Russia Employing Car Tires to Shield Aircraft, Possibly Against Ukrainian Drone Strikes

Russian forces have begun using car tires to cover their attack aircraft, according to satellite imagery. Experts believe this could be a rudimentary attempt to shield the planes from increasingly successful Ukrainian drone attacks on Russian military airfields.

by Emma Sullivan

New satellite images from Maxar reveal an unconventional military tactic deep inside Russia: covering aircraft with car tires. The imagery of Engels Airbase shows two Tu-95 strategic bombers outfitted with tires on their airframes. Analysts suggest that the move might be an attempt to both guard against Ukrainian drone strikes and obscure the aircraft, especially during nighttime operations.

While the exact reasons for this unconventional approach have not been independently verified, the likely goal is to offer another layer of protection against drones and potentially diminish the aircraft’s visibility. “It could reduce the thermal signature of exposed strategic aviation assets, although they would still be observable under infrared cameras,” said Francisco Serra-Martins of drone manufacturer One Way Aerospace, whose drones have been used by Ukrainian forces.

Steffan Watkins, an open-source research consultant who specializes in tracking aircraft and ships, characterized the strategy as a low-tech countermeasure. “It may seem unorthodox, but they appear to be trying to better armor planes that are otherwise vulnerable. Its effectiveness would depend on the type of warhead used by the missile or drone,” Watkins explained. He also suggested that the tires could function to prevent shrapnel from an explosion above the plane from damaging the aircraft.

A NATO military official, speaking anonymously, confirmed that the alliance was aware of Russia’s use of tires on its aircraft. “We believe it’s a measure intended to protect against drone attacks, though its effectiveness is uncertain,” the official stated.

Ukraine has recently escalated its drone attacks against strategic targets within Russian territory, including airbases and transport planes. The move is part of Kyiv’s strategy to erode domestic Russian support for the ongoing conflict. Just last week, six Russian regions, including Moscow, experienced the largest drone attack since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine. In the city of Pskov, near the Estonian border, drones reportedly damaged several transport planes targeting an airport.

Earlier this month, Ukraine claimed to have launched drone attacks on airbases housing Russian supersonic bombers, in a bid to counter Russia’s overwhelming air power.

This isn’t the first time Russian forces have opted for unconventional defensive measures. Previously, they have used metal cages to cover the turrets of their tanks, aiming to mitigate the impact of modern anti-tank weapons.

(Associated Medias) – All right reserved