Ukraine’s Polymer Machine Gun Belts

Ukraine’s Plastic Machine Gun Belts

A Ukrainian company, the Kharkiv Plant of Individual Means of Protection (HZISZ), which operates under a number of trade names including RAROG, have developed disintegrating plastic machine gun links for various Soviet/Russian-pattern 7.62x54mmR chambered belt-fed machine guns. The ‘KS-122 Machine Gun Tape’ can be used in PK, PKM, and PKT pattern guns as well as the older Goryunov-pattern machine guns, the SG-43 and SGM.

‘Plastic machine gun tape’ demonstrated from a container of dry ice (HZISZ/RAROG)

Development of the links reportedly began back in 2015. According to Maksym Plekhov, the company’s deputy director, the links were originally developed following feedback received during RAROG’s development of their ‘Predator’ PK Machine gun ammunition backpack system.

Between 2015 and 2017 the company refined the design but did not go into large-scale production of the links. In a 2017 promotional video for the links RAROG state that they tested over 200 types of plastic and made 26 design changes during development. The links are made by injection moulding with a material based on polycarbonate. The initial videos and photographs of the links being tested and demonstrated show them as translucent but RAROG have confirmed that the final colour of the production links will be black.

In February 2021, the company shared a new video showing a demonstration of the links at a wintery outdoor range to showcase their cold-weather performance. Over the last couple of weeks RAROGhave begun posting about the links on their social media again, sharing new videos of them being tested at the range and announcing that sample bags of the links have been sent to Ukrainian troops.

RAROG confirmed that the links had been placed on the back burner for a time while the company focused on other projects, noting that the company has supplied their other products to “the armed forces and the National Guard of Ukraine, as well as NATO special forces, for example, the special operations forces of Bulgaria.”

A month ago the company announced that they had shipped pre-production sample batches with some of their PK belt box pouches to allow troops in the field to provide feedback, noting that “serial production without performance statistics cannot be started.”

‘Plastic machine gun tape’ being tested, seen here are translucent links (HZISZ/RAROG)

Unlike the classic metal 7.62×54mmR belts, the new polymer belts are disintegrating – meaning once the round held in the belt link is fired and the next round is loaded it falls out of the gun just as with NATO standard disintegrating belts. While this means the links are difficult to collect and reuse when in the field, it has the benefit of not having the empty portion of the belt dangling from the gun.

While the links are marketed as disposable, the company claims that in trials they have been reused as many as 10 times without issues. The links are shipped in packs of 1000. RAROG list the links at 4,900 Ukrainian Hryvnia or $165.

RAROG’s website states that the “Plastic machine gun tape is already on sale” and has been “tested in battle” with the product listing stating that: “Since 2017, a large batch of tape has undergone battle tests to identify possible problems during its use in difficult exploitation conditions. Recently, the Kharkiv plant of personal protective equipment has resumed the issue of the improved tape.”

‘Plastic machine gun tape’ – black and grey polymer links (HZISZ/RAROG)

RAROG state the plastic link belts to be three times lighter than metal link belts, with a 250-round belt with polymer links weighing 0.5kg (1.1lbs) instead of 1.5kg (3.3lbs). They also emphasise that the polymer links are also not susceptible to corrosion. RAROG’s product listing for links also notes that they are ‘significantly cheaper in production’. As demonstrated in the videos featuring dry ice, the links are said to be resistant in temperatures ranging from -70°C up to +120°C [-94F to 248F] – details on the exact polymer used to make the links hasn’t been shared.

RAROG confirmed that a large batch is currently in production. While we haven’t seen the links in photos and videos from the field yet with them going into larger production they might appear in the future.

 


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!

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.


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!


Sources:

M14s in Ukraine

Over the past month or so we’ve seen an increasing number of photographs of M14 rifles appearing in Ukraine. Developed in the 1950s and chambered in the brand new 7.62x51mm cartridge it entered US service in early 1960. They’ve since seen service around the world, most recently in Ukraine.

While the US Department of Defense has confirmed the transfer of 7,000 assorted small arms so far, these rifles are largely thought to have originated from the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia who have been extremely supportive of Ukraine since the weeks preceding the Russian invasion in February. We can’t be certain from which country or countries the rifles originated from. The Baltic states received large numbers of the rifles from the US via Security Assistance packages when they began to work towards compliant with NATO standards in the 1990s. The transfers were reportedly made under the Excess Defense Articles program. All three of the countries eventually joined NATO in March 2004. 

Latvian marksmen with upgraded M14s (Latvian Armed Forces)

Latvia received its first batch of 10,000 M14s in 1996 with a larger second back of 30,500 arriving in 1999. Latvia’s National Guard continues to use M14s in a designated marksman role with an interesting new railed forend for optics and accessory mounting. No M14s in this configuration have been seen in Ukraine.

Lithuania reportedly received 40,000 from the US in the late 1990s and continues to retain the rifle in its inventory, updating substantial numbers to their M14 L1 spec, with scopes. Other elements of the Lithuanian Armed forces also use the MK14 EBR. In 2019 it was reported that the US had transferred a further 400 rifles fitted with scopes and bipods. The M14 is also in use with the Lithuanian National Defence Volunteer Forces

Lithuanian troops with M14s c.2012 (Lithuanian Armed Forces)

Estonia also received a considerable number of the rifles in the 1990s, with estimates suggesting that 40,500 were transferred in 1998. Estonia is in the process of a major small arms modernisation programme and may have transferred surplus rifles to Ukraine. Estonian troops used scoped M14s in Afghanistan and at least two accurised versions of the rifle have been developed, the M14 TP in 2000 and the M14 TP2 in 2008. The M14 TP2 utilises a Knight’s Armament RAS- 14 rail mount and a Schmidt and Bender, Inc. 3-12×50 mil dot reticle day scope.

The M14s seen in Ukraine have some variation. There has been a mix of both wooden stocked and fibreglass stocked rifles, some have been fitted with optics, others have only standard iron sights. The first sightings of M14s came in mid March with both wooden and fibreglass stocked rifles seen. The rifles first began to appear in mid-March. 

Ukrainian Territorial Defence Force personnel training, June 2022 (Ukrainian MoD)
Ukrainian Territorial Defence Force personnel training, June 2022 (Ukrainian MoD)

Then in April another photo of an M14 with a wooden stock and iron sights emerged, reportedly in the hands of an international volunteer. In May, several more photographs surfaced with Territorial Defence Force troops seen with fibreglass stocked rifles. A short video which appears to show a standard M14 in the field also appeared via TikTok while the first video demonstrating disassembly of the rifle also surfaced towards the end of the month.

June saw a number of photographs of the rifles shared on line. On the 31st May, the 121 Kirovohrad Territorial Defense Brigade, shared photos taken during training showing M14s with wooden stocks and iron sights. As well as a photograph from a Czech photographer showing a fibreglass stocked M14 with an optic, at the base of an International Volunteer unit operating near Donetsk.

On June 3 the Armed Forces of Ukraine social media shared a series of photographs heavily featuring a member of the southern department of the Territorial Defence Force with a scoped, wooden stocked M14.

A member of the 121st TDF Brigade with an M14 (Ukrainian MoD)

So far we haven’t had any clear photographs of rifle markings and we don’t yet know just how many M14s have been transferred to Ukraine. The TDF training photographs shared by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence at the start of June give us some indication of how some of the rifles might be issued and used. We see that in a squad two scoped M14s have been issued alongside an RPK-pattern light machine gun and some AK-74s. The nature of issue for the non-scoped rifles is still unclear.


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:

M14 Rifle History and Development, L Emerson, (2010)

USA transfers more than 400 upgraded M14 rifles to Lithuanian Army, Army Recognition, (source)

400 More M14s, Lithuanian Army, (source)

Why The Estonian Military Nickname For America’s M14 Rifle Means “Fully Terrible”, National Interest, (source)

M-14 rifles modernized with the help of financial support from the population are already in the armed forces of the country’s army, Delfi, (source)

M14, Lithuanian Army, (source)

Afghanistan Estonian Scout Sniper Combat Firefight on Helmet Cam (source)

Frontline Diary: The enemy is 7 miles away. But he has eyes everywhere, Seznam Zpravy, (source)

German DM22 Directional Anti-Tank Mines In Ukraine

While there has been much discussion of Germany’s transfer of RGW90 (Matador) anti-armour weapons, MANPADS and Gepard anti-air systems one weapon which has been overlooked is the DM-22 PARM.

The initial version of the mine, the DM12 PARM 1 or Panzerabwehrrichtmine was developed in the late 1980s and it entered Bundeswehr service in the early 1990s. An improved mine the DM22 PARM 2 entered production in the late 1990s. The weapons are directional anti-tank mines. These are sometimes described as off-route mines – a concept we have looked at before in our video on the British L14A1 off-route mine. The mines are deployed with a 40 meter long fiber optic trigger cable, which is laid over the area to be blocked. If there is contact with the cable, such as a vehicle driving over it, the directional mine is triggered. The mines can also be remote detonated. 

sPiBtl 901 training with a drill DM22 (Bundeswher)

The mine fires fin stabilised HEAT warhead which can accurately strike targets up 40 meters (for the DM12 PARM 1) and up to 100 meters away (for the DM22 PARM 2). Data on what the mine’s shaped charge can penetrate varies but it is capable of penetrating more than 100mm of rolled homogenous armour. The mine is made up of a warhead and a firing unit – these are mounted on a tripod which is manually sighted using a set of iron sights on the top of the mine.

Bundeswehr video showing the DM-22 in action

Once aimed across the expected area of enemy movement the trigger cable can be deployed. The fibre optic cable can be replaced with a passive infrared sensor which extends the mine’s triggering range out to 60m. The DM22 PARM 2 is said to have a more complex sensor, an effective range of 100 metres and enhanced penetration. 

A photograph of a DM-22 said to be in Ukraine which surfaced in late April 2022 (via social media)

Both mines are still in German service but only DM22s have been sighted on the ground in Ukraine so far. The first examples were photographed around the 25 April and the example was said to have been captured by Russian forces in the Izyum region. Since then further captured examples have been photographed during May 2022. The mines appear to have manufacture dates ranging from October 1997 to September 1998.

A photograph of a DM-22 said to be in Ukraine which surfaced in May 2022 (via social media)

According to a Spiegel report, from 17 May, Germany transferred 1,600 DM-22 off-route anti-tank mines and 3,000 DM-31 conventional anti-tank mines. It is unclear if there are further shipments planned.
At this time there’s no data on if they’ve been used in the field and if they have how effective they’ve proven. The current nature of the fighting would certainly appear to suit the intended purpose of the mines for use denying axis of advance and ambushing enemy vehicles.

Update 2/06/2022:

Further images of the DM22 with Ukrainian forces have been shared.


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:

Report on German Transfers of Mines to Ukraine, Spiegel, (source)

Germany sent anti-tank grenade launchers and mines to Ukraine, Mil.In.UA, (source)

German Landmines – An Inventory, BITS, (source)

Saxon APCs in Ukraine

The fighting in Ukraine has frequently drawn comparisons with the Cold War and while plenty of Eastern Cold War vehicles have been seen in use one of the interesting Western Cold War warriors seen action is the Saxon armoured personnel carrier. 

Knocked out Saxon APC (via social media)

The AT105 Saxon was developed by the UK in the late 1970s to provide some protected mobility for British forces deploying from Britain and moving up to the front line after an anticipated Communist offensive. Based on the Bedford TM series of trucks, the four-wheeled Saxon was slated to protect against small arms fire (up to NATO B7 standard to withstand 7.6x51mm) and shrapnel. With a welded steel body and blast deflecting chassis plate the Saxon is powered by a 6 cylinder diesel engine. Primarily designed as a battle taxi it could carry up to 8 men and a driver. They were armed only with an L7 general purpose machine gun. Entering service with the British Army in the mid-80s the Saxon saw service in the Balkans, Iraq and Northern Ireland. It was finally removed from service in 2005.

The British Army appears to have begun disposing of them in the late 2000s with many gifted to other countries and some sold to private dealers. In 2013, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense purchased 75 second-hand Saxons from a private dealer, these were delivered in two shipments in 2015. Sources suggest the vehicles were bought for around £50,000 each or a total procurement cost of $3.8 million. The first 20 arrived in February and were handed over the the Ukrainian National Guard for testing. Oleksandr Turchynov, then Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, said the vehicles would be upgraded by Ukroboronprom and fitted with machine guns. The second batch of 55 vehicles were delivered in June.

Still from 1985 British Army equipment video (British Army)

With the news of the transfer General Richard Dannatt, the former Chief of the General Staff, told the Telegraph newspaper that “My Concern is the inadequate nature of these vehicles which I ordered out of British Army front line service when I was Commander in Chief Land Command 2005-2006. They were withdrawn from Iraq and never deployed in souther Afghanistan. To suggest that the UK is making a significant gesture of support by supplying vehicles which we took out of service ten years ago, because we deemed them unsafe, seems bizarre at best and downright dangerous at worst. They are quite useless semi-armoured lorries that should be nowhere near anyone’s front line.” The UK MoD responded saying that “they offer protective mobility to personnel… but they are not close combat vehicles.”

While arguably obsolete the Ukrainians themselves reportedly felt they were fairly decent vehicles with the armour providing the expected level of protection. Ukrainian National Guard testing in February 2015 showed that the armour could withstand B-32 7.62x54mmR API. There was a well reported accident involving a pair of Saxons with on overturning and another hitting the central barrier on a motorway in March 2015. Its clear that the Ukrainians thought at the time they were cost-effective, capable vehicles which they wisely didn’t push into close combat roles.

Saxon APCs outfitted with a DShK and two PK-pattern machine guns, c.March 2015 (Ukrainian MoD)

Contemporary reports suggest that a number of the vehicles, perhaps 10 or 20, received additional armour for the troop compartment and mounts for as DShK heavy machine gun and a pair of PK medium machine gun positions. The work reportedly took about two weeks. The majority, however appear to have been rerolled as command or MEDEVAC vehicles and were reportedly initially assigned to 25th Airborne Brigade, 79th, 81st and 95th Airmobile and 36th Naval Infantry Brigades. Though it is unclear if or when they were reassigned from these units. They saw action in Donbas for the first time in June 2015. 

Saxon APCs pre-February 2022 invasion (via Volodymyr)

In a September 2015 Ukraine Today report on the Saxons a member of the 81st airmobile brigade said: “it’s a really beautiful vehicle and the armour is good. for evacuating personnel the APC is great.” When asked if the vehicles were difficult to work with he replied “yes, but that’s normal.” Other pre-February 2022 adaptations include at least one of the vehicles outfitted with slat armour in an effort to protect against RPGs.

With the Russian invasion in February the Saxons have seen in a number of photographs, mostly in flat green paint, though at least one had the Ukrainian digital camouflage pattern. The majority of the sighted vehicles have been ambulances and all of the photographs have been of either captured or knocked out vehicles. One of the captured vehicles, which appears to be the same vehicles as in image #2 in the block of photographs above, also appeared in a Zvezda TV report being driven around a depot. Narrator reportedly explains it is a captured ambulance, which originated from the UK and the presenter explains that it has an automatic gearbox and is quite fast and now will be transferred to Separatist DNR troops.

According open source intelligence analysts Oryx a total of 5 Ukrainian Saxon’s have been visually confirmed lost. There have not been any recent sightings of the Saxons and the UK and other supporting nations have now transferred or promised more modern and capable vehicles.

Thanks to Volodymyr for sharing some of the pre-war photographs of the Saxon in service.


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

“Useless” Saxon Vehicles Surprisingly Useful In Ukraine, Defence24, (source)
The Not So Secret Life of the Saxon, Think Defence, (source)
‘Saxon’ armored vehicles to enter service after improvement and test procedure, Censor, (source)
UK’s Delivery of Saxons to Ukraine “Nothing Short of Immoral”, ForcesTV, (source)
Attack On Europe: Documenting Ukrainian Equipment Losses During The 2022 Russian Invasion Of Ukraine, Oryx, (source)
General Sir Richard Dannatt condemns armoured vehicle transfer to Ukraine, The Telegraph, (source)
Saxon armored personnel carriers were first used in real combat operations, Military Informant, (source)
Ukraine tested the delivered British Saxon armored vehicles, Military Informant, (source)
British Saxons in Action, Ukraine Today, (source)
Captured Saxon, Zvezda, (source)

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. 


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!


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.


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:

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. 


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)

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

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:

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.


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!


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