Weapons Experts Reveal What Ukraine's 'Death Ray' Could Actually Be

A viral video showing an apparent strike on Russian soldiers in Ukraine has sparked intense speculation about what weapon could have been used for the attack, with at least one social media user describing it as a "death ray."

The clip posted on Twitter earlier this week, which had received 2.5 million views as of Wednesday afternoon, initially showed a group of soldiers walking across a stretch of land before they are struck by some type of weapon or projectile. In the footage, whatever strikes the soldiers moves extremely fast, envelops the targeted area in a cloud of smoke and leaves a noticeable dust trail.

Survivors of the initial strike are seen trying to flee and help the injured, but two subsequent strikes seem to wipe out all of those who remained. At the end of the video, unmoving bodies can be seen on the ground throughout the area.

The caption on the video read: "Destruction of Russians with a death ray."

The war in Ukraine has gone on for nearly a year since Russian President Vladimir Putin's forces invaded the country in late February. The purported strike on the Russian soldiers in the video, if confirmed, would raise an estimated Russian death toll of more than 128,000, which comes from Ukraine's Ministry of Defense.

Russian Soldier Attack
An apparent strike on Russian soldiers in Ukraine is seen in this screenshot taken from a video posted on Twitter earlier this week. The viral clip has generated speculation about what weapon was used, with one viewer describing it as a "death ray." @bayraktar_1love

The comments section underneath the Twitter post was full of social media users asking what weapon was used to carry out the strike. The account that uploaded the video, @bayraktar_1love, responded to one of these commenters by suggesting it may have been a Stugna-P, a Ukrainian anti-tank guided missile weapon system.

Many details about the circumstances of the video remained unclear as of Wednesday afternoon, including where the strike occurred and when. Most important, not enough information is currently available to definitively identify the weapon used in the video.

Newsweek reached out to Ukraine's Defense Ministry for additional information on the strike seen in the video and confirmation on what weapon was used. In the meantime, experts familiar with weapons have offered hypotheses on what may have been used in the attack seen in the viral video.

Sean Spoonts, a U.S. Navy veteran and editor-in-chief of Special Operations Forces Report, said the weapon is "certainly not a death ray."

"It looks to me like a tank round that is striking a piece of the Earth, creating a dust trail," Spoonts told Newsweek. He added that the velocity of such a round as it gets closer to the ground causes an air wave, which can kick up dust and cause a trail.

David Silbey, an associate professor of history at Cornell and director of teaching and learning at Cornell in Washington, told Newsweek that the weapon seen in the video looked like an air-bursting HEAT (high-explosive anti-tank) warhead.

Earlier this week, military technology expert David Hambling told Newsweek that the video may have shown a "shaped charge," such as a HEAT warhead, that "may well be delivered by a Stugna."

A former Army colonel, who asked not to be named, told Newsweek that a U.S.-manufactured Switchblade drone may have been used in the attack. Last year the U.S. committed to sending to Ukraine at least 700 Switchblade drones, which carry their own warheads and blow themselves up, Bloomberg reported.