Regional Wars - Assault Weapons Needed

Regional Wars - Assault Weapons Needed
Regional Wars - Assault Weapons Needed

New military-political realities: the collapse of the USSR, the loss of the USSR and Russia as a superpower, the movement of NATO towards the borders of Russia, the emergence of pockets of threat on its southern borders, the strengthening of Islamic fundamentalism, the development of separatist tendencies are gradually deforming ideas about the goals and nature of possible wars in the 21st century. For the next 10-15 years, the main type of conflicts will be local wars of low intensity, covering certain geographic areas. Therefore, the main forces of the army (excluding strategic ones) must be prepared precisely for such wars. The criterion for its combat readiness is the ability to eliminate local conflicts in a short time. Typical examples are Israel's 1967 defeat to the Arab side, the Anglo-Argentine conflict in the South Atlantic, and the Gulf War. Dragging out a local conflict for more than 50-60 days should be regarded as a defeat for a great power. The experience of Afghanistan and Chechnya has proved that the army is not ready for this type of war. One of the reasons is the insufficient elaboration of Russia's military doctrine, which does not specifically indicate the main factors and limitations that determine the appearance of the army and its weapons. Another negative factor is the deteriorating economic situation in the country and a sharp reduction in the budget of the Ministry of Defense. In the context of cost reduction, the rational choice of weapons systems is of particular importance. The expediency of creating various weapon systems for the main and mobile forces (the latter with adjacent internal and border troops) was repeatedly noted. The expensive and sophisticated military equipment of the main forces, highly effective in a large-scale classical war, is far from always being such in conditions of regional conflicts. This provision applies to all types of military equipment, but in particular affects the fire weapons of the armed forces. The need for specialization of artillery according to the classes of combat missions is confirmed by all historical experience in the development of artillery. Already in the Middle Ages, there was a division of artillery into field, siege and serf. In the middle of the 19th century, modern classes of artillery pieces (cannons, howitzers, mortars) took shape. Numerous attempts to create unified tools for solving dissimilar tasks usually ended in failure. For example, before the Great Patriotic War, the idea of developing a unified gun that could be used both as a field gun and as an anti-aircraft gun was discussed for a long time. Subsequently, this idea was completely rejected. For the artillery of mobile forces, such properties as air and helicopter transportability, high mobility, autonomy, and increased ammunition are highlighted. At the same time, the requirements for the firing range, which are undoubtedly dominant for the field artillery of the main forces, for the mobile forces are relegated to the background. The experience of regional conflicts has shown that up to 90% of all fire missions of mobile forces are solved at a range of up to 8 km, and 80% - at a range of up to 5 km. In the balance "Range of fire - mass of the gun" there is a clear shift towards a decrease in both parameters. Systems of mobile forces (assault guns) will have to have short barrels 10 … 20 calibers, low muzzle velocity (250 … 350 m / s) and low loads when fired. The latter will allow the use of thin-walled shells of reduced mass with an increased explosive charge.


Self-propelled howitzer "Nona" -SVK


Russian self-propelled howitzer 2S19 "Msta-S"

The use in regional conflicts of weapons of the main forces, developed for wars of the classical type, with excessive ranges unnecessary in these operations, and at the same time, large masses that make it difficult to quickly deliver them to the place of operation, is extremely irrational. A typical example of such irrational use of military equipment was the use in Chechnya on a fairly large scale of the 152-mm self-propelled howitzer 2S19 "Msta-S". This complex and expensive weapon of classic warfare is designed to destroy tactical nuclear weapons, artillery and mortar batteries, tanks and other armored equipment of the enemy, i.e., targets that are really absent in a regional conflict such as the Chechen one.

The gun has a mass of 42 tons, a firing range of 24,700 m, a turret of circular rotation, protected by anti-fragmentation armor from enemy long-range artillery shelling, numerous equipment, including a filter ventilation unit, built-in bulldozer equipment, underwater driving equipment, etc. as field artillery of tanks. The use of heavy equipment of the main forces is associated with huge costs, but even at these costs, due to low mobility, it will not provide the required level of fire support.

The way out is well known. It consists in the massive equipping of infantry (motorized rifle) units with their own mobile artillery, capable of moving along with the infantry and providing them with direct support. For this purpose, a well-thought-out system of towed and self-propelled artillery weapons is needed, specially designed for use in regional conflicts. In this system, all types of weapons should be rationally used (classic guns, mortars, MLRS, recoilless guns), but the main emphasis should be on classic type guns. Their advantage over mortars lies, on the one hand, in a greater degree of versatility, that is, conducting both mounted and flat fire, including direct fire, on the other hand, in large angles of horizontal fire.


76-mm regimental gun mod. 1943 g.


76 mm mountain cannon

Flat shooting in regional conflicts plays a significantly greater role than in classical wars. This is explained, on the one hand, by the large proportion of operations in settlements, where shooting at targets with a vertical projection (buildings, bridges, tunnel entrances, etc.) plays an important role, and on the other hand, by the possibility of widespread use of fragmentation shells with axial streams of ready-made striking elements (shrapnel and fragmentation-beam projectiles). In the future, it seems appropriate to use the generalized term "assault gun", which is understood as a weapon in the composition of infantry units, which has a short firing range and a powerful projectile action.

Recoilless guns with a very large gain in the mass of the gun have significant disadvantages - low firing accuracy and increased danger for the calculation.

Artillery equipment of infantry subunits in company-battalion-regiment levels, in addition to drastically reducing the need for direct fire contact with the enemy at the level of small arms and associated losses, will significantly reduce the time of fire reaction. Combat operations in regional conflicts develop in the absence of a clearly defined front line, often in mountainous or inaccessible terrain and in populated areas, in conditions of the action of small maneuverable enemy groups and with significant fire and tactical independence of subunits. In the conditions of an acute shortage of time, the divisional-battery organization of artillery with firing from closed positions at the request of the infantry, taking into account the time required for the passage of applications and inevitable errors in the transmission of information, impedes the effective conduct of rapid fire operations. Errors in target designation based on the experience of the Vietnamese and Middle Eastern wars have repeatedly led to significant losses from the fire of their own artillery.

The problem of infantry (regimental, battalion, "assault") artillery has a long history. To some extent, this is the story of fighting the weight of the guns. Tsarist Russia did not have regimental and battalion artillery. The experience of maneuvering operations of the Civil War revealed an urgent need for light and mobile infantry weapons. Therefore, the first weapon created in Soviet times was the 76-mm regimental gun mod. 1927, developed and put into production by the Putilov plant. With a barrel length of 16, 5 calibers and a projectile mass of 6, 2 kg, the gun had an initial speed of 380 m / s, the maximum firing range was 6700 m. The mass of the gun in a combat position reached 900 kg and already by that time it was considered too large for an infantry escort gun … Therefore, all new artillery systems of the pre-war period (1929-1932, 1933-1937, 1938) provided for the development of light regimental and battalion guns (Table 1).

None of these systems have been implemented. The exception was the 76-mm battalion mortar BOD, which had excellent characteristics (firing range of 5 km with a system weight of 148 kg), but it was also quickly withdrawn from service. At present, it is difficult to establish the reasons for the erroneous policy of the GAU on infantry artillery. It is possible that a certain role was played by the long-lasting enthusiasm for Kurchevsky's recoilless guns, as well as the unreasonable opposition to infantry guns of the rapidly developing mortars at that time.

As a result, by the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, the army approached without battalion artillery, and the regimental artillery was armed with only an excessively heavy cannon arr. 1927 (weight 900 kg). At the same time, the Germans had a massive 75-mm regimental cannon "18" (projectile mass 5, 45 kg, muzzle velocity 221 m / s, firing range 3550 m) with an excellent mass characteristic of 400 kg.

During the war, in view of the urgent needs of the troops, an attempt was made to create a lightweight regimental gun by overlaying the barrel of a 76-mm cannon mod. 1927 on the carriage of a 45-mm anti-tank gun mod. 1942 with an initial projectile speed of 262 m / s, a firing range of 4200 m and a mass of 600 kg. The cannon was not very successful. Compared to the cannon arr. In 1927, its muzzle energy was more than halved, and its mass - by only 20%. The weight of 600 kg was too large for an assault gun designed to accompany the infantry with fire and wheels. Nevertheless, the gun was widely used in the war. More than 5,000 cannons were manufactured in total. During the war, the design bureau of factory # 172 designed a lighter regimental gun with a mass of 440 kg and a firing range of 4500 m, but it did not go into production. Disadvantages of the gun mod. 1943, especially when comparing its characteristics with the characteristics of the 75-mm US mountain howitzer М1А1


Howitzer USA М1А1


105-mm American M102 howitzer

With the same mass, the M1A1 howitzer was superior to the arr. 1943 for muzzle energy and firing range more than doubled. Note that the 75-mm mountain howitzer М1А1 was one of the most common weapons of the Second World War. She was disassembled into 7 parts, which made her parachute landing and delivery by pack transport possible. The howitzer, in particular, was widely used in the mountainous regions of Italy and on the remote islands of the Pacific Ocean.

In the post-war period, the development of domestic infantry guns was completely stopped. The main role in this was played by the erroneous policy towards the artillery of the country's top leadership in the person of N. S. Khrushchev. During this period, the United States and its allies, during the Vietnam campaign, made sure that the role of artillery in regional conflicts did not diminish, but, on the contrary, increased. Similar conclusions were made following the results of the Arab-Israeli wars. It was during the Vietnamese war, which took place in the jungle, including during the rainy season, in the absence of roads and bridges, that the necessity of the helicopter gun transportability property was realized.

One of the most striking artillery developments of this period was the US 105mm M102 howitzer, which was put into service in 1964. The gun carriage is made of weldable aluminum alloys. For the manufacture of inserts and various kinds of coatings, plastics were used in the construction of the howitzer.

The howitzer had a powerful muzzle brake, absorbing 55 … 60% of the recoil energy, a progressive rifling of the barrel (35/18) and a base plate separated from the move, allowing for circular shelling. The transfer of the howitzer was carried out by the CH-47 helicopter. The howitzer had good characteristics: an initial speed of 610 m / s with a projectile mass of 13 kg, a muzzle energy of 2.42 MJ, a specific energy of 1.67 kJ / kg, a mass in a combat position of 1450 kg, a firing range of 15000 m. During the Vietnamese campaign, opinions began to be expressed that, as a tool for direct support of small infantry units (up to a squad - platoon), the M102 howitzer was redundant in range, heavy in weight and ineffective in terms of the action of the projectile. It was noted that in the course of hostilities, up to 90% of fire missions were solved at a distance of less than 10 km. The 105-mm high-explosive fragmentation projectiles had insufficient fragmentation and compression action, especially with the non-instantaneous action of shock fuses when firing at swampy soils. The 105-mm M413 cluster projectile created during the campaign, containing 18 M35 fragmentation submunitions with an explosive charge of 28 g, also proved to be insufficiently effective. The howitzer could not be transported by light helicopters with an external sling carrying capacity of up to 1 ton. Howitzers were not transported on a trailer for general purpose army trucks and jeeps, especially on poor roads.

In Russia, infantry fire support weapons were developed mainly as self-propelled ones. These include the 73-mm Thunder gun mounted on the BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle, the 100-mm 2A70 gun mounted on the BMP-3, the 120-mm 2S9 Nona-S self-propelled gun mounted on a tracked base and the 2S23 " Nona-SVK "on a wheelbase. A distinctive feature of the last two guns developed by TsNIITochMash is the use of shells with ready-made rifling on the leading belt of the shell.

The 100-mm 2A70 gun is of considerable interest as the basis for the development of a towed assault gun for a platoon-company unit. Until now, the armament consisted of a 100-mm 3UOF17 round, developed by NIMI. In this shot, the 3OF32 projectile, previously developed for the BS-3 towed cannon and the SU-100 self-propelled gun, was used, which has a thick-walled body made of S-60 steel, a low filling factor and, as a result, a low fragmentation effect. Currently, the Tula KBP has developed a new 100-mm round ZUOF19 with an increased firing range and fragmentation effect.

Estimation of the minimum mass of a towed assault gun depending on the caliber using the criterion of the maximum permissible acceleration value of the recoiling parts of the gun is presented in Table 3. It also presents the estimated firing range at an initial projectile speed of 300 m / s, a relative mass of a projectile of 10 kg / dm3 and a shape factor of 1, 25.

The only light domestic towed system developed over the past decades is the 120-mm 2B16 Nona-K gun. The gun, developed by TsNIITochMash, has a maximum firing range of 8800 m, a HE shell mass of 17.3 kg, an initial speed of 367 m / s, and a rate of fire of 8 rds / min. According to the estimates of the table.3, the mass of a 120-mm assault gun should not exceed 600 kg, while the mass of the 2B16 gun is 1200 kg, that is, it is twice the specified standard. With a decrease in the mass of the gun to 600 kg, it will become promising as an assault weapon for the company-battalion level.

These two calibers, 100 and 120-mm, are insufficient for solving all fire missions of regional conflicts, taking into account the specifics of combat operations in them. These actions take place in the absence of a clearly marked front line, often in mountainous or inaccessible terrain and in populated areas, in conditions of the action of small maneuver groups of the enemy and with significant fire and tactical independence of subunits. A maneuverable group with light weapons, after detection and the start of shelling, is able to leave the position in a matter of minutes. In these conditions, the requirement of hitting a group target with two or three shots comes to the fore, which is possible only with a significant increase in the mass of the explosive charge. In this case, the radius of the circle of the compression lesion must exceed twice the circular probable error of fire. This condition is met only when the mass of the explosive charge is more than 10 kg, that is, with a caliber greater than 150 mm. Another solution is to use cluster projectiles, but, as calculations show, high-performance cluster projectiles can be successfully implemented only in large caliber.

The possibility of creating a helicopter-portable large-caliber infantry weapon of the regimental level is quite real. Even in the pre-war period, the artillery armament system for 1933-1937, approved by the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR on 08/05/33, was introduced into the armament of rifle regiments by the 152-mm mortar "NM" mod. 1931, developed by Rheinmetall. The mortar had a mass of 1150 kg, a barrel length of 9.3 caliber, an initial speed of 250 m / s, a maximum firing range of 5285 m. The OF-5221 projectile with a total mass of 38, 21 kg had an explosive charge mass of 7, 62 kg, i.e. filling factor 0, 20. As of November 1, 1936, the Red Army consisted of 100 mortars.


British 155 mm howitzer FH-77B


155 mm howitzer FH-88A

Unfortunately, an ill-considered decision led to the removal of this system from service. At the same time, among the Germans, its analogue of the 15 cm S. I. G.33 proved to be excellent during the war. More than 20 thousand of these guns were produced in towed and self-propelled versions.

At the current level of artillery science and technology, it is quite realistic to create a 152-mm assault gun with a mass of less than 900 kg and a firing range of up to 5 km. Reducing the mass of the gun can be achieved through the use of new propellants with an optimal combustion law, high-strength crack-resistant steels for the manufacture of barrels, titanium and aluminum alloys for the manufacture of carriages, reducing the mass of the projectile and other measures.

The optimal HE shell of an assault gun will have a mass of 34 … 38 kg with an explosive mass of 10 … 12 kg. The indicated decrease in the mass of the projectile in relation to the standard (43, 6 kg) is useful:

- increases not only the compression, but also the fragmentation effect of the projectile;

- the transportable ammunition increases, and, consequently, the autonomy of the system increases;

- saving metal, including alloying ones;

- the cost of delivering ammunition to the conflict zone is reduced;

- the physical load of the calculation is reduced.

An increase in the fragmentation effect of a projectile with a decrease in its mass within certain limits and a simultaneous increase in the mass of an explosive charge, i.e., with an increase in the filling factor of the projectile, is substantiated theoretically and experimentally. The theoretical value of the optimal filling factor is 0.25 … 0.30, that is, it significantly exceeds the filling factor of standard ammunition. For example, for the 152-mm projectile 3OF25 "Grif" it is 0.156 (the mass of the projectile is 43.56 kg, the mass of the explosive charge is 6.8 kg). Typical examples of thin-walled shells with a high filling factor are the English 155-mm HE shell L15A1 for the FH-70 howitzer and the domestic 203-mm high-explosive shell 53-F-625 (filling factors, respectively, 0, 26 and 0.23).

Problems of ensuring the strength of a thin-walled projectile body when fired with an overload of more than 20,000 are solvable. A more difficult task is to ensure strength when firing at solid obstacles (semi-rocky and frozen soils, brick walls, etc.). The solution to this problem, on the one hand, is associated with the use of high-quality steels with high strength and reliability indicators, on the other hand, with the use of computer modeling of the projectile deformation process during implementation and the transition to new criteria for assessing the strength of the projectile. An important role in solving the problem will be played by increasing the accuracy of manufacturing the case, first of all, reducing the wall thickness difference, which will require a decrease in the accepted standards for the durability of the pressing tool. One of the most serious dangers of destruction of the hull when fired due to compression of the hull under the leading collar at the moment of cutting it into the rifling of the barrel can be eliminated by using ready-made protrusions on the leading collar. An example of such a design is the 3VOF49 120-mm projectile of the Nona family.

The low level of barreled loads of assault guns will make it possible to use new high-fragmentation steels for the manufacture of hulls, as well as to apply measures for a given crushing of hulls and the use of ready-made striking elements, including those made of heavy alloys.

The presence of large resources in terms of the strength of projectile hulls is confirmed by foreign experience in designing cluster shells with self-aiming submunitions, the hull walls of which are 3-4 times thinner than the walls of conventional artillery shells.

A decrease in the mass of the projectile as a factor of the physical load of the calculation is of particular relevance with a limited number of calculations and a shortage of time. Currently, the 3VOF32 152-mm round capping has a mass of 86 kg, which is at the limit of the physical capability of a small number of crews during fast loading. For an assault gun, it is quite realistic to reduce the mass of the shot from 59, 7 kg to 50 kg, which will increase the ammunition load by 20%.

In addition to the conventional HE shell, it is advisable to include a HE shell with a proximity fuse of the "altimeter" type, cluster shells (conventional and for remote mining), concrete-piercing shells, thermobaric, cumulative, active-reactive, shrapnel, fragmentation and high precision. In the latter case, the reduced level of barrel overloads will allow the design of electronic projectile control units on an inexpensive element base.

The use of high-precision and cluster projectiles in regional conflicts requires separate consideration. With the high efficiency of high-precision projectiles (MTC) and their ability to selectively ("point") impact on the target, an obstacle to widespread use is their high cost. According to the magazine "Jane International Defense Review", the cost of a tank ammunition of 30 125-mm MTC is equal to the cost of the tank itself.

In terms of efficiency, free dispersion cluster projectiles occupy an intermediate place between conventional monoblock HE projectiles and MTC, in many cases approaching the latter. An idea of the characteristics and capabilities of modern cluster artillery shells can be obtained on the example of the 155-mm M483A1 projectile, which was successfully used during the Gulf War. The projectile has a mass of 46.5 kg and contains 88 M42 cumulative fragmentation warheads weighing 182 g each. The use of cluster shells of this type allows three shots to create an affected field of 6000 m2. An important role in regional conflicts will be played by remote-mining cluster shells, scattering anti-personnel mines on the ground and making it possible to instantly place minefields on the approach and withdrawal routes of enemy mobile groups.

For motorized rifle units, the use of self-propelled assault guns, built on the standard wheelbase of the BTR-80 armored personnel carrier, seems to be very promising. In this case, provided that the 30-mm 2A72 automatic cannon with ammunition and part of the landing force is excluded, it is quite possible to place a 152-mm gun with 20 rounds of ammunition (total weight 1,500 kg).

An approximate system of armament with assault guns of a company-regimental echelon of a motorized rifle division is presented in table. 4.

Computer modeling of typical operations of regional conflicts (defense of checkpoints, artillery escort of columns, operations in populated areas, etc.) has shown that the use of infantry artillery dramatically changes the whole picture of an operation. For example, modeling the fire engagement of two groups armed with small arms, one of which has two artillery guns, as a random process with discrete states, showed that a group armed with artillery wins the battle when the enemy is outnumbered by half or more with a reduction in its own losses. 3-4 times.

Similar assessments by the cost-effectiveness criterion were carried out for assault artillery and tactical aviation. The cost of delivering 1 kg of ammunition to the target was taken as one of the main criteria. Calculations have shown that for aviation this figure is 4 … 5 times higher than the same value for assault artillery. This is due to the high cost of fuel (for the Su-25 attack aircraft, the consumption is 2 tons per hour), the depreciation of expensive aircraft, the removal of airfields from the combat zone, significant aircraft combat losses (up to 1% of the number of sorties), etc.


Transportation of 155 mm howitzer by CH-47 helicopter


105-mm British light howitzer L118A1 (weight 1860 kg)

As the troops are saturated with assault weapons, the role of long-range artillery in regional conflicts will gradually decrease. Long-range guns will remain mainly in the system of strong points (“forts”) capable of providing fire coverage of large areas. For example, a battery of 152-mm Msta-B howitzers of 4-gun composition with a well-functioning reconnaissance and target designation system can keep an area of 2000 square meters under control. km. Another important task of long-range artillery is shelling long-range hard-to-reach areas. Estimates show that with a rational distribution of functions between assault and long-range artillery, the relative number of long-range guns should be within 15-20%, which will reduce the cost of artillery support by 30-40%.

A decisive factor in the success of the use of assault artillery in regional conflicts is the use of its most valuable quality - mobility, primarily helicopter transportability. The maximum loads on the external sling of the Mi-24P, Mi-25, Mi-35 artillery transport and combat helicopters are 2500 kg, the Mi-8T and Mi-8MT military transport helicopters - 3000 and 4000 kg, respectively, the Ka- 29 - 3000 kg. Thus, the most massive domestic transport and combat helicopter Mi-24 is capable of transporting on an external sling a set including a 152-mm gun up to 1 ton and a container with ammunition (15 rounds) of the same mass, enemy groups of 20-30 people. in less than 1 hour. It is possible that, given the limited number of army aviation, the requirement for the transportation of assault guns will also be presented to the new purely combat helicopters Ka-50, Ka-52, Mi-28N. In principle, this is ensured by the carrying capacity of these helicopters. For example, for the Ka-50 "Black Shark" helicopter, the total mass of weapons on the underwing holders is 2 tons. In the future, the "helicopter-assault gun" complex can acquire the status of an independent combat unit, that is, it can be considered as a new autonomous type of weapon with its own tactics of combat use.

The organizational aspects of equipping infantry units with assault guns will include the introduction of artillery officers, training of soldiers in artillery specialties, the introduction of supply and ammunition transportation services, and the organization of repair units. The organic entry of assault artillery into the everyday life and combat practice of a company, battalion and regiment will undoubtedly be associated with overcoming a number of established stereotypes, including a change in tactical norms.

In conclusion, let us dwell on the economic side of the issue. The estimated cost of a 152-mm assault gun in small-scale production will be 80-100 thousand dollars, in large-scale production - 40 … 50 thousand dollars (which is approximately equal to the cost of two high-precision shells). According to approximate estimates, the total requirements of the Armed Forces, Border Troops and Internal Troops are 500, 300, and 200 guns, respectively. Thus, the solution of the largest military-technical problem, which essentially has a national priority, will require expenditures of only $ 50 million, which is commensurate with the cost of one modern combat aircraft. It is safe to say that it is difficult to find an example of a more rational investment in the country's defense based on the cost-effectiveness criterion.

In conclusion, we note that the use in this article of the term "assault gun", which aims to distinguish weapons capable of operating in infantry battle formations, is justified and necessary. The terms "light", "ultralight", "regimental" guns in this case do not reflect the essence of the problem. For example, the domestic 152-mm regimental howitzer 2A16 and its export version 155-mm howitzer M-389 developed by the State Unitary Enterprise "Plant No. 9" are classified as light howitzers, although they have a mass of 4300 kg. The 155-mm howitzer UFH of the British company VSEL with a mass of 3630 kg, according to the terminology of the company, is ultralight Field Howitzer (UFH - Ultralight Field Howitzer). In this case, it is emphasized that these "light" howitzers have a significantly lower mass compared to conventional field howitzers, such as the US M198 (7, 2 t), FH-70 (9, 3 t), WAC21 China (9, 5 t), 2A65 "Msta-B" RF (7 t) and others.

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