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.


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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)

Canadian Small Arms & Light Weapons In Ukraine

After seeing a considerable number of Colt Canada C7 rifles and C8 carbines being used in Ukraine I decided to investigate their origins. I reached out to various Ministries of Defence to enquire if they had provided the rifles. The Canadian Ministry of National Defence not only confirmed that they had provided various small arms but their spokesperson was also kind enough to confirm some of the types of small arms and light weapons which Canada has transferred to Ukraine since February 2022. 

Due to operational security the quantities of weapons transferred obviously couldn’t be confirmed but there’s some interesting weapons in the list that might not be what was expected. 

Canada aid arriving in in Ukraine (Ukrainian MoD)

In terms of anti-tank weapons we already know that at least 100 Carl Gustaf M2 Recoilless Rifles were transferred, along with 2,000 rounds of 84mm ammunition. We have seen a number of M2s which are potentially of Canadian origin in the field. Also confirmed back in March was the transfer of as many as up to 7,500 hand grenades and up to 4,500 M72 LAW anti-tank weapons. These have probably been seen in the field but without close ups of markings and with so many countries transferring LAWs its difficult to ID them specifically in imagery from the field.

A potential Canadian Carl Gustaf in Ukraine (via Social Media)

In terms of small arms things get interesting, as mentioned C7A1 rifles have been seen in a considerable number of photos and videos from Ukraine. Produced by Diemaco, now Colt Canada, it seems obvious that these rifles originated from Canada. However, the spokesperson from the Ministry of National Defence confirmed that Canada has not provided any C7 pattern rifle. Instead, they confirmed that Canada has only provided C8 carbines. Sources familiar with the carbines sent to Ukraine noted that the weapons were C8 SFWs with a railed forend. So far the only photo which may visually confirm the presence of Canadian C8 SFWs is this one of some Ukrainian SSO operators. An operator in the middle of the photo (see below) has a C8 with a railed forend, with a vertical front grip attached. Other operators around him have C8s with the earlier non-railed handguards.

73rd Naval Special Purpose Center operators with what may be a C8 SFW, along with earlier unrailed C8 carbines (via Social Media)

It was also confirmed that both C9 light machine guns and C6 general purpose machine guns have been transferred. The C9 is Canada’s designation for the FN Minimi while the C6 is their designation for the 7.62x51mm FN MAG. Canada currently uses the upgraded C9A2 with a 4 position stock and longer rail.

Colt Canada C8 Carbines in Ukraine – these C8s were not provided by the Canadian government (via Social Media)

The spokesperson also confirm the types of precision rifle transferred to Ukraine noting that “both medium .308 and .338 calibre, and heavy .50 calibre sniper rifles were provided.” Earlier media reports had suggested that .50 calibre sniper rifles were transferred but there had been no mention of medium caliber rifles. It was not stated whether the .338 rifles were .338 Norma Magnum or .338 Lapua Magnum.

While the Canadian military currently fields the C15 Long-Range Sniper Weapon (the McMillan TAC-50) the Ministry of National Defence did not confirm what exact model had been sent to Ukraine. There have been a number of sightings of TAC-50s, and while a number of countries field them, some of those seen in Ukraine may have originated from Canada.

An anonymous source familiar with the program to transfer weapons to Ukraine confirmed that CADEX Defence CDX series rifles had been sent to Ukraine from the stores never sent to Kurdish forces. These are believed to have included CDX TAC rifles in .338 and CDX-50 Tremors in 12.7x99mm.

The weapons initially sent to Ukraine were reportedly drawn from a selection of weapons worth an estimated $10 million, which had originally been procured in 2016 for Kurdish forces fighting ISIS in Iraq. The plan to arm the Kurds stalled in 2017 and since then the weapons have been in storage at the Canadian Forces Supply Depot in Montreal. This equipment included sniper rifles, 60mm mortars, Carl Gustaf anti-armor weapons and small arms. It is from these stores that many of the sniper rifles have been drawn. In February, just before the Russian invasion was launched it was reported by a number of Canadian media outlets that the weapons sent to Ukraine came from the stores originally destined for the Kurds.

CADEX CDX photographed in Ukraine in March (via War_Noir)

In the past Canada has also provided Ukraine with .50 caliber LRT-3 rifles from PGW Defence Technologies, this type may have again been provided either via the Canadian government’s transfer or privately donated by Canadian citizens.

Based on information from sources familiar with the transfer the ‘.338’ chambered medium caliber rifles are believed to be CDX TAC rifles from CADEX rather than the C14 Timberwolf MRSWS (Medium Range Sniper Weapon System) from PGW Defence Technologies, which is currently in use with Canadian forces. The .308 chambered rifle mentioned is less clear, it may be a reference to the 7.62x51mm Parker-Hale C3 sniper rifle which is still in service or possibly a .308/7.62x51mm chambered rifle from PGW or CADEX. They are unlikely to be Tikka T3s which recently entered service with the Canadian Rangers as the C19.

Interestingly, the pistols which were transferred were not Browning HiPowers, which is Canada’s current standard service pistol – soon to be replaced by the SIG Sauer P320, but Glock 17s. Very few images of Glock 17s in use in Ukraine have surfaced so far. Sources suggest that the Glock pistols were also a part of the selection of weapons originally destined for Kurdish forces fighting ISIS.


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Bibliography:

https://www.canada.ca/en/global-affairs/news/2022/02/canada-sending-additional-25m-military-aid-to-support-ukraine.html

https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/news/2022/03/defence-minister-anand-announces-additional-military-support-to-ukraine.html

https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/services/operations/military-operations/current-operations/operation-unifier.html

Makeshift Fire Extinguisher RPG Warhead

In December images of Chechen volunteers fighting with the Ukrainian Armed Forces began to feature an interesting craft-made weapon – an RPG munition made from the body of a small fire extinguisher. 

These RPG-warheads improvised from fire extinguishers have appeared in numerous videos and photographs of the Sheikh Mansur Battalion. The battalion was formed back in 2014 and is made up of exiled Chechens who reject Russian control of their region. The battalion itself is named after an 18th century Chechen military leader Sheikh Mansur. The battalion had disbanded in 2019, but reformed in March 2022 following the invasion. Since then they have reportedly seen action during the Battle of Kyiv, in the Donbas, during the Battle of Sievierodonetsk and most recently in the fighting around Bakhmut. 

There’s a long history of improvised warheads adapted for launch from the RPG-7 but I think this is the first time I’ve seen a fire extinguisher body used, at least in this phase of the fighting in Ukraine. 

A section of the Sheikh Mansur Battalion, with a craft-made fire extinguisher munition, Bahkmut, December 2022 (via Sheikh Mansur Battalion)

It appears that the fire extinguisher body has been emptied and filled with whatever explosive and shrapnel material is readily available and then adapted to fit the sustainer motor and booster assemblies. They appear to use V-429 or V-429E point detonating fuzes. These fuzes were developed for use on high explosive (HE) projectiles used by various Combloc weapon systems including the T-12 and MT-12 100mm anti-tank guns and the 115mm main gun of the T-62 and 125mm main guns of the T-64, T-72, T-80 and T-90 series tanks. Some other fuzes appear to be used too but conceivably any impact fuze would work. The inertia armed fuzes normally arm within 5-15m of the muzzle once fired from a conventional barrel. It appears that the fuzes have been epoxied into place.

Close up of a craft-made fire extinguisher munition, Bahkmut, December 2022 (via social media)

How the mass and shape of the improvised round impacts the velocity of the warhead once it is fired is unclear. But Bild correspondent Bjorn Stritzel, who recently met with members of the Battalion while writing an article about them, told me that the range of the warheads is about 100m. He noted that the Chechen’s have found them to be ‘very effective in Bakhmut’ and that ‘apparently its firepower surprised RF entrenched in houses’ according to radio chatter picked up by the Battalion. 

While we don’t have a perfect close up of them the extinguishers themselves appear to be small 2kg (or 5lbs) units which contain powder. From a quick survey of some Ukrainian websites which sell the extinguishers, the price of these ranges between 300 and 500 Hryvnias (or $8 & $14).

A member of the Sheik Mansur Battalion demonstrates a craft-made fire extinguisher munition, Bahkmut, December 2022 (via Sky News)

The fire extinguisher rounds are probably being used as anti-personnel weapons which would be fitting for the sort of fighting occurring around Bakhmut where the majority of the imagery is said to be coming from. The thin steel body of the extinguisher may provide suitable fragmentation or depending on the metallurgy it may just rupture. According to Stritzel the filling of the warheads is around 50% explosive and 50% shrapnel material. He also noted that the Chechen’s described the warhead as being “three times more powerful than a normal OG-7V [fragmentation RPG-7 round]”. 

Two craft-made fire extinguisher munitions, Bahkmut, December 2022 (via Bjorn Stritzel)

The first video featuring the improvised warheads was published by the Sheikh Mansur Battalion on their social media in around mid December. In a Sky News report from the 22 December, a member of the Battalion demonstrates how one of the extinguisher warheads is loaded. A video posted to the Battalion’s social media on the 27 December showed a number, perhaps four, of the improvised rounds stacked ready for use with booster assemblies attached. 

On the 31 December, the Battalion shared a photograph of a group of eight Battalion members, one of which can be seen holding an RPG-7 with one of the improvised extinguisher rounds loaded. During the second week of January, a short, undated, video of an individual in a fighting position firing one of the craft-made warheads was shared. We get some idea of the weight of the round in this clip.

The most recent video (see stills above), posted on TikTok, on the 12 January, shows two of the improvised munitions being fired. These warheads follow the same design but differ slightly in that the fire extinguisher body appears to have been cut open at the centre and then welded back together. Perhaps this is done to easier fill the munition or perhaps to shorten a longer extinguisher body. For the first time we also get to see the explosion of the rounds down range. This video again gives us a good indication of the weight of the round from the movement of the shooter. It also illustrates the distances the rounds can travel. Notably it appears to be used here against a Russian field work rather than against a building.

With fighting continuing in Bakhmut we are likely to see more of these improvised fire extinguisher rounds in use, especially if they are as effective as the Sheikh Mansur Battalion suggest.


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Bibliography:

V429 Fuze, CAT UXO, (source)

V429E Fuze, CAT UXO, (source)

‘They prefer death to Russian torture’, Bild, (source)

The Chechens fighting Putin in Ukraine, Sky News, (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.


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


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)

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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Colt Canada / Diemaco C7 Rifles & C8 Carbines in Ukraine

We’ve seen a large number of different small arms being transferred to Ukraine. The large number of different 5.56x45mm chambered rifles is especially interesting. This is the first of a series of videos examining the variety of different 5.56x45mm rifles which have been seen in the field. These range from US M4A1s to FN F2000s and everything in between. 

We’re starting the series examining the use of Colt Canada produced rifles and carbines. We first began to see Colt Canada C7 rifles appearing in the hands of Ukrainian personnel in May. They have continued to be seen in use with units including the Belarusian Kalinouski Regiment, International Legion Units and most recently one was seen in the hands of Ukrainian special operations forces landing on the Kinburn Spit. 

International Volunteers with C7A1s fitted with ELCAN C79 optics (via Social Media)

Diemaco, renamed Colt Canada in 2005, began producing the C7 in 1982. These were derived from the US M16A1E1 programme which led to the development and adoption of the M16A2. The C7 differs from the M16A2 in a number of ways but principally in that it retains the M16A1’s rear sight set up and its semi- and full-automatic fire modes, rather than the A2’s 3-round burst. The versions seen in use in Ukraine are C7A1s, which replace the fixed carrying handle with a modified Weaver rail for mounting optics.

The primary users of the C7A1 are Canada (who have since moved to the C7A2 and C8A3), Denmark who issue the C7A1 as the M/95 and the Netherlands who adopted the C7A1 in the early 1990s. All of the countries also use the C8 carbine with the improved Integrated Upper Receiver. The Netherlands field the C8 as the C8NLD and the Danish Army uses it as the M/10. the United Kingdom currently fields the C8 SFW as the L119, and may have other earlier variants of the carbine in inventory.

Combatant from the Kalinouski Regiment with a C7A1 rifle fitted with a Hi-Mag optic (via Social Media)

I reached out to the Dutch, Canadian and Danish defence ministries and while the Dutch and Danish ministries declined to comment the Canadian Ministry of National Defence responded to confirm that Canada has not, to-date, provided any C7 pattern rifles. Instead, the Canadian spokesperson confirmed that Canada has provided an unspecified number of C8 carbines. 

Another indicator of this is that some of the photographs show the original Diemaco stylised ‘D’ roll mark on the magazine housing. Canadian C7A1s have the ‘D’ roll mark above the trigger, with a Canadian maple leaf engraving on the magazine housing. Sources state that Colt Canada refitted most of Canada’s C7A1s into the C7A2 configuration, with a collapsing buttstock, in the 2010s. The available imagery isn’t clear enough to make out smaller national markings to differentiate where they originated from.

Ukrainian combatants with C7A1 rifles fitted with Hi-Mag optics (via Social Media)

This means that the C7A1 rifles seen in Ukraine were likely provided by either the Netherlands or Denmark. The Netherlands adopted the C7A1 and fielded it with ELCAN SpecterOS3.4x (C79). Interestingly, there has also been at least two sightings of a 6x ELCAN Hi-Mag on a C7A1 in early October. The Hi-Mag was adopted by the Dutch military as a machine gun optic which may point to at least some of the rifles coming from a transfer from the Netherlands. I have not been able to find any mention of the Danish armed forces using the Hi-Mag. [Update: on further research and discussion with Dutch sources the C7 pattern rifles have now been confirmed to be of Dutch origins. The key identifying characteristic being the small QR code tags seen on the right side of the magazine housing. We will have a more detailed article on this in the future.]

The C7A1s have been seen fitted with a mix of ELCAN C79s, Aimpoint Comps, various reflex sights and some with original Diemaco/Colt Canada rear iron sights. Some have already been adapted with some pretty interesting paint schemes and fitted with suppressors.

Various C7A1 rifles with suppressors, iron sights and paint jobs (via Social Media)

It is also unclesr where the C8 carnines seen in Ukraine originated from. While the Canadian Ministry of National Defence confirmed C8s had been sent to Ukraine, an anonymous source close to the programme to transfer the weapons noted that the carbines sent were in the C8 SFW configurations with a railed forend. The C8s seen in the field, with the earlier non-railed handguards, may be from Denmark or the Netherlands.

The first appearances of C8s in videos shared to social media that I could find date to September, but they’ve likely been in use prior to this. This piece of combat footage which was shared on social media around the 19 September is especially interesting as we see C8 carbines with ELCAN Specters but at least one has a red dot and magnifier set up. We can also see TRIAD rail mounts which are attached around the front sight base. This may indicate the carbines are C8A3s but its difficult to make out the other defining features of the A3. The TRIAD was developed to allow attachment of accessories without changing out the hangdguards, in this case most of the guys appear to have fitted vertical front grips.

Ukrainian combatant with a C8 carbine, note the Triad rail attachment (via Social Media)

An individual on the Kherson front has also shared numerous images and videos featuring his personal weapon – a C8 with a suppressor and what appears to be a more modern ELCAN Specter. The individual also shared some footage of himself and others running a contact drills.

Member of the Ukrainian 73rd Naval Special Purpose Center with C8 (via Social Media)

The 73rd Naval Special Purpose Center, part of Ukraine’s SSO (special operations force), with a Colt Canada/Diemaco C8 carbine. The C8 is easily identifiable by its thicker buttstock. It also appears to have a vertical front grip just visible, attached to a Triad rail mount under the front sight post.

Another photo of the operators from the 73rd Naval Special Purpose Center may be the first image of a C8 SFW – the carbine appears to have a railed forend with a laser/light module fitted along with a vertical front grip.

73rd Naval Special Purpose Center operators with what may be a C8 SFW, along with earlier unrailed C8 carbines (via Social Media)

In future articles/videos we will explore the plethora a 5.56×45mm chambered rifles, carbines and light machine guns transferred to Ukraine.

Thank you to War_noir on twitter and StreakingDelilah on Instagram for sharing several additional photos of C8s.

Update – 01/12/22

Ukrainian SSO have shared a video with an operator discussing recent operations which gives a good look at his C8 carbine.

Updated – 30/01/23: The Belarusian Kalinouski Regiment, serving with the Ukrainian Armed Forces, has shared a photo of a Dutch Diemaco C7A1. Note the C79 ELCAN and original Thermold magazine which were shipped with the guns. The armory QR code tag can be seen on the magazine housing – identifying this rifle as of Dutch origins.


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Supercut: Ukrainian Farmers Stealing Russian Tanks

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February large quantities of vehicles and equipment have been captured or destroyed on both sides. Fighting a war in the social media age means we have an unprecedented amount of first hand footage and of course from this memes are going to evolve. Almost as soon as the war began videos of Ukrainian farmers towing Russian vehicles began to be shared on telegram, tiktok and instagram. Often salvaging abandoned equipment the videos soon made unlikely heroes of Ukraine’s farmers. So much so they’ve been commemorated not just by Saint Javelin merchandise but also an official stamp from the Ukrainian post office.

I’ve collected quite a few videos of the farmers in action over the last few months and Rob Lee over on twitter has been keeping a running thread too. So here’s a supercut of videos showing Ukrainian farmers towing away everything from trucks to Grad launchers to T-80 tanks!


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Bibliography:

Famous for towing captured Russian tanks, Ukrainian farmers step up for war effort, CBC News, (source)

Winning design in Ukraine’s second design contest features tractor and tank, Linn’s Stamp News, (source)

Ukraine Celebrates Its Tank-Towing Farmers, VOA, (source)

French HPD2A2 Mines in Ukraine

Earlier this week (7 November) Alexander Borodai, the former leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic now a member of the Russian Duma for the separatist region, was seen in a video showing a near miss with a French HPD 2A2 anti-vehicle mine. The video, believed to have been filmed south of Kherson, showed the lead vehicle of Borodai’s convoy damaged by a mine, while another mine was seen next to his vehicle. The lead vehicle appears to be badly damaged with the front of the vehicle seemingly taking the brunt. If the vehicles was damaged by a HPD 2A2 it is interesting that the 4×4 vehicle was able to set off the mine which is designed to be triggered by heavier armoured vehicles, though some sources state movement of even smaller metal objects near by can trigger the mine. Similary Borodai is lucky not to have triggered the mine’s anti-tamper system.

The mine is clearly identifiable as a French HPD-2A2 with the lot number 01-BT-19. Various sources suggest around 400,000 of the HPD series of mines have been produced and they’re in service with the French, Norwegian, Belgian and Swiss armed forces. From Borodai’s video we can see the mine has a serial number of ‘9131229‘. Another example photographed in early October has the partial serial number ‘91296..’ visible. Both mines are from the same lot and the end digits seem to denote year of manufacture – 2019.

Russian sources suggest the mines have been in theatre since August but the first images of the mines were shared in early July, pictured in the back of a Ukrainian van with German DM-22 off-route mines and DM-31s. Some video was released by a Ukrainian explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) officer in July which is claimed to show a Russian vehicle destroyed by one of the HPD-2A2 mines.

The HPD family of mines (which includes the HPD 1, 2 and 3) began to be developed in the early 1980s by Thomson-CSF and Daimler-Chrysler Aerospac. The HPD2 (or MI AC HPD F2 in French service) was introduced in 1988. The mines use a 3.3kg charge made up of an RDX/TNT mix to create an explosively formed penetrator using the Misznay–Schardin effect. The mines are said to be able to penetrate armour between 100 to 150mm thick. The mines have a 10 minute arming delay once set and can be active for up to 30 day before they deactivate themselves. Because the mine can be triggered by the electromagnetic field of a metal detector it has been said that this contravenes the Geneva Convention’s Protocol II (May 3, 1996).

The HPD-2 is made up of two sections: a fuze assembly with a magnetic influence sensor and a two battery power supply, the self-neutralising system and the arming mechanism and the mine’s explosive charge. It reportedly has an anti-handling device sensitive to motion and the signals produced by metal detectors. The mine is detonated when the seismic sensor reacts to vibrations made by passing vehicles and a magnetic sensor is activated. The magnetic sensor uses variation in the earth’s magnetic field caused by the proximity of a vehicle’s large metal mass. Sources suggest the magnetic sensors is triggered by vehicles over 8 tons.

While there has been no official confirmation the mines are believed to have been provided by France as part of their military aid to Ukraine which has also included VAB armoured vehicles, Mistral short range air defence systems and anti-tank guided missile systems including MILAN and Javelin.

We’ve previously examined the German DM22, Estonian PK-14 and Russian PTKM-1R mines in use in Ukraine.


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Bibliography:

HPD-2 Landmine, CAT-UXO, (source)

MI AC HPD F2 Landmine, Fenix Insight, (source)

HPD Mine, Lexpev.nl, (source)

HPD Mines, Rufor.org, (source)

MI ACH 88, RMS, (source)

State Duma deputy’s security car blows up on French HPD anti-tank mine in Ukraine’s Kherson region, EuroWeekly, (source)

Arms For Ukraine: French Weapons Deliveries To Kyiv, Oryx, (source)