Video footage released by the Ukrainian Operational Command North on Wednesday showed a Russian tank being completely obliterated by Ukrainian artillery. The strike resulted in a gigantic fireball and blast, creating what is known as the “jack-in-the-box” effect.
The video was also released with a statement from Ukrainian military officials which reads, “Somewhere in the steppes of Donbas, an enemy tank met soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and ‘tore off its turret’ out of joy. This is such a short fairy tale.”
The video footage even shows large pieces of shrapnel flying into the air, and then following from the large mushroom cloud of black smoke.
What Is the Jack-In-The-Box Effect?
The “jack-in-the-box” effect refers to an explosion caused by artillery strikes on tanks and armored vehicles which are particularly large as a result of the ammunition within the tank igniting. The huge blast causes the turret of the vehicle to be blown completely off.
Russian tanks are particularly vulnerable to this effect, thanks to a design flaw in the T-72, T-80, and T-90 tanks’ auto-loading system. The system makes it easier for a smaller crew to load the ammunition while operating the vehicle, but it also means that the ammunition compartment is at risk of exploding when hit by enemy artillery. Anybody inside of one of these Russian tanks hit by artillery fire will surely be killed if the ammunition compartment is hit.
The design flaw has been known for several decades, too. Western militaries became aware of the design flaw during the Gulf wars in 1991 and 2003 when a large number of Iraq’s Russian-built T-72 tanks were destroyed in this way.
In April, British Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace estimated that as many as 580 Russian tanks had been destroyed by Ukrainian fighters at that time and that many of those tanks were lost as a result of the design flaw.
— ?? Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) July 6, 2022
The way ammunition is stored within these tanks means that one hit, even an indirect hit, can cause a chain reaction that ignores the entire store of ammunition within the vehicles. In some cases, that could mean 40 shells igniting in quick succession or at the same time.
The explosion, as well as the shockwave that comes with it, can reach higher than a two-story building.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.