On November 1, the official government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported that “The new LPD-802 anti-drone rifle, capable of suppressing American UAVs [drones], is being tested in Russia.”
In Iran, the government news agency Tasnimnews published a doppleganger report the same day.
Meantime, a blog close to the Russian Defense Ministry called “Defense and Offense” posted a video captioned: “Americans roar in horror. Russia has used an emitter of invisible waves LPD-802,” which also showcased the rifle.
Another popular blog, “Army Weaponry Russia,” with more than 131,000 followers on the Russian messaging app vKontakte, wrote the following under the headline “New drone killer”:
“The LPD-802 is capable of neutralizing any drone, regardless of the brand and firmware. The impact range reaches over 2 km. The replaceable battery provides operation for 2 hours or more.”
Those claims are exaggerated. Instead, the run of posts about a new drone-killing super rifle appears to be a rejoinder to news reports of Ukraine’s recent success in knocking down dozens of Iran-made suicide drones that Russia has been using in swarming attacks.
In fact, analysts say, the Russian weapon is a close-range (up to 1.5 km or 0.93 miles) light rifle with limited batteries (90 minutes). It can be used to disrupt small drones, not “any” drones.
The developer of the LPD-802 rifle, the St. Petersburg-based company Laboratory PPS, presented it as an upgraded model during a late October weapons exposition in Moscow. The earlier version lists for about $16,000.
Samuel Bendett, an analyst with the Russia Studies Program at the U.S. Center for Naval Analysis, told Polygraph.info that the LPD-802 “is a close-range weapon that has limited power,” for use “against quadcopters, and small and light [drones].”
Anti-drone guns work by interfering with the radio and GPS signals used for remote control. A popular Russian military vlogger, Lazarev Tactical, said in a review of the LPD-802 that using the rifle was like playing a video game; the operator aims and pulls a trigger, and the weapon jams the drone’s signals and communications.
Russia and Ukraine each have fielded an array of drones for use in reconnaissance and direct attacks. Turkish-built Bayraktar drones supplied to Ukraine can fly at 25,000 feet for 27 hours and drop laser-guided bombs. Norway and the U.K. donated tiny micro-drones that fit in a soldier’s hand, New Atlas reported.
That kind of diversity in capability makes it unlikely that a single super-rifle can take on all of Ukraine’s drones.
Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, tracks weapons used in Ukraine by both sides. “These [Russian drone] guns are fairly short-range and very unlikely to be effective against the U.S. UAVs, like the Reaper.”
Military industry reports this month suggest that the U.S. may supply advanced Reaper and Predator drones to Ukraine. Advocating for such a move, Washington Post columnist George F. Will recently wrote:
“Advanced U.S. drones combine intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, targeting and strike capabilities. Such drones can be sent into, and transform, a battle immediately, saving civilian lives by making Russia’s terror tactics terrifying for those who are firing the artillery or launching low-level airstrikes.”
Meantime, Ukraine has been effectively using Lithuania-provided SkyWiper anti-drone guns to shoot down and capture small Russian drones, like the China-made quadcopters both sides use for reconnaissance and to deliver small explosives.
Daily Aviation showed in a video posted in September on YouTube how anti-drone guns “instantly” disrupt a target's control systems, after which the drone can be captured or destroyed.