell/shed which is open fronted with no additional protection such as a chain curtain or wire cages. It appears the assault was met with both artillery and FPVs.

On the 15th, observation drone footage was shared of a badly damaged, burning ‘turtle tank’ which was destroyed by the Ukrainian 72nd brigade during a Russian attack in the Vuhledar sector. The date of the engagement is unconfirmed but the video shows the vehicle being destroyed in a spectacular explosion, likely due to a cook-off of ammunition.

On the 15 May another image of a converted T-72 in Donetsk emerged. Visible in the photo is a sheet metal counter-FPV shelter equipped with a layer of outer wire cages. A KMT-6 mine plough is fitted and a chain curtain protects the turret while providing decent visibility for the tank’s frontal arc. Additionally a commercial surveillance camera has been attached to the roof of the shell. An АЕК-902 smoke discharger is attached to the top of the shell and ERA blocks have been attached to the skirt and then enclosed partially by a wire screen.

On the 16 May, Russian military vlogger Large Caliber Trouble shared a series of videos which featured armoured vehicles fitted with counter-FPV shells. The first video showed an armoured assault with three vehicles with shells/sheds and one tank without. The footage, from an observation drone, is too low resolution to fully make out the configuration of the Turtles but its clear that the lead vehicle is equipped with a set of mine rollers. The assault column is bracketed by Ukrainian artillery fire and the lead tank is damaged and forced to turn back. While the second moves up and deploys smoke from an AEK-902 launcher the lead tank appears to take a direct hit to its rear, possibly from an FPV drone.

One of the tanks is called the ‘scorpion’ and is tasked with “clearing mines and identifying enemy points”. In a video showing the vehicle in action it is clear that the design is substantially different to previous ‘turtle tanks’ with no visible main gun, a fully enclosed front and an overhanding sheet metal rear awning. The vehicle is also equipped with a KMT-7 mine roller. In another post he described the vehicle as “a captured tank with a cut-off turret” that used “different building materials for [the] armor”. He claims it was “hit by 8 anti-tank guns and countless artillery shells.”

As always with these breakdowns we have to remember that we don’t have the full picture and the available imagery represents a fraction of what is happening on the frontline. As mentioned in the previous article/video the ‘turtle tanks’ are just as susceptible (if not more) to conventional means of knocking out tanks: mines, artillery and anti-tank guided missiles. It remains to be seen if a new trend is emerging that suggests that Ukraine is now increasingly capable of successfully countering the Russian assault sheds or if indeed the Turtle Tank will adapt again. 

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