Israeli Tanks Outfitted with “Cope Cages” Ahead of Ground Assault on Gaza

Israeli Tanks Outfitted with “Cope Cages” Ahead of Ground Assault on Gaza


Recent photos of Israeli forces staged along the border with Gaza show that Merkava Mk.4 main battle tanks have started to be outfitted with roof screens, also known as “cope cages,” which are designed to prevent direct impacts from top-down strike ATGMs, loitering munitions, or drone-dropped munitions.

Cope cages were the result of lessons learned from the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war due to the extensive use of explosive drones during the conflict. The outbreak of the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan showcased just how effective loitering munitions are on a modern, conventional battlefield against both infantry and armored targets.

A major turning point of the conflict was the increased use of combat UAVs (Turkish made TB2) and loitering munition systems (Israeli IAI Harop and Harpy) by Azerbaijani forces, which targeted Armenian defensive positions, anti-air defenses, and supply lines. When it came to targeting Armenian armor, Azeri forces relied heavily upon Israeli weaponry, such as the loitering munitions just named and Spike NLOS ATGMs. Azerbaijan claims that it destroyed over 360 Armenian tanks, which is roughly 70% of their total fleet. Armenia’s armor capabilities consisted primarily of T-72 main battle tanks, which faced unrelenting top-down attacks by drones and ATGMs since its turret roof is only 30mm thick (just over 1 inch). 

Russia appeared to have taken note of the vulnerability and began constructing steel canopies in July 2021 to retrofit onto their T-72s and similar tank platforms to act as slat armor that sits over the turret, which would prevent direct detonation on the vehicle. These canopies were seen on various Russian military tanks during training and field testing across the Southern Military District and Crimea. Eventually, they became a common sight in staging areas in Russia before they made their way onto the Ukrainian battlefield where we continue see them to this day and even with Ukrainian forces. Looking back at what has been the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the outfitting of the canopies was a pretty clear indicator of what was to come (important to remember).

Having studied cope cages for nearly two years now, they have varied results. One has to remember that these are for top down strikes only, as they will have no effective on strikes against the hull. So when it came to top down strikes from ATGMs, the screens had little effectiveness. Cope cages came to shine with preventing explosive drone strikes and impacts from drone-dropped munitions against the top of the turret. These are by no means 100% foolproof, but they have shown to have a degree of effectiveness against drones.

Looking back at Israel, we have seen Hamas militants already destroy a Merkava tank with a drone-dropped HEAT round, which shows they have adopted the tactic we have seen widely used in Ukraine. While likely not due to this specific incident, the IDF has taken into account the increased likelihood that these tactics will be used in grater numbers if a ground assault against Gaza commences. Like with Russia, the cope cages seemed to be a good indicators of the invasion, so I will treat it the same with Israel.

To summarize this, drone tactics used in a war in Nagorno-Karabakh inspired the Russians to counter them by making roof screens. Due to their reasonable success on the battlefield, Israel has adopted a similar design as it prepares to move into Gaza, where it is expected to face stiff Hamas resistance. It will remain unclear, however, how these will fair up in a urban setting like Gaza, as compared to the more rural settings of Ukraine.

Unbiased & Unfiltered News Reporting for 12+ years. Covering Geo-Political conflicts, wartime events, and vital Breaking News from around the world. Editor-In-Chief of Atlas News.
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