Initially dismissed as ineffective, the utilization of the ‘cope cage’ on armored vehicles is now gaining traction. Originating from Russia and Ukraine, it can be argued that Russia pioneered this development. Defense analysts have observed that even before Russian troops invaded Ukraine, the first Russian tanks equipped with this improvised anti-drone protection were present in occupied Crimea.
Israel, engaged in conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, has embraced this trend by incorporating the cope cage into the latest version of the Israeli Merkava Mk3 tanks. A photo shared on X [formerly known as Twitter] captured one such tank, revealing a factory-made cope cage, rather than a makeshift adaptation.
The Israeli Merkava’s cope cage differs slightly from conventional ones. It is supported by two metal pylons forming a V-shaped grip base, protruding approximately a meter high from the tank’s dome. The structure lacks nets or bars, and its sheet metal roof is gently sloped. Thin steel cables extend from the base to the tank turret, and front sheet metal panels on all four sides are perforated. Notably, a camera is mounted on one side aligned with the front of the tank, and an antenna extends from the roof.
The construction of the cope cage on the turret of the Israeli Merkava Mk3 tank suggests it may be factory-built, although there is no definitive proof. This assumption is based on the structure’s design and build quality. Russia had previously announced the integration of factory-built cages on a significant portion of its combat armored land vehicles, as seen in the latest versions of tanks, armored personnel carriers, self-propelled howitzers, and enemy vehicles showcased at military exhibitions.
In the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the regular use of factory or improvised cages on tanks proves their efficacy. While not foolproof, Russian and Ukrainian armored vehicles equipped with these cages have often withstood attacks from enemy kamikaze drones.
The Merkava Mk3 made its debut in December 1989 and remained in active production until 2003. As of 2016, it proudly held the position of the most widely utilized tank in the IDF frontline service. Outperforming its predecessor, the Merkava II, the Mk3 boasted significant improvements in key areas, including the drivetrain, powertrain, weaponry, and electronics.
One of the most notable enhancements was the integration of the locally crafted IMI 120 mm gun. This addition, combined with a more powerful diesel engine generating 1,200 horsepower (890 kW), increased the tank’s overall weight to 65 tonnes (143,000 lb). Despite the added weight, the tank’s maximum cruising speed reached 60 km/h (37 mph) due to the upgraded engine.
A remarkable modification involved the turret’s ability to move independently of the tank chassis, allowing it to track a target irrespective of the tank’s direction. Several other improvements were implemented, including the installation of an external two-way telephone, facilitating secure communication between the tank’s crew and infantry on foot.