Over January and February, the Russian military tried to capture the small coal-mining town of Vuhledar in the south of the Donbas.
A strong mechanized force comprised of a couple of brigades of elite Russian marines tried to breach the Ukrainian defenses and capture Vuhledar.
If they had succeeded, the Russian military would have created the conditions for an operational breakthrough.
The Russian attack failed with extremely heavy casualties. This is the weapon system that the Ukrainians used to stop the Russian tanks and elite marines.
How Ukraine “RAAMed” Its Way to Victory in Vuhledar
As is its standard operating procedure, the Ukrainian military released footage of the Russian failed assaults around Vuhledar after the battle ended.
Kyiv has shrewdly used the information space to conduct psychological operations but also to boost domestic morale.
What the footage showed was Russian tank after tank trying to breach a chokepoint in a field outside Vuhledar. As the Russian tanks and other weapon systems tried to move forward, they would explode. But there wasn’t any impact from artillery or the trail of anti-tank missiles.
And yet, the Russian tanks, armored personnel carriers, and infantry fighting vehicles continued to explode. Indeed, in the span of just a few days, the Russian military lost more than 30 heavy weapon systems in the area and more than 1,000 troops killed or wounded.
The answer to the mystery of the Russian defeats is the RAAM, or M718 Remote Anti-Armor Mines.
Essentially artillery shells that contain several anti-tank mines, the RAAM is a highly effective weapon, as evidenced by the failed Russian mechanized assault.
During the assault against the Ukrainian positions around Vuhledar, the Ukrainian military rained down M718 RAAMs on the likely path of the Russian approach.
But the Ukrainians continued to fire the artillery-delivered mines during the Russian assaults, placing M718 RAAMs in front and behind the Russian mechanized formations, wreaking havoc.
The failed Russian assault at Vuhledar showcases the difficulty of breaching an entrenched position that is covered by artillery and mines. Indeed, in the absence of air or long-range fires superiority, there is only a limited number of options a military has in such a situation.
In addition to the M-777 155mm howitzer, the M718 RAAM can be fired by the M109 Paladin 155mm self-propelled howitzer also in use by Ukraine.
The U.S. has sent the Ukrainian military more than 10,000 M718 RAAMs through various security aid packages.
Used for area denial purposes, the M718 RAAM is very effective in protecting a flank or a likely route of advance without committing a lot of troops. The munition is also ideal for mobile defense purposes where the defender doesn’t have enough troops to adequately defend the whole contact line.
The M718 RAAM is a 155mm artillery shell that contains nine anti-tank mines. Launched from 155mm howitzers, such as the M-777 155mm gun, the M718 RAAM can scatter its mines up to 10 miles away. The mines are designed to self-destruct after a specified time period.
A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. He is currently working towards a Master’s Degree in Strategy and Cybersecurity at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.