PK-14 Directional Mines In Ukraine

Recently another interesting anti-tank mine was spotted in use in Ukraine. The Estonian PK-14 or M14 directional mine appeared in photographs which were shared online around 9 September. The PK-14 is a directional mine capable of penetrating about 50mm of armour at a distance of 50 meters.

Photos of the PK-14 in the field were shared for the first time on 9 September (via Social Media)

Unlike the German DM22, which is also in service with Ukrainian forces, the PK-14 utilises the Misznay–Schardin effect with 1.5kg charge of PBX used to create an explosively formed penetrator. The PK-14 is capable of damaging most light IFVs and AFVs. It can be set up on a small tripod or even mounted to a tree, telephone poll or post – useful for attacking targets from above.   

The Estonian defence company who manufactures the mine list it as both the PK-14 and M14.  The mine is produced by Terramil under license from another Estonian defence company, Eesti Arsenal, who also offer several training systems.

The PK-14 assembled (nucking_futs_yuri)
The PK-14 assembled, tripod in the tall configuration (nucking_futs_yuri)
The PK-14 assembled, tripod in the low configuration (nucking_futs_yuri)

The PK-14 has a diopter sight which attaches to the top of the mine and allows it to be laid across the expected path of a target. The sight itself is a inexpensive moulded plastic tube with a narrow aperture which was described to us by an American serving with the Ukrainian armed forces as looking “like a scope you would find on a cheap toy gun at the corner store”. The mine’s casing is cleverly designed with a series of grooves that allow the sight to be slid into place and for the mine itself to be mounted on its tripod.

The PK-14’s sight tube (nucking_futs_yuri)

This instructional video from the manufacturers shows how the mine can be set up. The mine is command-initiated using a shock tube integrated system (STIS). This means that the mine isn’t tripped by a wire like the German DM-22 or by movement as in the Russian PTKM-1R, but in person by an operator. In practice the operator would set up the mine at a location the enemy is expected to pass, unspool the shock cord back to a concealed position and wait for the enemy vehicle to move within range of the mine.

In theory it is possible to rig the mines up with a makeshift pressure plate detonation system you could take the pressure plate from a conventional anti-tank mine like a TM-46 or TM-57 and wrap some detcord with a blasting cap at the end around it so when a vehicle rolls over it detonates the mine. The mine can be set up to strike from above so it hits the tank’s weak top armour or buried in the middle of the road so it can strike up through the vehicle’s belly armour.

The PK-14’s basic components (nucking_futs_yuri)

Special thanks to nucking_futs_yuri, who is best known as the turret gunner who ran an M2 Browning and was handed some AT4s by his vehicle crew when he called for more ammunition in a recent viral video. Yuri has provided photos and video of a PK-14 in his units inventory. Check out his video showing the components of the mine here.

It’s a small, affordable mine but it is currently unknown how many PK-14 mines have been sent to Ukraine but Estonia, along with the other Baltic states, has been a significant supporter of Ukraine since before Russia’s invasion in February. Estonia began procuring the mines for the Estonian Defence Force in 2015.

nucking_futs_yuri’s video showing the components and set up of the PK-14

In terms of how they may be deployed in Ukraine, the small size and light weight of the PK-14 may be useful for small Ukrainian reconnaissance and special forces teams operating behind Russian lines. Yuri explained that they’re preferred over convention Soviet TM mines as they’re lighter, he stated that:

“normally we each take 2 or more with us, set up our ambush and wait. We could mount them high if need be and get the top of the turret or even bury them in the middle of the road… so it explodes under the center of the tank.”

Check out Yuri’s YouTube channel and Instagram page.


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Bibliography:

PK-14 Landmine, CAT-UXO, (source)

‘The “smart” mines produced by an Estonian company will receive their first combat missions in Ukraine’, Forte, (source)

Anti-armor mine PK-14, Terramil, (source)

PK-14 Side Mines, Eesti Arsenal, (source)

Accuracy International Rifles in Ukraine

In this article/video we’ll examine the use of Accuracy International rifles in Ukraine. This was prompted by an interesting video that was shared by the Belorussian Kastus Kalinoukski volunteer regiment a few days ago. They explain some of the rifles characteristics and how they employ it. 

The rifle shown in the Kalinouski Regiment’s video is described as an Arctic Warfare (AW) model or L118A1 (the British service designation for the rifle) but in the video the sniper mentions it is chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum, meaning its actually an Arctic Warfare Magnum (AWM). It’s fitted with a Schmidt & Bender 5-25×56 PM II optic with a P4FL reticle.

Ukrainian sniper with an AXMC mounted with an Archer TSA-9 , March 2022, (via Social Media)

Our first sighting on an Accuracy International rifle in the field came around the end of March when a Ukrainian sniper was pictured with an AXMC mounted with an Archer TSA-9 thermal scope. A week or so later on the 11 April, members of the Georgian Legion were seen with an AWM. 

In a video from the 17 April another AWM can be seen in a video filmed by a member of the Georgian Legion. On the 21 April a photo of international legion volunteers training included another AWM. At the very end of the month a well equipped Ukrainian Territorial Defence Force unit, reportedly made up of international volunteers featured another AWM.

Member of the Kalinouski Regiment with AWM, September 2022, (Kalinowski Regiment)

At the beginning of May a volunteer was seen in a number of photos, first posed with a French flag holding an AT308 (Accuracy Tactical), the latest evolution of the AW. On around the 4 May another photo of a TDF unit included the same sniper and rifle – in this photograph the bolt handle and action is more visible and its profile and the presence of an AICS (Accuracy International Chassis System) PMAG suggest the rifle may be a Remington 700 in an Accuracy International chassis. Finally, on 17 May, a short clip of a  sniper in a hide position. He’s armed with a rifle which looks to be the same as seen in the earlier photographs. 

A member of the Kalinowkski Regiment with an AWM (via Social Media)

On the 19th May a photo of a member of the Kalinoukski Regiment was shared holding an AWM in a black stock. Several weeks later on 26 June, snipers of the Georgian volunteer unit posed, with one armed with what appears from the stock shape to be an AWM. On 17 September Russian telegram channels began sharing a photo of a Ukrainian sniper’s AW rifle captured in the Bakhmut area.

a Ukrainian sniper with a suppressed AX308, May 2022, (via Social Media)

Other Accuracy International rifles have also been sighted, in April 2022 Chechens were pictured with a captured AXMC and a photo of a Ukrainian sniper with a suppressed AX308 with a NightForce optic was shared in late May.

In terms of where the rifles originated from the only confirmed source for at least some of the rifles is a reported transfer of rifles from the Dutch military. From the limited data set available we can see that the AWM are the most commonly seen in the field. But as with any survey which relies on open source intelligence this isn’t an exhaustive look at where the rifles are being used and which units have them. 

Check out our earlier article/video on the use of Savage Arms rifles in Ukraine.


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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.

Update 17/10/22: On the 17th October, Ukrainian Telegram channels began sharing a short video of a PTKM-1R which appears to have launched its top-attack munition. The Telegram posts did not state where the footage was filmed. In the video we can see that the mine’s base unit has angled (supposedly towards its target) and has launched its munition.

Update: 23/11/22: A video from the DPR/DNR People’s Militia Press Office featuring a Russian sapper (possibly from the 56th Guards Air Assault Regiment operating in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast) explaining the deployment of the advanced Russian PTKM-1R top-attack mine. [Machine translation in video captions] H/t – Patrick Senft.

Update 26/11/22: Photographs of a deployed and detonated PTKM-1R have surfaced online.

Update 5/12/22:


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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)

Bermuda’s Unique SA80

In 2015 the Royal Bermuda Regiment began to field the British L85A2 bullpup. Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory and is one of several territories to have its own British Army-affiliated home defence regiment.

The regiment’s transition to the L85A2 was completed in early 2016, with the replacement of the last Ruger Mini-14s which had been in service since 1983. If you haven’t seen our earlier video/article looking at the Royal Bermuda Regiment’s Mini-14 service rifles, do check it out. 

A Royal Bermuda Regiment recruit with a Mini-14, c.2012 (RBR)

The search for a weapon to replace the Ruger began in the 2010s with the German Heckler & Koch G36 and the US M4 both being tested. The HK G36 was reportedly selected but budget constraints saw the British L85A2 adopted instead.

A Royal Bermuda Regiment recruit at the range with an L85A2 (RBR)

Reports suggest that 400 rifles were transferred along with 1,600 magazines, while over 400 ACOGs and red dot sights were also donated to the regiment by the British government. News reports at the time stated the value of the donated equipment was $1.4 million.

The Bermudan L85A2s have a somewhat unique configuration. The rifles appear to have a mix of the original L85A1 hand guards and the HK-designed conventional L85A2 plastic hand guards which were designed to be more durable. The older, original, hand guards are reportedly replaced at the unit level when they are broken.

Comparison of the old and newer rail-less plastic hand guards

The newer style of hand guard can be identified by its four rather than two hinges on its top portion, which allows access to the gas system, and by the slight slope forward at the front of the hand guard compared to the original.

An RBR L85A2 is handed back into the armoury, c.2017 (RBR)

Many associate the A2 configuration with the Daniel Defense railed forend but these are only introduced as an urgent operational requirement for operations in Afghanistan in 2009.

A member of 26 Engineer Regiment with the Brigade Reconnaissance Force in Afghanistan in 2009 with an L85A2 TES with an ACOG/red dot combination (UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

Interestingly the Royal Bermuda Regiments rifles all appear to have been provided with Trijicon ACOGs, previously most commonly seen on what became known as the Theatre Entry Standard (or TES) upgraded L85A2 rifles. These optics replaced the original 4x SUSAT (Sight Unit Small Arms, Trilux) and in 2011 were in turn replaced by ELCAN SpecterOS 4× Lightweight Day Sights (LDS). TES represented a new base-line standard for configuring the rifle for front-line service rather than being a new iteration of the weapon itself.

An RBR L85A2 with an original hand guard and ACOG at the range (Royal Bermuda Regiment)

The Bermudan rifles have a riser Picatinny rail for mounting the optic on the rifle’s original NATO-spec (non-1913 Pictatinny) rail, this was initially developed for British issued TES L85A2s. In British service the ACOG had been procured first for special forces use and subsequently as a wider urgent operational requirement where it was paired with L85A2s, L86A2s and L110 FN Minimi.

Recruits introduced to the L85A2, note the sight riser with ACOG mounted (RBR)

On top of the ACOG is a CQB red dot sight, this appears to be an early Shield Mini Sight Reflex optic housed inside a sight protector. The ACOGs donated to the Royal Bermuda Regiment probably came from surplus stores.

A Royal Bermuda Regiment soldier at the range with an L85A2, note the IW-LSW marking on the side of the ACOG (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nicholas Dutton)
Royal Bermuda Regiment soldiers at the range, 2021 (USMC)

We can see on some of the photos released by the regiment that the ACOGs are marked ‘IW-LSW’ indicating that they were procured to be paired with the British Army’s L85 Individual Weapon and the L86 Light Support Weapon.

Other British Overseas regiments, like the Royal Gibraltar Regiment or the Falkland Islands Defence Force, are also equipped with L85A2s but their configurations typically use older SUSATs or the newer ELCAN Specters which suggests that the Royal Bermuda Regiment’s configuration is somewhat unique.


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Bibliography:

RBR Recruits at the range with Mini-14s c.2013, BDA Sun, (source)

Rifles worth $1.4m donated to Regiment, Royal Gazette, (source)

RBR Soldiers Get to Grips with Rifles, RBR, (source)

Royal Bermuda Regiment Training, USMC/Lance Cpl. Joel Castaneda, (source)

Thorneycroft To SA80, J. Ferguson (2020)

UK Has Procured Chinese AKs to Train Ukrainian Troops

In recent weeks we’ve examined how the UK has procured various 7.62x39mm AK-pattern rifles for use in training Ukrainian troops in the UK. The latest video and photographs from the training the UK is providing show that alongside the previously identified AK variants a number of Chinese Type 56-1s have also been procured.

Ukrainian troops with Type 56-1s at the range undertaking marksmanship training and completing weapon handling tests and passing the ACMT live firing assessment (UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

On the 9th July, the UK’s Ministry of Defence announced that as part of its agreement to train 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers it had acquired a significant number of AK-pattern rifles. The MoD’s original press release stated:

“The Government has rapidly procured AK variant assault rifles for the training programme, meaning Ukrainian soldiers can train on the weapons they will be using on the front line. This effort was supported by the Welsh Guards, who tested more than 2,400 such rifles in 17 days to ensure they were ready for the Ukrainians to commence their training.”

From imagery published by the MoD we previously confirmed that the AKs procured included: Zastava M70 (or M70B)s, milled receiver M70As, folding stock M70AB2s, Hungarian FEG AK63Ds and East German MPi KMS-72s. The latest photographs released, which appear to have been taken in late July at Salisbury Plain Training Area (SPTA), and show a type of rifle we haven’t seen previously – the Type 56-1.

Ukrainian trainees conducting weapon drills with Type 56-1 (UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

They show rifles with under-folding stocks, stamped receivers, rivet positions and enclosed front sights which indicate them to be Chinese Type 56-1s. Where did the UK procure these rifles from? While it has been suggested that the UK may have seized the rifles during operations to interdict the arming of Houthi rebels in an earlier statement to The Armourer’s Bench the MoD said that the rifles has been “rapidly procured… through a combination of international donations and private purchase.”

Ukrainian trainees conducting weapon drills (magazines off) with Type 56-1 (UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

The same cadre training at SPTA were also seen undertaking Fighting In Built Up Areas (FIBUA) training with British L85A2 rifles. It is believed that the British bullpups are being used for exercises requiring blank firing due to a likely combination of a shortage of AK blank firing adaptors (BFAs), blank ammunition, and the AK BFAs not being deemed safe enough for British training areas. The MoD previously stated that the L85A2s and their BFAs were being used to ‘maintain strict safety conditions for both British and Ukrainian soldiers during training and to meet the urgency of the training requirement.’

As with the other AK-pattern rifles procured by the UK for the training of Ukrainian personnel the Type 56s won’t be returning to Ukraine with the trainee soldiers, the UK MoD has stated that they are providing uniforms, protective kit and other equipment but not individual weapons.


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Walk Around: The Vickers Machine Gun & Machine Gun Corps Event at the National Army Museum

On the 16 July, I took part in a Spotlight Saturday event at the UK’s National Army Museum in London. Organised by the Vickers Machine Gun Collection & Research Association the event commemorated the 100th anniversary of the disbandment of the British Army’s Machine Gun Corps but also commemorated the legacy of the Vickers Machine Gun itself and all the other units which used it during its service between 1912 and 1968.

The displays outlined the history and legacy of the Vickers Gun, with displays looking at the logistics of using the Vickers in the field, how they were used with range finders, the mechanisation of the British Army, the barrage at High Wood during the First World War, the kit used with the guns and how the guns themselves worked. Also on display were Robbie McGuire’s documentaries about the members of the Machine Gun Corps who were awarded the Victoria Cross and Adam Blackmore-Heal’s documentary about the shoot at Bisley a couple of weeks earlier.

It was great to see and speak to so many people who wanted to learn more about the Vickers Gun and then men who used them during the guns’ near 60 year service life.

I had the pleasure of giving a talk about how the vickers was used in the indirect fire role and I’ll be sharing that as a separate video in the future. This video is just a quick walk around showing some of the exhibits and kit that were on display. I highly recommend heading over to the Vickers Machine Gun Collection & Research Association’s YouTube channel and checking out their videos from the event too.


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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.

Update 18/10/22:

Some recent footage of the PV-1110 in use in Ukraine. It is unclear where or when this footage was filmed but it surfaced on social media around 15 October. I suspect it was filmed during training rather than when in action. Regardless, it represents one of the few pieces of footage we have of the Swedish recoilless guns in action 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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Examining an Incendiary Bomb Dropped on Dresden

At We Have Ways Festival 2022 I ran into friends from the Dunkirk 1940 Museum and they were displaying an interesting piece – a British 4lb Incendiary Bomb which had reportedly been dropped on Dresden in February 1945.

The bomb is believed to have been buried in backfill when the city was rebuilt after the war and then recovered during later construction.

I’ve included in this video some footage from a 1942 New Zealand film demonstrating the capabilities of incendiary bombs which features a British 4lb bomb, similar to the one displayed by the museum, and some contemporary footage of the bombing of Dresden to illustrate what terrible weapons incendiaries could be.

Bibliography:

Footage:

Staff Film Reports No. 46: Dresden Bombing Footage, US Army Signal Corps’ Army Pictorial Service

Incendiary Bomb (1942), New Zealand Archives, (source)

Further information on British incendiaries:

British Explosive Ordnance – Cluster Projectiles Part 2 (source)

U.S.N.B.D. – British Bombs & Fuzes; Pyrotechnics, Detonators, Incendiary Bombs (source)


The Development of British Incendiary Bombs during the Period of the 1939-45 World War, Ministry of Supply, (source)

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Ukrainians Training with SA80s

In a recent video/article we looked at the AK-pattern rifles that the UK Ministry of Defense has procured to train Ukrainian troops with in the UK. In that video I touched on the use of British SA80/L85 pattern bullpup rifles used during the training of the Ukrainian troops. With fresh imagery it seems that the British rifles are playing a significant role in training the Ukrainian personnel at several training centres across the UK.

Ukrainian soldier seen with an SA80A2 with SUSAT during training, when visited by the Prime Minister in late-July (UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

The SA80 rifles were first seen in the initial imagery released around the announcement of the training scheme but have appeared again since. They featured in photographs of Defence Minister Ben Wallace’s visit in early July and again a couple of weeks later during another visit by General Sir Patrick Sanders’, Chief of the General Staff. The rifles were seen with iron sights and fitted with blank firing adaptors. Interestingly, at least some of the Ukrainian personnel have been shown how to field strip the British rifles. 

Deputy Defence Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Havrylov with visits Ukrainian troops training in the UK, 19 July (UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

On 19th July, imagery from a visit by the Deputy Defence Minister of Ukraine, Volodymyr Havrylov, also showed Ukrainian troops equipped with SA80A2s fitted with blank firing adaptors. As before the rifles were not fitted with optics.

The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that while AK-pattern blank firing adaptors have been procured, SA80’s with blank firing adaptors have also been used to ‘maintain strict safety conditions for both British and Ukrainian soldiers during training and to meet the urgency of the training requirement.’

Ukrainian troops field stripping and cleaning SA80A2s in early July (UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

Because the rifles don’t have railed forends some thought they might be the earlier SA80A1s. We can tell that these rifles are SA80A2s from the up-turned scalloped tear drop charging handle which also doubles as a brass deflector. The rifles have the non-railed green polymer handguards fitted.  While the Daniel Defense produced railed forends have come to characterise what many thing is the A2 configuration, these were actually developed in response to an urgent operational requirement for troops deploying in Afghanistan. Many of the rifles overhauled by HK to the A2 standard retained the classic green handguards. Some, like those recently provided to the Royal Bermuda Regiment, actually have a green handguard designed by HK. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Ukrainian troops (Andrew Parsons/No.10 Downing Street)

We can easily identify British troops involved in the training, as we can see that they are equipped with the new SA80A3 with the characteristic new MLOK forends and Cerakote finish. 

On the 21st July, the UK Prime Minister’s office released photos and video of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to Ukrainian troops training in the North East of England. The imagery showed Ukrainian troops training in urban combat, known by the British Army as Fighting In Built Up Areas or FIBUA. This supports the theory that they are being issued for FIBUA and field exercises that require blank firing. Unlike in the earlier imagery the Ukrainians were armed with SA80A2s largely equipped with SUSAT sights. 


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Bibliography:

‘Defence Secretary Ben Wallace visits Armed Forces of Ukraine as training programme starts across the UK’, UK MoD, 9 July, 2022, (source)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits the North East, UK Govt., (source)

Deputy Defence Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Havrylov meets with Ukrainian trainees in UK, UK MoD, (source)