Russia Banks On ‘Laser Weapons’ Mounted On Remote-Controlled MCVs To Fight Ukraine’s Deadly Anti-Tank Mines

Even though Russia’s combat-hardened and sophisticated fighter jets and ground-based systems are hogging the limelight at the Army Forum 2023, the Russian Listva remote-controlled mine-clearing vehicle (MCV) has drawn attention with a special microwave gun upgrade.

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The press office of Ruselectronics Holding Company, which is a division of the state-owned technology company Rostec announced that the Listva mine-clearing vehicle is set to get a more potent microwave gun to more effectively combat modern mines with semiconductor electronics, the company told TASS on August 17 at the Army 2023 Forum.

The Research Institute of Measuring Instruments-Komintern Novosibirsk Plant Research and Production Association and the Kaskad Instrument Plant, a unit of Ruselectronics, have independently performed engineering calculations for the upgrade of the microwave unit of the Listva remotely controlled mine-clearing vehicle.

Modernizing the microwave apparatus will increase the power flux density of the emitted signal to around 10 W/cm2 at a distance of 50–80 meters.

“This will increase the probability of critically damaging and knocking out both previously used improvised explosives and modern IEDs containing semiconductor electronic elements,” the press office said.

Microwave weapons are directed energy weapons whose use has already been widely known in Russia. In essence, microwave-directed energy weapons focus electromagnetic radiation onto a target by converting power from a power source, such as the engine of a military vehicle, into radiated energy.

The focused high-power microwaves harm machinery, especially electronics, without causing harm to people present nearby. This is why several advanced militaries worldwide, including the United States and China, are increasingly developing and adopting DEWs, which are cheaper, more accurate, and cause little to no collateral damage.

File Image: ‘Listva’ Remote Demining Vehicle

This new microwave gun will be particularly effective against mines with semiconductor components. There were reports that Ukraine was deploying rockets with “scatterrable” anti-tank mines against Russian formations, including a magnetic-influence fuze.

Ruselectronics experts overseeing the upgrade and fitting of the microwave gun are also considering switching to a direct drive of the microwave unit’s rotational support mechanism to increase the precision of the radiating antenna’s positioning based on azimuth measurements.

The press office also stated plans to upgrade the jamming station with a more advanced, higher-capacity unit with a bandwidth of up to 6,000 MHz and equip the Listva remotely controlled mine-clearing truck with an automated video surveillance system.

This development comes when IEDs and mines have become a problem for both sides as they strive to slow down and buy time to thwart an enemy’s advance. In anticipation of a Ukrainian counteroffensive, Russia laid out a network of anti-tank mines and IEDs along the frontlines.

Several Russian tanks have been obliterated by going over mines. In fact, on several instances, Russian tank operators became a laughing stock on social media as videos that surfaced online showed multiple tanks moving in a formation and obnoxiously going over the same mines at the exact location in quick succession.

Listva Mine Clearing Vehicle

The Listva mine clearance vehicle uses an induction wide-span search module to find explosives and mines. Electromagnetic radiation is used to disable explosives and mines that have electronic components. The detonator’s electronic components are either jammed or destroyed by the vehicle.

The Listva is outfitted with tools to look for metal-containing explosives at a distance of 100 meters and a speed of 15 kilometers/hour. A wide-span, multi-zone search module in the front has 16 induction sensors and electromagnetic situational awareness tools. Mines can be manually located if necessary.

According to publicly available information, deploying mobile and fixed electronic jamming devices with a 70-meter jamming radius prevents the unsanctioned explosion of electronic or remotely controlled mines.

A powerful microwave emission from a parabolic antenna on top of the vehicle neutralizes electronic mines without causing any damage, and the mine clearance area is 50 meters wide. The Listva offers defense against remotely detonated bombs. Cellular phones are frequently used to set them off. The vehicle can produce electrical impulses that mimic cell phones and other electronic equipment.

In 2021, local Russian media reported that the vehicle was set for an upgrade and would receive a new microwave installation with increased pulse power to increase the range of destroying the explosive devices. At the time, the reports quoted Rostec as saying, “There are plans to modernize the microwave installation with an increase in pulse power by at least five megawatts.”

“The main purpose of Listva is to detect mine explosive devices, destroy engineering ammunition and improvised explosive devices,” noted Viktor Kladov, Director for International Cooperation and Regional Policy of Rostec, in the Army 2021 forum. “MDR can provide full protection for the following convoy, replacing an entire sapper unit.”

The crew, which includes sappers, decides whether to demine the ammunition or perform a controlled explosion if a pressurized mine is discovered.