Images from satellite surveillance show Russian ground forces covering military jets with car tires in an attempt to protect them from drone attacks.
A few days ago satellite photos of Tu-95 Bear and Tu-160 Blackjack bombers covered with tires started appearing online.
Today a new photo Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback bomber covered with tires on the fuselage, wings, and horizontal stabilizers also appeared online.
Some theories suggest the move could offer cheap and cheerful armor protection. The tires may also provide some form of limited camouflage to drones, especially at nighttime.
The strategy could be a makeshift attempt to protect valuable aircraft from missile strikes by confusing their targeting systems.
Whatever the case, the strategy probably has a very limited effect, according to Francisco Serra-Martins of drone manufacturer One Way Aerospace, whose drones have been used by Ukrainian forces.
“It may reduce the thermal signature for exposed strategic aviation assets placed on airfield aprons, but they will still be observable under infrared cameras,” Serra-Martins told CNN in an interview. “While it seems pretty goofy, they seem to be trying their best to up-armor the planes that are otherwise sitting ducks. Whether it works depends on what the warhead is on the missile/drone,” said Steffan Watkins, an open-source research consultant who tracks aircraft and ships.
According to Watkins, the tires could also be used to prevent fragments from an explosion above the plane from damaging it. A NATO military representative informed CNN that they knew the tires but spoke anonymously as they were not authorized to speak to the media. “We believe it’s meant to protect against drones,” the official told CNN. “We don’t know if this will have any effect,” they added.
In the last few weeks, Ukraine has become increasingly bold in targeting strategic assets inside Russia through aerial attacks, even as it suffers assaults on its own cities, setting up a new phase of the conflict defined by Kyiv’s apparent efforts to wear down domestic Russian support for the war.