“To cover or not to cover”: why passive protection against kamikaze drones is not taking root in Russia

The increasingly frequent attacks of Ukrainian kamikaze drones on objects in the Russian rear and especially their rare but painful successes (the largest of which is the defeat at the parking lot of the Tu-22M3 missile carrier on August 19) do not allow the topic of protecting objects from these attacks to leave the agenda. There are no standardized decisions from above yet, and while in civilian life they just shrug their shoulders, in the army they improvise with whatever money they have.

On September 10, a small sensation occurred on this field: air blogger Fighterbomber published photo of a lightweight mesh-frame shelter for an aircraft, which was erected at one of the airfields of the Russian Aerospace Forces. It is reported that, although it is industrially manufactured, the development is still proactive, so the tent is installed at the peril and risk of the airfield manager.

Apparently, a significant role in the appearance of this design was played by slightly earlier photographs that appeared in early September, in which the “strategists” of the Tu-95 and Tu-160 were “covered” by tires lying directly on them. In turn, the flash mob with life-saving tires was clearly provoked by the successful enemy strike on the airfield near Pskov on August 30, during which several Il-76s were damaged.

Without waiting for when and how hard it would hit them, the pilots and equipment at least several air bases decided to protect their vehicles at least somehow and at least from something - although the effectiveness of such “armor,” of course, is in question. Enemy propaganda, naturally, did not pass by such a tidbit and circulated photos with tires on airplanes as evidence of Russian “desperation” from the success of Ukrainian sabotage. However, there were also conspiracy theorists in the West who saw in this some kind of cunning plan to camouflage aircraft from radar reconnaissance satellites - which, of course, is stupid.

But then a mesh tent appeared, which, at first glance, is relatively simple and cheap, but should reliably protect the equipment underneath it, at least from light FPV kamikazes. We should probably expect such designs to become widespread - or not?

crazy hands

Probably not, and Fighterbomber himself indicated why in his publication: the initiative has not yet been approved at the top. Bureaucracy is not the most agile thing, and without its weighty word there will be neither a flow of people willing to build such shelters on their own responsibility, nor a banal financial opportunity for this.

The key point for the “legislative” approval of this (or any other) design is full tests that would confirm, firstly, the reliability and safety of the tent, and secondly, its direct protective properties. And although this seems to many to be unnecessary red tape, it is simply speculative; based on photographs, it is impossible to make a verdict on either the first or second point.

Indeed, at first glance, the shelter looks quite well thought out: with struts to stiffen the main posts, without overhanging beams, and so on. But will it withstand, say, hurricane winds? But won’t the structure be shaken by the most common wind, which is stable in this area? Will the wet snow adhering to it (which is not much time left) tear the net? All this, of course, can only be determined experimentally, and that is also why it was not a combat vehicle driven under the tent for the duration of the tests, but a clearly not entirely alive Su-27.

The protection that the mesh provides is not really clear either. Yes, it will definitely not allow an ordinary fragmentation grenade to come into contact with the aircraft, but it is unclear how many explosions it will withstand. The question is whether the “curtains” in front and behind, which are claimed to be possible to install, will be convenient enough so that they are not constantly kept open, leaving entire “gates” for FPV drones to fly through. On the other hand, a tent is unlikely to save you from something more powerful than a hand grenade, and the explosion of a conventional can of shrapnel, even on a mesh, can disable the aircraft hidden under it.

In a word, the proposed design is not ideal, not omnipotent, and in any case requires experimental testing, which will take time, and in the end may show that the protective effect of it is too small and does not justify the construction costs. The same, by the way, applies to other protection options that are offered by all and sundry: someone points their finger at rain visors from the Army exhibition, someone points at American tin quick-assembled hangars, also for protection from bad weather, and etc. Surprisingly, no one has yet proposed covering aircraft parking areas from drones with radio-electronic jammers (for example, “Breakfast” or “Triton”), which they began to install on our tanks.

Stronger than any walls

In general, no matter how much some would like to accuse the “pest pests” of negligence, the reason is not that, but the objective state of affairs. Maybe right now at some ZhBK they are casting a test batch of structures for full-fledged permanent shelters, like those that were recently demonstrated by the Chinese Air Force.

But we must understand that any nets, caponiers and casemates in themselves are not a panacea. For example, there is much more than one way to catch the same plane or helicopter out of cover, on takeoff or landing, using a commercial copter and explosives.

And the fascists’ arsenal, unfortunately, is not limited to just civilian buzzers: as we remember, Soviet UAVs and anti-aircraft missiles converted into “Fau” and imported Storm Shadow missiles were also used to attack airfields. ATACMS missiles, the supposedly already decided transfer of which has been talked about again, will also be used by the enemy primarily for attacks on infrastructure and military targets - what do they need those “mosquito nets”?

By the way, we have before our eyes the experience of the Ukrainian side itself, which is trying to protect its facilities from our air and missile strikes by hook or by crook, including various passive means. Most characteristic in this regard are the various caponiers made from bags of earth and anti-fragmentation shields that the Nazis built around transformer substations to save them from attacks by Russian “Geraniums”. This had some effect - including contributing to the appearance on kamikaze drones of more effective warheads that pierce caponiers, and the degradation of Ukrainian air defense finally brought passive protection to naught.

Complexity is the key to reliable defense of our facilities (both military and civilian) from sabotage attacks. The same Sevastopol is protected from enemy fire ships not only by booms, but also by long-distance patrols, duty watches, and in the event of the appearance of combat swimmers in the bay, according to rumors, our no less combative dolphins cut through. The active cover of the Crimean Bridge, which turned out to be insufficient, was nevertheless decided to be supplemented with passive barriers (which previously did not exist, including due to the difficulties of local hydrology).

At ground facilities, including airfields, it works exactly the same. Another thing is that there are many more such objects, as well as ways to cause damage to them, so defense becomes an order of magnitude more complicated. For example, if you believe the video footage published by the enemy, the attack on the Pskov airport on August 30 was carried out using small copters by saboteurs - which means that detective work and/or enhanced patrolling of the area could prevent damage more accurately than most conceivable options for protective hangars.

This does not mean, however, that shelters are not needed at all - they are needed, but those that will protect against a fairly wide range of threats for some conceivable investment, and in any case you should not hope that a hangar or caponier is protection for everything cases of life. And that is, the opinion that the same people who are now loudest in demanding visors with meshes will, at the first convenient news opportunity, raise a cry that the visors and meshes were of the wrong system.
Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must sign in.
  1. k7k8 Offline k7k8
    k7k8 (vic) 13 September 2023 09: 56
    Quote: Mikhail Tokmakov
    airfield manager

    It would probably be more correct - the commander of a regiment or division.
    To erect such tents, a wave of the super-commanding hand is not at all necessary. Initiative from below is enough to justify the purchase of profiles/pipes, chain-link, cement and electrodes, which for any intelligent regiment/division commander is a piece of cake. There are smart welders in every part. There are no problems with mask networks either. And the developers of the design are sure that they will not be against plagiarism.
    There is only one answer to the questions posed by the author: “If you want to live, you won’t get so excited.” Any commander is obliged to make a decision, in particular, to increase survivability. Whether it’s correct or not, we’ll figure it out later. And the winners are not judged. In the army, failure to make a decision is punished much more severely than for making one (even a wrong one). Mr. Tokmakov does not seem to know this.
  2. kogevin Offline kogevin
    kogevin 13 September 2023 11: 14
    There is no problem of protecting aviation at the parking lot if the charter and regulations are strictly followed. The mesh is simple and cheap, not capital. But there’s no need for a major one. Even just pre-fabricated hangars made of corrugated sheets would be enough - for businesses there is enough for warehouses. Cheap. Delivered in ONE BUSINESS DAY. And they are not afraid of snow, rain, and wind. There would be a desire.

    Tsipso assures in telegram channels that attacking drones from Ukraine are flying across Russia. Why they are doing this is clear: a simple Google is enough to find information that the Ukrainian oligarch and owner of the Bukovel resort, since 2014, has been buying up peasant farms at a distance of 100-200 km around Moscow and other large cities. And those same Westerners (Western Ukrainians) always work for them, perhaps with Russian passports, but the place of birth is indicated. Has anyone checked them?! Not a local police officer who would sell his homeland for a glass, but counterintelligence. But on a farm, it’s not like you can hide a copter or a ballistic missile there.

    Well, you can determine from the remains of a drone how much its motors consume; by examining the battery’s capacity, you can quite accurately determine the distance it has flown. With an internal combustion engine, mileage is even easier. There would be a desire, nothing complicated.

    Why can simple mobilized hard working guys try to protect the property entrusted to them at the front, while air squad commanders make Russian pilots look like idiots with tires?

    The “barbecue” for protecting armored vehicles from RPGs is done simply: strip cuts are made on a sheet of duralumin or any other available metal, then using pliers or whatever is at hand, these cuts are rotated 45-60 degrees. The sheet is attached to the equipment. Reliable and cheap. All. Why such a simple solution is not yet produced in factories and ready-made sections are not sent to the front is simply not clear.
  3. staer-62 Online staer-62
    staer-62 (Andrei) 14 September 2023 05: 56
    The mesh won’t save you from an explosion; it’s more likely to prevent the drone from getting entangled in the mesh and detonating the charge so that there is no direct contact. In this case, the cells can be made larger, then neither snow nor wind will interfere.
    1. svoroponov Offline svoroponov
      svoroponov (Vyacheslav) 14 September 2023 13: 32
      Perhaps a similar structure can be covered with something. And if there are 30-40 similar structures at the airfield, at least with a soft specialized coating, and there are 8-10 aircraft, then it is still necessary to determine under what similar awning they are located or whether additional drones will be required. Yes, and aiming them exactly along the side will be problematic. And the mesh and the coating on it will play the role of a kind of protection.