April 28, 2022

Russia's tanks in Ukraine have a 'jack-in-the-box' design flaw. And the West has known about it since the Gulf war

Featuring Samuel Bendett

Source: CNN

Journalist Brad Lendon

Russian tanks with their tops blown off are just the latest sign that Russia's invasion of Ukraine isn't going to plan.

Hundreds of Russian tanks are thought to have been destroyed since Moscow launched its offensive, with British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace on Monday estimating it had lost as many as 580.

But Moscow's problems go beyond the sheer number of tanks it has lost. Experts say battlefield images show Russian tanks are suffering from a defect that Western militaries have known about for decades and refer to as the "jack-in-the-box effect." Moscow, they say, should have seen the problem coming.

The problem relates to how the tanks' ammunition is stored. Unlike modern Western tanks, Russian ones carry multiple shells within their turrets. This makes them highly vulnerable as even an indirect hit can start a chain reaction that explodes their entire ammunition store of up to 40 shells.

The resulting shockwave can be enough to blast the tank's turret as high as a two-story building, as can be seen in a recent video on social media.

"What we are witnessing with Russian tanks is a design flaw," said Sam Bendett, adviser with the Russia Studies Program at CNA and an adjunct senior fellow with the Center for a New American Security.

"Any successful hit ... quickly ignites the ammo causing a massive explosion, and the turret is literally blown off."

The flaw means the tank's crew -- usually two men in the turret and a third driving -- are sitting ducks, said Nicholas Drummond, a defense industry analyst specializing in land warfare and a former British Army officer.

"If you don't get out within the first second, you're toast."

Read the full story and more from CNN.

Authors

  • Samuel Bendett

    Adjunct Senior Fellow, Technology and National Security Program

    > Samuel Bendett is an Adviser with CNA Strategy, Policy, Plans and Programs Center (SP3), where he is a member of the Russia Studies Program. His work involves research on...