Ukrainians Training with SA80s

In a recent video/article we looked at the AK-pattern rifles that the UK Ministry of Defense has procured to train Ukrainian troops with in the UK. In that video I touched on the use of British SA80/L85 pattern bullpup rifles used during the training of the Ukrainian troops. With fresh imagery it seems that the British rifles are playing a significant role in training the Ukrainian personnel at several training centres across the UK.

Ukrainian soldier seen with an SA80A2 with SUSAT during training, when visited by the Prime Minister in late-July (UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

The SA80 rifles were first seen in the initial imagery released around the announcement of the training scheme but have appeared again since. They featured in photographs of Defence Minister Ben Wallace’s visit in early July and again a couple of weeks later during another visit by General Sir Patrick Sanders’, Chief of the General Staff. The rifles were seen with iron sights and fitted with blank firing adaptors. Interestingly, at least some of the Ukrainian personnel have been shown how to field strip the British rifles. 

Deputy Defence Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Havrylov with visits Ukrainian troops training in the UK, 19 July (UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

On 19th July, imagery from a visit by the Deputy Defence Minister of Ukraine, Volodymyr Havrylov, also showed Ukrainian troops equipped with SA80A2s fitted with blank firing adaptors. As before the rifles were not fitted with optics.

The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that while AK-pattern blank firing adaptors have been procured, SA80’s with blank firing adaptors have also been used to ‘maintain strict safety conditions for both British and Ukrainian soldiers during training and to meet the urgency of the training requirement.’

Ukrainian troops field stripping and cleaning SA80A2s in early July (UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

Because the rifles don’t have railed forends some thought they might be the earlier SA80A1s. We can tell that these rifles are SA80A2s from the up-turned scalloped tear drop charging handle which also doubles as a brass deflector. The rifles have the non-railed green polymer handguards fitted.  While the Daniel Defense produced railed forends have come to characterise what many thing is the A2 configuration, these were actually developed in response to an urgent operational requirement for troops deploying in Afghanistan. Many of the rifles overhauled by HK to the A2 standard retained the classic green handguards. Some, like those recently provided to the Royal Bermuda Regiment, actually have a green handguard designed by HK. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Ukrainian troops (Andrew Parsons/No.10 Downing Street)

We can easily identify British troops involved in the training, as we can see that they are equipped with the new SA80A3 with the characteristic new MLOK forends and Cerakote finish. 

On the 21st July, the UK Prime Minister’s office released photos and video of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to Ukrainian troops training in the North East of England. The imagery showed Ukrainian troops training in urban combat, known by the British Army as Fighting In Built Up Areas or FIBUA. This supports the theory that they are being issued for FIBUA and field exercises that require blank firing. Unlike in the earlier imagery the Ukrainians were armed with SA80A2s largely equipped with SUSAT sights. 


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Bibliography:

‘Defence Secretary Ben Wallace visits Armed Forces of Ukraine as training programme starts across the UK’, UK MoD, 9 July, 2022, (source)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits the North East, UK Govt., (source)

Deputy Defence Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Havrylov meets with Ukrainian trainees in UK, UK MoD, (source)

UK Purchases AKs To Train Ukrainian Troops

On the 9th July, the UK’s Ministry of Defence announced that as part of its agreement to train 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers it had acquired a significant number of AK-pattern rifles. Initially sharing only one, fairly low res, photograph the official announcement stated that:

“The Government has rapidly procured AK variant assault rifles for the training programme, meaning Ukrainian soldiers can train on the weapons they will be using on the front line. This effort was supported by the Welsh Guards, who tested more than 2,400 such rifles in 17 days to ensure they were ready for the Ukrainians to commence their training.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interestingly, some photographs and video suggest that as part of the training at least some of the Ukrainian personnel have been shown how to field strip the British SA80/L85 rifles. These are believed to have been used with blank firing adaptors during training this theory was supported by Ukrainian troops being pictured with SA80/L85 pattern rifles, with the easily recognisable yellow blank firing adaptors fitted, during a visit by General Sir Patrick Sanders’, Chief of the General Staff, to meet Ukrainian troops doing Fighting In Built Up Areas (FIBUA) training. The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that while AK-pattern blank firing adaptors have been procured, SA80’s with blank firing adaptors have also been used to ‘maintain strict safety conditions for both British and Ukrainian soldiers during training and to meet the urgency of the training requirement.’

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Bibliography:

‘Defence Secretary Ben Wallace visits Armed Forces of Ukraine as training programme starts across the UK’, UK MoD, 9 July, 2022, (source)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Switchblade Loitering Munitions in Ukraine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Sources:

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)

Brimstone Missiles In Ukraine

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

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

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

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

Diagram showing the layout of Brimstone (via Think Defence)

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

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

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

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


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:

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

Ukrainian Tavors – Fort-221 / Fort-224

In this video/article we’ll examine Ukraine’s other bullpup – the Fort-221 – the Ukrainian Tavor. 

In a recent video/article we looked at the Ukrainian designed and produced IPI Vulcan, a bullpup based on the AK platform, and the two have been confused in some media. The Fort-22 series Tavors originate from Israel’s IWI. Introduced in the early 2000s the IWI Tavor has been purchased and seen service with militaries around the world. Ukraine’s Tavors were offered by RPC Fort or State Research and Production Association “Fort” of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs. The company was originally established in 1991, initially as a regional organisation and in 1998 it became a state enterprise. Located in Vinnytsia, in western Ukraine, the company initially focused on a line of pistols, pump-action shotguns and AKM variants.  

National Guard personnel armed with Fort-221 with M5 optics (Ukrainian National Guard)

From a survey of Fort’s website we know that IWI weapons first began to appear in the company’s product lists in late 2008 following an agreement to potentially license manufacture IWI products in Ukraine. This included pistols, submachine guns, rifles and the Negev light machine gun. 

In 2011-12 media reports suggested the Tavor was being produced in Ukraine and the guns appeared at a number of trade shows with RPC-Fort markings, including a company crest in the moulded stock. There is, however, some doubt about whether the weapons were manufactured in Ukraine, merely assembled or if they were produced in Israel with some Fort markings and shipped to Ukraine. The nature of the partnership is undisclosed but it has been suggested that if Fort gained substantial sales for the weapons then further manufacturer may have been transferred to Ukraine. 

Close up of the RPC Fort on a 5.56×45mm Fort-221 (Ukrainian National Guard)

In 2014, Colonel Vitaly Otamaniuk, the head of the artillery and missile management board of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, announced that the Fort-221 and Fort-223/224 carbines were adopted for arming the Ukrainian army, with an initial 500 ordered. While no further orders were publicly recorded we know that Police and internal security forces were issued the rifle as of 2016. The adoption of the rifles by Ministry of Internal Affairs units and the Ukrainian National Guard (which falls under the Ministry’s control) may be explained by the fact the Ministry owns RPC Fort.

Various Fort-22 series rifles on display (Ukrainian National Guard)

From photographs released before the February invasion we know that National Guard units including the Special Purpose units like the “Scorpion” Special Forces Detachment (Nuclear industry protection) and elements of the Special Operations Forces or SSO. These units are believed to include the 1st and 3rd Special Purpose Detachments based in Kyiv and the 8th Special Purpose Regiment in Khmelnytskyi as well as elements of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Member of the Ukrainian armed forces with a Fort-224 carbine (via social media)

There is some confusion around the Fort-22 series’ designations. From Fort’s website, circa 2020, we can see here that the majority of the IWI rifle range was on offer. There is some confusion around the designations with Fort-222 and Fort-223 not being listed here but there are photographs of Fort-223 marked 5.56  X-95 pattern guns seen trade shows, which suggests that for a time at least the 223 designation was used. But as we’ve seen from Fort’s 2010 website Fort-223s were not listed. The Tavors are listed as follows:

  • Fort-221 in 5.56x45mm and 5.45x39mm (TAR-21) – 468mm / 18.4in
  • Fort-224 in 5.56×45 and 5.45x39mm (X-95) – 330mm / 13in
  • Fort-224 in 9×19 (X-95 SMG) – 330mm / 13in

We can also see that the Uzi Pro is listed as the Fort-226 while the 5.56x45mm Galil Ace is listed as the Fort-227, the 7.62x39mm chambered version is the Fort-228 and the 7.62x51mm version is the Fort-229. The Ukrainians designed the Galatz accurised Galil the Fort-301 and the Negev light machine gun the Fort-401 both of which have been fleetingly seen in the field.

Further survey of Fort’s website shows that the Tavor series of rifles ceased to be listed on the page in March 2021 and IWI and Meprolight were removed from the site’s ‘Partners’ section in April 2021. Perhaps suggesting the end of the IWI-Fort partnership. The Tavor-pattern rifles are not listed by SpetsTechnoExport, Ukraine’s state export enterprise, but the IPI Vulcan is.

Member of the Ukrainian armed forces with a Fort-221 rifle (via social media)

Despite this we have seen a considerable number of the Ukrainian Tavor variants in the field. Since the Russian invasion in February the Fort-22 series have been most frequently seen with internal security forces and Ukrainian Army and National Guard special forces.

Within 48  hours of the Russian offensive Russian forces shared videos from what was said to be a captured Ukrainian National Guard depot. The video shows more than a dozen Fort-221s piled on top of crates. Around the same time they were seen to be equipping Ukrainian forces said to be linked to the Azov Brigade. 

Members of the Ukrainian armed forces with a Fort-224 carbines (via social media)

On 7 March former Ukrainian presidents Petro Porochenko and Oleksandr Turchynov were seen. Rallying Territorial Defence Force units in Kyiv, Turchynov was seen armed with a Fort-221.

On 9 March an unknown number were captured by Russian forces which seized the National Guard armoury near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant. At least one Fort-221 was shown by Russian state media.

A Fort-224 in 9×19mm (via social media)

The Ukrainian Tavors continue to surface in imagery from the conflict but it is difficult to tell where they’re being used and by which units. 

Both the Fort-221 rifle and the 224 carbine have been seen in the field, though it is often difficult to determine their chambering as the clearest indiction – the shape of the magazine – is invariably tucked under the user’s arm.  They are most often seen equipped with Meprolight M5 and M21 sights and a number of the weapons have also been seen to be sporting camouflage paint jobs.  

Thank you to those who have helped me collect images of the Ukrainian Tavors in the field, including Sad_Sand and DixieMauser and thank you also to Remigiusz Wilk.


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Bibliography

Interpolitex 2011, Vitaly Kuzmin, (source)

Ukraine Manufacturing Tavor in 5.45x39mm, TFB, (source)

Shield and Sword of Ukraine: Main Achievements of thr Defense Industrial Complex for 2017, Defense Express, (source)

Fort.vn.ua, via WayBack Machine, (source)

Kyiv Police being introduced to 9x19mm Fort-224 carbines in 2016, Kyiv Police, (source)

Vulcan / Malyuk: Ukraine’s Bullpup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A 7.62x39mm chambered Vulcan (IPI)

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

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

A 5.45x39mm chambered Vulcan (IPI)

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

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

Graphic showing disassembled Vulcan (IPI)

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

A field stripped 5.45x39mm Vulcan (IPI)

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

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

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

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

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

RIFF-P electronic anti-drone system (IPI)

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

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

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


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Bibliography:

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

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

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

Vulcan (Malyuk), InterProInvest, (source)

Special thanks to DixieMauser for assistance with this article/video

Footage:

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

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

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

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

Автомат “Малюк”, Ukroboronprom, (source)

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

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

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

Ukraine’s Molotov Cocktails

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Bibliography:

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

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


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 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