Ukrainians Training with Bulgarian Arsenal AKs

At the end of January a series of photographs taken by Canadian Army photographers showed Ukrainian troops being trained at sites in the UK as part of Operation Unifier. Unifier is a training mission carried out by the Canadian Armed Forces with training currently taking place in the UK alongside the multi-national training mission Operation Interflex.

What is interesting about the new imagery is that the Ukrainian troops in training are all armed with Bulgarian-made Arsenal AK-pattern rifles. This is the firs time this particular AK has been seen in use. If you saw our earlier videos looking at the other types of AK-pattern rifles procured by the UK for their training of Ukrainian personnel you’ll have seen Zastava M70s, Chinese Type 56s and East German MPi KMS-72s are in use.

It’s unclear who procured the rifles but given the training is being undertaken in the UK, they were probably procured by the UK Ministry of Defence and like the other AK-pattern rifles being used for training they will probably remain in the UK to be used in the training of future Ukrainian personnel. 

A soldier with the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, instructs Ukrainian recruits during a weapons class as part of Operation UNIFIER in the United Kingdom, on January 26, 2023. (Corporal Eric Greico/Canadian Armed Forces)

The Arsenal AKs were seen for the first time in photographs taken on the 23 January, during a lesson on field craft. The Ukrainian troops can be seen taking notes with the rifles slung at their sides. 

The rifles appeared in photographs again  on 25 January, when Canadian medics were instructing Ukrainian recruits on the application of tourniquets. One of the rifles was seen slung over the shoulder of a Ukrainian soldier rendering aid. 

Subsequently on 26 January, soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry were photographed instructing Ukrainian recruits during a weapons class. The class saw Ukrainian troops learning how to operate NLAWs, grounded on the floor next to them are their Arsenal AKs.

A series of images from a counter-explosive training session on searching and spotting mines and booby traps showed a platoon of Ukrainian trainees equipped with the Bulgarian AKs.

Ukrainian recruits under the supervision of Canadian soldiers from 1 Combat Engineer Regiment practice searching for and identifying booby traps, during Operation UNIFIER on 28 January 2023 in the United Kingdom. (Corporal Eric Greico/Canadian Armed Forces)

The rifles seen in all of the photographs appear to be basic model rifles, none of the weapons have railed handguards or Picatinny on the receiver cover for mounting optics. This suggests that they are either AR-M9Fs or AR-M14Fs (at least according to Arsenal’s website). The ‘F’ refers to the folding tube metal stock which helps identify the rifles as Arsenal-made AKs. The characteristic flash hider and furniture also identify them as Arsenal rifles.  It is difficult to identify what calibre the rifles are chambered in as the Ukrainians are never seen with magazines loaded into their weapons (as they’re unnecessary for the training being carried out). 

The AR-M9 and M14 are bother available chambered in 5.56x45mm and 7.62x39mm. Logical arguments could be made for either calibre: the UK MoD has confirmed that other AK-pattern rifles that have been procured are chambered in 7.62x39mm so this chambering would give them ammunition commonality with other AK-pattern rifles in use. Alternatively, the UK has ample stocks of 5.56x45mm and this would also more closely mimic the 5.45x39mm AK-74 rifles the Ukrainians are likely to be issued when they return home. Either way they are AK-pattern rifles which enable training on manual of arms, handling and firing with similar weapons the trainees will probably be equipped with.

Ukrainian recruits under the supervision of Canadian soldiers from 1 Combat Engineer Regiment practice searching for and identifying booby traps, during Operation UNIFIER on 28 January 2023 in the United Kingdom. (Corporal Eric Greico/Canadian Armed Forces)

The rifles have black polymer furniture and appear to be either new or in excellent condition with few visible scratches or scrapes to the finish or furniture. Notably each rifle has green tape around the base of the folding stock onto which a rack number has been written in black marker pen. 

Addendum:

As is sometimes the case with writing these articles and videos while in the process of research and production new source material emerges. On 1 February, the UK MoD shared a series of new photographs from the training of Ukrainian troops. In these a number of the Arsenal AKs were seen fitted with blank firing adapters (BFAs). This is interesting for a number of reasons – previously we have seen Ukrainian trainees using British L85A2s with BFAs for the elements of their training which required blank fire. We have covered this in an earlier article/videos – it requires additional, and largely unnecessary training on the use of the British bullpup.

Australian soldiers demonstrate section level attacks and how to handle captured enemy personnel to Ukrainian recruits during the first rotation of Operation Kudu in the United Kingdom. (UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

BFAs for the 7.62x39mm AK pattern rifles procured earlier by the UK appear to have been deemed either unsafe for use in British training areas or BFAs and blank 7.62x39mm ammunition haven’t been readily available. The new photographs show that BFAs are in use with these Bulgarian AKs – likely because they were procured with the rifles direct from the manufacturer.

These UK MoD photographs also show the rifles with magazines – which indicate the rifles are chambered in 5.56x45mm. As I theorised earlier the UK has ample stocks of both blank and ball 5.56x45mm which would simplify the logistics of training the nearly 20,000 Ukrainian soldiers expected to be trained in the UK in 2023.

Australian Army soldiers from the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, receive weapon handling lessons from the British Army’s Small Arms School Corps as part of the “train the trainer” portion of Operation KUDU in the United Kingdom (Australian Department of Defence/Commonwealth copyright)

The Australian Army has also shared a large number of photographs from their involvement in the training of Ukrainian troops in the UK. The Australian military have dubbed their effort Operation Kudu. They describe Kudu as: “A contingent of up to 70 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel are deployed on Operation KUDU to assist with the UK-led and based training program.” The Australian photographs show the training and familiarisation of Ukrainian troops with the Arsenal AKs with both Australian and British instructors seen in the photographs.

An Australian Army soldier from the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, assists Ukrainian recruits with cleaning their rifles during Operation KUDU (Australian Department of Defence/Commonwealth copyright)

The photographs feature members of the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment and senior instructors from the British Army’s Small Arms School Corps, instructing trainees in the classroom before undertaking some fire and movement drills with blanks.

Update 08/02/23:

The Canadian Ministry of National Defense has released a short video showing some of the training Canadian personnel in the UK are delivering to Ukrainian troops as part of Operation Unifier (the Canadian element of the international Operation Interflex.)

The video focuses on some of the field exercises and urban training being provided and heavily features Bulgarian Arsenal AR-M9F (5.56x45mm) AK-pattern rifles.


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Bibliography:

Assault Rifles, Arsenal, (source)

Operation Unifier, Canadian Armed Forces, (source)

Operation Kudu, Australian Defence Force, (source)

M16A4s in Ukraine

On 12 January, a unit of the Ukrainian Army’s 47th Separate Mechanised Brigade (47 OMBr) was seen equipped with US M16A4s for the first time. The rifles were seen equipped with Trijicon ACOG optics and some, a considerable percentage, were seen with M203 40mm under-barrel grenade launchers, and of course rail covers.

Photo released by 47 OMBr in early January showing M16A4s in Ukraine for the first time (47 OMBr)

Previously, we have seen a considerable number of M4A1 carbines, some equipped with M320 40mm grenade launchers. This, however, is the first time we’ve seen the M16A4. Other elements of the 47 OMBr have been seen equipped with FN FNCs in 5.56x45mm. The 47 OMBr appears to be a unit which has largely been allotted western small arms and equipment. The brigade was formed in November 2022 and, as with a number of other new Ukrainian brigades, has been built up from a battalion (which was raised in August 2022) to a regiment to a brigade level formation.

A close up of an M16A4 with an ACOG and M203 UBGL and rail covers in Ukrainian service (47 OMBr)

The M16A4 is a 5.56x45mm, select-fire rifle which uses a direct impingement gas system and a rotating bolt locking mechanism. The M16A4 was developed in the late 1990s and entered service in January 1999. It and has seen service with the US Army, USMC and US Navy. The US Army began to move away from the M16A4 in favour of the M4A1 in 2011 while the USMC favoured the rifle’s 20 inch (50.8cm) barrel length and began replacing its M16A2 with A4s in 2002, only in October 2015 did they begin to transition to the M4A1 Carbine and latterly the M27 for infantry Marines. Despite this the M16A4, however, remains in widespread service use.

The photographs and short video where the rifles were seen for the first time were posted to commemorate a visit from members of Plast, Ukraine’s scouts organisation, who brought a lamp of the Fire of Peace to be lit with members of the brigade.

Another photograph was shared on the brigade’s social media on 22 January, showing a close up of an M203-equipped M16A4, which was also mounted with an ACOG. How many of these rifles have been transferred is unknown, the most recent US Department of Defense fact sheet on aid to Ukraine, published on 25 January, lists 13,000 assorted small arms.

An as-issued M16A4 service rifle with quad rail forend, railed receiver, ACOG and grip pod (US Army)

The rifles appear to be straight from US Army or USMC inventory and look to be in good shape. The rifles have been predominantly made by Colt and FN. None of the imagery has been close enough yet to see which manufacturer the now-Ukrainian rifles were made by.

I expect we will be seeing a proliferation of the M16A4 rifles just as we have the M4A1 carbines since the early summer of 2022. The 47 OMBr probably won’t be the only unit to field them and we’ll probably be seeing many more of these in the future as the US military has considerable stocks of the rifles and production lines are still active. If and when we do, I’ll follow up with further videos/articles.


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Bibliography:

Marine’s Switch from the M16 to the M4, Marine Corps Times, (source)

Weapon Systems 2011, US Army, (source)

5.56 Chronology, D. Watters/LooseRounds, (source)

FN & Colt Will Compete for M16A4 Foreign Military Sales Contracts Worth $380 Million, TFB, (source)

Aid to Ukraine Factsheet, 25 Jan., US Department of Defense, (source)

47 Brigade, Markus Foundation, (source)

US & Canadian M67 Grenades In Ukraine

A range of Western, Eastern European and Russian hand grenades have been seen in use in Ukraine over the last eight months. One of these is the M67 Fragmentation Grenade which are believed to have been provided by the US and Canada.

The M67 evolved from the earlier M33, it began to be fielded in 1968. They are produced by Day & Zimmermann, who state they have produced over 43 million of the grenades. It is a spherical anti-personnel fragmentation grenade which has a Composition B filling. Composition B is made up for a RDX and TNT mix. The M67 explosive filling weighs in at 6.5oz (180g). It uses the M213 fuze which provides a 4 to 5 second delay after deployment.

There is a spring clip which interacts with the spoon and safety pin. On detonation the grenade’s steel outer body fragments to create an injury radius of around 15 metres (50 feet). The fragmentation is caused by scoring on the inside of of the grenade’s outer body.

A captured M67 Grenade (via Social Media)

The US government has confirmed that hand grenades have been provided to Ukraine but specific mentions of them in the regular fact sheets breaking down aid have not been common since the spring when it was said that ‘over 1 million grenade, mortar and artillery rounds’ had been provided. Canada has previously, on 3 March, confirmed the supply of 7500 hand grenades of an unspecified type. 

Imagery of the grenades first began to be circulated online in May with the Azov-Dnipro 98th Territorial Defence Battalion sharing several videos featuring them. In their first video they showed a couple of transit chests, each containing 30 individually packed grenades. They then showed the individual packaging of the grenades. In another video posted a few days later the show an M67 alongside a French OF37.

On the 15 June, Russia’s Zvezda News shared a short interview with a soldier from the separatist Luhansk People’s Republic showing off captured weapons including an 66mm M72 LAW and an M67 grenade. Describing the grenade he said: “We are already walking around with American [grenades]. The grenade is convenient, it flies far.”

M67 Grenade in its cardboard transit tube (via Social Media)

A short video of one of the grenades was shared in late June and in late July the 98th Territorial Defence Battalion shared a clip showing soldiers training with live grenades. On the 18 August, Valgear shared a short video showing an M67 he believed has been provided by Canada. An M67 and its individual packaging was shown in another video posted by a Ukrainian soldier on 23 August.

In August several videos featuring M67s were also shared by Russian forces. The first video showing off a captured example of the M67 was posted on 3 August, featuring a DPR officer examining a grenade. On the 28 August another brief clip of a captured grenade was also shared. 

In September the Russian YouTube channel ‘Big Calibre Trouble’ published a video testing the blast effect of several grenades including an M67. Similarly, Ukrainian YouTube Channel ‘Boys from the Forest’ also demonstrated the M67 and German DM51. Most recently several photos of M67s have been shared.

M67 Grenade (via Social Media)

From the sources available it appears that Canadian-made grenades are marked with a ‘CA’ prefix. So far the grenades we’ve identified in the photos and footage from the field all of the grenades appear to have US markings. Exactly how many M67s have been provided to Ukraine, and by whom, remains unclear but the number seems likely to be in the tens of thousands.  

Research Note: Two lots of M67 grenades have been visually confirmed from available imagery:

DAZ20F022-006 – 5 confirmed examples

DAZ21C022-014 – 3 confirmed examples

Update 30/01/23:


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Bibliography:

M67 Hand Grenade, Day & Zimmerman, (source)

M33, M59, M67 & M68, Lexpev.nl, (source)

C13 Fragmentation, Lexpev.nl, (source)

M67 Hand Grenade, CAT-UXO, (source)

Top Attack 155 BONUS In Ukraine

On Wednesday, 4 January, a Russian telegram channel shared several photos of what appear to be miniature satellites. These are in fact 155 BONUS submunitions, an advanced anti-armour, top attack artillery round. Each 155 BONUS round carries two submunitions capable of striking down on a target vehicle once over the target area.

As we’ve seen in other articles/videos including out look at Javelin, NLAW and Russia’s PTKM-1R mine that top-attack weapons can be extremely effective.

Salvaged 155 BONUS submunition (via social media)

Ukraine has received 155mm howitzer systems from Western countries (including DANA, CAESAR, PzH 2000, Zuzana 2 and AHS Krab), with conventional ammunition these are able to accurately engaging targets at considerable distances but the BONUS round allows a 155mm shell to deliver two submunitions capable of penetrating any tank’s top armour with impressive accuracy.

Development of BONUS or the BOfors NUtating Shell (nutating means rocking or swaying) began in the mid-1980s and was developed by Sweden’s Bofors and Nexter of France. Since Bofors’ heavy weapons division was bought out by BAE Systems in 2005, the system has been part of BAE’s portfolio.

BONUS has a base bleed unit which extends its range out to 35km (nearly 22 miles). Once fired the shell separates to deploy two independent sensor-fuzed submunitions. Once separated these submunitions deploy a pair of winglets and rapidly rotate in flight to enable their built-in sensors to detect targets within their search footprint.

Labelled cutaway of a BONUS shell (US Army)

The search footprint can span up to 32,000 square meters with a diameter of 200m in a helical pattern. The munition uses multi-band passive infrared (IR) and LADAR (laser imaging, detection, and ranging) to detect its targets. Once detected the submunition fires its explosively formed penetrator, which can travel at more than 2000m/s. BAE states the penetrator can penetrate between 100 and 140mm of rolled homogenous armour.

BONUS has been in service with the French Army since the early 2000s and has also been procured by Sweden, Finland and Norway. Most recently in 2018 the US Army selected the round for their Cannon Delivered Area Effects Munition (C-DAEM) programme and has been actively procuring it through several contracts since.

Diagram illustrating BONUS’ basic principle (BAE Systems)

A similar munition SMArt 155, developed by Rheinmetall and Diehl BGT Defence, which uses a parachute to slow the submunitions descent rather than winglets, is also believed to be in use in Ukraine. BONUS and SMArt do not fall into the category of weapons banned under the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions as they comprise of just two submunitions and both have onboard self-destruction mechanisms. The BONUS round seen in these photographs obviously did not engage a target and its self-destruction mechanism didn’t destroy the submunition before it landed.

The Russian telegram channel that shared the photographs of the munition state that it was found in the Donetsk region. The same post suggested some potential countermeasures, including covering heat signatures with polythene and obscuring the shapes of vehicles might help mitigate the risk posed by BONUS rounds.

Salvaged 155 BONUS submunition (via social media)

From the photographs themselves we can see the submunition is marked No.3374, France, and ‘HMX’ – a type of high explosive. At the top it is marked ‘155 MM AC F1 BON’. The ‘LUL’ marking likely refers to Luchaire Defense. In the second photo we can see the damaged face of the submunition, its EFP plate, the metal winglets and the pop-out sensor assembly with what appear to be three lenses. 

In terms of videos from in theatre that show the use of BONUS there are a number of fairly low-resolution drone videos showing suspected uses of the shells – some of these have also been suggested to be SMArt 155. A video from July perhaps shows BONUS in action, there is no visible parachute, as used by the SMArt 155, visible but there are what appear to be two descending submunitions – the first of which detonates above the target, firing an EFP down onto targets.


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Bibliography: 

155 BONUS, BAE Systems, (source)

155 BONUS, Tankist4, (source)

155 BONUS Mk 2, BAE Systems, (source)

155 Bonus EFP, Bofors, (source)

155mm SMArt, GD-OTS, (source)

Artillery Paratroopers Fire BONUS Mark II, US Army, (source)

Ukrainian Troops Train with G36s

We’ve previously looked at Ukrainian troops training with the British L85A2 and Chinese Type 56s AK-pattern rifles. In June, the first images of Ukrainian troops training with G36s emerged, shared by the Lithuanian Ministry of Defence. 

The baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have been staunch supporters of Ukraine’s and Lithuania’s military has been providing training of various sorts since 2015. Back in April, Lithuania’s Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Valdemaras Rupšys announced that Lithuania would train an undisclosed number of Ukrainian troops on how to use various anti-tank weapons at locations within Lithuania. There has so far been no imagery released of this training.

Lithuania’s Military Academy has also provided a distance learning course online for junior leaders and at the end of October it was announced that 120 junior officers had received training across 4 two-day courses.

In the summer an in-person course that has seen Ukrainian personnel travel to Lithuania for training was established. A course at the Division General Stasys Raštikis Lithuanian Armed Forces School ended in early June. The four week course included weapons handling and marksmanship, map training, fieldcraft and tactics. Organised as part of the NATO Defence Education Enhancement Program (DEEP) it was during these courses Ukrainian personnel have been seen training with Lithuanian G36s.

Ukrainian troops training in Lithuania (Lithuanian MoD)

Additionally, Lithuanian instructors have also been training Ukrainian personnel in other countries including the UK. It was announced on 19 October, that a team of military instructors formed from members of the Lithuanian Armed Forces Great Hetman Jonušas Radvila Training Regiment, Division General Stasys Raštikis Lithuanian Armed Forces School, General Adolfas Ramanauskas Warfare Training Centre and the Military Medical Service had joined a multi-national training effort providing basic military training for Ukrainian troops at bases in  the UK.

In mid November it was announced that instructors from Ukraine had also taken part in an international instructor course. The course reportedly covered training techniques, weapons training, instruction organisation. The Lithuanian Ministry of Defence also noted that throughout December, there had been more specific courses for Ukrainian personnel on CBRN-contaminated operational environments, courses on UAVs and on intelligence collection from open sources.  

Summarising the training provided the Lithuanian Ministry of Defence said 18 different courses had been delivered including: basic individual skills, junior officer command, instructor, special forces, demolition and demining courses.  Operators and maintenance for different types of military equipment were also trained.

Ukrainian troops training in Lithuania (Lithuanian MoD)

Lithuania adopted the HK G36 in 2007 and has used several variants including the G36KV1 and the G36KA4M1. None of the photographs show the rifles mounted with optics and in three of the photographs the rifles can be seen fitted with Heckler & Koch’s adjustable blank firing attachment for the G36. 

In early December Lithuania announced that in 2023 training of Ukrainian troops would be stepped up with 1,100 personnel to be trained in Lithuania. Part of the courses scheduled in 2023 will be a part of the new European Union’s Military Assistance Mission Ukraine (EUMAM Ukraine).


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Breakdown: How Many Ukrainian Troops Has the US Trained?

The US Department of Defense recently announced that they would be expanding their training of Ukrainian personnel in January. The new training program will aim to train 500 Ukrainians per month giving them instruction on combined arms operations and tactics from the squad to the battalion level. 

Long before the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February the US and other NATO nations had been heavily engaged in training the Ukrainian military to NATO standards. The US, UK and Canada established a Joint Commission for Defence Reform and Security Cooperation In July 2014, which later expanded. The Canadian training operation was known as Unifier while the British operation was known as Orbital, which has now   been superseded by Operation Interflex.

Just before that announcement, however, the US also confirmed how many Ukrainian personnel have been trained so far. A US European Command Spokesperson shared a breakdown of how many troops have been trained on a number of major systems. 

In a statement a European Command spokesperson told me that:

“Training is key to Ukraine’s continued success on the battlefield by ensuring that Ukraine has the skilled forces necessary to sustain its efforts to push back on Russian aggression. Since the U.S. started to provide security assistance to support Ukraine in defense of their nation, the United States has trained approximately 3,100 members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces”. 

The breakdown of training provided to Ukrainian personnel covers a number of different systems and platforms: 

The system which has seen by far the largest number of Ukrainian troops trained is the M777 155mm howitzer. As of 9 December the US has provided Ukraine with ‘142 155mm Howitzers and up to 1,004,000 155mm artillery rounds’. To operate these guns in the field the US has trained approximately 870 Ukrainian gunners. In addition to this 310 personnel have been trained on the M109 155mm self-propelled howitzer, M109s have been donated by the US, UK and Norway.

Other troops have been trained on the lighter 105mm M119 howitzers, 36 of which have been provided by the US with further guns coming from the UK. Around 500 Ukrainian gunners have been trained on the 105mm howitzers by US personnel, with more being trained in the UK by a multi-national training cadre. 220 Ukrainian personnel have also received training on the M120 mortar.

Finally, US EUCOM’s breakdown outlined that approximately 610 Ukrainian personnel have been trained on the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System. So far 38 227mm HIMARs have been transferred to Ukraine by the US.

US personnel have also provided training on a number of vehicles, training 140 Ukrainians on M113 armored personnel carriers. With all of the vehicles and weapon systems it is unclear what ratio of these troops included instructors, mechanics and crews. At the time of writing the US has provided 200 M113s with European allies providing including Denmark, Spain, the Netherlands, Australia, Germany, Portugal, Lithuania and Austria also providing a similar number of M113 variants. The EUCOM spokesperson also noted that an unspecified number of Ukrainian troops had been trained on the M1089 Wrecker, a recovery vehicle which is part of the Medium Tactical Vehicles family. The latest Department of Defense factsheet on equipment provided to Ukraine notes that “22 Tactical Vehicles to recover equipment” have been transferred.

While the provided breakdown of systems Ukrainian troops have been trained on by US personnel outside of Ukraine isn’t exhaustive it also included 450 personnel who have received training on ‘other’ systems such as the M1089 and various Unmanned Aerial Vehicle platforms. 

Much of this training has been carried out at US military sites in Poland and Germany but as we’ve already seen in previous videos Ukrainian troops are also being trained in the UK by a multi-national training force, in Lithuania and elsewhere.

This article was adapted from my earlier article at Overt Defense.


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Special Boat Service [SBS] – Weapons Analysis

In this video/article we’re going to take a look at a short internal British Ministry of Defence film about the SBS called ‘Oil Safe’. Produced in 1980 by the SSVC, the Services Sound & Vision Corporation, the 11 minute film provides an introduction to the Special Boat Service’s capabilities and procedures for retaking off-shore oil and gas rigs seized in a potential terrorist operation. 

‘Oil Safe’ is not to be confused with another oil rig hijack film made the same year – ‘North Sea Hijack’ with Roger Moore.

It gives some insight into how the SBS would go about recapturing a rig seized by terrorists, showing in some detail the procedures used in operations associated with offshore gas and oil installations. The film takes us step by step through the operation from the moment the SBS are notified to the moment they exfiltrate after the operation to retake the rig is successful.

It’s definitely worth watching the whole thing, its available up on the. In this video we’ll take a look at some of the weapons featured in the film.

The first weapons we see are those of the SBS assault team as they are preparing their weapons and kit for the journey out to the oil rig. On the table we see no less than eight MAC-10s. While the MAC-10 would later be surpassed by the HK MP5 it was in service with UK special forces throughout the 1970s. Here it appears to be the assault team’s primary weapon.

The MAC-10, designed by Gordon Ingram, could be paired with a sound suppressor – but these do not appear in the film. The MAC-10’s small size and considerable firepower seem well suited to the team’s task.

Also on the table are numerous L9A1 Browning Hi-Powers, a Remington 870 shotgun, a pair of AR-15s, an L1A1 self-loading rifle and an anti-riot Grenade Discharger – for CS gas. The Colt AR-15 was favoured for its firepower and light weight. The SAS and the Royal Marines’ Mountain & Artic Warfare Cadre favoured the AR-15 for the same reasons. Colt Model 602, 603 and 604s were the most prevalent models. In the film the rifle is seen with both 20 and 30 round magazines.

During the operation to retake the rig we see the team armed with the MAC-10s, AR-15s and Hi-Powers. The terrorist seen guarding the rig’s landing pad is shot by a member of the SBS armed with the Remington 870, another terrorist is shot by two SBS members with Hi-Powers who raid the rig’s cafeteria.

The terrorists are portrayed as being armed with a magazine-less M1 Carbine and a Luger P08 pistol. After the terrorists are neutralised the film explains that their weapons are taken by UK Police as part of an investigation into the seizure of the rig. Royal Marine Commandos who arrive by helicopter following the SBS’ initial assault are armed with L1A1 SLRs and L2A3 Sterling submachine guns.

Check out our earlier article/video analysing a 1984 British Army video on the SAS here.

I highly recommend watching the full film over on the Imperial War Museum’s online archive.


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Bibliography

SBS Procedure: Part 3 – Oil Safe, SSVC/UK MoD via IWM, (source)

Russia’s Silent Mortar in Ukraine

Recent video and photos from Ukraine show Russian troops getting to grips with the 2B25 82mm mortar. About 10 months ago, before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, The Armourer’s Bench examined the 2B25 in an article/video and how it combines a spigot mortar with ammunition which uses a self-contained captive piston. For a full run down on operation and the mortar’s development history check out that article/video. In this article we will take a look at the mortar’s appearance in Ukraine.

The first mention of the 2B25 being in use with Russian forces in Ukraine dates to early July, when RIA News, a Russian state-owned domestic news agency, published an article with scant detail other than to suggest that “these mortars are used to carry out sudden fire raids, in particular in the fight against saboteurs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.” Despite this report we haven’t seen any imagery showing the weapon in theatre until recently.

In late October imagery showing the 2B25 began to be shared by a member of what appears to be a Russian special operations unit which has been in action in the Donetsk Oblast. One of the members of the unit runs a telegram channel. The soldier who runs the channel describes himself as a “regular soldier of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, for more than 10 years.”

On 27 October, a POV video was shared from behind a 2B25, with the caption (machine translated): “We got acquainted with a silent mortar, mastered it ourselves and showed the mobilized guys. A minimum of recoil, a minimum of powder gases and the sound of a round being fired.”

The 8 November saw the unit share a photo of the mortar being fired without its base plate, instead using a wooden box as an ad-hoc base. In the comments section of the image the soldier running the channel says the use of the wooden ammunition box was ‘by design’, perhaps indicating intentional experimentation with using the mortar without its base plate. In another comment he explained: “No…they checked… whether it was possible to shoot without sinking into the ground, as a result, the box fell apart.” In another response he notes that they were trying to avoid placing the base plate in the wet ground. When asked how loud the mortar is the Russian soldier describes it as: “It is silent, the exit of a mine is not louder than a clap of hands”

A photo posted on 26 November showed the Russian soldier with perhaps 10 of the 2B25’s 3VO35 mortar bomb laid out on the ground. On 30 November a clip showing the mortar be prepared alongside a commercial drone was posted, suggesting training to correct fall of shot with drones.

The longest video posted so far shows the mortar in action. Shared on 2 December the video shows the mortar dug into the ground with the operator firing three bombs in quick succession. Several seconds later we can hear them detonate down range. Again the video appears to show training and not operations. The machine translated caption describes a test with the 2B25 with the operators showing they could correct their fire with a drone, noting: “the accuracy and density of fire on the intended target increased significantly, the bombs hit the target one by one” Most recently, on the 3 December, a short clip with the caption “Another short video from our training” was shared showing the mortar being laid.


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Ukraine’s Newest Howitzer Is An Antique

Plenty of old weapon systems are in use in Ukraine and artillery is no exception. This week the first footage of a batch of 105mm howitzers from Lithuania in action was shared online.

Lithuania has transferred an undisclosed number of M101 towed howitzers. While the 105mm gun lacks the range and punch of the 155mm M777s, Caesars, AHS Krabs and PzH 2000s which have made headlines in recent months, the venerable M101 is a proven weapon.

Introduced in 1941 as the M2A1, the gun has seen service around the world. First during the Second World War and later in Korea, Vietnam and in dozens of regional conflicts around the world. Now it finds itself equipping Ukrainian Army batteries.

The M101 weighs in at 2.5 tons or 2,260 kg and firing conventional M1 high explosive shells has a maximum range of 11,500 metres or just over 7 miles. The M1 round is made up of the  the M1 High Explosive projectile, the M14 Cartridge Case, the M67 Propelling Charges and the M28 Percussion Primer.

The Baltic nation of Lithuania, has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine throughout the conflict providing equipment, arms and training. Lithuania  originally received 54 of the guns from Denmark in 2002. Now, as Lithuania upgrades to 155mm systems the old guns have found a new home. While it is unconfirmed whether Ukrainian troops trained to use the guns in Lithuania, Ukrainian troops have been training in the Baltic nation.

The first guns were shipped in September, with the Lithuanian Minister of Defence announcing the transfer on his social media, but the first footage of them in action in Ukraine didn’t surface until late November.

While the M101 may be old it has the major advantage in that if fires the readily available family of 105mm NATO ammunition. This 105mm ammunition is used by a number of light artillery systems including the more modern US M119A3 and L119 towed 105mm howitzers. As of November 2022, the US has provided 180,000 rounds of 105mm. 

While the M101 may seem like a step down from the 155mm systems in use it has a number of factors which mean the guns are still effective. Firstly, they are used in conjunction with drones which help adjust fire in real time to produce improve effect on target. Secondly, they can use M927 rocket-assisted projectiles which increase the gun’s range by 40%, around 17km. M927’s were first seen in late August being used in conjunction with L119 light guns.

The M101 is certainly an improvement over the 85mm D-44 guns that some Ukrainian Territorial Defense Force units have been seen using and the venerable 100mm MT-12 which has a range of just over 5 miles. While the M101 can’t hope to go toe to toe with Russian 152mm artillery, if used in its original role as an infantry support gun the venerable M101s will prove useful. 


Update 07/12/22: Another short clip of an M101 in action was shared on the 7 December, showing the more closely than previous footage.

Update 12/01/23: Gunners of the 66th Separate Mechanized Brigade practice firing 105mm M101 howitzers.


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Bibliography:

M101s for Ukraine, Arvydas Anusauskas, (source)

Lithuania sends howitzers from its reserve to Ukraine, LRT, (source)

Ukraine Aid Fact Sheet 23 November 2022, US Department of Defense, (source)

Ukraine received 105mm M927 high-explosive rocket-assisted projectiles, Mil.In.UA., (source)

British Brimstone 2 Missiles in Use in Ukraine

Footage of Brimstone anti-armour missiles being launched in Ukraine surfaced for the first time on 12 May but recent footage points to Ukraine now potentially deploying the Dual Mode Brimstone 2. In this updated video we look at what the missile is capable of, how they came to be in Ukraine and how they have been deployed.

A still from footage of a launch from the ‘Brimstone technical’ with the missile potentially being a Brimstone 2 with a translucent seeker head, shared online in early November (via Social Media)

In our earlier video on Brimstone use in Ukraine we examined the system’s capabilities, history and the new ad-hoc ground launch platforms in use. In this updated video we look at evidence of Brimstone use over the summer and autumn of 2022 and discuss the transfer of Brimstone 2 and its capabilities.

Brimstone 2 missiles being loaded aboard an RAF transport aircraft at RAF Brize Norton – perhaps around 48 missiles appear to be on board. (UK MoD)

The UK Ministry of Defence publicly confirmed the transfer of ‘Brimstone 2 Operational Missile Dual Mode’ to Ukraine on the 27 November with a short video. Dual Mode refers to a variant of the missile which can be used both as a ‘fire and forget’ system but also have a ‘man-in-the-loop’ capability which was originally developed as part of an Urgent Operational Requirement for a low-collateral damage weapon. According to MBDA Brimstone 2 has “an overall increase in performance with improvements in range and engagement footprint”, this is enabled by improved seeker, improvements to the missiles airframe with a more modular design and software updates.

Read the full, updated, article on Brimstone in Ukraine here.


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