Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) refers to a type of reactive armor for military vehicles, predominantly used for tanks and armored personnel carriers (APC), that breaks up a competing projectile upon impact in order to protect the vehicle from being penetrated and keep the crew inside safe. ERA was first designed in Soviet Russia in the late 1900s. ERA became the subject of memes and internet discourse in 2023 and 2023 amid the Russian Invasion of Ukraine, starting with threads on 4chan's /k/ board. At first, the memes made fun of the Russian military and its typical use of ineffective, dangerous and inferior ERA to the Ukrainians. Later, in early 2023, ERA memes were made about the Ukrainian army putting ERA on seemingly everything following the military's acquisition of German-made Leopard 2 tanks from Poland. The memes spread to /pol/ and Reddit's /r/NonCredibleDefense sub where ERA bricks were used as an exploitable, being edited onto image macros and meme templates along with Ukrainian soldier-coded Flork of Cows characters. ERA was also called "Cope Bricks" in reference to Copium and Cope Cages.
Explosive reactive armor (ERA) first surfaced in 1949 in the Soviet Union when Ukrainian scientist Bogdan Vjacheslavovich Voitsekhovsky first synthesized the idea for triggering a directional, counter-explosion to protect an armored vehicle from being destroyed and penetrated. The Russian military failed in their initial experiments, however, the weapon's research was picked up by Norwegians and West Germans, eventually leading to Israel and the IDF's interest in reactive armor. In 1982, the IDF was the first to successfully implement ERA on its tanks during the Lebanon War.
Online discourse first surfaced on 4chan's /k/ (Weapons) board about explosive reactive armor on July 18th, 2012. Various threads started on /k/ in 2012 about ERA, however, reactive armor memes didn't become a notable trend until 2023 directly following the Russian Invasion of Ukraine. For instance, on January 19th, 2023, roughly one month before the invasion, a 4chan user wrote, "Russian tanks covered in reactive armor sitting in a muddy steppe = kino," in a /k/ thread when responding to a news headline about Russia's then-likely invasion. In March 2023, discourse surfaced on /k/ about the speculated poor quality of Russian ERA, including a picture of what looked like cardboard coming out of ERA bricks on a tank (shown below). The same photo was posted to /r/NonCredibleDefense on March 5th, 2023, earning roughly 1,400 upvotes in one year.
Going into late 2023, discourse about ERA continued to surface, such as in a thread started on /k/ on September 9th, 2023, that included a photo of a BMP-3 with a Russian Z and minimal ERA on it and a caption reading, "the fuck is this?" (shown below).
The aforementioned /k/ thread also resulted in the first known image to have crudely photoshopped ERA bricks placed on an image (shown below).
Poland's Leopard 2 Tanks
On January 6th, 2023, discourse surfaced on Twitter and then /k/ about Ukraine purportedly requesting Poland to send German-made Leopard 2 tanks to them. News outlets like Newsweek started covering the possibility and the reported request soon after. On /k/, the development inspired discourse about the Poland Wojak Pushing NATO Article 5 Button. About a month later, on February 24th, Reuters reported that Poland had sent Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv. On February 25th, 2023, a meme was shared on /k/ (that first surfaced in 2023) showing a man rubbing K-1 ERA bricks on his face (shown below).
Flork of Cows Ukrainian Soldiers
On March 29th, 2023, a 4chan user posted to /k/ a photo that purportedly showed ERA put onto a Leopard 2 by Ukrainian forces (shown below, left). The anon wondered how much more protection it could give the tank. The thread ultimately led to many memes about the Ukrainians putting seemingly unnecessary amounts of ERA on their newly acquired tanks. For instance, a user posted a meme to the /k/ thread that showed Flork of Cows characters as Ukrainian soldiers (shown below, right). The Flork of Cows meme was originally shared by Redditor SenpaiPingu on March 29th, 2023, to /r/NonCredibleDefense, where it received roughly 8,600 upvotes in 15 days, later spreading to the /k/ thread.
The use of the Flork of Cows soldiers continued on Reddit's /r/NonCredibleDefense in April 2023 where the sharing of ERA-related memes became commonplace. For instance, on March 28th, 2023, a meme using Wojak characters was posted to /r/NonCredibleDefense by Redditor SpecificConcrete, gaining roughly 2,400 upvotes in 15 days (shown below, left). On April 6th, Redditor BlackMarine posted a Flork of Cows meme to /r/NonCredibleDefense showing two Ukrainian soldiers putting ERA on a Star Wars Star Destroyer ship, gaining roughly 13,200 upvotes in six days (shown below, right).
Thereafter, ERA memes using the two Flork of Cows soldiers trended en masse on /r/NonCredibleDefense, following the same format of the two Ukrainian soldiers unnecessarily putting ERA bricks on any object.
Flork of Cows Makes ERA Canon
On April 10th, 2023, Flork of Cows posted a new comic to Twitter (@FlorkOfCows) that was an ERA-related comic, gaining roughly 12,500 likes in nine days (shown below). On April 18th, 2023, Flork of Cows posted to /r/NonCredibleDefense using his Reddit account FlorkofcowsForReal, writing, "regarding use of my ip in memes." FlorkofcowsForReal encouraged the memes in his post, and in less than a day, the post gained roughly 6,600 upvotes.
 Defense Industry Europe – Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) Evolution and Impact on Tank Warfare