PTKM-1R: Russia’s Most Advanced Anti-Tank Mine

In recent weeks Ukrainian forces have shared photographs of captured PTKM-1R mines. These are without doubt Russia’s most advanced anti-tank mine design. The PTKM-1R’s main feature is that it is a top attack munition, much like a Javelin or NLAW. It can strike down from above at a tank’s least protected point – its roof and engine deck.  

PTKM-1R photographed in Ukraine in April 2022 (via social media)

The mines essentially brand new and were only publicly unveiled by Rosoboronexport in November 2021 at the Army 2021 exposition and later at EDEX 2021. They have been adopted by the Russian armed forces on a limited basis. The PTKM-1R was first seen in Ukraine back in late April, appearing to show it deployed. Russia have released no footage of the mines in action.

PTKM-1R submunition detonating and projecting its EPR down on a target during a 2021 demonstration (Rosoboronexport)

The PTKM-1R is a top-attack anti-tank/anti-vehicle mine which is designed to detect the passage of target vehicles using acoustic and seismic sensors. The launching charge then detonates and projects a submunition up into the air toward the target. As the sensor-fuzed submunition flies over the target and detects movement below it detonates firing an explosively formed penetrator (EFP) down onto the vehicle – attacking it where its armour is weakest. 

Sectioned PTKM-1R (Rosoboronexport)

The mine can engage targets at between 5 and 50m but can detect a target out to 100m. Targets are initially identified by the mine by comparing the detected signature with acoustic and seismic signatures in its internal database. Once a target is detected the mine calculates a flight path and the launch unit tilts 30-degrees toward the target to create a parabolic ballistic trajectory over the target. While the mine can detect targets in a 360-degree arc the mine itself has a limited arc, limited by the need to tilt before firing, the mine has a an arrow with ‘towards target’ for orientating the mine in the direction of expected engagement but in an Army 2021 presentation Rosoboronexport suggest that the mine can turn itself to face its target, and track it if needed.

Rosoboronexport graphic showing the trajectory of the PTKM-1R (Rosoboronexport)

The submunition is launched into the air at a speed of 30m/s to a height of approximately 30 metres. It then uses infrared sensors and radar to pinpoint its target before detonating its shaped charged to create an explosively formed penetrator. Rosoboronexport claim the mine can penetrate ‘at least 70mm’ of armour. 

The PTKM-1R can be considered an off-route mine like the German DM-22 and Estonian PK14s which are known to be in use with Ukrainian forces but its ability to strike from above sets it apart. The nearest similar system is the short-lived US M93 Hornet developed by Textron in the 1980s.

PTKM-1R captured in its transit chest, 10 September (via social media)

The launch unit (or transporter-launcher) incorporates eight feet that are lowered when the mine is deployed these provide a stable platform. According to Rosoboronexport the PTKM-1R weighs 19.9kg while its payload is said to be around 2.8kg of explosive. Two seismic sensors, which sense the vibrations caused by approaching vehicles, are deployed and there are also four cardiod microphones at the top of the unit which listen for the sounds of heavy armoured vehicles.

PTKM-1R captured by Ukrainian forces during Kharkiv offensive, 10 September (via social media)

On around the 10th September a second mine was photographed showing an undeployed PTKM-1R still in its transit chest. The mine was captured, reportedly by SSO, in the Kharkiv region on the eastern front where fighting has been significant and Russian forces appear to be rapidly falling back.


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Bibliography

Russian PTKM-1R Top-attack Anti-vehicle Mine Documented in Ukraine, ARES, (source)

PTKM-1R: Top-Attack Anti-Tank Mine, Rosoboronexport, (source)

PTKM-1R Landmine, Cat-UXO, (source)

PTKM-1R, Fenix Insight, (source)

Swedish PV-1110 Recoilless Guns In Ukraine

On 18 August Russian Telegram channels began sharing photographs of weapons claimed to be captured from Ukrainian forces, near Sloviansk, including a DShK, a damaged MG-42/59 and most interestingly a Swedish PV-1110.

The Pansarvärnspjäs 1110 or PV-1110 is a recoilless gun developed by Bofors which saw service with the Swedish military between 1959 and the late 1990s/early 2000s. While not the only recoilless rifle/gun in use in Ukraine, others include the Carl Gustav and SPG-9, the 90mm smoothbore PV-1110 is perhaps the rarest. With sources suggesting that fewer than 2,000 PV-1110s were manufactured this would make the PV-1110 one of the rarest anti-tank weapons in use in Ukraine.

A Swedish PV-1110 claimed to be captured from Ukrainian forces (via Russian telegram channels)

Developed in the early 1950s it was adopted by Sweden in 1959, the PV-1110 could be mounted on vehicles but also on a wheeled carriage with the barrel suspended from an ingenious ball joint mount. In the photographs of the captured example, showing its serial number #5936, we can see this two-wheeled carriage for the weapon. 

The ball joint was intended to compensate for firing from an uneven position. The PV-1110 weighs in at around 260kg (just over 570lbs) and has an optical sight on the left side of the barrel as well as a spotting rifle, based on the Ag m/42 chambered in 7.62x51mm, mounted on top. The PV-1110 has an effective range of up to 1,000m but engagement of moving targets is limited to around 700m according to the Lithuanian Army. With a good crew it is capable of firing up to 6 rounds per minute. The older m/62 HEAT round could penetrate up to 380mm of rolled homogeneous armour (RHA), the m/77 can penetrate up to 500mm and the m/84, the most modern and capable round can penetrate up to 800mm of armour. It’s unknown what ammunition has been provided for the guns.

A Swedish PV-1110 claimed to be captured from Ukrainian forces (via Russian telegram channels)

While it could be suggested that recoilless guns and rifles like the PV-1110 are obsolescent the continued use of the SPG-9 shows they still have their uses. The PV-1110’s low-profile combined with its still quite effective penetration means its still a viable weapon against most armoured vehicles its likely to encounter.

Following on from the first sighting in Ukraine on 22nd August footage of a PV-1110 firing from a defensive position surfaced and we can see the gun on its very recognisable mount.

Still from video of the PV-1110 in Ukraine, c.22 August 2022

But how did Ukrainian forces come by their PV-1110? There were likely transferred from one of the Baltic nations which have supplied Ukraine with considerable military assistance. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia all received a number of PV-1110s from Sweden when they were retired from service. It is unclear how many weapons each of the three countries originally received.

Troops of the Lithuanian National Defense Volunteer Force training with the PV-1110 c.2014 (Lithuanian Army) 

The Estonian Defence League reportedly had over 100 in inventory as of 2018 while the Latvian National Guard have a similar number. Lithuania’s Army and National Defense Volunteer Force have previously been seen to be equipped with the PV-1110 in recent years but they have reportedly since been placed in wartime reserve storage. No country has publicly confirmed the transfer of the PV-1110s, so with the Baltic nations slowly removing the guns from service it’s likely that the PV-1110s either came from the remaining guns held by the Swedish Army or from the stores of Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia. Regardless of their origin they represent one of the rarest recoilless guns in service in Ukraine.

Bibliography:

Pansarvärnspjäs 1110 Avvecklad, Soldf.com (source

Prieštankinis beatošliaužis pabūklas PV1110, Lithuanian Army, (source)

Lithuania Volunteers Train with PV-1110, Lithuanian Army, (source)

90mm Recoilless Rifle promotional video, Bofors, (source)


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Ukraine’s Homemade Tank Destroyer

On 12 August videos of an improvised vehicle built by Ukrainian troops began to circulate online. While we’ve seen technicals and an increasing number of trucks turned into multiple rocket launcher systems, usually using spare or salvaged parts, in recent months the new vehicle is even more interesting.

Gun at full elevation (via ArmyInform)

The available footage shows an MT-LB tracked armoured fighting vehicle paired with an MT-12 anti-tank gun. Traditionally, the MT-LB and MT-12 aren’t an unusual pairing as the MT-LB was, and is, often used to tow artillery, including the 100mm MT-12 anti-tank gun.

Gun in action (via ArmyInform)

The Ukrainian General Staff shared a video of the homemade tank destroyer or self-propelled gun (SPG) in action on the 13 August, with the caption:

“Ukrainian soldiers demonstrate their own development, made from captured muscovite equipment. MTLB army tractor + MT-12 Rapira anti-tank gun = self-propelled anti-tank gun. The infantrymen did all the design and construction work on their own. The system has already been tested and is in the combat zone.”

The caption said that the footage had been filmed in the Mykolaiv region in early August by members of the Department of Public Relations of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. A further video shared by ArmyInform, simply titled ‘Kraken’ (perhaps the name given to the vehicle as the Kraken is a popular symbol among Ukrainian forces), shares much of the same footage and the same description text.

The gun and vehicle are both of Cold War vintage with the 100mm smoothbore MT-12 entering service in the early 1970s and the MT-LB coming into service in the late 1950s/early 1960s.

The hydraulics supports added to the rear of the MT-LB (via ArmyInform)

From the footage we can see that the vehicle has been substantially modified to mount the gun, part of the rear roof of the vehicle appears to have been removed to allow the crew to operate the gun with some protection and to also achieve the gun’s maximum 20-degree elevation. Perhaps most interestingly, at the rear of the vehicle the builders have added a pair of hydraulic supports to stabilise the vehicle when firing, these can be seen descending from the rear of the MT-LB. These may be built using the MT-12’s original trail.

A view of the rear of the gun and vehicle (via ArmyInform)

The video even shows that a barrel travel lock has been fitted to lock the gun in place when the vehicle is on the move. The video does not show the interior of the vehicle so it is unclear how much the vehicle and the mounting point for the gun has been reinforced. The gun itself weighs just over 3 tons or 2, 750kg, though some of this weight from the carriage has likely been removed through the cannibalisation of the carriages when the gun was mounted. The video doesn’t indicate how much ready ammunition the vehicle can carry either. The video also shows the gun being fired by crew outside the vehicle pulling a long lanyard. Sources in Ukraine have said that in the field the system is fired by both the lanyard and the firing lever on the gun.

Barrel travel lock added to the vehicle (via ArmyInform)

While at first glance the gun looks like it could also be an older DD-44, which have been seen in use, the characteristic muzzle brake suggests its the later MT-12. While the official Ukrainian Army statement suggests both the MT-LB and gun were captured both were in Ukraine’s inventory in significant numbers before the current conflict. Before the Russian invasion in February the Ukrainian Armed Forces were said to have up to 500 MT-12s in service, in 2020. Similarly, Ukraine operated over 2,000 MT-LB before the invasion but there is visual confirmation of numerous Russian MT-LBs being captured.

Gun ready to fire (via ArmyInform)

So why go to the trouble of adapting an MT-LB to be capable of firing a gun from its roof? Perhaps the most likely answer is speed into action. While an MT-LB towing an MT-12 can in theory get the gun into action in under 2 minutes the creation of this ad hoc tank destroyer allows the gun to be brought into and out of action faster. With the need to unlimber and position the gun removed the improvised self-propelled gun can, in theory at least, shoot and scoot.

A photo of an adapted MT-LB, possibly a different vehicle from the one seen in the video shared by the Ukrainian General Staff (Photo redacted for OPSEC purposes)
A view of the rear of the vehicle showing the considerable reinforcement where the roof has been cut away (Photo redacted for OPSEC purposes)

Sources in Ukraine suggest that more than one of these vehicles has been constructed with work ongoing since at least July. Photographs shared with TAB support this with the vehicle pictured sporting the Ukrainian digital camouflage pattern. The photographs show the mount and the reinforcement done to the vehicle to support the MT-12. They are reportedly used more as assault guns, than ‘tank destroyers’, with the guns being used against Russian fixed positions and in support of infantry manoeuvres.


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Talking PIATs with Military History Visualised

Had the absolute pleasure of chatting about PIATs with Military History Visualized.

Ever since I wrote my book about the PIAT I have been passionate about explaining why it was actually a pretty decent bit of kit, just much maligned.

Always great to Bring Up The PIAT! Do check it out below:

A Look Inside A Heavily Damaged M3 Grant

I recently attended the We Have Ways of Making You Talk podcast’s history festival and one of the most striking things on display was a very rusty, heavily damaged M3 Grant! 

The tank, T24193, was one of the first M3 Grants to arrive in Britain in 1941. It was used for cross country and gunnery trials before later in the war it was used as a range target. The owner was kind enough to share some photographs of the tank before it was salvaged.

The tank was salvaged from Pirbright Ranges in Surrey in 2003 and restored mechanically but its external damage is going to be retained as a visual display of its history as a range target. According to the tank’s owner the M3 was used to test captured German Panzerfaust and Panzershreks and has approximately 100 10mm diameter holes from Panzershreks and nearly 400 12-13mm diameter wholes from Panzerfausts fired at the tank. There also appears to be larger holes, perhaps some HESH round damage and lots of small arms strikes or spalling marks.

Here are some photos of the tank:

I would love to read the report on that testing to see what they were trying to find out – a possible research project for the future. The Panzerfaust (capable of penetrating up to 200mm) and Panzershreks (capable of penetrating up to 160mm) definitely penetrated the M3 Grant’s 2 inch frontal and 1.5 inch side armour. 

With the tank on display I couldn’t resist getting some video of it, the surreal sight of light coming through both sides of the tank’s hull becomes sobering when you consider that Allied tanks faced the weapons which made the holes, in actual combat.


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Ukraine’s Molotov Cocktails

Almost as soon as the war began we started to see evidence of Molotov cocktail manufacture. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense was keen to highlight and encourage it to show civilian resolve in the face of the Russian invasion and there’s been numerous news reports and tv news segments on Molotov production. 

Footage of Molotov manufacture spread across social media and was quickly seized upon by the world’s media. Videos from across Ukraine showed children, students, the elderly and ordinary people working makeshift production lines. 

Kyiv civilians gather in a basement downtown to make Molotov Cocktails (Yan Boechat/VOA)

On the 26 February, two days after the Russian invasion women of Dnipro were featured on TV news making Molotov, shaving polystyrene for use as a thickening agent. In Lviv reports from 28 February suggested that 1,500 Molotovs were being made a day at just one makeshift factory. The Pravda brewery in Lviv also garnered attention with its employees and bottles turned over to Molotov production. The brewery manager said that they had produced 2,000 as of 18 March and shipped some to Kyiv. The former Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov even posed with Molotov Cocktail he’d made using a bottle of 1998 Château Mouton Rothschild. On 7 March the mayor of Lutsk, Ihor Polishchuk, estimated the city had a stockpile of as many as 7,000 Molotovs.

Ukrainian graphic showing where to throw Molotovs at a BTR-82A (Ukrainian MoD)

The morning after the invasion the Ukrainian National Guard posted a graphic showing how to make a Molotov and on the 28 February, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces share some graphics suggesting the best places to hit Russian vehicles with Molotovs. And there have also been billboards posted with instructions on how to make a Molotov and another with a simplified graphic showing good spots to throw them. 

We have also seen a number of interesting delivery systems developed ranging from a medieval-inspired catapults to a pneumatic mortar. On 28 February we got our first video of a Molotov being used. With a short video showing a Molotov drive-by, with a Ukrainian’s throwing a Molotov against the rear of a Russian vehicle before speeding away. Since then a handful of other videos have shown Ukrainian civilians or Territorial Defence Force members destroying abandoned Russian vehicles and equipment.

A Russian support vehicle struck by a Molotov Cocktail early in the conflict (via social media)

Historically speaking, petrol-based improvised incendiary bombs have been used since the 1930s. Perhaps the first prominent use came during the Spanish Civil War. The weapons gained their nickname during the Winter War after Soviet foreign minister Molotov. During the Second World War Molotov cocktails were one of the first weapons made by the fledgling British Home Guard, with them remaining in their arsenal well into the war. Both the British and US regular army’s trained with Molotovs during the early years of the war and they were certainly used by Soviet forces. Since then they have been used in countless riots, uprisings, revolutions, insurgencies and conflicts around the world.  

Soldier preparing to throw a Molotov cocktail at Ft. Belvoir, August, 1942 (US National Archives)

How widespread the use of Molotov cocktails has been is pretty much impossible to know at this point. Despite having a comparative wealth of footage and photos from the ground we still only have a tiny picture of what is going on. It does appear that some have been used by the Territorial Defence Force units to destroy abandoned Russian vehicles and some have even been thrown at Russian vehicles – either as part of individual acts of defiance or as part of more coordinated attacks on Russian forces.

While Molotovs may seem futile in the face of a 40+ tonne T-72, they remain a cheap and effective weapon and checkpoints across Ukraine have been seen to have ready supplies of them. For the urban fighting that was expected in cities across Ukraine they make perfect sense as a plentiful, simple weapon which can be used to pepper Russian vehicles. 


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Bibliography:

‘‘I haven’t told my granny’: Ukraine’s student molotov cocktail-makers’, The Guardian, (source)
‘Ukraine conflict: The women making Molotov cocktails to defend their city’, BBC, (source)
‘Ukrainians Prepare Molotov Cocktails in Kyiv’, NYT, (source)
‘Vulnerable areas of enemy machinery’, Ukraine General Staff, (source)
‘Stark photos show Ukrainians, and even a local brewery, making Molotov cocktails to defend their cities’, Insider, (source)
How To Make a Molotov, Ukrainian National Guard, (source)
‘Catapult for throwing “Molotov cocktails” created in Lutsk’, Rubryka (source)
‘Ukrainian brewery switches from beer to Molotov cocktails’, France24, (source)

Javelin In Ukraine

The transfer of Western anti-armour weapons started before the war even began. The United States transferred significant shipments of Javelin anti-tank guided missiles along with M141 SMAW-D Bunker Defeat Munitions and Stinger MANPADS. 

At the same time as an initiative from the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – Estonia also delivered Javelin missiles. For reasons of operational security we don’t know how many Javelins have been delivered to Ukraine by the US and Estonia at this time. However, Estonia is believed to have had several hundred in stock.

Ukrainian troops training with January in February 2022 (Ukrainian MoD)

What is Javelin?

Javelin is an infrared guided man-portable fire-and-forget anti-tank missile. It’s been been in service with over a dozen countries for over 20 years and is still produced by a joint venture between Raytheon Missiles & Defense and Lockheed Martin. It weighs about 22kg or 46 lbs ready to fire and had a detachable Command Launch Unit (or CLU) . Its effective range depends on the type of CLU but the improved Lightweight CLU introduced in 2020 can engage targets out to 4,000 metres (about 3 miles). As of 11 March, Lightweight CLU has not yet been seen in Ukraine. The earlier block 0 and 1 CLU can engage targets out to 2,500 meters (1.5 miles). The CLU enables this with a number of optics including a 4x day sight, a 4x night sight a 9.2x thermal sight. The CLU is also a useful tool for reconnaissance when other NVG and thermal imagers aren’t available. Once the gunner has their target and establishes a lock the missile can be launched.

Javelin’s CLU (US Army)

Javelin’s missile has a soft launch system which limits back blast and firing from relatively enclosed spaces. Once launched the main rocket motor kicks in at a safe distance. It uses automatic infrared self-guidance and has two modes of attack: direct for use against lightly armoured targets and structures and top-attack. In top-attack mode the missile climbs above the target and then plunges down on it to penetrate thinner top armour.

The missile has a tandem shaped charge high explosive anti-tank round. The initial charge can detonate any explosive reactive armour used by the enemy target vehicle while the second shaped charge will penetrate the target’s main armour. When the round detonates it super heats the metal of the armour and creates a high velocity stream of metal which enters the vehicle. More on the complex science behind shaped charges here. It can destroy vehicle’s drive systems or if it enters the fighting compartment it can kill or injure the crew and detonate munitions. 

History

Javelin was developed by Texas Instruments in cooperation with Martin Marietta. In the mid-1980s it beat off competition from Ford Aerospace and Hughes Aircraft to win the US Army’s Advanced Anti-Tank Weapon System—Medium program.

A Ukrainian Depot, early March 2022 (Ukrainian MoD)

In June 1989 Texas Instruments and Martin Marietta were awarded a development contract and the Javelin was adopted as the FGM-148. Javelin continued development and testing throughout the 90s before entering service. Since then it’s been adopted by countries including the UK, Australia, France, Norway, Poland, Taiwan, and many others. According to Raytheon the system is scheduled to be in inventory until 2050.

Javelin In Ukraine

Ukraine adopted Javelin in April 2018, ordering 210 missiles and 37 CLUs with a further order for 150 missiles and 10 CLS in December 2019. Since the threat of invasion became increasingly likely the US provided a series of aid packages worth $260 million. Reports suggest that at least 300 Javelin missiles were delivered as part of these packages. Since then the US has agreed a further package worth $350 million. 70% of this package is said to have been delivered as of 9 March. It’s difficult to estimate how many missiles and CLUs have been delivered so far but the number of missiles is likely over 1,000.    

Still from a Ukrainian training film on Javelin (Ukrainian MoD)

From the sparse evidence available we know that at least some of the Javelin transferred to Ukraine are confirmed to be  from older Block 0 stocks, which includes FGM-148A/B/C and D. The vast majority of Javelins in Ukraine are likely to be Block 0 variants. Block I, the FGM-148E came into service with the US in 2008 and has an improved CLU and rocket motor. Javelin’s shelf life is around 20 years, so it makes sense for these older production but still fully capable missiles to be sent first.

In early February the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense shared a short video showing troops testing the newly-arrived Javelins against tank hulks which had been fitted with so-called ‘Javelin Cages’, a metal structure which Russian tanks have recently added to their turrets. It is believed the cage is intended to detonate the initial charge of a Javelin before it contacts with the tanks explosive reactive armour or the hull itself. However, it is also believed that it is intended to defeat drone-fired micro munitions like the Turkish MAM series. The cage detonating the micro munition before it reaches the tank. The footage shared by the Ukrainian MoD showed that Javelin easily defeated the cages.

Update 15/3/22: We have now seen evidence of Block 1 FGM-148Es in Ukraine. Amael Kotlarski, Janes Infantry Weapons Editor, speculates that these may have originated from the Baltic states’ stocks. At least one example of the Block 1 and a number of Block 0s have been captured by Russian forces so far.

Ukrainian Defence Minister announcing arrival of a shipment of Javelin in January 2022

While at the time of publishing this video there has been no confirmed footage of Javelin in action in Ukraine, no doubt due to good Ukrainian OPSEC, we have seen the system in theatre. 

We got our first confirmation on 3 March, when Ukraine’s Operational Command “North” shared photos of troops being briefed on the use of NLAW and Javelin anti-tank weapons. In the photos we could see numerous Javelin transport cases stacked while troops were briefed on the Command Launch Unit (or CLU). On 6 March, the Ukrainian Armed forces shared a short instructional video on Javelin, showing how the battery is inserted and what the CLUs controls do.

How Capable is Javelin?

The penetration capabilities of Javelin are listed as classified with the USMC’s manual stating “The Javelin penetrates all known armor, “well” in excess of 30 inches [or 760mm] of rolled homogeneous steel.” This means Javelin is more than capable of knocking out any Russian armoured vehicle in Ukraine.

Javelin Missile (US Army)

In terms of performance in Ukraine, one report from 3 March, quoted an anonymous US Special Operations officer who is monitoring the conflict, suggested that of 300 Javelin fired, 280 knocked out vehicles. Time will tell.


If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters – including custom stickers and early access to videos! Thank you for your support!


Bibliography:

Javelin – Close Combat Missile System, Medium, FM3-22.37, US Army, 2008 (source)
Rundown: Western Anti-Tank Weapons For Ukraine, Overt Defense, (source)
Introduction to Crew Served Weapons, USMC, (source)
NLAW In Ukraine, Armourer’s Bench, (source)
As Russia Pounds Ukraine, NATO Countries Rush In Javelins and Stingers, New York Times, (source)
$60 Million Worth of US Military Aid Arrives In Ukraine, Overt Defense, (source)
First batch of Estonia-donated Javelin missiles arrive in Ukraine, EER, (source)
New US Military Aid to Ukraine Includes 300 Javelin, nv.ua, (source) Shaped Charge, Global Security, (source)

Fighting On Film: The PIAT In Film

This week we have a very special episode where we tap into a topic close to Matt’s heart, the PIAT. Matt wrote a book about the PIAT, or Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank, in 2020 and continues to research its history. One of the most interesting aspects of the PIAT is its unique cultural history, having been portrayed in a plethora of films spanning over 70 years. Most famously it was heralded, literally, when Anthony Hopkins as Lt. Colonel Frost in A Bridge Too Far shouted ‘BRING UP THE PIAT!‘ A line which has become iconic. But there’s so much more to the PIAT’s onscreen career!

The episode is also available on all other podcast platforms, you can find them here.

Here are some stills from the films:

If you enjoy the podcast then please check out our Patreon here. Be sure to follow Fighting On Film on Twitter @FightingOnFilm, on Facebook and don’t forget to check out www.fightingonfilm.com.

Thanks for listening!

Britain’s First Anti-Tank Weapon

The British Army’s first dedicated anti-tank weapon was a rifle grenade. The No.44 Rifle Grenade was developed towards the end of the First World War to take on the emerging threat of German tanks.

A British officer firing a No.3 Mk2 Rifle Grenade (IWM)

The No.44 could be fired from a Short Magazine Lee-Enfield MkIII rifle, the British had developed a plethora of rod and cup discharger based rifle grenades but the No.44 was the first specifically designed with tanks in mind. 

By 1918 the German Army had responded to the threat of British and French tanks by developing their own, the A7V, albeit in small numbers, and by fielding captured allied tanks. 

The A7V was a leviathan at over 3.3m tall and more than 30 tons. It would be crewed by at least 18 men. It was decided that the infantryman needed an effective means of taking on tanks.

A German A7V (US National Archive)

Sources suggest that the grenades were developed by the by the Royal Engineers Experimental Station with input from the Tank Corps. The No.44 was largely based on the earlier No.24 rifle grenade. The British Army had been using rifle grenades with rods since February 1915 with the No.2 rifle grenade. 

No.44 Anti-Tank Grenade (IWM)

A myriad of grenade designs were developed during the war with dozens of designs entering service between 1915 and 1918. Eventually the British Army moved away from using rodded rifle grenades, because of the implications of barrel wear from the friction of the rods, and focused on discharger cup based designs. The No.44’s spiritual descendent, the No.68, introduced in 1940, would follow this trend and be fired from the same discharger cup used by to fire No.36 grenades fitted with a gas check.    

The No.44 grenade itself is made up of a pair of pressed tin plate pieces which make up the top and bottom of the bomb with a rolled sheet of tin making up the central body. The parts were soldered together with a filling plug also soldered into the top of the grenade. The grenade itself contained either Amatol 80/20 or Amatol 83/17 explosive, sources suggest about 11.5 ounces. While externally it may resemble later shaped charges, it was not, the explosive filled the space around the central detonator assembly.

Sectional diagram No.44 Anti-Tank Grenade

The ignition system was essentially a .297/230 cartridge case and a detonator. On firing a release socket moved to allow the retaining bolts to release the striker (or needle pellet) it had been retaining. The striker was then simply held back from the detonator by a spring. When the grenade struck its target inertia cause the striker to over come and compress the spring, allowing the striker to ignite the detonator and set off the grenade’s main filling. Given mass of the bomb and the type of detonator used the No.44 was probably intended for use at very short ranges.

Soldiers firing rod rifle grenades (IWM)

To use the grenade the firer would remove the wire fastening around the grenade to free the canvas vane. This would also allow access to the safety pin. The top plug could be undone and the detonator inserted. The rod was then slid down the muzzle of the user’s rifle. The safety pin could then be removed. A blank cartridge would be loaded into the rifle and when the trigger was pulled the was grenade launched by the gases from the cartridge pushing the rod out of the barrel. The No.44’s flight would be stabilised by the canvas skirt or vane.    

There’s no mention of the grenades in the British Army’s Small Arms Committee Minutes so its development must have been documented elsewhere. It does, however, appear in the List of Changes and is known to have been issued from April 1918 onwards but further primary research is needed to find out more about its development, designers and testing.

No.44 Anti-Tank Grenade (Matthew Moss)

The No.44 remained in service into the inter-war period but does not appear in any of the post-war Small Arms Training manuals. Several were published during this period, the first in 1924 and a second in 1931 – the No.44 appears in neither of them. The final pre-war Small Arms Training pamphlet on grenades, published in 1937, is confined to just the No.36 grenade. According to Ian Skennerton’s book on British grenades there were no No.44s remaining in stores by April 1931 and it was declared obsolete. 

Sources disagree on the number of No.44s manufactured with some suggesting just under 100,000 while others suggest between 125,000 and 150,000. According to Skennerton 9,800 were issued between April and November 1918. A very small amount when compared to the hundreds of thousands of other, more widely used grenades held in stores at the end of the war.  

The German A7Vs were first deployed in March 1918, but only saw their first action the following month. With only 20 A7Vs built and the design proving relatively impractical the Allies had little to fear from German tank attacks. Sadly, there are no readily available records of the No.44’s use or its effectiveness.

British solider firing a cup discharger rifle grenade (IWM)

The A7V’s armour consisted of 5 to 30mm of steel plate depending on location on the tank. This steel plate was not hardened which may have increased the No.44’s effectiveness against it. It may be that the No.44 would have had to have been fired at close range and strike a vulnerable point on the attacking vehicle to have the most effect.

While not the only anti-tank grenade to be developed during the period, the French also developed several rifle grenades, and not as famous as the German T-Gewehr, it does represent Britain’s first dedicated infantry anti-tank weapon. 


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Bibliography:

An Introduction To British Grenades, I.D. Skennerton, (1988)

British Grenade Rifle No. 44 Anti-Tank, AmmunitionPages, (source)

Grenade, Rifle No 44 A.T. (Anti Tank), Imperial War Museum, (source)

Grenade, Rifle, No 44 Anti-Tank (Sectioned), Imperial War Museum, (source)

British No.24 Mk.II Rod Grenade, Inert-Ord.net, (source)

Men Against Tank, J. Weeks, (1975) 

NLAW In Ukraine

NLAW is the British Army’s name for the Saab Bofor’s developed MBT LAW, in the early 2000s the British Army was looking for a more capable replacement of its LAW80. The Saab offering, Next Generation Light Anti-tank Weapon, won the contract in 2002 beating out several competitors including the SRAW-based Kestrel from Lockheed Martin/BAe. 

British soldier firing NLAW (British Army)

The UK has just announced the transfer of light anti tank weapons to Ukraine in light of the continuing tensions with Russia. As such the UK is the latest nation to announce that they will be providing weapons to Ukraine. They follow US shipments of Javelin Missiles in December 2021, year and we’ve already seen these in the hands of Ukrainian troops. Most recently it has been confirmed that Lithuania plans to supply anti-tank systems to Ukraine too. The UK’s defence minister Ben Wallace stated that: “We have taken the decision to supply Ukraine with light, anti-armour, defensive weapon system”, while this does not specifically name NLAW, this describes the role which NLAW fulfils. 

So what is NLAW? 

NLAW is a disposable, shoulder-fired, single shot system which weighs about 12.5kg or 27.5lbs. It uses a predicted line of sight guidance system which calculates where the target will be when the missile reaches it. Like Javelin it is capable of targeting a tank’s weakest point, its top side.

NLAW (Saab)

The NLAW has two firing modes: Direct Attack, with the missile flying directly to point of aim, useful for engaging static targets. While the second, Overfly Top Attack, uses the Predicted Line of Sight (PLOS) system. The guidance algorithm optimises the trajectory of the warhead on an elevated flight path over the target with the onboard proximity fuze then detonating and firing an explosively formed penetrator down onto the target. 

In British service the NLAW was selected to replace the LAW-80, a 94mm unguided anti-tank rocket, British Army analysis found that in order to provide adequate close range defence against armoured vehicles “significant numbers of NLAW will be required in order to ensure there is sufficient coverage of the battlefield.” This meant the system had to be capable and affordable. Since its delivery and introduction into service in 2009, the NLAW has been the secondary anti-tank weapon of the British Army’s specialised anti-tank platoons’, with the Javelin being their primary. The NLAW is also available for issue as the primary infantry light anti-tank weapon. The British Army describes it as “non-expert, short-range, anti-tank missile that rapidly knocks out any main battle tank in just one shot by striking it from above.” While not cheap, at around £20,000 per unit, NLAW costs significantly less than the longer-ranged, more complex Javelin [estimated at around £70,000 per unit]. It is currently in service with Finland, Sweden, Luxembourg, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. It has seen action during Saudi Arabia’s interventions in Yemen.

A rifleman of 1 Gurkhas fires an NLAW (Corporal Stephen Harvey / UK MoD)

The weapon can engage close range targets at as close as 20m and uses a soft launch system that enables it to be fired from enclosed spaces. It can take on static target at 600 to 800m and moving ones at 400m. Technically, NLAW is not an anti-tank guided missile as the missile is not guided by an onboard system once it has been fired. Instead it used a Predicted Line of Sight (PLOS) system which enables it to be used like a fire and forget ATGM. 

The weapon’s operator activates the PLOS system and the user tracks the target for 3 to 6 seconds in the NLAW’s Trijicon Compact ACOG 2.5×20 sight before firing, the guidance system calculates the predicted flight path to the target to ensure a hit.

The number of NLAW being dispatched by the UK has not been confirmed although several flights of RAF C-17s were made overnight on 17th January, 2022. Footage released by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence showing the arrival of the NLAWs enables us to estimate that each flight could have carried somewhere between 180 and 216 NLAWs.

A still from a Ukrainian MoD video showing the arrival of the NLAWs (source)

It isn’t clear just how many NLAW systems the UK has stockpiled but it is likely that as missile systems have a limited shelf-life that the older systems may have been transferred first. The terms of the agreement to transfer the NLAWs hasn’t been made public but it was confirmed small teams of British troops had accompanied the weapons to provide initial training to Ukrainian forces on how to use them. This is in line with Operation ORBITAL, the UK’s training mission to Ukraine which was established in 2015, following the illegal annexation of Crimea. Wallace was keen to stress that “this support is for short-range, and clearly defensive weapons capabilities; they are not strategic weapons and pose no threat to Russia. They are to use in self-defence and the UK personnel providing the early-stage training will return to the United Kingdom after completing it.”

As of the time of writing more than 10 flights have been observed carrying military equipment from the UK. It is estimated that some 2,000 NLAW have been transfered. This was tacitly confirmed by remarks made by Wallace to the press.

A Ukraine MoD photo showing a training session on NLAW being delivered by members of the OP Orbital training team. (Ukraine MoD)

The UK has been working with Ukraine not just through Op ORBITAL but also more broadly with a number of agreements being signed in 2021 to support Ukraine’s naval capability. While the usefulness of the NLAWs are confined to close range engagements the move is clearly a symbolic signal to Russia. 


If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters – including custom stickers and early access to videos! Thank you for your support!


Bibliography:

Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapon (NLAW), ThinkDefence, (source)

Britain Delivered Military Weapons to Ukraine, Ukraine MoD, (source)

UK Delivers Light Anti-Tank Defensive Weapon Systems To Ukraine, OvertDefense, (source)

One Shot – One Armored Target. Javelin ATGM, Ukraine MoD, (source)

Statement by the Defence Secretary in the House of Commons, 17 January 2022, UK MoD, (source)

NLAW, Saab, (source)

British Military Aircraft Rapidly Supplying Weapons to Ukraine, UKDJ, (source)

NLAW – The Ultimate Tank Killer, Saab, (source)

NLAW | 2 PARA | Noble Partner, British Army, (source)

Small Arms & Support Weapons, British Army, (source)

Ministry of Defence Major Projects Report 2008, National Audit Office, (source)