Russia’s improvised Soviet-era Kontakt-1 ERA drone protection for the T-90M tank will make the tank heavier, slower and easier to destroy

Russian military forces have unveiled a new defensive measure designed to counter small yet lethal Ukrainian kamikaze drones that have been inflicting significant losses on the battlefield.

The latest iteration of the T-90M tank features an innovative protective canopy adorned with Kontakt-1 explosive-reactive-armor (ERA) bricks, placed on the top and sides of the combat vehicle’s protective canopy.

The new drone protection will add more than 100kg weight to the already slow moving T-90M tanks.

The introduction of Cope cages on Russian armored vehicles dates back to late 2021, coinciding with the pre-war buildup, as a responsive measure against the threat posed by loitering munitions and drones. While initially perceived as a potential defense against anti-armor-guided missiles capable of top-attacks, their efficacy against such threats remains uncertain.

Amid the evolving nature of threats to armored vehicles, the adaptation of Cope cages continues to evolve throughout the ongoing conflict, now becoming a common addition to armored vehicles’ defensive capabilities.

Each Kontakt-1 block consists of two 4S20 explosive elements which are composed of plastic explosives sandwiched between two flat steel plates. The operating principle of the armour lies in the disruption of shaped charge jets through the violent separation of the steel plates sandwiching the explosive layer upon detonation. It is sometimes claimed that the large number of small gaps between the individual blocks leaves a statistically large portion of the tank surface vulnerable, but this is only partially true at very specific angles

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