Two weeks ago, we looked at a curious in-field adaptation carried out by a Russian unit operating near Krasnohorivka. A T-72 had been near totally enclosed by sheet metal to protect it from FPV drones. Various imagery showed the tank encased in a trapezoidal steel structure, giving the vehicle the look of a shed on tracks. Since then several other similar ‘turtle’ tanks have been seen in the field.

Ukrainian social media describes the vehicles as ‘turtle tanks’ (танку черепашці) or the ‘Blyatmobile’ while on Russian telegram channels the tanks are often referred to as ‘Tsar Mangal’ (Царь мангал) or Tsar’s BBQ/grill or some refer to them as ‘assault garages’ (штурмовых гаражей). To give it a more academic name it could be described as a counter-FPV shelter or shell. Generally speaking at the moment Ukraine is short on anti-tank guided missiles and artillery which would traditionally be used to combat armoured vehicles, over the past year Ukraine has held the advantage in FPV drone production and has come to rely on them when targeting Russian armour. It appears that these shelters have been fabricated in an effort to mitigate Ukraine’s use of FPVs offering an additional layer of physical protection, often alongside electronic warfare systems.

A day or so after I shared my initial video on the Turtle Tank more imagery of what was either another Turtle Tank or the first one rebuilt appeared online. The vehicle’s shell had a slightly different profile and notably mounted on top was an electronic warfare device to counter drones. Here’s a still from a UAV feed showing the vehicle:

A still from a UAV feed showing the ‘Mk2’ on the move (via social media)

Subsequently, on the 17 April, we got a better look at the Mk2 Turtle Tank. Unlike the first vehicle it appears to be constructed from corrugated sheet metal and is fully enclosed, preventing any traverse of the tank’s turret. It has been speculated that Russian engineers took a damaged tank which could not move its turret and built a breacher vehicle which could be used to lead assault columns. Like the first Turtle Tank, this iteration also has a KMT-6 mine plough fitted.

With a fully enclosed shell it is unclear if the Mk2 is being used for transporting troops or if its enclosed to protect its electronic warfare (EW) kit or perhaps both. What is clear is that it is being used as a mine clearance vehicle ahead of armoured assault columns. The shell would in theory give all around protection against drone attack. The footage of the vehicle, said to have been filmed on around 15 April, shows the vehicle on the move, it survives several near misses from artillery and it also shows the vehicle making a wrong turn probably due to is severely restricted visibility.

A side profile shot of the initial Turtle Tank (via social media)

On the 19 April, a Russian telegram channel shared a video showing several photographs of the construction of the initial Turtle Tank showing its inner framework. A week later on 25 April, Russian news outlet Izvestia shared footage of one of the tanks, again fitted with a mine plough, in action leading a column of vehicles in the Krasnohorivka sector. [The first footage of the operation appeared on Telegram on 24 April.] The vehicle is immobilised by what appears to be a mine blast with Russian sources suggesting it became stuck. Another video filmed by another drone shows the rear angle of the columns advance.

Izvestia’s report suggests that the tank was locally known as ‘Ferdinand’. Further footage shows the salvaging of ‘Ferdinand’ with another tank successfully towing it away. Here is another video showing another overwatch angle of salvage operation. Closer drone footage of the stricken tank shows that the red corrugated sheet metal shell has been covered in a camouflage net and there is also what appears to be an electronic warfare device mounted on the roof. The sides of the vehicle’s shell are less sloped and the front of the shell appears less enclosed than the second iteration of the tank.

In additional footage a new iteration of the improvised counter-FPV shelters appears with a ‘Turtle BMP’ [or BMP-Mangals / ‘Царь-Мангал’] seen in operation inside Krasnohorivka. What appears to be earlier footage shows both ‘Ferdinand’ and the ‘Turtle BMP’ moving by road in the Petrovs’kyi district. The Turtle BMP appears to be fitted with a mine plough.

A still from footage of a Turtle BMP on the move on the outskirts of Donetsk (via social media)

Also on the 25 April, two photographs of fabrication of another Turtle Tank were shared these show a frame of six supporting arches onto which steel plates have been welded, on top of this a mash screen has been attached adding another layer of spaced protection.

A short video of yet another variant shows a sheet metal shell with an enclosed rear that has a door and steps perhaps to allow passengers to debus. The front of the shell is much more open and there is no sign of any electronic warfare devices mounted on the shell. It’s unclear when or where the footage was filmed.

Another example of a Turtle Tank, no mine plough fitted (via social media)

Intriguingly, the concept of a counter-FPV shelter made from sheet metal appears to be proliferating with several images of another vehicle reportedly originating from the Chasiv Yar area to the north of Krasnohorivka where the first vehicles were seen. The shell appears to be made from corrugated metal sheets and unlike some of the earlier examples has been painted with a camouflage pattern. Unlike some of the other Turtle tanks this one does not appear to have a mine plough fitted and it has a curtain of chains to protect openings at the front and rear of the shell.

A Turtle Tank reportedly operating near Chasiv Yar (via social media)

From the available imagery it appears that the majority of the vehicles outfitted with a counter-FPV shell are also equipped with mine ploughs, further supporting the theory that they are being used a breacher vehicles. Some, however, appear to be optimised for transporting infantry.

It’s unclear if all of the Turtle Tanks are operated by the 5th Motorized Rifle Brigade but [as of 25 April] there may be early signs that the counter-FPV shelter concept may be proliferating to other sectors, and other units. While the vehicles may appear ridiculous they are proving at least somewhat effective in mitigating the threat of Ukrainian FPV drones though their shells offer little protection against anything else.

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