Could a Hovercraft Get Through Russian Minefields?

Wes O'Donnell
7 min readSep 21, 2023

The answer might surprise you…

Single-seat racing hovercrafts. Dave Adcock. Public domain

I sat down today to write about Ukrainian engineers using ‘Spider Boots’ to help navigate Russian minefields in Ukraine, and then something curious happened: I started thinking about why the unique design of spider boots saves lives and how that might apply to vehicles.

Spider Boots may sound like a magical quest item from D&D, but this unique footwear, made for combat engineers, may be the key to saving Ukrainian lives.

Reuters recently reported how combat engineers from Ukraine’s 128th ‘Transcarpathia’ Mountain Assault brigade are using Ukrainian-produced spider boots strapped over their combat boots to protect themselves from Russia’s dense minefields.

And dense they are… The Russians have gone ‘mine crazy’ — laying even more mines than the already ridiculous Soviet/Russian military mine-laying doctrine provides.

Thinking about spider boots led me on a thrilling ‘stream of consciousness’ journey that culminated with an epiphany.

Spider boots’ four pod-tipped spider legs increase the horizontal ‘standoff’ range of a detonating mine. The resulting air gap significantly reduces the energy directly transmitted from the blast in the ground to the soldier, by allowing more of the blast’s energy to vent sideways.

This is often enough to save feet, legs, and groin from a blast discharging directly underneath.

Gad Shaanan Design, Inc. Courtesy The Museum of Modern Art.

So, are there any military vehicles that have a standoff range from the ground like spider boots?

Yes, there are.

Are there any vehicles that don’t apply point pressure to the ground?

Oh my… Yes, there are!

Are there any vehicles that combine both of these traits?

Hovercraft!!

Note: This was actually a plot point in the 2002 James Bond movie, Die Another Day, where the legendary British spy drives a hovercraft through the minefields of the North and South Korean DMZ. I forgot about this until I started researching

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Wes O'Donnell

Army & Air Force Veteran | Global Security guy at War is Boring, GEN, OneZero | Intel Forecaster | Law Student | TEDx Speaker | Pro-Democracy | Pro-Human Rights