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

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

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

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

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

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

Sectioned PTKM-1R (Rosoboronexport)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Bibliography

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

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

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

PTKM-1R, Fenix Insight, (source)

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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Swedish PV-1110 Recoilless Guns In Ukraine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bibliography:

Pansarvärnspjäs 1110 Avvecklad, Soldf.com (source

Prieštankinis beatošliaužis pabūklas PV1110, Lithuanian Army, (source)

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

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


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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)

UK Purchases AKs To Train Ukrainian Troops

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. Initially sharing only one, fairly low res, photograph the official announcement stated that:

“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.”

Ukrainian soldier at the range July 2022 (UK MoD / Crown Copyright)

The types of AK-pattern rifles procured was not announced but from the initial photograph released it was clear that at least one of the rifles was a Serbian-produced Zastava M70AB2, chambered in 7.62x39mm.

The programme is the latest phase of Operation ORBITAL, the British Army’s name for the long term support and training programme undertaken since 2015. To-date ORBITAL has reportedly trained some 22,000 Ukrainian personnel, with the initial phase being run in Ukraine until early 2022 when the threat of imminent invasion saw the training personnel in Ukraine withdrawn. At the same time Canada and the US have run similar programmes in Ukraine. T he UK has agreed to train 10,000 Ukrainians within 120 days and in comments to the press the Uk’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace saying that “if the Ukrainians ask for more, we’ll be open to more”.

Ukrainian soldiers seen here receiving training from 3 RIFLES, July 2022 (UK MoD / Crown Copyright)

The rifles procured will likely be retained in Britain to train successive cadres of Ukrainian personnel, however, the UK has gifted a substantial amount of uniform and kit with the Ministry of Defence’s 9th July statement saying that each soldier will be issued with:

  • Personal protective equipment including helmets, body armour, eye protectors, ear protectors, pelvic protection, and individual first aid kits
  • Field uniforms and boots
  • Cold and wet weather clothing
  • Bergens, day sacks and webbing
  • Additional equipment required for field conditions including ponchos, sleeping bags, and entrenching tools

The training is being undertake by around 1,050 UK service personnel largely drawn from 11 Security Force Assistance Brigade. The brigade was formed in 2021 and is tasked with “building the capacity of allied and partner nations”. Personnel from the 12th Armoured Brigade Combat Team and 1st Armoured Infantry Brigade as well as Ukrainian-speaking interpreters are involved.

The course the Ukrainian troops are undergoing is a condensed basic infantryman course which includes weapons handling and marksmanship fundamentals, battlefield first aid, fieldcraft, patrol tactics and the Law of Armed Conflict. From the file dates on the imagery released it appears that many of the photographs were taken in late June and early July.

British instructor with M70 rifle (UK MoD / Crown Copyright)

From examination of further imagery released it appears that the AK-pattern rifles procured for training the Ukrainian troops are all chambered in 7.62x39mm and the 2,400 rifles procured include: wooden-stocked Zastava M70 (or M70B)s, milled receiver M70As, folding stock M70AB2s, Hungarian FEG AK63Ds and East German MPi KMS-72s.

Interestingly, some photographs and video suggest that as part of the training at least some of the Ukrainian personnel have been shown how to field strip the British SA80/L85 rifles. These are believed to have been used with blank firing adaptors during training this theory was supported by Ukrainian troops being pictured with SA80/L85 pattern rifles, with the easily recognisable yellow blank firing adaptors fitted, during a visit by General Sir Patrick Sanders’, Chief of the General Staff, to meet Ukrainian troops doing Fighting In Built Up Areas (FIBUA) training. 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 soldier at the range July 2022 (UK MoD / Crown Copyright)

The reasoning behind the procurement of rifles chambered in 7.62x39mm rather than the more regularly issued 5.45x39mm AK-74 pattern rifles is also unclear. Perhaps this was due to weapon availability and regardless of calibre the manuals of arms remains the same. There is no indication that training with support weapons such as general purpose machine guns or light anti-armour weapons is being provided.

When approached for comment on the sources and types of AK rifles procured, the Ministry of Defence told The Armourer’s Bench:

“The Government has rapidly procured AK variant assault rifles through a combination of international donations and private purchase, meaning Ukrainian soldiers can train on the type of weapons they will be using on the front line. All weapons were tested in accordance with UK legislative and safe working practices.”

While this doesn’t offer much detail it does suggest that the rifles were procured via donations and private purchase – the scale of the donations and private purchases remains unclear.

It has also been confirmed that elsewhere British personnel are training Ukrainian mechanised troops on various vehicles including Spartan, Husky and Mastiff at Bovington as part of ‘Project Spring Generation’. It was confirmed by the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, on 18th July, that the first cadre has now completed its training in the UK. Wallace also noted that Dutch personnel will be joining the British effort to train Ukrainian troops in the future.


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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)

‘First Ukrainian Volunteer Recruits Arrive In UK For Training’, Overt Defense, (source)

Video 11 July, 2022, UK MoD, (source)

Video 12 July, 2022, UK MoD, (source)

Video 15 July, 2022, UK MoD, (source)

‘Thousands of Ukrainian ‘battle casualty replacements’ are being trained in England’, Sky News, (source)

‘British troops training Ukrainian forces seen ‘huge improvements”, Forces News, (source)

Switchblade Loitering Munitions in Ukraine

So far during the fighting we’ve seen everything from M14s to Brimstone missiles transferred to Ukraine. One weapon which was hailed as a game changer when it was announced was the Switchblade loitering munition. While not game changers we have begun to see evidence of their use in the field and they are definitely an interesting new weapon.

Switchblades are a loitering munition capable of being launched and then remaining on station to be tasked to destroy a ground target once the target has been identified. Back in March it was announced that as part of the US’ military aid to Ukraine Switchblades made by AeroVironment.

Pvt. 1st Class Brandon Norton launches a Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile System (LMAMS) for aerial support during a Robotic Complex Breach Concept assessment and demonstration, at Grafenwoehr, Germany, April 6, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Gregory T. Summers)

The system was originally developed for use in Afghanistan with the first US Department of Defense contract awarded in 2011. These have been designated the Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile System (LMAMS). AeroVironment currently offers two models, the Switchblade 300 and the larger Switchblade 600.

On the 16th March the US announced it would provide Ukraine with “100 Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems”.[1] It was widely theorised that these would in fact be Switchblade loitering munitions. 

So what is a Switchblade? It is a tube-launched, rapidly deployable munition which can strike beyond-line-of-sight targets with precision at a range of up to 10km. The system is small enough to be man-packed weighing 5.5lbs (or 2.5kg). 

It can also be launched from a multiple launch system which can be vehicle mounted. Once launched its wings deploy and its electrically-powered propeller spins up, it can remain in the air for 15 minutes. It has a maximum altitude of 5,000 feet and cruises at around 60 miles per hour (but can dash at speeds up to 100mph).[4] AeroVironment claim the system can be set up and launched in under 2 minutes.

Its payload is described as ‘modular’ by AeroVironment, who also mention it carries a ‘Northrop Grumman advanced munition’, which some sources suggest is roughly equivalent to a 40mm grenade – said to be capable of knocking out light armoured vehicles. The warhead has a highly directional fragmentation charge which is triggered by a sensor that detonates it as a specific distance from the target in mid-air. 

Remains of a Switchblade 300 following detonation of its warhead (via social media)

The system is controlled manually or autonomously and uses a dedicated ruggedized laptop with a built-in mission planner (which is also pre-loaded with a simulator). The Switchblade is equipped with electro-optical and infra-red cameras which provide the operator with real-time video and can be directed by fly-by-radio frequency signal. Once launched Switchblade is not recoverable and does have a wave-off and redirection capability. 

On 1 April, a fresh military assistance package was announced which expressly named ‘Switchblade Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems’ but did not indicate a quantity.[2] These were believed to have been ordered direct from the manufacturer under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) which allows procurement of systems and capabilities from industry rather than delivering equipment Department of Defense stocks. 

On 7 April the US Department of Defense’s fact sheet on aid supplied to Ukraine referred to ‘hundreds of Switchblade Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems’[11], a week later the wording had changed to a more specific ‘Over 700 Switchblade Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems’.[12]

An intact, undetonated but damaged Switchblade 300 captured by Russian forces (via social media)

On the 6 May AeroVironment were awarded a contract modification worth nearly $18 million for “Switchblade hardware production” for a Foreign Military Sale to Ukraine. This contract is estimated to be completed by 4 May, 2023.[3] The US Department of Defense announced on 10 May that it would supply a total of 700 Switchblade systems, but did not state the split between 300s and the newer, more capable Switchblade 600s.[10]

We’ve yet to see evidence of Switchblade 600 use in Ukraine, likely because the system has only been produced in pre-production runs and substantial orders for the munition have not been made yet. The 600s capabilities are regularly compared to those of an Anti-Tank Guided Missile. With a 40km (25 mile) range and a 20 minute loiter time they offer considerable capability and much longer range than ATGM like Javelin or Stugna P. For now only 300s have been visually confirmed in use in Ukraine. But the larger 600s have the potential to have significant impact on the battlefield.

On the 6 May the Ukrainian 53rd Separate Mechanized Brigade shared a clip showing a Russian machine gun position being struck by a Switchblade, we can see the characteristic mid-air blast and fragmentation pattern.[5]

On the 24 May the SSO, a Ukrainian special forces unit, shared a video of a Switchblade 300 strike against a Russian tank crew which had dismounted and were sat on the vehicle’s hull. Memes are one thing the war in Ukraine isn’t short of and the video features the Star Wars theme and concludes with a Curb Your Enthusiasm credit reel meme.[9]

A Switchblade 300 in the field in Ukraine (via social media)

On the 25 May a pretty comprehensive video showing the launch and targeting of a Switchblade, said to be on the eastern front was shared.[6] The video shows the launch tube and control laptop. A largely intact Switchblade 300 was recovered by Russian troops on 26 May, with photos of the munition shared online.[8] This is potentially an example of the munition running out of loitering time or one which has potentially taken damage from ground fire.

On 1 June footage of another Switchblade 300 launch was released but no indication of if it struck its target. The video is said to have originated from the Kharkiv region.[7] On the 6 June a further photo of a Switchblade 300 appeared. The photo shows the remnant of the Munition – given the front portion of the Switchblade is missing it appears that it fired its payload. Around the 12 June further photos of an expended Switchblade 300 were shared online with very little of the fuselage remaining.

Footage released by the Ukrainian Armed Forces of a Switchblade 300 strike against a machine gun position

On 15 June, a short clip of another fired Switchblade gives us a close up look at the electronics inside the weapon and at the propeller at the rear which powers it. Again given the damage and the fact the front portion of the munition is missing it would indicate that the Switchblade detonated its payload.

On the same day more footage of what might be the same expended Switchblade 300 appeared in a Russian news report. The report allegedly shows the location where the Switchblade detonated, somewhere near Avdiivka in Donetsk.  The nature of the Switchblade 300’s forward firing payload it is suited to softer targets like infantry in the open or in the case of at least one video claimed to be from a Switchblade attack against dismounted vehicle crews. 

Some have criticised the Switchblade 300 for its apparent lack of punch but they were never designed to take on Russian armour, they were designed as a focused munition intended to take out soft targets with the minimum collateral damage. In Ukraine the use of commercial drones has rapidly proliferated, many of these are delivering grenade-based gravity bombs onto enemy positions and assets. It could be argued that these systems, rather than a sophisticated loitering munition like the Switchblade 300, are arguably more cost effective, efficient, more versatile and easier to use. The larger, more capable loitering munitions, such as the Switchblade 600s, will likely see the concept come into its own and have the potential to have a more significant impact on the battlefield.


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Sources:

Brimstone Missiles In Ukraine

On 12 May video of what appears to be a test launch of Brimstone Missiles in Ukraine surfaced online. A containerised launch platform can be seen launching a salvo of three missiles. The footage shows what appears to be a repurposed commercial vehicle, such as an IVECO Daily or Mercedes-Benz Sprinter box van. The van appears to have a series of rails mounted inside the cargo area which may have something similar to a Cobham triple launch rail fixed to them. It could be described as a sort of very advanced technical. It is unclear when or where the footage was filmed.

Brimstone salvo being launched from a repurposed commercial vehicle (via Social Media)

In April, the UK Ministry of Defence confirmed the supply of Brimstone missiles to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. It was announced that these would be adapted for surface launch for use against ground targets. Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the UK government had been in talks to provide the maritime variant of of the missile (Brimstone Sea Spear) to the Ukrainian Navy and there was speculation that this would be the variant sent to Ukraine. However, on 25 April, Defence Minister Ben Wallace told the UK Parliament that “if we do provide Brimstone, we will look to provide it for the land, using stock that we already hold, but not as yet for the sea.” A day later, on 26 April, the UK’s Armed Forces Minister James Heappey told Parliament that “such is the speed with which our technicians are now working and so effective is the partnership with industry that I am pleased to say that that has been moved forward. It is necessary to inform the House that we will be providing Brimstone in the next few weeks.”

Brimstone is an advanced, rocket-powered, radar-guided weapon which can seek and destroy armoured targets at long ranges with high precision. Developed by in the late 1990s it was designed to be fired from aircraft and entered service with the Royal Air Force in 2005, seeing action in Iraq, Afghanistan Libya and Syria. The missile’s manufacturer MBDA has continued development of the weapon with ground-based and maritime variants designed and proposed. Brimstone uses a 94 Ghz the radar seeker and a sophisticated guidance system which can differentiate and prioritise targets. The missile delivers a tandem shaped charge to destroy armoured targets at ranges varying from 12 to approximately 20km depending on launch platform and conditions and the variant of missile. Brimstone is capable of firing a salvo of missiles which will then fly in parallel before striking their targets in unison. This may be what is seen in the video. Brimstone is a fire and forget missile with the missile able to targeted at a designated killbox to then engage highest value targets it detects.

Diagram showing the layout of Brimstone (via Think Defence)

On 6 May the first evidence of Brimstone’s presence in Ukraine was provided by a series of photographs of the remnants of a Brimstone 1 missile. The recovered tail section of the missile bore a sticker denoting the surviving component as being manufactured in September 2001. Subsequent photographs of fragments from another missile, which perhaps self destructed, surfaced online on 11 May. These suggested that this Brimstone 1 was manufactured in around May 2001.

On 8 May photographs of a further Brimstone 1, this time intact perhaps photographed before launch or after a failure of some sort, appeared online. If photographed following a failure it would indicate that this missile’s self destruct failsafe did not activate. Though the missile appears in good condition if it landed after a failure. From its markings seen in the photographs it is clear that the weapon’s components were produced in September 2001 and February and June 2004. We do not yet know how Ukrainian forces are employing Brimstone or how effective it has been.

Further footage from Ukrainian Brimstone launches emerged on 15 May, showing some close-ups from inside the launch vehicle. A Cobham triple rail can be seen mounted and several launches were shown as part of a compilation video shared by Ukrainian forces. In this video we only see two missiles being launched rather than a salvo of three although in one clip we can see three missiles mounted on the rail. The footage also shows us that the system appears to be mounted on a palletised frame work which could seemingly be easily mounted on more capable vehicles.

Brimstone offers greater range than the infantry-operated anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) like the western Javelin or the Ukrainian Stunga-P. This greater range coupled with its ability to be fired in salvos offers a valuable capability to Ukrainian forces.


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Bibliography:

Brimstone, MBDA, (source)
Brimstone Guided Missile, Think Defence, (source)
Footage: Brimstone Missiles Deployed in Ukraine, Overt Defense, (source)
What is the Brimstone missile?, BBC, (source)
Ukraine Update 25 Apr. 2022, UK Parliament Hansard, (source)
Ukraine 26 Apr. 2022, UK Parliament Hansard, (source)

Savage Arms Rifles in Ukraine

The ongoing war in Ukraine has seen all sorts of small arms pop up. Many from military stores, some old some new. But also large numbers of previously civilian-owned and commercially available rifles. 

One manufacturer which continues to surface is Savage Arms. We’ve seen a range of Savage firearms in social media posts from Ukraine. In this short video we’ll take a look at some of the models of rifle which have been seen on the ground.

It is worth noting that Savage 110s have previously been seen in the hands of Ukrainian Special Operations snipers prior to the current conflict, as early as 2017. It was reported in September 2018 that 125 Savage 110 Stealths had been purchased for Ukrainian Airborne troops and it seems that along with Ukrainian Z-10 DMR and other Western bolt actions the Savage Arms rifles are one of the systems which replaced many of Ukraine’s SVDs.

Savage 110 Stealth & Fort 221 [Tavor] (via social media)

Before the war civilian firearms ownership in Ukraine was fairly buoyant, and this only increased as tensions before the Russian invasion rose. Savage Arms have dealers and stockists all around the world, including Ukraine. Savage’s site lists IBIS LLC / Europa Arms Sports Ltd as their Ukrainian stockists with an address in Kyiv but IBIS have a chain of stores across Ukraine.

IBIS’ site lists a large range of Savage Arms firearms and accessories with nearly 50 different models and variations listed. Everything from 110s in .338 Lapua Magnum to semi-automatic 7.62x51mm MSR-10s, and Savage Model 10s in various calibres to MSR-15 ARs.

Savage MSR-15 (via social media)

With the help of DixieMauser, on Instagram, I’ve been collecting images of Savage Arms rifles in the field. From the photos we can see that both Savage’s semi-automatic rifles and bolt actions are in use.

A comparatively small number of photographs feature Savage’s MSR series. In these photos we see MSR-15s, Savage’s AR-15 pattern rifle. In use with Ukrainian forces they all appear to be running variable power optics. Much more common, however, are Savage’s bolt action rifles. They are seen with a range of suppressors and optics being used and while most appear to have factory stocks and chassis some barrelled actions have been placed in after-market chassis.

It is worth noting that Savage previously offered 10 (short action) and 110 (long action) versions of their rifles but in recent years have consolidated to referring to all their bolt actions in the 10/110 series – 110. It is difficult to differentiate between 10/110s in many of the photographs with the magazine being the key indicator.

Savage 110 Carbon Tactical (via social media)

Due to the nature of sourcing the photos across several social media platforms its difficult to identify units or know where personnel are operating. But one thing we can tell is the kinds of rifle being used.

Savage 110 Precisions have been seen as well as a number of 110 BA Stealths. We know that one of these Stealths was also used in Irpin at the beginning of April as it was mentioned in a Daily Beast report and pictured on the ground.

A number of 110s have also been seen in MDT chassis. In terms of calibre 7.62x51mm and .338 Lapua Magnum appear to be the most commonly seen but 300 Win Mag is also believed to be in use.

Conventionally stocked Savages have also been seen including this rifle which appears to be a Model 10 or 110 Hunter. Even a Savage 110 Carbon Tactical, still with its Savage sticker has been pictured. At least one AXIS series rifle has been seen in use with one unit operating around Kyiv.

Savage Stealth (via social media)

It’s also worth noting there it’s not only Savages which have been see, there have also been a significant number of Remington 700s, Sakos and others seen in use. It is impossible to know how many of the Savage rifles were procured by the Ukrainian military and how many are formerly civilian owned or commercially sold firearms.

It is important to contextualise a sampling of photographs like this one as it is difficult to gauge how widespread the use of the rifles is and indeed in what areas of Ukraine they are being used in. They could be in fairly wide use or localised within a region or smattering of units. But we can say that rifles made by Savage Arms rifles are being used as precision rifles by marksmen and snipers of the Ukrainian armed forces.

Special thanks to DixieMauser for his help compiling the photographs of Savages in use, check out his Instagram page here.


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Bibliography:

Ukrainian Special Forces Precision Rifle Competition, TFB, (source)
Ukrainian President Poroshenko buys 430 sniper rifles for paratroopers, UAWire, (source)
IBIS Savage Arms Listings, IBIS, (source)
You Won’t Believe the Horror Left Behind, Daily Beast, (source)
What Ukrainian snipers are fighting in Donbas, Rambler (source)
First Sniper Tournament of the SSO of Ukraine, SSO, (source)

Vulcan / Malyuk: Ukraine’s Bullpup

One of the most interesting small arms we’ve seen during the fighting in Ukraine is the Vulcan [Vulkan] or Malyuk bullpup. Available in 7.62x39mm and 5.45x39mm the weapon is built around the action of either an AKM or AK-74. Most frequently seen in the hand’s of Ukrainian special forces the weapon appears to be a well-designed adaptation of the proven AK platform.

Ukrainian troops with unsuppressed 5.45x39mm Vulcan bullpups (via social media)

Development of the weapon reportedly began in 2005, following efforts by Ukraine’s State Space Agency to adapt an AK-74 into a bullpup. This project began in the early 2000s and was known as the Vepr, not to be confused with the Russian shotguns and rifles produced by Molot-Oruzhie , and resulted in a fairly basic, non-ambidextrous conversion, notable for its AR-15/M16 style front sight post.

Ukrainian Vepr prototype (60менге CC BY-SA 4.0)

The design and development of the Vulcan was undertaken by a company called InterProInvest (IPI). IPI market the weapon under the name Vulcan (Malyuk), as does Ukraine’s state export company SpetsTechnoExport. The weapon’s nickname ‘Malyuk’ translates into English as ‘baby’ or ‘little one’. Unlike conventional rifles bullpups place the breech and magazine behind the trigger and pistol grip. This has the advantage of creating a more compact package while maintaining a full-length barrel.   

The weapons are manufactured at the ‘Krasyliv Aggregate Plant’ in Khmelnytskyi Oblast, western Ukraine. The Krasyliv Plant is part of Ukroboronprom, Ukraine’s state-owned defence industry enterprise. The plant produced a number of civilian and military products and also produces parts for the Stugna-P ATGM.

In an interview with Ukrainian Defence Review in 2015, IPI’s Vice CEO, Serhiy Luhovskoy, said that the prototype development of the weapon was “done under a contract that we got from Ukraine’s Security Service [SBU].” Following positive feedback from the SBU elements of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence became interested in around 2008. 

A demonstration to Ukrainian Armed forces c.2015 (via Ukrainian Defense Review)

The Malyuk was unveiled publicly in 2015 and was first evaluated by the Ukrainian Army in 2016. Ukroboronprom announced in late 2016 that the rifle had been accepted by the Ukrainian armed forces, stating it had successfully passed testing. It appears that a relatively small but significant number have been procured by Ukraine’s special forces.

The basic design of the weapon changed very little between 2015 and 2019, but refinements appear to have been made. The most significant external refinement is the removal of the AR-15/M16 type front sight (similar to that seen on the earlier Vepr) and fixed rear sight assembly in favour of a full length top rail and folding back up iron sights. With this change the latch for the upper assembly appears to have been moved from the side to over the top of the barrel. 

A 7.62x39mm chambered Vulcan (IPI)

As the weapon went into production continued improvements were made, in 2017 the weapon still used an AK-style selector lever but by 2019 this had been replaced by smaller selectors on either side of the receiver. The latest version of the Vulcan has a number of new features including an adjustable gas block which may suggest that the barrel and block are now of new manufacture (rather than repurposed from old AKs). There is also a new five position adjustable stock. 

The 7.62x39mm and 5.45x39mm rifles appear to be made using a mixture of new and old parts. This has been confirmed by images of examples seen in the field. We know that the rifles are made using the barrels, trunnions, bolts and sections of the original AK-pattern rifle’s receiver. The receiver is cut down, the front sight assembly and rear sight block are removed and a new gas piston is installed in the bolt carrier. The recoil spring appears to be held captive in the upper receiver. When the upper is detached the spring and guide rod hang from the rear of the upper.

A 5.45x39mm chambered Vulcan (IPI)

The weapon can be fired from the left or right shoulder and has ambidextrous controls with selector levers on both sides at the rear of the receiver. The charging handle is non-reciprocating and can be swapped from left to right. The chassis has a large polymer brass deflector which protects the shooter when the weapon is being fired from the left shoulder. The magazine release is located directly behind the weapon’s trigger and can be operated when firing from either shoulder. The 7.62 and 5.45 rifles feed from standard pattern AK magazines. In addition to the magazine release behind the trigger there is a thumb release within the magazine housing at the rear of the magazine – the 5.56 version does not appear to have this feature. The 5.56 rifle appears to use an AK pattern magazine rather than a STANAG one. The housing is designed to allow the magazines to drop free under their own weight. The rifle has a push button safety located above the trigger which can be reached by the trigger finger. 

The non-reciprocating charging handle is attached to a collar which sits around the gas piston system and acts on the bolt assembly without being attached to the piston or bolt itself. This allows it to be positioned ahead the trigger and pistol grip. An action bar projects back from the trigger, into the rifle’s receiver, to trip the sear. 

Graphic showing disassembled Vulcan (IPI)

The rifle consists of three major assemblies: the upper which is a polymer assembly which retains the weapon’s mainspring and provides a platform for optics mounting. The barrel and receiver assembly which consists of the barrel, firing mechanism and magazine well. And the lower, which is a polymer pistol grip and forend which slides onto the receiver assembly. The upper and lower are held in place by a locking lever and cross pin.

A field stripped 5.45x39mm Vulcan (IPI)

The Malyuk has a convection system within the stock chassis which IPI says allows air to flow through the hollow pistol grip and out above the barrel. IPI says this allows the enclosed barrel to cool and is claimed to extend barrel life.

IPI state the weapon’s empty weight as 3.8kg (8.38lb), its overall length is 712mm or 28 inches and its barrel length is 415mm (or 16in). The rifle has a rate of fire of 660RPM in fully automatic and feeds from standard AK and AK-74 pattern magazines (or STANAG if a variant chambered in 5.56x45mm). 

Commercial, semi-automatic Malyuk K-01 (IPI)

Along side a pair of semi-automatic variants of the rifle, the Malyuk K-01 in 7.62x39mm and the K-02 in 5.56x45mm in 2019, IPI introduced the ‘Shepit’ or Whisper, designed for operations that require quiet, precision work.  It has a longer 520mm or 20.4 inch barrel, a longer forend for mounting a bipod on and a longer, alternate suppressor design. It also has an adjustable length of pull with a butt piece which is able to extend up to 3 inches. The Whisper is chambered in either 7.62x39mm or 5.56x45mm. IPI’s website does not have a great deal of information on the weapon but lists its weight as 4kg with an overall length of 850mm. 

Perhaps the most interesting member of the Vulcan family is the RIFF-P, an electronic anti-drone system which uses the Vulan’s bullpup chassis. IPI states that the RIFF-P has a range of up to 1.5km and weighs around 5kg.

RIFF-P electronic anti-drone system (IPI)

Combat use of the Malyuk appears to have been widespread with not only members of Special Operations Forces units seen armed with them but also troops from Ukraine’s National Guard and even the Territorial Defence Force battalions. Ukrainian SSO (or Special Operations Forces) units which have been seen using the rifles include elements from the 73rd Maritime Special Operations Center, 3rd and 8th Special Purpose Regiments as well as the National Police’s Rapid Operational Response Unit (KORD). Elements of the Ukrainian National Guard including the 2nd Special Purpose Battalion and the Azov Special Operations Detachment in Mariupol have also been seen equipped with the rifles.

An unsuppressed 5.45x39mm Vulcan in the field (via Social Media)

The Malyuk is often seen with a sizeable IPI-made suppressor. The barrel is threaded and can also accept an AK-74-style muzzle brake. Photos from in theatre show that the top Picatinny top rail is made from metal and is not a polymer moulded part. In terms of accessories along with the top rail there is also a section of rail at 6 o’clock on the polymer forend which allows the mounting of a front grip and smaller rail sections at 3 and 9 o’clock for the mounting of accessories like lights and lasers. The rifles are frequently seen in the field with Aimpoint CompM4s, red dot and magnifier combinations and occasionally variable power optics.


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Bibliography:

Автомат “Малюк”, Krasyliv Aggregate Plant, (source)

Our Goal Is to Have The Malyuk Rifle Replace Soviet-Designed AK Weapons in Ukraine, Ukrainian Defense Review #2 (2015), (source)

Ukraine Adopts “Malyuk” Bullpup Rifle, TFB, (source)

Vulcan (Malyuk), InterProInvest, (source)

Special thanks to DixieMauser for assistance with this article/video

Footage:

Автомат “Вулкан” (“Малюк”) / Assault rifle “Vulcan” (“Malyuk”), InterProInvest, (source)

Ukraine Made Bullpup Machine Gun “Malyuk” [Disassembly], Volodymyr Dzhydzhora, (source)

Ukraine Made Bullpup Machine Gun “Malyuk” [Firing], Volodymyr Dzhydzhora, (source)

5.56x45mm Vulkan (Malyuk), DixieMauser, (source)

Автомат “Малюк”, Ukroboronprom, (source)

Krasyliv Aggregate Plant – Prormo Video, Krasyliv Aggregate Plant, (source)

Silent rifle SHEPOT and assault rifle MALYUK (VULKAN-M), Seva TV, (source)

Bullpup Automatic VULKAN 5.56 MALYUK * Visiting InterProInvest, Andrew Zabel, (source)
BullPup AK VULKAN (Malyuk) Assault Rifle, Andrew Zabel, (source)

Ukraine’s Molotov Cocktails

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Bibliography:

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