Wires and tires: Russia tests solutions to protect tactical aircraft from drones

Credit: FighterBomber / Telegram

Recent satellite imagery of the Engels-2 airbase in Saratov Oblast, approximately 400 kilometers southeast of Moscow, shows that Russia is developing new technology to protect its tactical aviation against Ukrainian drones. 

A post shared on the Fighterbomber Telegram channel, which has close ties with the Russian Aerospace Forces, published on September 10, 2023, revealed an “urgently developed” solution to possibly shield Russia’s aircraft against drone attacks.  

In the image a retired Su-27 Flanker appears to be used to test the new anti-drone protection system, which is a light hangar made of a metal framework covered with mesh wire. 

“The dimensions allow this solution to be used for almost all tactical aircraft and some types of helicopters,” the Fighterbomber post read. “If necessary, tarpaulin curtains impregnated with fire-resistant compounds are added in front and behind.” 

According to independent news outlet BulgarianMilitary.com, this concept might have originated from the common early-war practice of equipping large ground combat vehicles with handmade cages or metal grills for protection. 

This is not the first time that images reportedly showing Russia working on unique solutions for counter-drone technology have circulated.  

A week prior, on September 3, 2023, images of a Russian Tu-95 bomber and later a Su-34 fighter bomber with tires on their wings, horizontal stabilizers, and fuselage began to surface online.  

“In general, it seems that it has started all over the country. It is clear that all this is not from a good life, and apparently, it is the only option to do something quickly and without extortion from the personnel,” a post on the Fighterbomber Telegram noted at the time.  

According to Russian media outlet Vyorstka, since February 2022, when Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian secret services and armed forces have destroyed or damaged at least 24 aircraft during attacks on airbases in Russian regions, temporarily occupied Crimea and Belarus. 

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