The MP-443 Pistol In Ukraine

There have been a considerable number of sightings of the MP-443 pistols in Ukraine over the past two months. Unsurprising as it is the Russian armed forces issue side arm. Introduced in 2012, large scale issue of the pistol reportedly began in 2016. The pistol has been seen in holsters and chest rigs of Russian troops in Ukraine alongside substantial numbers of the classic Makarov PMs and even a few Stechkin APS.

The MP443 was developed at the Izhevsk Mechanical Plant by the Vladimir Yarygin. Izhevsk now falls under the Kalashnikov Concern banner. Commonly known as the Yarygin Pistol or PYa, it was codenamed ‘Gratch’ or rook during the Russian Army’s pistol trials, with the Russian military index number of 6P35. Work on the pistol began in the early 90s, initially to fulfil a Soviet Army requirement for a new pistol the pistol was finally selected in early 2003.

MP-443 (via Social Media)

The MP443 service pistol has a steel slide and frame, it uses the Browning short-recoil-operated tilting barrel action and has a double action/single action trigger. It has a pair of ambidextrous, frame mounted safety levers either side of the frame. The pistol does not have a decocking mechanism and has a semi-shrouded hammer.

The pistol we have to examine, courtesy of Cold War Collectables, is an MP-446 Viking, a commercial variant of the MP443. This pistol is non-firing and deactivated to UK specification when imported in 2011, but perfectly illustrates the working and disassembly of the pistol. 

MP-446 and double stack, double feed magazine (Matthew Moss)

The pistol strips in much the same way as other Browning-pistol derivatives. The take-down pin is removed, the slide slid forward and the barrel, recoil spring and guide rod can be removed. The frame of the MP-446 differs from the MP443 in that it is made of polymer rather than all-metal as in the service pistol. 

The MP446 also has a different barrel profile, with more material machined from the barrel of the civilian pistol to prevent it firing the Russian 7N21 +P+ 9x19mm service rounds, which are said to be armour piercing with hardened steel cores.

MP-446 disassembled (Matthew Moss)

One notable feature of the pistols magazine is that it is double stack – double feed, rather than a conventional single feed. The purpose of this is to increase feed reliability, but more recent versions of the pistol appear to have gone to a single feed magazine. 

The MP-443 is predominantly issued to senior enlisted personnel, NCOs and various special forces units. In Ukraine we have seen it in the hands of Russian regular army, VDV and Chechen units, including Chechen SOBR – a spetsnaz unit of the National Guard of Russia, operating in the south. We have a number of very good photos of a Russian operator who is believed to be operating in the East, though often said to be VDV Spetsnaz, and he has been seen to be carrying an MP-443 in his load bearing equipment. In other imagery they are occasionally seen with lanyards and often in thermoplastic moulded holsters. A number of captured examples have also been seen in Ukrainian hands.

Russian marksman with MP-443 on his chest rig (via Social Media)

One thing to bear in mind with a visual survey like this one is that, as with our earlier video on Savage Arms rifles in use in Ukraine, it is often difficult to identify specific units and locations for these photographs because they are shared and re-shared on various social media platforms and in many cases the original creator of the imagery has chosen not to state locations for operational security reasons. But photos and videos do give us some idea of the types of units and personnel  who are carrying the pistols in Ukraine.

Thank you to my colleague Abdullah of Khyber Armoury and friend of the channel Paul for their help filming, thanks to DixieMauser for help collecting photos of the pistol’s use in Ukraine, to Vlad and Lynndon for their input and special thanks to Jip of Cold War Collectables for letting us film items from his collection. 


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Specifications (via Rosboronexport):

Calibre: 9x19mm
Magazine capacity: 18 rounds
Action: short-recoil
Weight (with empty magazine): 950g / 33.5 ounces
Dimensions: 195x140x38mm / 7.7×5.5×1. 5in


Bibliography:

PYa Pistol, Modern Firearms, (source)

PYa Pistol, Rosboronexport, (source)

PYa Yariggin Pistol, Small Arms of Russia, (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)

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. 


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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)

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

Ukrainian Training Video: RPG-76 Komar

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. One of the most interesting weapons to be transferred to Ukraine is the Polish RPG-76 Komar (‘Mosquito’).

Demonstrating the controls of the RPG-76

The RPG-76 is essentially a smaller, lighter single-shot RPG-7, it has a folding stock and its round is adapted so its rocket nozzles are angled at 45-degrees to protect the user when firing. The RPG-76 was developed in the mid-1970s and entered production at Niewiadów in the mid-1980s. It was eventually withdrawn from general issue in 2003 but remained in Polish Army stores and saw some use with Polish troops during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While the RPG-76 can reportedly penetrate up to 260mm of Rolled homogeneous armour (RHA) it lacks a tandem charge round which could engage targets, such as tanks, with explosive reactive armour. Despite this it should be more than capable of taking on most Russian light armoured vehicles and soft-skin vehicles like trucks.

Demonstrating aiming the RPG-76

The small number of examples seen in the field so far appear to date to the late 1980s. Poland announced they would be transferring military aid to Ukraine in early February and has since transferred ammunition, anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, mortars and provided medical supplies.

Another example of an RPG-76 in the field:

The video first surfaced around the 11th March, posted on Facebook by Vadim Kodachigov (the director of Kort, a military industrial company), though he may not be the original creator. Kodachigov appears to be part of a Territorial Defence Force unit, who may also feature in the video.

RPG-76 Specifications:

Warhead: 40mm HEAT 
Weight (round and launcher): 4.6lbs (2.1kg)
Length32in (805mm) – folded 43in (1190mm) – extended
Effective Range273yd (250m)
Penetration10.2in (260mm) against RHA

Watch the training video for the Stinger MANPADS here


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Bibliography:

Earliest source found: Vadim Kodachigov via facebook (source)

RPG-76 Komar – Polish miniature grenade launcher: how to shoot with this weapon, Defense Express, (source)

Ukrainian Forces Takes Delivery of Polish RPG-76 Komar Rocket-propelled Grenade, MilitaryLeaks, (source)

Poland pledges to send weapons to Ukraine, Independent, (source)

Translation of video adapted from @mdmitri91’s translation

Ukrainian Training Video – Stinger MANPADS

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. The weapons including Western transferred systems like Stinger, Javelin, Piorun and Panzerfaust 3 as well as Ukrainian-made weapons like the Corsair and Stunga.

We’ll be sharing these training films 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. 

The first of the films was made by the Command of the Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (or SSO) and covers the assembly, components, aiming and handling of the Stinger man-portable air defence system (MANPADS). 

FIM-92 Stinger is a man-portable, short range air defence system. It was developed in the 1960s by General Dynamics and uses infrared homing to track its target – some variants can also use UV. Stinger has been sent by Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, and the Netherlands with both the twin-launcher, pedestal-mounted version and the shoulder-fired system transferred to Ukraine. It is estimated that as of 20 March over 2,000 missiles have been transferred.

FIM-92 Stinger Specifications:

WarheadHigh Explosive
Warhead weight1 kg (2.25 lb) HTA-3
Missile Length59.8 in (1.52 m)
Missile Weight 22 lb (10.1 kg)
System Mass33.5 lb (15.19 kg)
EngineSolid-fuel rocket motor
Guidance systeminfrared homing
Range (Dependent on variant)3-5 miles (4.8 km to 8 km)
Altitude (Dependent on variant)Up to 3.8 km (12,500 feet)

Bibliography:

‘STINGER Instruction from SSO of Ukraine’, SSO, (source)


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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.


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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)

Ukraine’s Wooden Guns

Recently there’s been lots of reports about Ukraine’s defence volunteers training with wooden guns. 

While this plays on the David & Goliath nature of current Crisis in Ukraine it isn’t without precedent. There is a long historical precedent for recruits and soldiers training with dummy guns going back hundreds of years. 

Ukraine’s Territorial defence battalions were originally formed in March 2014 and since the crisis began there has been a refocus on them with Ukraine’s government announcing plans, in January 2022, to form 150 battalions in 25 brigades. The Territorial Defense Force allows civilians to become part-time members of the Ukrainian military, training in evenings and at weekends. 

Members of the Ukrainian Territorial Defence Force training with wooden rifles

So why are some of the volunteers seen training with wooden rifles? One thing Ukraine isn’t short of is small arms with an estimated ten million state- and civilian-owned firearms. The Ukrainian government has decided that members of the Territorial Defence Force will only be given weapons the duration of drills or defensive operations in the event of war. This means that many will have to arm themselves while this isn’t a problem for those with privately owned firearms. It is estimated that there are a roughly 5 million firearms in civilian hands, though only a fraction of these are registered.  

Those who don’t have weapons are handed wooden dummy rifles. Some airsoft rifles have also been seen in media coverage of the units.

US recruits drilling with wooden rifles c.1917 (US National Archives)

Wooden dummy rifles are more than adequate for safely learning basic drills and getting use to holding and moving with a weapon. Historically, this has been seen countless times. Here we can see American recruits training with dummy rifles in 1917, In 1940 British Home Guard drilled with broomsticks, more recently Afghan security forces were often initially trained with wooden rifles and in South Sudan training with wooden rifles has also been seen. Even in more advanced militaries training with dummy rifles is common with rubber rifles often used in basic training. 

While considered light infantry the training of the Territorial Defense Force is rudimentary and while some media reports have discussed them acting as partisans behind enemy lines they are principally planned to be used to guard important positions in their local areas. 

U.S. Sailors assigned to Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia conduct a mock reconnaissance patrol Nov. 9, 2013 (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Caine Storino)

To be remotely effective the volunteers will need some proper firearms training in weapons handling, drills and the basics of marksmanship. The ad hoc nature of the localised training and the current lack of government issued small arms makes this sort of essential training difficult to organise.

Check out our earlier videos on the Western military aid being sent to Ukraine.

Update (26/02/22):

Ukraine’s Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy has given an update on the number of small arms distributed saying some 25,000 rifles have been distributed to TDF volunteers across Ukraine.


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:


In Ukraine, the Formation of Units of the Territorial Defense Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is Accelerating, Ukrainian Ministry of Defence, (source)

Government to Xreate 150 Territorial Defense Battalions, Kyiv Independent (source)

Guns in Ukraine, Gun Policy, (source)

Ukraine’s Citizen-Soldiers Train to Fight in Case of Russian Invasion, French24, (source)

Ukraine’s ‘territorial defense’ Trains Civilians Against Possible Hitches Amid Tensions, AA, (source)

Ukrainians are Training in Civil Defense, Just in Case, PBS, (source)

Civilians Flock to Defend Ukraine as Russia Tensions Mount, The FT, (source)

Lviv Residents are Learning to Shoot: Training Began with Public Utilities and City Council Officials, Radio Liberty, (source)

59-year-old Grandmother Trains with Ukraine’s Home Guard as Everyday People Take Up Arms, NY Post, (source)

Ukraine Readies for Insurgency as Russia Prepares for Possible War, NBC, (source)

The SMAW-D In Ukraine

In recent days, with the news that a shipment of M141 SMAW-D anti-structure weapons have arrived in Ukraine as part of the US military aid shipments, a number of media articles and videos have been made on the subject which seem to confuse the SMAW-D with the AT-4 and even the M72. So, I thought it would be useful to take a look at the SMAW-D in a little detail. 

M141 (SMAW-D) (US Army Manual)

So What is the SMAW-D?  

Its official designation is ‘Rocket and Launcher, 83mm HEDP Bunker Defeat Munition (BDM), M141 (SMAW-D)’ SMAW-D stands for Shoulder-Launched Multi-Purpose Assault Weapon-Disposable. This isn’t to be confused with the Mk 153 Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon used by the US Marine Corps. Those the SMAW-D did evolve from the SMAW.

Originally developed by McDonnell Douglas the design was acquired by Talley Defense Systems, whom were subsequently acquired by Norwegian company Nammo. Development began in the early 1980s and the system was adopted by the US Marine Corps as the Mk 153 in 1984.

M141 (SMAW-D) (US Army Manual)

The Mk 153 has a reusable forward launch tube and firing mechanism which has a spotting rifle and can be mounted with an optic. The warhead element of the SMAW is attached at the rear of the launcher. The US Army was initially interested in the Mk153 but preferred a lighter, single use weapon.

A Marine fires a Mk 153 SMAW (USMC/Cpl. Drew Tech)

In the early 1990s the US Army began the search for a disposable Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon. McDonnell Douglas offered a lighter, disposable version of the Mk 153, taking the Mk 153’s High Explosive, Dual Purpose warhead and pairing it with shorter burn rocket. In 1996 the US Army selected the SMAW-D, beating a Swedish design, the FFV AT8, and the Hunting Engineering LAW80.

US Army advisor demonstrates how to deploy the M141 (Ukraine MoD)

The SMAW-D is similar to the 66mm M72 in that it telescopes with the launch tube extended before firing. When collapsed it measures just under 32 inches in length but extending the inner tube gives the weapon an overall length of 55 inches. The launch tube and rocket weigh 15.7 lbs.

The tube has the firing mechanism mounted on the side under a plastic cover which when opened arms the rocket ready to fire. The weapon has front and rear iron sights for aiming. The SMAW-D can also be fitted with an AN/PVS-4 nightsight and various infrared aiming lasers for night fighting.

Ukrainian soldiers fire M141 BDMs (Ukrainian MoD)

To fire the M141 the operator removes the locking pin from the front of the launch tube, depresses the tube release button and extends the inner tube rearward. The operator then raises the weapon onto the right shoulder, slides the front sight cover forward and then the same for the rear sight. Then opening the firing mechanism cover pivoting it forward, flush with the tube, this arms the weapon. The operator should then check the backlist area and fire when ready by depressing the safety button and then the red trigger button. The rocket is ignited by an electrical impulse sent by the firing mechanism. Once ignited the rocket burns out before it leaves the muzzle, this protects the operator.

M141 (SMAW-D) (US Army Manual)

The M141 can engage targets out to 500 metres but is most effective out to 300. Its 83mm unguided, fin-stabilised round has an integral high-explosive, dual-mode warhead with 2.38 lbs of explosive. Detonation is instantaneous when impacting on a hard target, such as a brick or concrete wall, or an armored vehicle. Impact with a softer target, such as a sandbagged bunker, results in a fuze time delay that permits the rocket to penetrate into the target before warhead detonation. It can penetrate up to 200mm (8 inches) of concrete, 300mm (12 inches) of brick and 2m (6 feet 6.74 inches) of earth or sandbags. It can also perforate up to 20mm (0.8 inches) of rolled homogenous steel giving the SMAW-D the ability to take on soft and light armoured vehicles. For training at the range a 21mm sub calibre training system can be used. While the usefulness of the M141 might be questioned, as it isn’t an anti-tank weapon and could be considered more of an offensive rather than defensive weapon it would no doubt prove very useful during urban fighting, which Ukraine anticipates in the event of an invasion.

The SMAW-D saw service with the US Army during the War in Afghanistan and during the Iraq War. Some 6,000 units were initially procured, with an unknown number procured since. It remains an active part of Nammo’s product line. 

Airmen and civilians from the 436th Aerial Port Squadron palletize ammunition, weapons and other equipment bound for Ukraine during a foreign military sales mission at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, Jan. 21, 2022. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mauricio Campino)

It is estimated that perhaps 100 M141 BDMs have been shipped to Ukraine so far as part of military aid, alongside small arms and ammunition, Javelin Anti-Tank Guided Missiles and NLAW anti-tank weapons from the UK. From the US Department of Defense’s packaging configuration table for the SMAW-D we know that each metal container holds one round and that 25 containers can be placed on a pallet. This appears to match up to the photos of the weapons being prepared for shipment. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence and media have shared photographs of Ukrainian personnel training with M141s under the supervision of US troops. The training took place over two days at the 184th Training Center and the International Center for Peacekeeping and Security of the National Ground Forces Academy. These personnel will likely be tasked with then training other Ukrainian units on how to use the weapon. 

M141/SMAW-D Specifications:

Length(extended/ready to fire): 1,371mm (54.8inches)
Length(closed/carry): 792mm (31.8inches)
Weight(ready to fire): 7.12 kilograms (15.7 pounds)
Rocket muzzle velocity: 217 meters per second (712 feet per second)
Rocket diameter:83mm (3.26 inches)
Minimum arming range: 15 meters
Maximum effective range: 300 meters
Maximum range: 500 meters


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: 

FM 3-23.25 Shoulder-Launched Munitions, 2006, US Army

Bunker Defeat Munition (BDM), Nammo, (source)

M141 Training, Ukraine Ministry of Defence, (source)

M141 Training, Ukraine Land Forces, (source)

Thank you to Amael for sharing some of the documents and manuals used to make this video.

Footage/Imagery: 

Marines fire SMAW, have a blast, USMC, (source)

Dover supports strategic partnership with Ukraine, US Air Force, (source)

Dover AFB supports US, Ukraine strategic partnership, US Air Force, (source)

Sadr City 2008 SMAW D, Gold 5 Publishing, (source)
SMAW-D (AT-4) fired in combat Sadr City, Iraq, Bowen11b, (source)