BAV-485 amphibious carrier

Derived directly from the wartime 6 x 6 DUKW provided under Lend-Lease, the BAV-485 is a watertight boat-like body on a Soviet truck chassis.

Following the successful use of American-supplied DUKW 6×6 amphibious vehicles by the Soviet army during World War II, it was decided to build a similar vehicle but based on a Soviet truck chassis. This finally appeared in the early 195Os as the BAV-485, sometimes called the ZIL-485, The layout of the BAV-485 is similar to that of. the American DUKW with the engine and transmission at the front, crew seats to the rear of the engine compartment, and the cargo area at the rear. A maximum of 2500 kg (5,511-lb) of cargo or 25 fully equipped troops can be carried. The crew at the front are provided with a windscreen which can be folded forwards, and if required bows and a tarpaulin cover can be erected over the crew and troop compartments. A major improvement over the original American DUKW is the installation of a drop-down tailgate at the very rear of the cargo compartment, which enables light vehicles, mortars and light artillery weapons to be loaded very quickly. The engine is coupled to a manual gearbox with five forward and one reverse gear, and a two-speed transfer case,- The main brakes are pneumatic, with a mechanical parking brake that operates on the rear wheels only. The BAV-485 is powered in the water by a single three-blade propeller mounted under the rear of the hull, and before the vehicle enters the water bilge pumps must be switched on.

The basic BAV-485 was based on the ZIL-151 6×6 2500-ks (5,511-1b) truck chassis built by the Likhachev Motor Vehicle Plant ln Moscow between 1947 and 1958. Later production vehicles were based on the ZIL-157 6×6 2500-kg (5,511-1b) truck chassis built at the same plant between l95B and 1961, this model being designated the BAV-485A. The major difference between the BAV-485 and the later BAV-485A is that the former has external air lines for the central tyre pressure-regulation system while the latter has internal air lines which are less easily damaged. The central tyre pressure-regulation system is a common feature on Soviet wheeled armoured vehicles and military trucks, and enables the driver to adjust the ground pressure to suit the ground being crossed. It is by no means a new idea, however, as the Americans had a similar system on their DUKWs during World War II. Some BAV-4BSs have been observed with a 12.7-mm (0.5-in) DShKM heavy machine-gun for anti-aircraft defence, this being mounted on the forward right side of the troop compartment.

Specification BAV-485

Crew: 1+ 1

Combat weight: on land and on water 9650 kg (21,275-lb)

Powerplant: one ZIL- 123 6-cylinder petrol engine developing 110 hp (82 kW)

Dimensions: length 9.54 m (31 ft 3.6 in) width 2.845 m (9 ft 4 in): height 2.66 m(8 ft 8.7 in)

Performance: maximum road speed 60 km/h (37.3 mph); maximum water speed 10 km/h (6.2 mph) maximum road range 480 km (298 miles); fording amphibious; gradient 60 per cent; vertical obstacle 0.4 m (1 ft 4 in); trench not applicable



Tunguska Air Defenсe Missile/Gun Complex

For Russian Army air defense, a handful of ageing ZSU-23-4 self-propelled vehicles are still in service, but mainly because their four rapid-fire 23mm cannon are useful in a direct-fire role, as proven in Chechnya. The real backbones of the Army’s point air defense are the Strela-10 (SA-13) short-range missile launcher, and the Tunguska (SA-19) gun/missile system and its successor, the Pantsir-S1 (SA-22). Both of the latter mount two 30mm autocannon and missiles: 6x 57E6 for the former and 12x for the latter.

The 2S6 entered limited service in 1982. The layout is similar to the ZSU-23-4, with a large turret mounted in the centre of the hull and the engine at the rear. The 2S6 is armed with a pair of 2A38 30mm cannons (one on each side of the turret), and four SA-19 Grison missiles (two on each side of the turret). A target acquisition radar is fitted at the rear of the turret, and a tracking radar at the front. The guns are stabilised in both planes to allow firing on the move, but the missiles can only be fired when stationary. The vehicle is armoured to a level sufficient to provide protection from small arms and shell splinters. In 1986, the main production system, the 2S6M, entered service. This increases the missile load from four to eight missiles (four on each side of the turret). The fire-control programmes are improved, and improved guns (2A38M) and missiles (Soviet designation 9M311M) are fitted.

The late 1960s saw a sharply increased interest in the development of highly mobile battlefield short-range air defenses capable of operating as part of forward forces that could be attacked by enemy anti-tank helicopters and low-flying planes, as well as capable of repelling enemy ground attacks if necessary.

The design specifications for a new generation of short-range air defenses were developed with due regard to the first years’ field experience with the SHILKA self- propelled antiaircraft gun (SPAAG). On 8 June 1970, the USSR Council of Ministers decided to conduct preliminary studies to assess the feasibility of developing a new SPAAG equipped with 30mm artillery armament. The KBP Instrument Design Bureau was assigned prime contractor.

In 1973, the CPSU Central Committee and USSR Council of Ministers passed a resolution to develop detailed design and a prototype of the TUNGUSKA SPAAG. However, assessments made at KBP by this time showed that the maximum efficiency of a new battlefield short-range air defense system could only be achieved with combined artillery and missile armaments. In this case, missiles had to be used to fire at air targets throughout the entire engagement envelope, while artillery armament had to be employed to engage targets like aircraft flying at extremely low altitudes and helicopters suddenly emerging from behind cover in the near zone. In addition, it was appropriate to use artillery armament to destroy cheap and massive targets like unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and ground targets, due to low cost of ammunition.

In 1975 this concept was approved and the performance specifications for the Tunguska equipped with both artillery and missile armaments together with an optical sighting and radio remote control system for the surface-to-air missile (SAM) were finalized.

As a result, the key feature of the TUNGUSKA, compared to known AA systems, was that one combat vehicle mounted artillery and missile armaments, radar and optical detection, tracking and fire control instruments using common equipment to support artillery fire and missile guidance: target acquisition radar, target tracking radar, ground receiver / interrogator, optical sighting equipment, digital computing system, and laying drives.

The TUNGUSKA was to be armed with two 30mm autocannons with a liquid cooling system and an ammunition load and 8 launchers with launch tubes and 9M311 missiles in the transport- launch containers. The range of the guns was to be 3.5-4 km, the missiles up to 8 km. In fact, the gun / missile TUNGUSKA was to be the world’s first two-echelon self-propelled short-range air defense system.

KBP’s development efforts on the 9M311 missile yielded a one-stage SAM of an unrivalled bi-caliber configuration, with a separable booster and an unpowered sustainer stage. Such a layout ensured extremely high performance of the missile. Thus, the absence of a motor in the sustainer stage of the missile eliminated smoke blocking the target line-of-sight, ensuring reliable and accurate guidance of the missile, reduced its weight and dimensions, simplified the layout of onboard equipment and warhead. This was also aided by the use of passive aerodynamic damping of the missile airframe during flight, provided by a control loop correction through sending commands to the missile from the SAM system’s computer system.

In general, the use of the bi-caliber layout helped nearly halve the weight of the missile compared to a single-stage SAM and achieve higher ballistic characteristics.

Along with KBP, the TUNGUSKA program involved also the Ulyanovsk Mechanical Plant, Leningrad Optical and Mechanical Association (LOMO), MIET OKB Design Bureau, Kovrov-based Signal VNII Research Institute, Kirov-based Mayak Engineering Plant, Izyum Instrument Plant, Minsk Tractor Plant, etc.

The official tests of the SAM system began in September 1980. On 8 September 1982, the 2K22 TUNGUSKA entered service.

In the second half of 1990, an upgraded version, the TUNGUSKA-M (2K22M), underwent tests. The basic improvements included the introduction of new radio sets and a receiver for communications with the PANTSYR (PU-12M) battery command post and the PPRU-1M (PPRU-1) command post, as well as the replacement of a gas turbine engine (part of the SAM system’s power unit) with a new one with a twice longer service life (600 hours).

In the process of further upgrade efforts on the TUNGUSKA its combat vehicle received equipment for automated acquisition and processing of external targeting data coming from the PPRU (9S80) mobile control and reconnaissance post. This allowed automatic allocation of targets among the combat vehicles and significantly improved the effectiveness of a SPAAGM battery while repelling a massive air raid. Upgrading the TUNGUSKA’s digital computing system through the use of a new computer has expanded its capabilities to handle combat and monitoring tasks and increased the accuracy of their solving. In addition, a relief circuit was introduced that greatly facilitated the gunner’s work in optical tracking of a moving aerial target.

The following components were added to the combat vehicle’s equipment set: equipment for automated acquisition and processing of external targeting data coming from the battery command post, infrared missile locator – missile coordinate generation equipment, a new computer having higher speed and larger memory, and an improved rolling angle measurement system.

Missile improvement was another focus of upgrade effort. The upgraded missile received the designation 9M311-1M. Its sustainer stage was equipped with a continuous / pulsed light source (a floodlamp). The missile equipment was also modified – its immunity in engaging targets that used optical jamming was increased, and the laser proximity sensor was replaced by a radar sensor with a circular antenna pattern.

All the above has increased the engagement range of the SAM system up to 10 km, improved immunity of an optical link in the missile control system and provided assured engagement of small targets like cruise missiles.

High combat and operational properties of the TUNGUSKA have been repeatedly confirmed during exercises and combat firing practice. The SAM system was repeatedly shown at international military equipment exhibitions. The TUNGUSKA SPAAGM and its variants are in service with a number of states.


TUNGUSKA-M1 is designed to provide air defense both for the land forces subunits in all types of their combat actions and defense for the appropriate facilities. TUNGUSKA-M1 is a modern short- range mobile air defense missile/gun complex that can engage aircraft, helicopters (including the hovering and surprise) and the low-flying targets while on the move, at short halts and from the stationary positions as well as destroy the ground and surface targets. TUNGUSKA-M1 incorporates:

– combat assets;

– maintenance equipment;

– training equipment. TUNGUSKA-M1 standard set includes:

– up to six air defense self-propellled gun mounts 2S6M1;

– surface-to-air missiles (SAM) 9M311- 1M in the container-launchers;

– ZUOF8 30-mm rounds with an explosive incendiary projectile and ZUOR6 30- mm rounds with an explosive tracer projectile. Maintenance equipment includes:

– ADMGC maintenance and repair equipment and automated missile integrated test facilities;

– facilities of temporary storage and transportation of missiles and gun rounds and loading of the air defense self-propelled gun mounts;

– group and repair SPTA sets for all the ADMGC assets. TUNGUSKA-M and TUNGUSKA-M1 may be upgraded to extend the life cycle of the combat vehicles. Upgrade of TUNGUSKA-M1 2S6M1 combat vehicle includes:

– introduction of a full-time TV thermal imaging system with the target automatic tracker based on the targeting & optical equipment;

– upgrade of the target acquisition radar;

For upgrading TUNGUSKA-M combat vehicle to a level of TUNGUSKA-M1:

  1. a) the automated external target designation equipment is to be installed;
  2. b) the turret, cabinets and units of radar, tracked chassis and the operational documentation are to be updated;
  3. c) the central computer system, targeting & optical equipment, radio command coder unit, AA automatic guns, motion angle measuring system and cables are to be replaced;
  4. d) a 15 % re-configuration is to be used for changing the composition of the single and group SPTA sets; e) maintenance and repair facilities are to be modified.

After upgrade, TUNGUSKA-M1 takes the new combat properties:

– day-and-night combat operation of the missile/gun armament;

– high level of automation of the combat operation and higher firing capacity; for automating the combat control, the complex assets can be integrated with the unified battery command post of the RANZHYR-MK type.

On the whole, the level of combat effectiveness of TUNGUSKA-M1 in the jamming environment is 1.3 to 1.5 times greater than of TUNGUSKA-M.

Like its predecessors, the 9K22 TUNGUSKA provides a mobile and flexible air defense for armor and motorized regiments. According to Russian practice, the Tunguska has its own battery within the regimental air defense battalion. A 9K22 battery is composed of a headquarters section, transportation section, and three air defense platoons. Each platoon has two 9K22s, for a total of six per battery.

As the regiment’s primary air defense weapon, the Tunguska performs a variety of missions. These include but are not limited to defending armored columns, setting air defense ambushes, and establishing a roving air defense patrol. When defending armored columns on a tactical march, the 9K22s are divided into pairs and placed at least 1,000-2,000m from one another to optimize their interlocking fields of fire. In the air defense ambush, two 9K22s take up static positions and only engage targets that come within a designated aerial sector. The Tunguska SPAAGs relocate after engaging a target or upon discovery by enemy forces. In the roving defense, instead of lying in wait for the enemy’s aircraft, the Tunguska teams move to whatever area is most likely to fall under the enemy’s air attack.

Unlike the ZSU 57-2 and ZSU 23-4, the 9K22 Tunguska has not seen a wide export market. Russian Ground Forces remain the primary operator of the vehicle, with more than 250 currently in service. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the various successor states (including Ukraine and Belarus) retained the existing fleets of 9K22s that remained within their borders. The Indian Army, a long-standing customer for Soviet exports, continues to operate the 9K22 alongside the T-72, T-90, and BMP. During the past decade, the Tunguska has also been exported to Syria and Morocco.



Original system, with 9M311, 9M311K (3M87) or 9M311-1 missiles with a range of 8 km. Some of these early versions of the “Tunguska” system were known as “Treugol’nik”. This system is mounted on the 2S6 integrated air defence vehicle.

2K22M (1990)

Main production system, with 9M311M (3M88) missiles. This integrated air defence vehicle 2S6M is based on the GM-352M chassis. 2F77M transporter-loader. 2F55-1, 1R10-1 and 2V110-1 repair and maintenance vehicles.

2K22M1 (2003)

Improved version with the 2S6M1 combat vehicle on a GM-5975 chassis, using the 9M311-M1 missile (range: 10 km) and with an improved fire control system. Passed state trials and entered service with the Russian armed forces on 31 July 2003.

2K22M with 57E6

Complete upgrade of system with new 57E6 missile and new radar system, with detection range of 38 km and a tracking range of 30 km. Missile range is increased to 18 km.

Specifications: 2S6M Tunguska

Crew: 4

Combat weight: 34 tonnes

Length: 7.93m

Width: 3.24m

Height: 4.01m (3.36m with radar stowed)

Maximum road speed: 65km/h

Maximum road range: 500km

Vertical obstacle: 1m

Trench: 2m


8x SA-19 Grison missiles (2S6: 4x SA-19 Grison missiles)

2x 30mm 2A38M cannon (1,904 rounds) (2S6: 2x 30mm 2A38 cannon)




The RS-28 Sarmat named after the Sarmatians – NATO reporting name SS-X-30 – is a Russian liquid-fueled, MIRV-equipped, superheavy thermonuclear armed intercontinental ballistic missile, in development by the Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau since 2009. It is intended to replace the old R-36M missile (SS-18 Satan).

Russian modernization programs are reasonably well known, and require only an overview of key trends. These can be summarized as follows.

All three legs of the triad undergo modernization. These programs are driven by the expiration of warranty periods of systems inherited from the Soviet Union (i.e., the intended length of service of the weapon)—even though the warranty or length of service time is regularly extended, this cannot continue indefinitely. The rate of replacement is low and new ballistic missiles, both land- and sea-based, carry fewer warheads than Soviet ones. This means that the arsenal undergoes gradual reduction. The strategic arsenal will probably stabilize by the end of this decade at about 800-1,200 warheads.

It is hardly surprising that Russia chose to deploy a new generation of delivery vehicles instead of restarting production of existing types. Behind this decision is the Soviet tradition of uninterrupted modernization, which, in turn, was determined by the structure of the Soviet design and production complex.44 It should be noted, however, that the majority of new types of strategic weapons were still developed in the Soviet Union.

Technologically and conceptually, current strategic modernization programs represent linear continuation of Soviet programs. In this sense, the emerging Russian strategic nuclear posture is very traditional. SRF will probably account for the bulk of all deployed warheads (around 50-60 percent). The earlier plans to radically change the structure of the triad and shift the emphasis to the Navy, which were developed in 2000 and approved by then-President Vladimir Putin, have been abandoned. Russia has continued the Soviet line toward reduction of vulnerability and maintenance of high degree of readiness for launch—according to the SRF, almost all ICBMs could be launched within 1 minute.

The air-based leg of the triad is gradually shifting to a new tangent, however—to conventional strike capability. Eventually its role in the triad will probably be primarily symbolic, and for all intents and purposes the Russian strategic arsenal will become a dyad.

The pace and the success rate for each leg of the triad are different. Modernization of the land-based, ICBM force began in the 1990s and progresses slowly but surely. Introduction of new types of weapons systems into the sea-based leg has encountered major delays and its future remains uncertain. Modernization of the air leg has been postponed—Russia plans to rely on existing aircraft in the foreseeable future and only weapons for use by strategic bombers are being gradually modernized with an emphasis on conventional assets.


The ICBM force modernization has been both conservative and most successful. It its center is Topol-M, a new ICBM designed in the last years of the Soviet Union. The project was partially revised in the 1990s to adapt to the new industrial base (a large part of relevant enterprises remained outside Russia). In the 2000s, the same ICBM was further redesigned to carry several warheads and was designated RS-24, or Yars. Beginning of deployment was postponed until after the expiration of START I.

The rate of ICBM production is low—less than 10 missiles each year; increase of production is unlikely. After 10 years, only six regiments (60 missiles) of silo-based ICBMs have been deployed and only two regiments (18 missiles) of road-mobile ICBMs. In the meantime, the SRF has been extending service lives of existing types of delivery vehicles—to 31 years for SS-18 and to 23 years for Topol (SS-25) and SS-19.

The low rate of missile production might be surprising, given the impressive Soviet capability to turn out large numbers of new weapons—in the 1980s production of Topol (SS-25) was reportedly at 50 per year. Speaking in late 2007, at the time of relative financial plenty, First Vice-Premier and former Minister of Defense Sergey Ivanov sought to make it clear that the government consciously chose “butter” versus “guns.” “We believe,” he stated, “that we do not need 30 Topol-Ms a year. Of course, we would not mind having them, but this would mean that we would need to cut social programs, housing programs, and other things.” He added that the annual deployment of six to seven new missiles is sufficient for the SRF. At the same time, Ivanov emphasized that “military capability, especially nuclear capability, should be sufficient if we want to be at a [safe] level or even merely independent. No one likes the weak, no one listens to them, everyone abuses them, and when we have parity, others talk to us differently.”

There are other explanations for the low rate of production. One is the breakup of the traditional Soviet networks: many Soviet-era enterprises that contributed to production of components remained outside Russia. It is known that the number of only first-order suppliers for Topol-M is around 200; recreating these networks from scratch is difficult, expensive, time-consuming, and probably outright impossible. Another possible explanation is that Russia sought to reserve some unused production capacity for the new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) Bulava.

Nonetheless, the SRF confidently promises that by 2016 about 80 percent of all ICBMs will be new, i.e., deployed in the post-Soviet period. Reduction under New START and perhaps under the next agreement could certainly contribute to that goal, but it nevertheless appears wishful thinking without a significant increase of funding.

Even more remote is the plan to develop a new liquid-fuel multiple independent reentry vehicled (MIRVed) ICBM to replace the Soviet SS-18 (the new ICBM will hardly classify as “heavy” under START I definitions, but its throw-weight will likely be significantly greater than that of Topol-M, probably at the level of SS-19). Development of the new ICBM is supposed to be completed by 2016, but the goal does not appear realistic. More likely, same as talk about the revival of the rail-mobile ICBM, it reflects the wishes of the military rather than definitive plans.

That said, liquid-fuel missiles have, in the eyes of the military, certain advantages that explain why this line of missiles is still alive in Russia unlike in the United States. Traditionally, Soviet liquid fuel has been more efficient than Soviet solid fuel, allowing for greater throw-weight for the same weight of missile. Liquid-fuel missiles have helped Russia retain an impressive strategic arsenal after two decades of financial, economic, and political turmoil: a large number of these systems that had been produced in the Soviet Union remained in “dry storage,” i.e., were kept without fuel. During the post-Soviet period, the military could simply take them from storage, fuel, and deploy. This cannot be done with solid-fuel missiles, whose length of service time period begins at the moment of production.

Recently the SRF was criticized by the government for being insufficiently ambitious. Reportedly, chief of the Government’s Department for the Support of the Military-Industrial Commission, Sergey Khutortsov, declared that the SRF was bogged down in small-scale programs and does not have an ambitious long-term goal around which its future should be built, unlike the Navy or the Air Force. The new liquid-fuel MIRVed ICBM and even the rail-mobile ICBM did not classify as sufficiently ambitious, he said.

The SRF proudly advertizes the defense-penetration properties of its new ICBMs but conveniently fails to mention that this capability was part of a Soviet-era design. In particular, Topol-M features reduced boost phase (about one-third of that of SS-18), which was intended to reduce the effectiveness of space-based interceptors; today this capability is probably less relevant. Topol-M can also carry a maneuverable warhead known as Igla. There is no public authoritative confirmation that Igla is actually being deployed following a very small number of successful tests. Overall, the anti-missile defense capability of new Russian ICBMs should not be overestimated.


Modernization of the sea leg of the triad has encountered major technological and political failures. The initial plan was apparently fairly logical: retain the more modern Delta III and IV submersible submarine ballistic nuclear (SSBNs), and eventually only the latter, with replacement missiles, develop replacement missiles for Typhoon SSBNs, and build new SSBNs to carry the same missiles as Typhoons. This plan quickly fell apart. The replacement for SS-N-20, known as Bark, was canceled after three failed test flights. Although the failures had been attributed to production shortcomings and one Typhoon-class SSBN had been converted for further tests of the Bark, the contract for the new solid-fuel SLBM was nevertheless given to the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology (MITT), the same that developed Topol and Topol-M ICBMs. Design of the new SSBN had to be radically altered: construction of the first submarine in the new class was put on hold until new designs could be drawn to accommodate a radically different missile. The Typhoon-class SSBN converted for Bark was converted once again to serve as a testing pad for the new missile. This decision, made in the late 1990s, was widely attributed to parochial fights, and in particular to the close relationship between the Director of MITT Yuri Solomonov and the then-Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, previously the Commander of the SRF.

MITT planned to make the new SLBM, code-named Bulava, an example of a new approach to development of missiles—relatively fast, relatively cheap, with fewer test flights, and large-scale use of computer simulation. The new missile was supposed to become a major departure from Soviet traditions of SLBM design and be much lighter and smaller than Soviet solid-fuel SLBMs. The plan failed utterly—to date, seven out of 12 test flights have failed, and those by rather relaxed official criteria; the majority of non-governmental experts classify only one or two tests as successful.

By the end of 2009 the government and the Ministry of Defense lost patience. Solomonov had to resign from the position of the head of MITT and a special commission was established to investigate the cause of failures concluded that the missile’s design was faulty. Resumption of tests was initially scheduled for early summer 2010, but then was postponed until late fall. Solomonov, however, continues to insist that failures were caused by substandard components supplied by the industry, which no longer can maintain high quality.

In the meantime, the new SSBN program continued in spite of delays with the missile. The first submarine in the new class, Yuri Dolgoruki, has been commissioned, two more are being built, and the keel of the fourth was laid in January 2010. It was also decided to retain one more Typhoon SSBN and convert it for Bulava. Eventually this might mean that, given the low production capability, Russia will have serious problems producing the necessary number of SLBMs to equip all submarines (16 per each new Borey-class SSBN and 20 per each Typhoon; future Borey SSBNs are expected to carry 20 missiles each).

The sorry state of modernization of the Navy increasingly causes displeasure of the top echelons of the government—last year First Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov revealed that the Navy consumes 40 percent of the total defense budget, more than the SRF, Air Force, and Space Forces combined, and that the bulk of that spending goes to the nuclear submarine force. Implicit in the tone of his remarks was recognition that the yield from that investment remains unsatisfactory.

In the meantime, the sea leg of the Russian triad consists of Delta III and IV SSBNs. These submarines were given an overhaul to extend their service lives. The Makeev design bureau, which had lost the contract for a new SLBM, produced a modernized version of SS-N-23. In the coming decade, Delta IIIs will be probably phased out and only slightly newer Delta IVs will remain in service. Thus, early completion of the Bulava program remains a must—without it, Russia risks losing the sea leg completely by the end of this or the beginning of the next decade.

It might be interesting to contemplate the Russian strategic triad without the naval component. Proposals to phase out SSBNs were quite popular in the late 1990s-early 2000s, when investment into modernization of that leg was still minimal. In that case, Russia might seek much deeper cuts in nuclear arsenals than otherwise likely and the mission of strategic deterrence would be supported by the SRF while de-escalation would still be entrusted to the Air Force. In the end, transition from a triad to a dyad might be a good choice, but it appears unlikely for political reasons and also because too much money has already been spent on Bulava—it is difficult to imagine a political or military leader who would be willing to accept responsibility for the failure.


The Air Force never played a major role in the Soviet nuclear posture; its share in the strategic arsenal was limited to about 5 percent of deployed warheads. This choice is easy to explain by the traditional drawbacks of Soviet aircraft-building (especially in engines and navigational equipment) as well as the long distances heavy bombers had to cover to reach the United States, meaning a very long gap between decision to launch and delivery as well as very limited payload. The situation began to change somewhat in the 1980s after the Soviet Union succeeded in development of long-range air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs). Posture plans drawn in the late 1980s foresaw some (albeit still limited) increase in the share of warheads carried on heavy bombers.

In the post-Soviet time, the Air Force remained at the back burner during the larger part of the 1990s until Ukraine agreed to sell some heavy bombers to Russia instead of eliminating them under START I. This allowed increasing the number of heavy bombers to a level that had at least some military sense. In the 2000s, the Air Force became the leading asset to support the new mission, that of de-escalation.

Nuclear-capable aircraft (heavy bombers Tu-160 and Tu-95MS as well as medium Tu-22M3) have remained at the back burner of modernization efforts: existing heavy bombers are expected to last until at least the end of this decade, so there is no rush, in contrast to the ICBM and SLBM forces, which must be replaced as a matter of urgency. Instead, Russia has concentrated on upgrading the electronics and avionics of these aircraft; some heavy bombers designed to carry ALCMs are being converted to carry gravity bombs.

Modernization of nuclear weapons has been very limited. Russia is working on a new-generation (reportedly supersonic) ALCM, Kh-101, and its conventional version, Kh-102. Work on that program has been exceedingly slow—it began in the 1990s and the last mention of it is in 2000. After that, mentions of that program ceased until recently, when it surfaced only once and almost by accident. Obviously, the program is highly classified, but work continues, which is hardly surprising because at the moment the only long-range nuclear asset is a hopelessly outdated Kh-55. There is also a plan to give high precision capability to gravity bombs using the emerging Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS).

Eventually aircraft have to be replaced, of course. Among the existing types, the Tu-22Ms will probably be phased out completely. Some suggest that Su-34 could take up its roles, but it is unclear whether a decision has been made yet, which probably indicates that Russian military does not foresee many nuclear missions at Su-34 ranges.

Long-range plans of the Air Force are built around a brand new bomber, which will reportedly fall somewhere between Tu-22M3 and heavy bombers in range and load and is expected to be cheaper than the heavy bombers. Its main missions are reported to be in Eurasia and perhaps also the northern part of Africa. One wonders whether the new aircraft will actually fall under the traditional START I definition of a heavy bomber. The beginning of test flights is scheduled for 2015-16 and production could begin around 2020. These dates are certainly subject to revision, which is hardly surprising given the tradition of delays of all modernization programs: in fact, first reports about the new bomber appeared more than 10 years ago, but the Ministry of Defense concluded a formal contract with Tupolev design bureau for a new aircraft only in August 2009.

Information about modernization of the air leg of the strategic triad is scarce, but is the information available leads to three conclusions. First, the Air Force is likely to lose a role in strategic deterrence, even though formally and for arms control purposes it will remain part of strategic arsenal. Second, the Air Force will maintain and perhaps even enhance a nuclear role at the theater level. This role will not require large capability and the number of long-range aircraft will remain relatively small. Third, long-range aircraft will increasingly support conventional long-range missions. In this, Russia follows the trends of the U.S. Air Force with about 15-20 years lag.


Nuclear weapons retain a high profile in Russian national security strategy and will keep it in the foreseeable future. Contrary to official statements, there is no reason to believe that Russia could agree to a very significant reduction, much less elimination, of its nuclear arsenal. Instead, 10 years ago nuclear weapons were given additional roles—those of deterring and deescalating limited (“regional”) conventional wars. They are likely to keep that role as well, at least during the coming decade.

At the same time, Russian leadership clearly understands the limited utility of nuclear weapons and seeks to enhance conventional capability. In this sense, Russia is moving in some of the same directions as the United States—it seeks to develop missile defense and precision-guided long-range conventional assets. According to long-term plans, eventually these efforts should allow Russia to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons. These programs encounter multiple delays, however, and progress much slower than anticipated. Russia will hardly succeed before the end of the coming decade and might never completely close the gap with the United States and NATO. In that case, reliance on nuclear weapons will continue indefinitely.

Certain similarities notwithstanding, differences between the United States and Russia will continue—Moscow is likely to continue seeing U.S. Global Strike and missile defense plans as a potential threat. There exists an important asymmetry: While the United States emphasizes strategic capability (intercontinental-range conventional assets and ability to intercept strategic missiles), Russia seeks intermediate-range capability and will continue to view American programs from the perspective of strategic balance.

Overall, the relationship will remain uneasy, but manageable. The key condition for a stable relationship is predictability—first and foremost careful management of American capabilities that can affect Russian strategic deterrence. This is not impossible, but might be difficult to achieve due to the dynamic of domestic politics in the two countries.

The incredible MiG-25…

With its extensive borders – territorial, maritime and arctic – the Soviet Union had always needed to pay particular attention to its air defence. In the late 1950s a new lightweight turbojet, the R15-300, offered the potential to develop a fundamentally new type of interceptor. The Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG) design bureau took up the challenge and the project was designated E-155.

Powered by a combination of jet and rocket engines, the machine aircraft promised dazzling performance. It could intercept targets flying at 2,500mph (4,000km/h) at 18-30 miles (30- 50km) high more than 100 miles away. Armament was to include K-9 air-to-air missiles (AAMs), with plans to replace them with the more advanced K-155s.

By 1960 this hypersonic dream was abandoned and efforts were concentrated on the S-155 weapon system, comprising a rethought E-155P interceptor, armed with two K-9 all-aspect AAMs and Kh-155 rockets.

The E-155`s tactical radius enabled its use beyond the intercept distance of the short-range surface-to-air missile defence barrage. It was planned to utilise K-90 (or Smerch-A) on-board radar, which had a target detection range sufficient to perform a successful missile attack.

Initial sketches of the E-155 were in line with the technology of the late 1950s, including a delta wing, side-mounted inverted-scoop air intakes, single fin and skid undercarriage. This did not last long – in 1960 the designers proposed a new configuration with a trapezoid wing of 40-degree sweep at the leading edge and two vertical fins.


This was the beginning of the MiG-25 dynasty. The pace was rapid: the threat of the North American B-70 Valkyrie bomber had to be addressed. NATO meanwhile allocated the reporting name Foxbat to the programme. MiG set up an experimental design bureau, OKB-155, to tackle the project. One of the most significant challenges facing it was to overcome the `temperature barrier’ – intensive heating of the airframe. After thorough analysis it was decided to use stainless steel as the main structural material.

The thin-profile, high-mounted and medium-sweep wing combined with high fuel efficiency enabled the interceptor to conduct long-duration flights with externally-mounted missiles at airspeeds of up 1,615mph up to 15 miles high and to sustain loadings of up to 4.3g.

Also proposed was a high-flying tactical reconnaissance version, dubbed E-155R, which was to be built first. It would be fitted with optical, infrared and topographic mapping cameras and electronic reconnaissance equipment. To increase the range of the E-155R, 263-gallon (1,200 litre) fixed fuel tanks were mounted on the wingtips.

In May 1968 the Gorky factory completed the E-155R4. In production this was designated MiG-25R in October 1969.


The Middle East `Six-Day War’ in 1967 alerted the Kremlin to the need for a high-performance fighter-bomber and the decision was taken to expand the Foxbat’s capabilities. The first reconnaissance/bombers, MiG-25RBs, could only carry up to 4,400lb (2,000kg) of ordnance on fuselage-mounted hardpoints. But with the development of wing-mounted bomb carriers, the payload doubled.

In 1970 the Air Force Scientific Research Institute began testing a MiG-25RB equipped with the Peleng navigation system. During the trials A G Fastovets dropped two bombs automatically for the first time, while flying at 1,553mph for the first time. Production of the ‘RB continued until 1972.

The MiG-25RB could only carry out basic electronic reconnaissance, until the improved Kub-3 (and later Kub-3M) gear was installed, enabling real-time location and analysis of radio emissions and data transfer to a command post. This configuration was designated MiG-25RBK and the type was built in 1971. It was followed by the MiG-25RBS equipped with Sablya sideways-looking radar.

Other improvements included introduction of the SAU-155R automatic flight control system. The reconnaissance version employed the Siren-1F (and later 2F and 3F) airborne jamming system for self-protection.

The final version was the -25BM, armed with four Kh-58 anti-radiation missiles, intended to `Wild Weasel’ could also carry up to 1,100lb of bombs. MiG-25BMs were in series production from 1982 till 1985.


Service entry for the MiG-25R began in 1969 and the first unit to master the new type was the 10th Detached Reconnaissance Air Regiment. The following year, regiment pilots were already carrying out bombing in automatic mode with MiG-25RBs. If their bombing suppress enemy radars. This Soviet error during did not exceed 2,600ft (800m) pilots received an `excellent’ rating; a `satisfactory’ mark was given for a 7,800ft error. Later, ‘RBs were fitted with the improved Peleng-2 navigation system and the standard was reduced to 1,300ft and 3,900ft respectively.

The Foxbat’s combat debut was in Egypt in 1971. Under the command of Colonel Aleksander Bezhevets, the 63rd Detached Air Unit was formed that year. It was overseen by General G Baevskiy and the Mikoyan Design Bureau was represented by deputy chief designer L Shengelaya.

In the autumn, four Antonov An-22 Cock and 56 An-12 Cub transports carried four dismantled MiG-25Rs directly from the factory at Gorky to Cairo West airfield. After assembly the Foxbats, which did not carry any insignia, were flown by MiG test pilot V G Gordienko.

Aleksander Bezhevets recalls: “Reconnaissance flights were carried out in pairs with a 30-second interval [between them]. Initially it was planned to keep one-minute intervals but this was reduced to improve the already low chance of our planes [being] intercepted.

“In 1971/1972 the pilots carried out 13 combat missions. In one mission, myself and Uvarov flew at a distance of just 18 miles from Tel Aviv, while the allowed distance was 25. Permission for such flights was given by Chief Military Advisor Okunev.”

Israeli attempts to intercept MiG- 25Rs with Mirage IIIs and F-4E Phantoms, or to shoot them down with surface-to-air Hawk missiles, were unsuccessful.

Iraq became the first foreign customer for the MiG-25R in 1985, these were upgraded to MiG-25RB status, facilitating the carriage of up to eight FAB-500T-M62 bombs.

MiG-25RB combat experience in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and the northern Caucasus proved the unique capabilities of this reconnaissance/ bomber variant, and in 1981 India acquired six ‘RBs and two MiG- 25RU trainers. Other operators included Algeria, Bulgaria, Libya and Syria. The Soviet Air Force used the type for reconnaissance during its Afghan war and in Chechnya.


Developed in parallel with recce version, the E-155P interceptor prototype made its first flight on September 9, 1964 in Fedotov’s hands. Conforming to the original specification, the E-155P could carry only two AAMs, but for the E-155P3 the armament was increased to four K-40 missiles. Six E-155Ps were built and, under the designation MiG-25P, the type entered service in 1972.

Four interceptor prototypes were demonstrated at the Domodedovo air parade on July 9, 1967. They had severe airspeed limitations – and ignoring these parameters had dire consequences. Test pilot I I Lesnikov died on October 30, 1967 when the E-155P1 crashed. It had been banked at transonic speed and the wing failed. Pilots at OKB-155 worked hard to cure the problem but it was not finally resolved until 1971.

The MiG-25P entered service in April 1970 with the Soviet Air Defence Forces at Sevasleyka and Pravdinsk. Its operational debut led to considerable speculation about its performance and potential, but the guesswork all stopped on September 6, 1976 when V I Belenko took off from Chuguevka airfield near Vladivostok and landed at Hakodate airport in Japan in a high-profile defection. The aircraft was quickly inspected by an American engineering team and then returned to the Soviets.

With its air defence secrets undermined, the Soviet leadership reacted rapidly. A decree improving the MiG-25’s combat capabilities, issued in November 1976, led to three MiG-25PD interceptors being fitted with modified armament (R-40TD and RD, and R-60 missiles) before the end of August 1977, with flight testing beginning three months later.

In addition, the Smerch-A2 radar was replaced with a Sapfir-25, which had a different emission frequency, improved jamming protection and better targeting capabilities including, for the first time, at low level. It was housed within a much longer nose section. Modified R15BD-300 turbojets completed the transformation to MiG-25PD. NATO called this the Foxbat-E and its effectiveness was significantly higher than that of its predecessors; earlier MiG-25Ps were eventually converted into this standard.

The MiG-25P’s baptism of fire came on February 13, 1981 when Syrian Foxbats took off to intercept Israeli reconnaissance RF-4Es which had entered Lebanese airspace. It turned out the Phantoms were acting as bait as they quickly turned on their jamming, descended and retreated back to Israel. The Syrian MiG- 25Ps were then waylaid by a pair of F-15A Eagles which had approached from low level – one of which fired two AIM-7P Sparrow AAMs, one hitting a Foxbat.

Other countries that operated the MiG-25P in combat were Iraq during the Gulf War and Azerbaijan in action against Armenia. From 1967 until 1984 a total of 1,112 MiG-25s of all versions were built, 38 of which were exported. In 1983 the Soviets started to phase in the much-improved MiG-31 Foxhound which clearly exhibited its MiG-25 lineage.

The Last MiG-25 Foxbats of the Syrian Arab Air Force


How do the SR-71 and MiG 25 compare?


MiG-25, The Original Soviet Rat Rod


Armoured Soviet Draisine MBV-2

In 1938, the S.M. Kirov factory in Leningrad built several ‘motorised armoured wagons’ (MBV) which reached 80km/h (50 mph) and carried a dual-purpose armament for ground and antiaircraft use. The base vehicle used components and three turrets from T-28 tanks (which had been built in the same factory). The tank turrets were armed first with the 76.2mm PS-3 gun then the longer L-11 and F-34. The secondary armament comprised 7.62mm DT machine guns divided between the turrets, rear and sides, and anti-aircraft defence was provided by a quadruple Maxim mounting situated between No 2 turret and the command cupola. With a crew of just forty men, the railcar was practically the equal in firepower to an armoured train, being self-sufficient in ammunition with 365 shells, 10,962 rounds for the DTs and 22,000 for the Maxim machine guns carried on board, but was a great deal more versatile. The armour protection ranged from 16–20mm on the sides, the central command cupola and the turrets. The roof was armoured to 10mm. The whole machine weighed 80 tonnes and could reach 120km/h (75mph) on the 400h of its M17-T petrol engine. The prototype was tested during the Finnish War on the Viipuri-Viborg-Leningrad line in March 1940.

The Soviet T-28 and T-35 tanks not only served in the armored units during the Second World War. where they had an important role in different combat operations. Components of the T-28 were also fundamental in the development of a new generation of armored rai road vehicles. At the beginning of the 1930’s, Russian military strategists considered the idea of rejecting those “classic” trains in service with their railroad net (RKKA) in favour of heavy armored cars. The work on design of such vehicles began in 1935 in the SKB-2 department located in the Kirov of Leningrad plant (currently Saint Petersburg). The development was under the direction of O. M. Ivanov, who later was arrested and accused of being a member of the “Trotsky Zinoviev” organisation. He was summarily executed on May 7th 1937. Besides him, other designers that worked on the concept of the new vehicle were S. P. Bogomolov, K. l. Kuzmin, P. P. Mikhailov. P. T. Sosov. I .F. Sytohev and S. V. Fedorenko.

The armored MBV-2 was built with overlapped welded sheets of armour plating that was inclined 10° from the vertical axis. For the three main turrets. those of the medium tank T-28 were used without any modification. Each turret was armed with a KT-28 gun and two 7.62mm DT machine guns, plus one other DT machine gun in an antiaircraft assembly. One DT machine gun was mounted in the back of the car, and four Maxim 7.62mm guns were mounted in the lateral ones. A quadruple system of 4 Maxim (4M) machine guns was installed between the second turret and the commandant’s superstructure, and was covered with an armored hatch when it was necessary. The MBV-2 had an escape hatch in the floor of the wagon allowing the crew to escape in the event of an emergency.

The MBV-2 was propelled by the M-17F engine, also used in the T-28. Parts of the mechanical transmission also carne from the same vehicle. In addition, the MBV-2 was provided with numerous systems of communication (radio and telephone) including a 71-TK-l radio.

The MBV-2 was much shorter that any other armored train and it also offered a silhouette of reduced size with a lateral area of only 52 square meters. It was also much quicker and more manoeuvrable than any other armored train, it and had the advantage that it didn’t emit clouds of smoke like vapour locomotives do.

The MBV-2 #2 carried out more than 25,000 kilometres of tests and in March of 1939 the standard vehicle was accepted for service in the Red Army. The objective was mass production of the MBV while gradually substituting to the armored trains based on old locomotives.

With the beginning of the war on the East Front in June of 1941, both MBV-2 #2 and #60 served in the LBTKUKS unit. In August of 1941, they covered the retreat of the Red Army in the region of Chudovo-Mga. When the Germans captured Mga, the unit was divided, with the MBV-2 being sent to Leningrad, while the Armored Train was dedicated to Kirishi and would later serve on the Volkhov front. During September of 1941, the MBV-2 #2 was subjected to important repairs in which its KT-28 guns were replaced by the more potent model L-ll. The panoramic PTK periscope for the commandant replaced the old periscope.

In October of 1941, the MBV- 2 #2 was assigned to the 3rd Platoon, 1st Battalion of the 12th Regiment of Cars, with Lieutenant JR. G. Konovalov as its commander. On November 16th, 1941, #2 was sent to the region of Pontonnaya-Sapernaya-lzhory in order to accompany the armored train “Narodniy Mstitel” (Revenge of the People). In May of 1942, the 71st Armored Trains Division (ODBP) was set up with “Narodniy Mstitel”, the “Stalinets-28” armored train, and the MBV-2 #2, under direct control of the 55th Army. Later, in February of 1943, the MBV-2 #2 was dedicated to the 14th ODBP of the 23rd Army that defended the Isthmus of Karelia, next to the armored trains “Stremitelniy” (Impetuous) and “Stoikiy” (Firm). The last train had been designated Train Armored #60 of the Baltic Fleet, and both trains crews, were formed by sailors. with Captain Dotsenko as the train commander.

During 1943, the main turrets of the MBV-2 #2 were rearmed with the F-34 guns of the T-34 Tank, and this is the vehicle that I have reproduced. The vehicle returned to combat in autumn of 1943, participating in the end of the battle of Leningrad in January of 1944. Later, it fought in operations in Vyborg as mobile artillery, to cover the 142nd Infantry Division. Later it was subordinated to the control of the 2nd Army and fought in Narva and Tallin.

The MBV-2 #1 was integrated in the 30th ODBP before the battle of Leningrad, and saw combat since the spring of 1942 on the Northwest Front with 34th Army. In March of 1943, the train was transferred to the Southern Front in Rostov in the region of the Don. Its combat record concluded in the Crimea in May of 1944.

After the war, the MBV-2 #2 was transferred to the 65th Deposit of Railroads in 1948. They were refitted with modifications such as the substitution of the M-17F motor for a V-2 motor, a new electric system, new telephones and radio set, and a modernised controls system. The 4M Maxim machine gun assembly and the generator were discarded. After intensive repairs, the vehicle was proven in a 100km test between Bryansk and Trozan in August of 1951. In May of 1952, it was again subjected to tests in a 180km journey between Bryansk and Novaya, during which the motor was reheated and extracted from the vehicle in order to be repaired. Due to these reasons and other deficiencies, the repairs were not made, and the train was sent to the polygon NIIBT of Kubinka (Museum and Center of Investigation of the Armored Weapon) where it rests at the present time.

The main turret of the T-28 and its armament of 76.2 mm was also used as additional armament for the “Obiekt 1124” and “1125”, both of which are armored ships. When the war broke out in 1941, the turrets of T-28 in both ships had already begun to be replaced by those of the T-34.

The turret of the T-28 and the turrets with machine guns were also used in armored trains as the “Istryebitel Fashisma” (“Destroyer of the Fascism”) of the 66th Armored Trains Division.

‘A Hot Day’ 22 June 1941

While large-scale assaults by German aviation and armour did not occur across the whole of the Białystok Salient, smaller forays were so widespread that not a single sector remained quiet. Sergeant Major Anatoly Loginov of the 87th Frontier Guards Detachment (3rd Frontier Post) recalled that:

I was on duty in Lobzha, not far from Grodno. Around 2 or 3 a.m. on 22 June heavy bombers flew over at high altitude. The Frontier Post Commander was resting and the Politruk was on vacation. According to the regulations, however, a sergeant major was entitled to set operational tasks for border protection, so I assigned a task for the next detail. Suddenly, the sky turned red: ‘Well, Sergeant major, is it war or just provocation?’ – ‘It’s war, guys. The Belovsky, Sorokinsky and Malinovsky sectors are all under fire. We’re going into action.’ The German artillery put down a barrage for about ten minutes, then their infantry advanced while the tanks worked round our flanks. But we were well armed: two large-calibre machine-guns and SVT semi-automatic rifles. I had a PPSh submachine-gun. And we had two good sharpshooters with sniper rifles. In general, border guards are good shots – we were taught to fire in the direction of gunshots and muzzle flashes. A few days earlier we’d virtually been disarmed by the detachment’s Head of Technical Supply, who told me to discharge the cartridge belts for the machine-guns. I made a start on this task but stopped as soon as he left. Because of this we could only fight for a couple of hours. But the guys still rose to the counter-attack three or four times. At last the Germans broke through. At 4.30 a.m. a messenger arrived with orders to quit the border and join regular Red Army units. I sent up a red flare – the signal to withdraw and head for the frontier post. We arrived at the Commandant’s office and were formed into units – we’d done our duty.

Private Anatoly Kazakov of the 178th Artillery Regiment (attached to General-Major Sherstyuk’s 45th Rifle division), recalls:

The West Ukrainian town of Lyuboml, situated on the River Bug, some 13km from the State Border, was defended by the 45th Rifle Division (whose HQ was located at Kovel). South of the town was a steep rise topped by a topography station – the position of our 178th Artillery Regiment. The regiment was armed with 76mm horse-drawn guns, subordinate to divisional command. Due to inadequate training, severe frosts and an intake of recruits from Azerbaijan and Georgia – who didn’t know Russian – our unit was hardly battleworthy. Which brass hat had the bright idea to place such an outfit in the first echelon? Meanwhile, the locals – who had only recently become Soviet citizens – clung to the customs and attitudes of the Polish State. They were mistrustful of the new collective farms and fearful of the NKVD. One local, on examining our clumsy Red Army soldiers, openly declared: ‘The Germans will annihilate you . . .’

About 4 a.m. on 22 June shells pounded our position. The first salvo hit the barracks, causing the roof to cave in and the walls to collapse in a cloud of dust and smoke. Then the HQ tents were hit – the battalion commander’s arm was shattered, so the chief of staff took over. Now disorder was replaced by sensible action, everyone taking his place according to battle drill. Our horses were pulled from the stables with some difficulty amid the shell-bursts, while the gun crews rolled the guns out of the depots to the relays. Thus the battery cantered to its reserve positions, unknown to the Germans, who continued pulverizing our former location on the hill. Gradually we assembled and counted our losses, which turned out to be light – several soldiers wounded and two horses killed. Later, our field kitchen – forgotten by everyone – turned up and the soldiers stuffed themselves with hot pasta.

A German rama [i.e. ‘frame’, the Russian nickname for the twin-fuselage, twin-engine FW-189 reconnaissance aeroplane – trans.] appeared in the sky but our relays – hidden beneath the awnings of nearby shacks – apparently cheated it, as no shelling followed. Perhaps the aircraft was interested in a more important target . . .

The regiment was largely manned by recruits who had served no more than two months. We felt sorry for these boys, thrown unprepared into the inferno of combat. Again, we were astounded by the short-sightedness or malicious intent of the District HQ. Meanwhile, the sun rose high above the horizon – a hot day was beginning, in both the literal and figurative sense.

An order arrived: the battery must take up fire positions west of Lyuboml, behind the railway. We trotted 2km down country tracks and leaped out at the allocated spot, while the relays rode off to shelter in a nearby grove. We dug in – the shovel is as much a combat weapon as a rifle – I, myself, hacking out a narrow slit trench next to the left wheel of the gun (a soldier’s rule is: as soon as you hit the ground, dig a hole for your head – never mind about your arse; then dig deeper; once you’re safely hidden, get ready to shoot). We piled parapets around the guns, smoothed and deepened the ramp. Shells were brought by cart and piled behind the guns as a reserve. Signalmen dragged coils of telephone cable to the observation post through a roadside ditch. There was a distance of some 8km between the battery and the OP.

Two hours of quiet followed. The battery was now ready to fight – despite the inhibitory role of the higher HQs (we later heard of some commanders who, having taken casualties, were still ringing HQ for permission to fire – such was the fear of provocation and of taking independent decisions). Then we heard the buzz of aircraft flying from the east – two flights of ground-attack planes were in the air. We were in raptures – our planes were overhead! Imagine our surprise when we spotted black German crosses on the wings. These Messerschmitts were returning to their aerodromes.

About midday a telephone order came from the Battery Commander at the OP: ‘Battery! Action! Number One Gun, one shell – fire!’ The zeroing-in shell flew off. Then: ‘Battery! Two splinter shells – fire!’ And finally: ‘Battery! Five shells – volley fire!’ The guns began to roar, the ground shook, the air thickened with smoke and dust. At which point, Politruk Poleshuk arrived with the news: ‘It’s not a provocation – the Germans are advancing over the whole front between the Barents Sea and the Black Sea. They’ve bombed Kiev, Zhitomir, Minsk and other cities. The Party urges us to repulse the enemy!’ Our soldiers, inspired, began to chatter: ‘We’ll reach the Atlantic in three months!’

A German spotter plane appeared. Suddenly, an alien sound mingled with the rumble of our guns – incoming shells were screaming into the battery, scattering soil and splinters, as stinking black smoke engulfed our position. Seeing an explosion between the gun mounts, I dived into my foxhole. Kosharnyi – an assistant gunlayer – also went to ground, clutching a wound in his shoulder. Soveiko – a gun charger – was killed. German shells continued to hammer us while a signalman, yelling from his trench, relayed a message from the Battery Commander: ‘Why have you ceased firing? Fire! Volley fire by the whole battery!’ Apparently it was not so comfy over at the OP.

How frightful it was to quit my shelter! Taking myself in hand, I manned the gun-sight as a charger crawled up and chambered a shell. The gun-lock clanked. A shot! The recoil knocked me back into the trench. I scrambled out and, through a shroud of dust, saw a terrible scene: shell craters covered our position; a gun had been overturned; shells were scattered all over the place; dead men were lying mangled; wounded men were crawling. And still the Commander kept calling from the OP: ‘Lisyak, 0.15 to the right, three shells – fire! Why isn’t Gun Number Four firing?’

We kept on firing with three guns. After several hours the barrels were red hot, the paint peeling and bubbling. The oil was overheating in the recoil mechanism and oozing through the screws. The load-limit of the barrels had been exceeded and they were liable to burst. Lieutenant Lisyak – the senior man at the battery – reported to the OP. The Battery Commander reluctantly called the ‘All Clear’.

This action was my first – that’s why I remember it in detail. The dead guys were picked up – mostly greenhorns – ammo carriers who, lacking entrenching tools, had cowered behind crates. I don’t know their surnames.

A strange silence gripped us. For some reason we preferred to talk in whispers . . .

The field kitchen came round and took post in a small ravine. A local guy, Yashka Kramer, was sent over to collect food. A stray German shell exploded near his foot, plastering him in hot pasta, but leaving him otherwise unscathed. Amazing things happen in war!

The Battery Commander telephoned from the OP. Lisyak passed on the message: ‘The OP will relocate – limbers to the battery!’ We froze in suspense – where are we going? If forward, then our troops were on the advance. If backward, they were on the retreat. The battery formed a marching column and moved onto the road. Lisyak, riding at the head of the column, turned right. But having trotted several hundred metres the column was halted. Lisyak and the gun commanders walked around, examining the terrain. There would be no forward or backward – just a change of firing position . . .

On 22 June the 62nd Rifle Division of Colonel Timoshenko was mainly engaged on its left flank, north of Ustilug. The situation was complicated by the fact the division had gone into combat undermanned: one of its regiments (the 104th) was in reserve in the Podgorodno – Horostkov area, and only two battalions were present in Colonel Petr Gavilevsky’s 306th Rifle Regiment, as one battalion had been left on guard duty in Lutsk. Meanwhile, the operations of the 41st Rifle Division (6th Army), deployed south of Barbarossa’s main strike, became the first unpleasant surprise for the Germans. These troops, commanded by General-Major Georgi Mikoushev, together with combined border guard units, invaded German-occupied Polish territory to a depth of 3km on an 8km-front. This incursion was explained in the operations logbook of Army Group South in the following way:

The 262nd I[nfantry] D[ivision] appeared prone to ‘the fright of the enemy’ and retreated. The eastern wing of the Corps is certainly in [a condition of] crisis. This situation will be rectified by the introduction of the 296th Infantry Division between the battle formations of the 24th and the 262nd Infantry Divisions.

The chief of staff of the 17th Army even requested the transfer of the 13th Panzer Division to assist the 295th and the 24th Divisions.

On the other hand, beside the success of Georgi Mikoushev’s division, the ‘Achilles heel’ of the Soviet 6th Army’s position was set up on the first day of the war. The 3rd Cavalry Division was moved forward from the Zolkew area to the Belz – Ugnuw Line, in order to cover the right flank of the Army. According to the Plan of Cover, a cavalry unit – unsuited for manning of static defence sector by virtue of its organizational structure – would have to defend this sector only until the third day of mobilization. It had been contemplated that the 3rd Cavalry Division would then be replaced by the 159th Rifle Division, ‘having taken over (the defence sector) from the 3rd Cav[alry] Division after 5 a.m. of the third day of hostilities’. However, no replacement of the cavalry division occurred either on the first day of the war or, indeed, on the third day. And it was that very sector through which the Germans later pushed the 9th Panzer Division. The splitting of Soviet mechanized units began on the very first day of the war. Not knowing the scope of the German advance, the commander of the 6th Army, Ivan Mouzychenko, deployed negligible forces to meet it. In the middle of the day, the 6th Army HQ ordered the commander of the 4th Mechanized Corps to allocate two battalions of medium tanks (32nd Tank Division) and a battalion of motorized infantry to destroy the enemy near Radzehov. The chief of staff of the 63rd Tank Regiment described the events the following way:

Having turned around, the column headed, as a matter of fact, in the reverse direction. The T-34 I was in, by order of the corps commander, followed Zheglov’s machine. For the first time I was inside a T-34. There’d been no such machines in the reconnaissance battalion I’d been in charge of before my arrival at the regiment. I look closely at the crew, at their conduct, at the way they do their duties. Everything is going well from my point of view. I feel sorry about just one thing: I haven’t had a chance to drive this tank or shoot from it. And how badly I need those skills now!

I try to imagine the situation at the State Border. I knew that the 140km sector from Krysynopol to Radymno was covered by two frontier guard detachments, the 41st, 97th, 159th Rifle Divisions, and the 3rd Cavalry Division. They were supposed to be ahead of us. Did they manage to take up their lines on time? What kind of task are they carrying out now? Maybe the regiment’s reconnaissance commander, Lieutenant Korzh, who we have sent forward, will be able to clarify something? How badly we need some general information about the enemy . . .

The driver slows down and stops abruptly. ‘What’s happened?’ I shout to the crew commander.

‘Air,’ he replies.

I open the hatch. The daylight dazzles me for a moment, but at the same moment I notice black puffs of smoke rising far ahead: bomb explosions. The aircraft are getting closer and closer. They are sharp-nosed, with slightly gulled wings. They hang over the column and drop their mortal load one after another. Rumble, whizzing, fire, smoke . . .

Signal flags flash above the commander machine – ‘Forward! Follow me!’ – as it turns on the spot, crawls over a roadside ditch, and moves towards the forest, gaining speed. Our tank follows. I had time to look around. To our right is the floodplain of the River Shklo. It means we are west of Yavorov. Transport vehicles are blazing on the road, ammo is exploding, several tanks (damaged during the bombing) stand motionless. The German planes turn around unhurriedly and the howling and rumbling begins again . . .

We’re already approaching the forest when shells begin bursting right and left of us. The commander’s machine jerkily speeds up to evade fire. Our driver also revvs up and soon we find ourselves on the spot of the first tank engagement, which had just been fought by Major Zheglov’s battalion. Three German tanks stand stricken on the field, crimson flames rising from their turrets and hatches, dense smoke spiralling, ammo exploding. Our five tanks bog down in the swampy river bed left of the Krakowec road. Three of them keep firing as tankers bustle around, adjusting logs for the tracks to pull themselves out [. . .] A German shell screams over the turret of one of the T-34s. Shots are heard from the other side of the river and explosions are rumbling in our direction . . .

I had lagged behind the regiment’s commander at the approach to the River Shklo, and currently I didn’t know where he was, or what decision he took when our two battalions came across the enemy. I felt offended that, carrying out the corps commander’s order, I found myself in the role of an ordinary tanker, having lost communication with both regimental and divisional HQ. I only knew what I could see for myself, and what I had heard from the company commander, Senior Lieutenant Bestchetnov.

I tried to reach Zheglov’s two-way radio. No reply. Fortunately, I managed to contact the second battalion. Having engaged German infantry and tanks they managed to push them back. Kolkhidashvili led the companies forward but, having encountered strong fire from artillery and tanks, he had to stop. Two companies of the first battalion were somewhere on the left flank. I ordered Senior Lieutenant Bestchetnov to establish communications with them. The third battalion, having turned off the road – above which enemy aircraft kept circling – had stopped in the woods nearby and was awaiting orders.

I found regimental HQ at the edge of a grove. An HQ bus stood under pine trees, the radio-station was nearby. The Deputy Chief of staff, Captain Krivosheev, jumped off the bus. His thin, black, eyebrows were scowling: ‘The regiment commander has been killed.’ A chill crossed my heart. I stared at Krivosheev, unwilling to believe what he had told me. Could it be possible that Zheglov was no more? I took off my helmet, finding no words to express my grief. And Captain Krivosheev, without waiting for my reply, added: ‘Kombat [Battalion Commander – trans.] Scheglov is badly wounded.’ Then a signalman shouted from the bus:

‘Comrade Captain, they want you on the phone!’ The divisional commander, Colonel Efim Pushkin, was on the line. Having greeted me dryly he asked:

‘How come you didn’t safeguard the regiment commander? The first action and such a loss . . .’

‘We didn’t even know the Germans had broken through the covering units,’ I replied after a short pause. ‘We thought that infantry was ahead of us . . .’

‘You must learn to fight from the very first action,’ Efim Pushkin said, adding: ‘It’s been decided to appoint you as regimental commander. Captain Krivosheev will be the Chief of staff.’ Efim Grigorievich Pushkin stood silent for a short while, giving me time to grasp the level of responsibility pinned on me, and then added:

‘Lose no time. Take charge of the regiment. This is war. It punishes hesitancy. How do you assess the current situation?’

I reported what I knew. The report obviously dissatisfied Efim Pushkin.

‘It’s not enough for a competently run outfit,’ he pointed out. ‘Clarify the situation properly and report back. Get it done before the enemy renews his activity.’

Mil-8/17 Helicopter

In May 1960, Mil conceived a machine to replace the piston-engined Mi-4 Hound. On June 9, 1961, the first Mi-8 Hip prototype, with a single AI-24V turboshaft and four-bladed main rotor system, lifted off for its maiden flight. On September 17, 1962, the Hip B, modified with two TV2-117 1,482-horsepower turboshafts mounted atop the fuselage, and a five-bladed main rotor system measuring 70 feet in diameter, took flight. The Mi-8 went into full production in 1965, and by 2000 fifty-four countries operated the more than 10,000 Mi-8s manufactured by the Rostov and Kazan production facilities in Russia and by foreign licensees. Designed as a medium-lift transport helicopter, the Hip, in its many variants, fulfilled a miscellany of mission requirements, including troop and cargo transportation, air ambulance, attack helicopter, airborne command post, fire fighter, and civilian carrier.

Constructed of light alloys, the Hip featured a “bus-shaped” fuselage with a rounded nose and glassed-in cockpit that accommodated a pilot, copilot, and flight engineer. The cabin housed twenty-four passengers, 8,800 pounds of cargo, or twelve stretchers. A large sliding door on the forward port side and rear-opening clamshell doors simplified loading large cargo. Removable interior seats and an internal winch capable of lifting 350 pounds that doubled as a rescue hoist facilitated cargo handling. Additionally, Mil equipped the aircraft with a cargo hook capable of carrying slingloads up to 6,500 pounds. A long tailboom extended from the upper portion of the fuselage and swept up to a tapered vertical fin that housed the gearbox and tailrotor, attached to the left side (right on the export versions).

External racks attached along the center of the 61-foot fuselage were designed to hold auxiliary fuel pods or weapons systems. Variants of the Hip carried a combination of 57-mm or 80-mm rockets, AT-2 Swatter or AT-3 Sagger ATGMs, 12.7- or 23-mm gun pods, or either 4  500-pound or 2  1,000-pound bombs. In 1967, Mil introduced the Hip E and F ground support helicopters, each mounting a flexible 12.7-mm heavy machine gun under the nose and carrying 192 57-mm rockets. Combat troops could also fire their individual weapons from the windows of the helicopter. In later models Mil installed the upgraded Isotov TV2-117A engines, which produced 1,700 horsepower each. Generally a Hip cruised at 122 knots, had a service ceiling of 14,700 feet, and hovered Out of Ground Effect (OGE) at 2,600 feet. All Mi-8s rested on a fixed tricycle landing gear, with dual wheels at the nose. Total production estimates ran as high as 15,000 units of the Mi-8 and its export version, the Mi-17.


Country of origin: USSR

Crew: Two pilots and flight engineer

Rotor diameter: 70 ft. Length: 61 ft.

Armament: Combinations of 12.7-mm machine gun in nose, SA-2 Swatter/ AT-3 Sagger ATGMs, 57- and 80- mm rocket pods, 23-mm cannon, and bombs

Powerplant: Two Klimov TV2-117AG (Mi-8)/ TV3-117MT (Mi-17) turboshafts

Airspeed: 135 knots

Range: 200 nautical miles (545 with auxiliary fuel)

Cargo capacity: Up to 32 combat troops, or 8,800 pounds’ internal cargo, or 6,614 pounds slingload

Notes: Designed to replace Mi-4, first flown in June 1961; used by Soviet and Russian forces and Aeroflot. Military versions denoted by round windows and armed with machine guns and 57-mm rockets. Later version designed and equipped for ECM operations. Introduced in August 1975, Mi-17 employed Mi-8 fuselage and Mi-14 engines; latest version with upgraded engines is Mi-17 Hip H. More than 10,000 of all variants manufactured and used by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cambodia, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Egypt, Germany, Guyana, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, Madagascar, Mongolia, Mozambique, Nicaragua, North Yemen, People’s Republic of China, Slovakia, South Yemen, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, and Zambia.