Ukrainian Training Videos: RPG-18

Since the war in Ukraine began on 24 February, the Ukrainian armed forces have been hastily putting together and sharing training films for various weapon systems. we’re sharing these so they’re saved for the historical record and so they can be easily found by those who might need them. We’ll try and give some context on the weapon’s origins and on who made the training video.

Demonstrating how to deploy the RPG-18, the tube isn’t fully extended as its a live weapon

In this well shot video a Ukrainian soldier demonstrates the features and handling of an RPG-18. The RPG-18 (‘Mukha’ or ‘fly’) was the first of the Soviet/Russian family of extendable tube launchers (very similar to the US M72 LAW). The RPG-18 was developed in the late-1960s and was introduced in the early 1970s. It has since largely been replaced by larger calibre and more capable launchers. The weapon is a simple, smoothbore, single-use launcher. It is constructed from an aluminium tube with an outer layer of fibreglass.

A close up of the RPG-18’s locking system, rear sight and trigger

It isn’t clear how many RPG-18 the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ may have had in inventory before the war began but it appears that the weapon seen in this video was made in East Germany and probably transferred by Germany as part of Germany’s military aid shipments to Ukraine. While Greece have also reportedly transferred a quantity of RPG-18s, we have seen other examples in the field with identical German instructions stickers.

The video first surfaced around the 21st March, posted by Vadim Kodachigov (the director of Kort, a military industrial company) on Facebook, though he may not be the original creator. Kodachigov appears to be part of a Territorial Defence Force unit. The video identifies the unit as part of the 112th Territorial Defense Brigade (Kyiv). The production value of the video is relatively high, with a title card, good editing, close ups and some interesting footage of the weapon being fired.

RPG-18 Specifications:

Warhead64mm HEAT 
Weight (round and launcher)5.7lbs (2.6kg)
Length27.8in (705mm) – collapsed 41.3in (1050mm) – extended
Effective Range220yd (200m)
Penetration11.8in (300mm) against RHA

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Bibliography:

Earliest video source found: Vadim Kodachigov via facebook (source)

RPG-18, Military-Today, (source)

Ukraine Is Converting Salvaged Russian PKTs

The Kalashnikov designed PK machine gun is one of the most ubiquitous general purpose machine guns in the world. Designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov and his team in the late 1950s. We’ve seen a number of PKMs in Ukraine already but another variant, the PKT, has popped up in a couple of interesting pieces of press footage. 

It appears that there is a car repair shop in Kyiv which is taking in captured and salvaged Russian machine guns and adapting them for ground use with an ad-hoc stock and pistol grip assembly. Fantastic ingenuity and the team is reported to be made up of welders, engineers and mechanics. 

What may be an early version of the adaptation (via France24)

The first piece of footage of the workshop surfaced on the 9 March and a France24 report was published on the 16 March. We’ve yet to see any of the adapted PKTs in the field.

The PKT itself was developed in 1968 to replace the SG-43-derived SGMT. The PKT is primarily used as a coaxial gun on armoured vehicles including the MT-LB, BTR-4, BTR-60, BTR-80, BTR-90, the BMD and BMP series and Russia’s T-72, T-89 and T-90 series of tanks. One thing the Ukrainians have not been short of is captured and abandoned Russian armoured vehicles. The adapted PKTs will probably be used to help equip the Territorial Defence Force battalions which have been raised across Ukraine.

Offering up an aftermarket optics rail, this option appears to have been abandoned in favour if a side-mounted optics mount (via UAWeaponsTracker)

The PKT is solenoid fired, with the gunner pushing a button to fire the gun. This means that it obviously has no pistol grip or trigger assembly but it also lacks sights and a bipod. So when the Ukrainian’s are salvaging these gun they are essentially useless for immediate ground use. The footage from the workshops shows that they have developed a simple stock and pistol grip assembly. The stock slides into the trunnion at the rear of the receiver, where the solenoid firing unit normally fits. The pistol grip and trigger mechanism assembly is then pivoted up and secured by a cross pin. There appears to be a simple hook projecting up from the trigger mechanism assembly which trips the sear inside the PKT.  

Diagram showing the PKT with its solenoid firing mechanism in place
In this diagram we can see how the PKT is mounted in an armoured vehicle (PKT Manual)

The stock appears to be from a standard PK and the pistol grip is a widely available aftermarket AK-pattern grip which seems to be held in place by a large nut and bolt. To get around the PKT’s lack of sights the workshop have fitted a scope mount, welded to the left side of the stock assembly. The gun is seen here with what appears to be a thermal optic.

In the second piece of footage we see some adapted PKTs with classic AK pistol grips attached to stock assemblies. The pistol grip no longer hangs free but is attached to the stock. The trigger mechanism also appears to have been redesigned. Now when the trigger is pulled an arm protrudes from the stock, it pivots from the top – rather than from the bottom as in the example we saw in the first video. This might suggest that the gun featured in the 9 March footage is the workshop’s initial prototype. If so they have moved from a relatively crude design to a more sophisticated on in about a week. From the France24 report it seems the engineers and mechanics had the benefit of some military experience and some technical drawings. 

Detaching the stock and firing mechanism assembly from a PKT (via France24)

In terms of historical precedent – there is plenty. As long as tanks have had machine guns infantry have been salvaging their guns for ground use. Seen during both world wars and in conflicts around the world. In terms of ad-hoc weapons for home defence forces like the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Force the British Home Guard during the Second World War were partially equipped with aerial Lewis Guns which were retrofitted with bipods and stocks.

Below are some examples of PKTs adapted in Ukraine since the conflict in Donbas began in 2014.

The adaptation of PKTs specifically was seen during the Chechen Wars and in 1992 the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Further adaptation have even been seen in Ukraine since 2014.

PKT (Rosobronexport)

A kit was reportedly designed by Tula which allowed a PK stock with rear sight and a pivoting pistol grip to slot into the rear trunnion of the gun. This provided a mechanism to fire the gun and a bipod with a front sight could be fitted. It is unclear if this has ever been fielded. 

A captured Kord (Tank) heavy machine gun and a PKT

From the footage it appears the workshop are also working on adapting NSVTs, the vehicle mounted variant of the 12.7×109mm NSV heavy machine gun. The mechanic lifts an NSVT without its barrel to show a workshop-made pistol grip assembly with some box steel projecting out the rear, perhaps for a stock to be fixed to.

The PKT has a slightly longer barrel at 722mm or 28.4in (compared to the PKM’s 645mm or 25.3in), a slightly redesigned gas system and is also 1kg heavier at 10.5kg (23lbs). The PKT has a thicker barrel profile. The PKTM has a slightly reinforced receiver but few other differences compared to the PKT.


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PKTM Specifications (from Rosoboronexport):

Caliber:7.62x54mmR
Weight: 10.5kg / 23lbs
Overall Length: 1098mm / 43in
Barrel Length: 722mm / 28.4in
Rate of fire: 700-800RPM
Belt capacity: 250rds
Muzzle velocity: 850m/s / 2788ft/s
Sighting range of fire: 1500m / 1640yds

Bibliography:

Operator’s Manual PKM Machine Gun, US Army, (source)
PKT Coaxial Machine Gun Modified for Infantry Use, Silah Report, (source)
Differential Identification of NSV and Kord Heavy Machine Guns, ARES, (source)
PKTM, Rosoboronexport, (source)
PKT (PKMT) Machine Gun, Tankograd, (source)

Thank you to Amael Kotlarski for a copy of the PKM manual

Javelin In Ukraine

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

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

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

What is Javelin?

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

Javelin’s CLU (US Army)

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

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

History

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

A Ukrainian Depot, early March 2022 (Ukrainian MoD)

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

Javelin In Ukraine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Capable is Javelin?

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

Javelin Missile (US Army)

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


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


Bibliography:

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