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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

Watch This: Russia’s New ‘Remote Mine-Laying Artillery’ Is One Scary Weapon

Recently, Ukraine’s 128th Mountain Assault Brigade posted a video showing an artillery strike on a curious Russian rocket-launching truck seen creeping next to trees near a five-way intersection on the P37 highway in the southern Zaporizhzhya region of Ukraine.

Russian TOS-1 Buratino. Image: Creative Commons.
Image: Creative Commons.

Recently, Ukraine’s 128th Mountain Assault Brigade posted a video showing an artillery strike on a curious Russian rocket-launching truck seen creeping next to trees near a five-way intersection on the P37 highway in the southern Zaporizhzhya region of Ukraine. The attack succeeds in an unexpected yet dramatic way, exposing a weapon Russia is employing in increasing numbers in hopes of defeating Ukraine’s summer counter-offensive.

The video from an overflying Ukrainian Leleka-100 drone shows a Ukrainian shell fell just over a dozen meters off target—but shrapnel from the blast evidently was powerful enough to ignite solid fuel cells in the truck’s rockets, causing them to launch and zip every way, trailing plumes of smoke curling like the tentacles of an octopus. One rocket even makes a full 180-degree arc back over the launcher.

Geolocation of the imagery suggests the truck was located at Tavriya, 13 miles directly south of Shcherbaky, the site of intense fighting between Ukrainian and Russian troops.

The attack may have caused an even bigger mess because the target was an ISDM Zemledeliye remote-mine laying system designed to vomit forth salvoes of 50 rockets at a time that each can parachute-drop twelve POM-3 anti-personnel mines in the path of enemy forces up to 9 miles away—for a maximum of 600 mines per salvo.

Zemledeliye means “agriculture”, an apt designation for a system designed to sow unexpected destruction over wide areas. A Ukrainian officer posting under the social media handle Tatarigami writes

“Based on my knowledge about the current situation, Russian forces continue mining vast expanses, spanning dozens and hundreds of square kilometers…”

Operated by Russia’s combat engineer branch rather than the artillery, Zemledeliye undoubtedly poses a threat to Ukraine’s counteroffensive. For example, it may have played a role in the notorious early June armored attack near Mala Tomachka by Ukraine’s powerful 47th Mechanized Brigade, which resulted in the abandonment of several Leopard 2 tanks and sixteen Bradley fighting vehicles. Dense minefields—some perhaps laid after the attack began—bogged down the Ukrainian advance, leaving stranded armor surrounded by mines vulnerable to artillery and Ka-52 helicopters firing anti-tank missiles.

Minefields pose serious challenges for any attacking force. A 70-ton Leopard 2 tank capable of shrugging off sophisticated anti-tank shells hitting its front turret armor can still be immobilized by entirely mundane anti-tank mines. Even when present in low density, mines deter enemy action and mobility. 

Attackers coming prepared with mine-clearing vehicles and equipment, as the 47th Brigade did at Mala Tomachka, still face major challenges when clearing lanes under enemy fire.

Tatarigami notes: “Even the deployment of Mine Clearing Line Charges (MICLIC) does not provide a foolproof solution, given the scale of the problem … The limited supply of engineering equipment, [mobile] short-range air defense, and long-range artillery poses a challenge in breaking through the rigid minefield. While it remains possible to breach the defense line, achieving this objective will demand significant time and resources.”

Russia’s deadly “agriculture”

Zemledeliye combines a KamAZ 6560 8×8 truck lugging two launch canisters, each laden with 25 specialized 122-millimeter rockets packed full typically with either POM-2 or POM-3 anti-personnel mines or larger anti-tank mines. These can create a minefield 105 meters wide by 70 meters deep anywhere, with accuracy enhanced by the use of satellite navigation and weather sensors in the launcher vehicle. 

A crane-equipped KamAZ reloading truck can then swap in a new rocket-launching pod for another salvo in less than 15 minutes. The system’s trucks have armored cabs and smoke grenade launchers to enhance survivability.

The system also generates a digital map of where it laid mines, which it transmits to friendly troops so they can avoid them, and allegedly can even program its mine barrages to leave open corridors for use by friendly troops.

The first deliveries of Zemledeliyes to Russia’s military only took place in 2021, and their first combat use was recorded in action late in March 2022 near Kharkiv. Russian accounts claim the Zemledeliye was also deployed on the western side of the Dnieper River near Kherson before Russia’s withdrawal from the area. A grenade-dropping Ukrainian drone recorded the destruction of a Zemledeliye in March 2023.

However, Russian media suggests much more extensive use of Zemledeliye starting this June, beginning with a post by Russian military blogger Sasha Kots (below). A subsequent video shows a mine salvo being fired in the southern Donetsk area, the other area of intense focus in the initial phases of Ukraine’s counteroffensive.

Supposedly, Zemledeliye can also deploy a number of fancy enhanced smart mines, which have all been spotted in Ukraine. These include the 44-pound PTKM-1R “jumping” top-attack mine, which detects approaching enemy vehicles up to 250 meters away using thermal, radar, and acoustic sensors. Once within 50 meters, it jumps and discharges a 6-pound infrared-guided shaped-charge smart munition. Another bounding mine, the POM-3, uses a seismic sensor to detect approaching personnel on foot. It then pops up 1.5 meters above the ground and explodes with a 16-meter lethal radius. 

RAAMS to the rescue

Ukraine’s military also uses remote minelaying—and reportedly continues to employ the technique even as it goes on the offensive. 

Between September 2022 and April 2023, Ukraine received 14,000 rounds of the U.S. Remote Anti-Armor Mine System (RAAMS) compatible with standard Western 155-millimeter towed or self-propelled howitzers donated in numbers to Ukraine like the M777 and M109 Paladin respectively. The system’s M741 and M718 shells have a range of 2.5 to 11 miles, and each release nine puck-shaped magnetically-fused anti-tank mines weighing five pounds. 

It appears the U.S. has not transferred ADAM, the anti-personnel counterpart.

RAAMS began seeing use in December 2022, and most famously impacted Russian forces unsuccessfully assaulting the city of Vuheldar in February 2023. With the aid of drone spotters, Ukrainian artillery scattered mines in front of and behind Russian armored columns, contributing to devastating losses to Russian tanks and naval infantry mounted in APCs.

In June, Russian military blogger Alexander Sladkov claimed Ukraine was using RAAMS in support of its summer counteroffensive too, by remotely mining rear area roads used for ammunition resupply and reinforcements, though dismissed the threat as easily contained by patrolling combat engineers. However, the delay imposed by searching for anti-tank mines on foot is part of their raison d’etre.

Offensive-style mine warfare tactics

Remote minelaying makes it possible to scatter minefields on very short notice in areas not directly occupied by friendly forces, transforming a static, defensive technology into one that can be used reactively for both offensive and defensive missions. For example, mines can be placed in the path of an advancing armored column that has broken through frontline defenses, flung deep behind enemy lines to endanger roads used for reinforcement and resupply, or layered on the flanks an attacking force to block enemy reinforcements and counterattacks.

Admittedly, air-scattered anti-tank mines remain far more visible than mines carefully planted and cunningly concealed by engineers on foot. But armored vehicle crews rolling down a road often fail to spot anti-tank mines—especially if the crew has the hatches closed for protection against artillery and snipers. While deploying a dismounted infantry can help spot mines, it could fatally slow down the attack.

Even when a minefield is detected, an attacker faces a lose-lose choice. Either risk going through or around the field (though minefields often are designed to channel enemies towards prepared ‘kill zones’)—or bring the attack to a halt until combat engineering assets can arrive to clear a lane through the field. That solution may kill the attack’s momentum, giving the enemy time to establish a hasty defense, and leaves the clustered, waiting vehicles immobile in the open and vulnerable to enemy artillery and aviation. Worse, remote mining can re-mine areas previously cleared of mines, impeding retreat or reinforcement.

Remote-mining by both sides clearly is planting quite a lot of deadly munitions into Ukrainian soil. A mitigating factor, however, is that these munitions are designed to self-destruct after a given amount of time as required by international convention—some mines detonate within one or two days after deployment, others within just four hours. That has the self-interested benefit of eventually opening up the mined area for use by friendly forces, as well as serving the collective good of reducing the deaths of civilians long after the war has ended.

19FortyFive’s Longform Editor, Sébastien Roblin has written on the technical, historical, and political aspects of international security and conflict for publications including 19FortyFive, Popular Mechanics, The National Interest, MSNBC,, Inside Unmanned Systems, and War is Boring. He holds a Master’s degree from Georgetown University and served with the Peace Corps in China.  You can follow his articles on Twitter.

Written By

Sebastien Roblin writes on the technical, historical, and political aspects of international security and conflict for publications including the 19FortyFive, The National Interest, NBC News,, and War is Boring. He holds a Master’s degree from Georgetown University and served with the Peace Corps in China.