Armor: PTKM-1R Mobile Anti-Tank Mine


September 1, 2023: Russia has apparently been using their PTKM-1R mobile mine against armored vehicles in Ukraine. These mines are placed in the open on a battlefield and activated. Each mine weighs 19.9 kg (44 pounds) and is a 220mm cylinder that, when activated, uses four acoustic sensors to detect heavy (armored) vehicles that are within range (100 meters) and then leaps 30 meters into the air to search for a target. If one is detected a top-attack armor-penetrating warhead is launched. This warhead can penetrate 70mm (nearly three inches) of armor. Even tanks have thin armor on the top of the vehicle. A hit on the engine compartment top would immobilize the tank and a hit on the turret top would kill or injure the crew, and possibly cause any ammunition in the turret to detonate and destroy the tank.

PTKM-1R was introduced in 2020 and offered for export. It is not a secret-weapon because the United States has been producing similar weapons since the 1980s. The U.S. Air Force developed top attack mines that are delivered via aircraft, with several of the mines in a bomb casing. When dropped from an aircraft the mines are released from the container and slowly descend to the ground searching for targets. Other versions can be placed on the ground and wait for up to ten days before the sensors are inoperative because the battery has run out of power.

The PTKM-1R is transported to a combat zone, placed on the ground and turned on. A self-destruct mechanism can be set for one to ten days to eliminate mines that are no longer needed. This is more expensive (over $20,000 each) compared to conventional anti-tank mines that are placed on the ground or covered with a thin layer of dirt. These mines cost less than ten dollars each. They are mechanical and do not require battery power. In other words, conventional anti-tank mines remain lethal for a long time, generally to farmers after the war.

PTKM-1R is very similar to the earlier American Hornet mine. In 2001, after twenty years of development, the U.S. Army finally got the first 110 Hornet anti-tank weapons. Hornet is a smart mine that attacks from above. Think of it as a robotic anti-tank weapon. The Hornet weighs 16 kg (35 pounds), is 350mm (13 inches) high and looks like a distorted miniature windmill. Hornet uses a library of sounds (heard through the air and ground) for potential hostile armored vehicles. Once the Hornet is turned on, and it detects one of these vehicles within 600 meters, it fires a five pound coffee can-size weapon into the air where it releases a warhead . The warhead has a radar and heat sensor, which confirms the target and then fires a special shaped charge that penetrates the top armor of the vehicle and destroys it. Hornet, called WAM (Wide Area Munition) through most of its development), costs $65,000 each. Hornet is ideal for airborne and Medium Brigade units, as it allows enemy armor to be killed without getting your own troops up close. Hornet is also perfect for ambushes. The air force uses a weapon similar to the Hornet (just the warhead, delivered dozens at a time from bomb shaped containers.) While some Hornets were delivered, they were never used and were eventually withdrawn from service because they were too expensive ($65,000 each) for export customers. PTKM-1R is cheaper but also found no export customers. Many have been used in Ukraine but few of them caused any damage to armored vehicles. The PTKM-1R battery lasts up to ten days and after that is another unexploded weapon containing 2.8 kg (six pounds) of explosives that remain dangerous for years.

The U.S. military has many other ways to destroy enemy armor and Hornet is not cost-effective. The Russians are finding that the cheaper PTKM-1R has a similar problem. Russia is using PTKM-1R it already has and has not ordered more of them.




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