This has been talked about for years, and here it is. In the zone of the special military operation in Ukraine, Russian Tanks for the first time faced with the massive use of the "roof-piercing" American Javelin light anti-tank missile system. Despite all sorts of statements that this is just rubbish stuffed with expensive electronics, it can hardly be called useless. it weapon was originally developed as a counterbalance to Soviet armored vehicles, which, albeit after a deep modernization, include our tanks. You can be sure that the developers of the Javelin, who were lucky enough to arrange a large-scale run-in of their offspring against the purposes for which it was created, will draw certain conclusions to increase the effectiveness of this product.
We also need to draw conclusions. There are more and more anti-tank weapons attacking the upper hemisphere of the combat vehicle, both quantitatively and qualitatively, and therefore the problem of protecting this projection of the tank in the future will require its solution.
Traditional Armor and Unconventional Javelin
For more than seventy years, the gold standard in both our tank building and foreign has been differentiated armor, also called multi-strength or rational. His idea is to provide the greatest protection for those projections that are more exposed to fire - the frontal parts of the tower and hull, while the sides, stern and roof are content with secondary importance and less resistance to anti-tank weapons. All this is quite logical: a tank made according to the differentiated armor scheme weighs much less than its brother with equal strength armor, and at the same time it is better protected in maneuvering heading angles, which is what tank builders of all countries, including ours, are guided by. All T-64/72/80/90s, and Abrams with Leopards 2, Leclercs, and so on, were created according to this principle. In general, as they say, an ageless classic, with which you still have to live and live for decades with a small chance of an alternative.
It is noteworthy that anti-tank ammunition is also being developed within the framework of these rules. We can talk for a long time about the fact that no one has been shooting a tank in the forehead for a long time, but the fact remains: when creating almost any armor-piercing projectile, guided missile and most anti-tank grenades, the possibility of hitting a target in the most powerful frontal projection is taken into account. It is logical that in this confrontation between armor and projectile, when armor penetration and protection play catch-up with varying degrees of success, someday an asymmetric game-changing response will appear.
This answer was the means that practically nullify the traditional tank armor scheme. We are talking about missiles that attack at the weakest point - the roof, a prominent representative of which is the Javelin, as a light and, most importantly, massive missile system, which is already being tested on a large scale against our equipment.
Make the roof thicker?
As you know, Javelin ATGM missiles are equipped with infrared homing heads, which allows them to attack from top to bottom in the geometric center of the tank, which is the tower, or rather, its roof. The fact that it is not difficult to break through this part of the vehicle’s armor protection with a conditional thickness of 40 mm of steel is understandable without much explanation. Here, breaks and dents are provided from vertically falling large-caliber mines, not to mention a tandem cumulative warhead that penetrates about 800 mm behind dynamic protection.
How to increase security? Equipping the roof with combined armor will not work. Yes, some materials, including semi-active elements, show high resistance to cumulative projectiles and at the same time have a lower mass than steel. For example, we can take the widely advertised reinforced ceramics based on silicon carbide. This contraption was used not only to make armor for tanks and other equipment, but also continue to produce bulletproof vests and other personal protective equipment. Despite the fact that it provides anti-cumulative resistance up to 30% higher than that of steel armor, in order to protect against the Javelin tandem warhead, it will be necessary to increase the thickness of the roof with ceramic inserts to at least 600 mm. Undoubtedly, technological progress does not stand still, and modern protective structures show much higher efficiency, however, the use of even the most advanced combined elements will make the roof “thicken” by 10 or more times.
The numbers are absolutely outrageous and cannot be realized in practice for several reasons, including: an exorbitant increase in the height and weight of the tank, the low-tech manufacturing of turrets and the expansion of their weakened zones. And this is actually the least of the problems.
Dynamic protection and "visors"
And what about dynamic protection (DZ)? With the roof of the tower, everything is not very good. The fact is that dynamic protection for effective action requires the presence of full and thick armor behind it. Tests of the mounted DZ "Kontakt" against grenades and missiles show that it is capable of, at best, reducing the penetration of these ammunition by 400-450 millimeters. As a result, HEAT warheads with a penetration capacity of 800-1000 mm, after overcoming dynamic protection, leave a hole in the armor up to 300-500 mm deep. More advanced dynamic protection systems, which include Contact-5 and Relic, provide less aftereffect of the cumulative jet, however, to completely neutralize it, you still need to have the same 300-400 mm of passive armor behind the DZ, which is simply unreal.
The roof of the tower T-72B3 arr. 2016. Source: commons.wikimedia.org
But here, in addition to all other nuances, the spatial arrangement of dynamic protection units plays a role. It is known that the DZ shows the greatest efficiency only at a large angle of inclination, and on the tower it is installed almost horizontally. Even taking into account the fact that the Javelin missile does not fly at the target strictly vertically, but at a certain angle, the dynamic protection against it will not fully work.
Also, among the shortcomings, one can note the impossibility of covering the entire roof area with DZ blocks due to the equipment and hatches installed on it. At the same time, one should not forget that the Javelin warhead is made according to a tandem scheme and is capable of overcoming dynamic protection of the Contact and Contact-5 types. Although, in fact, the “Relic” with its anti-tandem properties will also get worse here - both the unfavorable angle of approach of the rocket and the thin roof armor, which will not hold back the residual effect of the cumulative jet in any case, will affect.
Equally doubtful are the so-called "peaks" - steel structures in the form of platoon lattice screens installed above the roof of the tank turret. These products, mostly of a handicraft nature, were massively used during the war in Syria, but then migrated to our tanks. Their debut on domestic vehicles was a special military operation in Ukraine, although tanks with this impromptu protection appeared in the lenses of television cameras long before February 24 during the exercises.
One of the options for "visors" for the T-72B3. Source: freehelp24.ru
First, there are a number of operational problems. These include difficulties with loading ammunition, a strong limitation of the aiming angles of a large-caliber machine gun, reduced visibility from the tank, and, finally, the ability to demolish this "visor" by catching on some kind of obstacle - collapsing (from an explosion or from a "hook"), this the design can complicate the exit from the tank by blocking the hatches.
As for the combat effectiveness of the "visors", it can manifest itself to the greatest extent against cluster munitions, while in order to guarantee the protection of the entire roof of the tower from the combat units of the Javelin, it will be necessary to increase the height of this anti-cumulative canopy to at least one and a half meters, which will certainly affect its sustainability. In general, as a one-time "crutch" with very dubious effectiveness - it will do, but as a reliable tool - no.
Possible solution to the problem
In general, of course, the problem of protecting the roof of a tank is not so new. A long time ago there were submunitions attacking from above for MLRS cluster projectiles, aviation missiles, as well as missiles for portable / transportable anti-tank systems with shock nuclei. But if it is still possible to organize protection from "cassette guns" and shock nuclei by more or less simple means, and aviation homing missiles, due to their specifics, are still far from the most frequent guest on the fronts of hostilities, then a completely different situation develops with the Javelin - this is a massive, high-precision and rather penetrating thing that is already actively fighting against our tanks. Countering this threat requires a whole range of measures.
If we discard all ideas with dubious "visors", not very effective dynamic protection and other means, the tank's thermal camouflage should come to the fore. In the case of the Javelin, this is one of the most important protection factors. An example would be heat-insulating materials that can be used to disrupt missile guidance. Low visibility for infrared homing heads (GOS) is a matter of paramount importance, but masking is also needed for something else.
The operators of this missile system in the course of their training learn not only to prepare the system for use, to look into the sight and pull the trigger. A considerable part of the study time is devoted to the routine procedure of finding a target. Yes, the Javelin is not smart enough to say to the shooter: “Hey, over there, a little to the left, a kilometer away, there is a tank behind the bushes, press the button and I will shoot.” In fact, the operator, although having a thermal imager, often has to look for an enemy combat vehicle in order to fire at it. And this is a weak point in the chain of actions from “turned on the anti-tank systems” to “hit the target”.
Including disguise should hit him. Here our military-industrial complex has something to offer.
At the disposal of our military there is a mass-produced Nakidka complex. It is actually a cover that covers the maximum possible area of the external projections of the tank. Structurally, the “Cape” consists of heat-insulating and radio-absorbing layers, which several times reduce the probability of detecting a tank both in the infrared range and make it less noticeable to reconnaissance radar stations.
Complex "Nakidka" on the T-90MS. Source: wikimedia.commons.org
"Cape" is able to make the tank less visible not only for homing heads (GOS), but also for the human eye, looking into the thermal imaging sight. The temperatures of the outer layer of this cover, even with the heated armor of the tank, remain at the ambient level, so it will be much more difficult for the Javelin operator in combat conditions to determine a target that is faintly distinguished from the background.
An addition to this should be the camouflage of the chassis of the tank. It is known that the suspension, due to the abundance of moving, including rotating elements, can compete with the engine compartment in terms of heat load. Moreover, it is sometimes so strong in the infrared spectrum that it is by its radiation that you can determine whether a tank is in sight or some other vehicle.
An example of a running gear warming up. Source: realitymod.com
We began to pay attention to these details only on the latest modifications of tanks. You can see how the side screens have evolved from short "mini-skirts" to long "monastic robes" on the latest modifications of the T-90, T-80 and T-72. But there is still a place to strive, and an example in the form of a photo is attached below.
An example of the correct undercarriage camouflage. Source: vk.com
Here, of course, it would be worth mentioning the decrease in the temperature of the exhaust gases, which greatly affect the visibility of the tank in thermal imaging sights, but on our vehicles of the T-72 and T-90 family, it is completely problematic to organize this. However, even with the use of the “Cape” and elongated side screens, the visibility of the tank for the operator of the ATGM and GOS drops several times.
However, camouflage does not always save, so the second necessary attribute of the tank should be an active countermeasure system. And this issue, in contrast to the “Capes” that are quite applicable in mass production, requires more detailed studies.
Let's be honest, active protection on our tanks will not appear for a long time. This is due to both the financial component and the lack of clear certainty whether it is needed at all or not. Indeed, in addition to the obvious advantages, the classic active defense systems with the destruction of incoming projectiles have a number of disadvantages. Among them: extremely high power consumption when installing additional radars with monitoring of the space above the tank, the danger of infantry being hit by fragments of counter-munitions, high visibility for radar reconnaissance, deterioration of situational awareness of tankers and difficulty in interacting with infantry, since hatches cannot be opened when the protection complex is on, and so on. .
Yes, we can say that there are systems in which these problems are somehow solved. The problem is that we don't have them yet.
In general, of course, one of the most likely ways out of the current situation could be the possible development of the Shtora optical-electronic suppression system, which is installed on our tanks and other combat vehicles both in full and in a reduced composition.
Tank T-90A with KOEP "Shtora". Source: en.wikipedia.org
We are talking about ultraviolet direction finders, which can be installed in addition to the Shtora laser irradiation sensors. Ultraviolet radiation from rocket engines is located in the so-called solar blinding zone of the electromagnetic spectrum, where there are practically no interferences that interfere with the operation of infrared sensors and radar stations. So the chance to identify the attacking tank ammunition is very high. At the same time, there is no need to install radar stations that consume power from the on-board network, as well as a complex computer system.
Counteraction to the observed missile can take place according to the technology worked out on the Shtor by shooting grenades with an aerosol based on fine particles that are impenetrable in the infrared spectrum. As a result, a cloud that is opaque to the homing heads is formed above the tank. The missile loses sight of the target, and guidance fails. No lethal fragments and no danger to the infantry.
An example of setting up aerosol curtains. Source: en.wikipedia.org
Similar solutions are presented both on the latest Russian tank T-14 "Armata" and on foreign models. And they are quite viable. According to preliminary estimates, the efficiency of such systems can be 80-90%.
On the left side of the T-14 turret, aerosol grenade launchers are visible to counter the ammunition attacking from above. Source: warfiles.ru
In general, there are solutions to the problem, and they need to be worked on in the near future. "Javelin" is not "somewhere out there, far away and not with us", as it was before the start of the NWO. Now it is here and now. On the example of the events currently taking place in Ukraine, it can be said with confidence that precision weapons are no longer some kind of elite feature. If necessary, they can literally oversaturate the troops, which brings the threat to tanks from the level of theory to the level of terrible practice. And, given the current trends in the development of anti-tank systems, the American Spear will not be limited in the future.