Sino-Soviet Border Clash 1929


Soviet 68th Separate Naval Aircraft Squad in 1929 – MR-1 type aircraft.



Universal (river and sea) gunboat of “Storm” type, designed and built in 1911, re-armed in 1920 with captured English 120-mm. cannons.


Press photo released from 1929 mentioning the clash and showing Soviet troops.

The Far Eastern crisis of 1929 had its origins in the arrangements which the Soviet Government, following in the footsteps of the Imperial Russian Government, had made with the Chinese over the ownership and rights of operation of the Chinese Eastern Railroad, which linked the Trans-Siberian line with Vladivostok across Manchuria. The Chinese had frequently objected to Soviet rights over this railway, but the rising power of the Nationalist Government in China under General Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang’s thorough defeat of his Communist allies in 1927 led him to believe that he could bring military pressure to bear on the Soviet Union itself. In 1928-1929 Chiang’s authority did not extent to Manchuria, which was ruled by the provincial warlord Chang Hsueh-liang, but the success of the Nationalists in south and central China brought about a meeting between the two leaders in which they plotted joint action against the Soviet concessions in Chang Hsueg-liang’s province. For once, the interests of the Soviet Government and the Japanese temporarily coincided, for the Japanese, who intended to occupy Manchuria themselves, had no objection to Soviet military action to weaken the provincial Manchurian Army, which was concentrated on the Soviet border by the summer of 1929, and threatened the security of the Soviet-operated railway.

Reasonably assured, therefore, that the Japanese would not intervene against the Red Army, the Soviet leaders prepared their forces for operations in Manchuria in July-August 1929. On August 7 the Revolutionary Military Council established the Special Far Eastern Army in the eastern part of the Siberian Military District, with its headquarters in Khabarovsk. Blukher, who had returned from China in 1927, was placed in command, and two new rifle corps were formed, the 18th in the Transbaikal sector and the 19th in the Maritime Territory. The new army had a strength of six rifle divisions and two cavalry brigades, which were still forming up when the Manchurian forces began to raid Soviet territory and installations. The Red Army, however, waited until the autumn before launching its counterattacks.

There were 3 separate operations – Sungari operation (subdivided by 2 stages – Laha-Susu operation and Fujing operation), Zhalainoer operation and Mishan operation.

There were Amur river flotilla and 2 rifle regiments of the 2-nd Priamurskaya rifle division of Special Far East Army – 6th Khabarovsky and 4th Volochaevsky regiments with a lot of avircrafts (com[aring to Chinese forces). They were prepared to land near the Laha-Susu in the mouth of Sungari River but at first aircrafts bombed Chinese men-of-war located in vicinity of Laha-Susuunder the flag of Admiral Shen Lie. Some of them were sunk, some of them fled, several gunboats (originally Russian paddy-wheel steamers captured by Chinese after 1917) tried to resist but were sunk by Soviet gunboats after a duelling. Then the Soviet soldiers were landed under ramparts of Laha-Susu and after the bombardment of the forts from Soviet gunboats assaulted it. In the evening all Soviet troops were evacuated and did not stay in China even for a night.

Remnants of Sungari flotilla of Shen Lie gathered in Fujing (or Fugdin in Nanai languages as this fort was built by Qing authorities in 1880th to engage Nanai tribesmen into the Eight Banner system) and by the 29th of October it became obvious that the second blow to destroy Sungari flotilla is necessary. So Red Army troops were regrouped and 6th Khabarovsky rifle regiment was substituted by 5th Amursky rifle regiment. After strong bombing Chinese men-of-war were sunk and soldiers destroyed most part of Chinese fortifications in Fugdin. In that time Soviet troops stayed in China for couple of days and then were evacuated. A larger operation was mounted by the 18th Corps at the junction of the Soviet, Chinese and outer Mongolian frontlines, where a concentration of Chang Hsueh-liang’s troops threatened the railway at Manchouli. Here three Soviet divisions and a cavalry brigade crossed the frontier on November 17, cut the railway between Dalainor and Hailar, and surrounded the Manchurian forces in the area. Heavy fighting to destroy the encircled enemy followed, in which cooperation among the Soviet infantry, tanks, and artillery broke down, resulting in heavy casualties. Some of the Manchurian units succeeded in breaking out of the encirclement, but the majority capitulated, and by November 27 the operations were over. Simultaneously, troops of the 19th Corps broke up a Manchurian concentration at Mishan, near Lake Khanka, 100 miles north of Vladivostok, although the Red Army, largely out of willingness to antagonize the Japanese, did not pursue their opponents beyond the confines of the immediate zone of operations.

According to “Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century”, the USSR sustained losses of 143 KIA, 4 MIA, and 665 WIA during the course of these operations. The book states that around 18,000 troops were engaged.

Wellington Bomber in Service




On 15 August 1936, however, the Air Ministry had placed an order for 180 Wellington Mk Is to Specification B. 29/36. These were required to have a redesigned and slightly more angular fuselage, a revised tail unit, and hydraulically operated Vickers nose, ventral and tail turrets. The first production Wellington Mk I was flown on 23 December 1937, powered by Pegasus X engines. In April 1938, however, the 1,050-hp (783-kW) Pegasus XVIII became standard for the other 3,052 Mk Is of all variants built at Weybridge, or at the Blackpool and Chester factories which were established to keep pace with orders.

Initial Mk Is totalled 181, of which three were built at Chester. These were followed by 187 Mk lAs with Nash and Thompson turrets and strengthened landing gear with larger main wheels. Except for 17 Chester-built aircraft, all were manufactured at Weybridge. The most numerous of the Mk I variants was the Mk IC, which had Vickers ‘K’ or Browning machine-guns in beam positions (these replacing the ventral turret I, improved hydraulics, and a strengthened bomb bay beam to allow a 4,000-lb (1814-kg) bomb to be carried. Of this version 2,685 were built (1,052 at Weybridge, 50 at Blackpool and 1,583 at Chester), 138 of them being delivered as torpedo-bombers after successful trials at the Torpedo Development Unit, Gosport.

Many of the improvements incorporated in the Mks IA and IC were developed for the Mk II, powered by 1,145-hp (854-kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin X engines as an insurance against Pegasus supply problems. The prototype was a conversion of the 38th Mk I, and this made its first flight on 3 March 1939 at Brooklands. Although range was reduced slightly, the Wellington II offered improvements in speed, service ceiling and maximum weight, the last rising from the 24,850 lb (11272 kg) of the basic Mk I to 33,000 lb (14969 kg). Weybridge built 401 of this version.

With the Wellington III a switch was made to Bristol Hercules engines, the prototype being the 39th Mk I airframe with Hercules HEISMs, two stage superchargers and de Havilland propellers. After initial problems with this installation, a Mk IC was converted to take two 1,425-hp (1063-kW) Hercules III engines driving Rotol propellers. Production Mk IIIs had 1,590-hp (1186-kW) Hercules XIs, and later aircraft were fitted with four-gun FN.20A tail turrets, doubling the fire power of the installation in earlier marks. Two were completed at Weybridge, 780 at Blackpool and 737 at Chester.

The availability of a number of 1,050-hp (783-kW) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp R-1830-S3C4-G engines, ordered by but not delivered to France, led to development of the Wellington IV. The prototype was one of 220 Mk IVs built at Chester, but on its delivery flight to Weybridge carburettor icing caused both engines to fail on the approach to Brooklands, and the aircraft made a forced landing at Addlestone. The original Hamilton Standard propellers proved very noisy and were replaced by Curtiss propellers.

For high-altitude bombing Vickers was asked to investigate the provision of a pressure cabin in the Wellington: the resulting Mk V was powered by two turbocharged Hercules VIII engines. Service ceiling was increased from the 23,500 ft (7165 m) of the Mk II to 36,800 ft (11215 m). The cylindrical pressure chamber had a porthole in the lower nose position for the bomb-aimer, and the pilot’s head projected into a small pressurised dome which, although offset to port, provided little forward or downward view for landing. Two prototypes were built in Vickers’ experimental shop at Foxwarren, Cobham, to Specification B. 23/39 and one production machine, to B. 17/40, was produced at the company’s extension factory at Smith’s Lawn, Windsor Great Park.

The Wellington VI was a parallel development, with 1,600-hp (1193-kW) Merlin 60 engines and a service ceiling of 38,500 ft (11735 m), although the prototype had achieved 40,000 ft (12190 m). Wellington VI production totalled 63, including 18 re-engined Mk Vs, all assembled at Smith’s Lawn. Each had a remotely controlled FN.20A tail turret, and this was locked in position when the aircraft was at altitude.

Intended originally as an improved Mk II with Merlin XX engines, the Wellington VII was built only as a prototype, and was transferred to Rolls-Royce at Hucknall for development flying of the Merlin 60s.

First Wellington variant to be developed specifically for Coastal Command was the GR. VIII, a general reconnaissance/torpedo-bomber version of the Pegasus XVIII-engined Mk IC. Equipped with ASV (Air to Surface Vessel) Mk II radar, it was identified readily by the four dorsal antennae and the four pairs of transmitting aerials on each side of the fuselage. A total of 271 torpedo-bombers for daylight operation was built at Weybridge, together with 65 day bombers, and 58 equipped for night operation with a Leigh searchlight in the ventral turret position. In these last aircraft the nose armament was deleted and the position occupied by the light operator.

The designation Mk IX was allocated to a single troop-carrying conversion of a Wellington lA, but the Mk X was the last of the bomber variants and the most numerous. It was based on the Mk III, but had the more powerful 1,675-hp (1249-kW) Hercules VI or XVI engine with downdraught carburettor, and was identified externally from earlier marks by the long carburettor intake on top of the engine cowling. Internal structural strengthening, achieved by the use of newly-developed light alloys, allowed maximum take-off weight to raise to 36,000 lb (16 329 kg). Production was shared between Blackpool and Chester, with totals of 1,369 and 2,434 respectively. After withdrawal from first-line service with Bomber Command, Mk Xs were among many Wellingtons flown by Operational Training Units. After the war a number were converted by Boulton Paul Aircraft as T.10 crew trainers, with the nose turret faired over.

Making use of the experience gained with the Wellington VIII torpedo-bombers, the GR. XI was developed from the Mk X, using the same Hercules VI or XVI engines. It was equipped initially with ASV Mk II radar, although this was superseded later by centrimetric ASV Mk III. This latter equipment had first been fitted to the GR. XII, which was a Leigh Light-equipped anti-submarine version. Weybridge built 105 Mk XIs and 50 Mk XIIs, while Blackpool and Chester respectively assembled 75 Mk XIs and eight Mk XIIs, but with 1,735-hp (1294-kWl Hercules XVII engines Weybridge was responsible for 42 Mk XIIIs and 53 Mk XIVs, Blackpool for 802 XIIIs and 250 Mk XIVs, and Chester for 538 Mk XIVs.

A transport conversion of the Mk I, the C.I.A, was further developed as the C.XV, while the C.XVI was a similar development of the Mk IC. They were unarmed, as were the last three basic versions which were all trainers. The T. XVII was a Mk XI converted by the RAF for night fighter crew training with SCR-720 AI (Airborne Interception) radar in a nose radome. Eighty externally similar aircraft, with accommodation for instructor and four pupils and based on the Mk XIII, were built at Blackpool as T. XVIIIs. Finally, RAF-converted Mk Xs for basic crew training were designated T. XIXs. In total 11,461 Wellingtons were built, including the prototype, and the last was a Blackpool-built Mk X handed over on 25 October 1945.

The fourth production Wellington Mk I was the first to reach an operational squadron, arriving at Mildenhall in October 1938 for No. 99 Squadron. Six squadrons, of No. 3 Group (Nos. 9, .37, .38, 99, 115 and 149) were equipped by the outbreak of war, and among units working up was the New Zealand Flight at Marham, Norfolk, where training was in progress in preparation for delivery to New Zealand of 30 Wellington Is. The flight later became No. 75 (NZ) Squadron, the first Dominion squadron to be formed in World War II. Sergeant James Ward of No. 75 later became the only recipient of the Victoria Cross while serving on Wellingtons, the decoration being awarded for crawling out on to the wing in flight to extinguish a fire, during a sortie made on 7 July 1941.

On 4 September 1939, the second day of the war, Wellingtons of Nos. 9 and 149 Squadrons bombed German shipping at Brunsbüttel, sharing with the Bristol Blenheims of Nos. 107 and 110 Squadrons the honour of Bomber Command’s first bombing raids on German territory. Wellingtons in tight formation were reckoned to have such outstanding defensive firepower as to be almost impregnable, but after maulings at the hands of pilots of the Luftwaffe’s JG 1, during raids on the Schillig Roads on 14 and 18 December, some lessons were learned. Self-sealing tanks were essential, and the Wellington’s vulnerability to beam attacks from above led to introduction of beam gun positions. Most significantly, operations switched to nights.

Wellingtons of Nos. 99 and 149 Squadrons were among aircraft despatched in Bomber Command’s first attack on Berlin, which took place on 25/26 August 1940; and on 1 April 1941, a Wellington of No. 149 Squadron dropped the first 4,000-lb (1814-kg) ‘blockbuster’ bomb during a raid on Emden. Of 1,046 aircraft which took part in the Cologne raid during the night of 30 May 1942, 599 w ere Wellingtons. The last operational sortie by Bomber Command Wellingtons was flown on 8/9 October 1943.

There was, however, still an important role for the Wellington to play with Coastal Command. Maritime operations had started with the four DWI Wellingtons: these had been converted by Vickers in the opening months of 1940 to carry a 52-ft (15.85-m) diameter metal ring, which contained a coil that could create a field current to detonate magnetic mines. Eleven almost identical aircraft, with 48-ft (14.63-m) rings, were converted by W. A. Rollason Ltd at Croydon, and others on site in the Middle East.

No. 172 Squadron at Chivenor, covering the Western Approaches, was the first to use the Leigh Light-equipped Wellington VIII operationally, and the first attack on a U-boat by such an aircraft at night took place on 3 June 1942, with the first sinking recorded on 6 July. From December 1941 Wellingtons were flying shipping strikes in the Mediterranean, and in the Far East No. 36 Squadron began anti-submarine operations in October 1942.

In 1940 the entry of the Italians into World War II resulted in Wellingtons being sent out from Great Britain to serve with No. 205 Group, Desert Air Force. No. 70 Squadron flew its first night attack on 19 September, against the port of Benghazi, and as the tide of war turned during 1942 and 1943, units moved into Tunisia to support the invasions of Sicily and Italy, operating from Italian soil at the close of 1943. The last Wellington bombing raid of the war in southern Europe took place on 13 March 1945, when six aircraft joined a Consolidated Liberator strike on marshalling yards at Treviso in northern Italy.

In the Far East, too, Wellingtons served as bombers with No. 225 Group in India, Mk ICs of No. 215 Squadron flying their first operational sortie on 23 April 1942. Equipped later with Wellington Xs, Nos. 99 and 215 Squadrons continued to bomb Japanese bases and communications until replaced by Liberators in late 1944, when the Wellington units were released for transport duties.

After the war the Wellington was used principally for navigator and pilot training, Air Navigation Schools and Advanced Flying Schools until 1953.

Stalin and Barbarossa


In the hour before dawn on 22 June 1941 the German armed forces started Operation Barbarossa. There was no warning from Hitler; this was a classic Blitzkrieg and Stalin was in bed at the time in his Blizhnyaya dacha. In the diplomatic crisis of recent weeks he had judged that intelligence sources predicting a German invasion were just a provocation. Timoshenko as People’s Commissar of Defence and Zhukov as Chief of the General Staff thought him mistaken and had stayed up on duty all that last night. At 3.30 a.m. they received reports of heavy shelling along the Soviet–German frontier. They knew this for what it was: the beginning of war. Timoshenko ordered Zhukov to call Blizhnyaya by telephone. Zhukov obediently asked a sleepy Vlasik, the chief of Stalin’s bodyguard, to rouse the Leader.

Like a schoolboy rejecting proof of simple arithmetic, Stalin disbelieved his ears. Breathing heavily, he grunted to Zhukov that no counter-measures should be taken. The German armies had had no more compliant victim. Stalin’s only concession to Zhukov was to rise from his bed and return to Moscow by limousine. There he met Zhukov and Timoshenko along with Molotov, Beria, Voroshilov and Lev Mekhlis. (Mekhlis was a party bureaucrat who had carried out many tasks for Stalin in the Great Terror.) Pale and bewildered, he sat with them at the table clutching an empty pipe for comfort. He could not accept that he had been wrong about Hitler. He muttered that the outbreak of hostilities must have originated in a conspiracy within the Wehrmacht. Always there had to be a conspiracy. When Timoshenko demurred, Stalin retorted that ‘if it were necessary to organise a provocation, German generals would bomb their own cities’. Ludicrously he was still trying to persuade himself that the situation was reversible: ‘Hitler surely doesn’t know about it.’ He ordered Molotov to get in touch with Ambassador Schulenburg to clarify the situation. This was clutching at a final straw while Armageddon erupted. Schulenburg had in fact already requested an interview with Molotov in the Kremlin. In the meantime Timoshenko and Zhukov went on imploring Stalin’s permission to organise armed counter-measures.

Schulenburg, who had sought to discourage Hitler from invading, brought the unambiguous military news. Molotov reported back to Stalin: ‘The German government has declared war on us.’ Stalin slumped into his chair and an unbearable silence followed. It was broken by Zhukov, who put forward measures to hold up the forces of the enemy. Timoshenko corrected him: ‘Not to hold up but to annihilate.’ Even then, though, Stalin continued to stipulate that Soviet ground forces should not infringe German territorial integrity. Directive No. 2 was dispatched at 7.15 a.m.

The Germans swarmed like locusts over the western borderlands of the USSR. Nobody, except perhaps Stalin, seriously expected the Red Army to push them back quickly to the river Bug. A military calamity had occurred on a scale unprecedented in the wars of the twentieth century. Stalin had not yet got a grip on himself. He was visibly distraught and could not focus his mind on essential matters. When Timoshenko returned from the People’s Commissariat of Defence to confer, Stalin refused to see him. Politics, even at this moment, had to come first and he insisted that a Politburo meeting should take precedence. Finally at nine o’clock in the morning Timoshenko was allowed to present a plan for the creation of a Supreme Command. The Politburo meanwhile gave Molotov the task of speaking on radio at midday. Stalin still felt disoriented. If he had wanted, he could have given the address himself. But shock and embarrassment deflected him. He was determined to stay at the centre of things, however – and he knew that Molotov would not let him down at the microphone. Stalin was not wasting time with resentment about what Hitler had done to him. War had started in earnest. He and the USSR had to win it.

How had he let himself be tricked? For weeks the Wehrmacht had been massing on the western banks of the River Bug as dozens of divisions were transferred from elsewhere in Europe. The Luftwaffe had sent squadrons of reconnaissance aircraft over Soviet cities. All this had been reported to Stalin by his military intelligence agency. In May and June he had been continuously pressed by Timoshenko and Zhukov to sanction the dispositions for an outbreak of fighting. Richard Sorge, the Soviet agent in the Germany embassy in Tokyo, had raised the alarm. Winston Churchill had sent telegrams warning Stalin. The USSR’s spies in Germany had mentioned the preparations being made. Even the Chinese Communist Party alerted Moscow about German intentions.

Yet Stalin had made up his mind. Rejecting the warnings, he put faith in his own judgement. That Stalin blundered is beyond question. Yet there were a few extenuating circumstances. Stalin expected there to be war with Germany sooner or later. Like military planners everywhere, he was astonished by Hitler’s easy triumph over France. The success achieved by the Wehrmacht in the West was likely to bring forward any decision by the Führer to turn eastwards and attack the USSR. But Stalin had some reason to believe that the Germans would not risk an attack in the year 1941. Although France had been humbled, Hitler had not dealt a fatal blow to the British. His armed forces had also met difficulties in the Balkans in the spring when action against the German occupation of Yugoslavia diverted troops needed for Operation Barbarossa. Stalin continued to hold to the belief that a successful invasion of the USSR would have to be started in early summer at the latest. Napoleon’s fate in 1812 had shown the importance of beating Russians without having to trudge through snow. By mid-June 1941 it looked as if the danger of a German crusade had faded.

Some Soviet intelligence agents were also denying that a German attack was imminent. A fog of reports befuddled Stalin’s calculations. He made things worse by insisting on being the sole arbiter of the data’s veracity. The normal processing of information was disallowed in the USSR. Stalin relied excessively on his personal intuition and experience. Not only fellow politicians but also People’s Commissar of Defence Timoshenko and Chief of the General Staff Zhukov were kept in the dark about reports from embassies and intelligence agencies. The Germans took advantage of the situation by planting misinformation; they did much to induce Stalin to believe that a military campaign was not in the offing. Thus Stalin in the early months of 1941 moved along a dual track: he scrupulously observed the terms of his pact with Nazi Germany while telling gatherings of the Soviet political and military elite that, if the Germans attacked, they would be repulsed with ferocious efficiency. He had been taking a massive gamble with his country’s security. Cautious in so many ways, Stalin trusted in his ability to read the runes of Hitler’s intentions without discussing the evidence with anyone else.

Stalin was shocked by Operation Barbarossa, but Molotov always defended the Boss against the charge that he collapsed under the strain:

It can’t be said he fell apart; certainly he was suffering but he did not show it. Stalin definitely had his difficulties. It would be stupid to claim he didn’t suffer. But he’s not depicted as he really was – he’s represented as a repentant sinner! Well, of course, that’s absurd. All those days and nights, as always, he went on working; he didn’t have time to fall apart or lose the gift of speech.

Stalin’s visitors’ book confirms that he did not lapse into passivity. Zhukov too insisted that Stalin’s recovery was swift. By the next day he had certainly taken himself in hand, and over the next few days he seemed much more like his old self. His will power saw him through. He had little choice. Failure to defeat the German armed forces would be fatal for the communist party and the Soviet state. The October Revolution would be crushed and the Germans would have Russia at their mercy.

On 23 June Stalin worked without rest in his Kremlin office. For fifteen hours at a stretch from 3.20 a.m. he consulted with the members of the Supreme Command. Central military planning was crucial, and he allowed his political subordinates to get on with their tasks while he concentrated on his own. Then at 6.25 p.m. he asked for oral reports from politicians and commanders. Molotov was with him practically the whole time. Stalin was gathering the maximum of necessary information before issuing further orders. Visitors are recorded as having come to him until 1.25 a.m. the next morning.

The Supreme Command or Stavka – the term used under Nicholas II in the First World War – had also been established on 23 June. Stalin was initially disinclined to become its formal head. He was not eager to identify himself as leader of a war effort which was in a disastrous condition. So it was Timoshenko who as Chairman led a Stavka including Stalin, Molotov, Voroshilov, Budënny, Zhukov and Kuznetsov. The others also tried to persuade Stalin to permit his designation as Supreme Commander. He refused even though in practice he acted as if he had accepted the post. The whole composition of Stavka was shaped by him, and it was noticeable that he insisted that leading politicians should belong to this military body. Not only Molotov but also Voroshilov and Budënny were basically communist party figures who lacked the professional expertise to run the contemporary machinery of war. Timoshenko, Zhukov and Kuznetsov were therefore outnumbered. Stalin would allow no great decision to be taken without the participation of the politicians, despite his own gross blunders of the past few days. He called generals to his office, made his enquiries about the situation to the west of Moscow and gave his instructions. About his supremacy there was no doubt.

Naval Recce



In 1919 the Royal Navy had an urgent need for a three-seat spotter/reconnaissance aircraft. In order to save money, it was decided to adapt the existing Airco DH.9A, for which part completed airframes were available in large numbers following the end of the First World War and the subsequent cancellation of production orders. The initial attempt was carried out by Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft, adding provision for an observer and removing the stagger from the wings to produce the Armstrong Whitworth Tadpole.

Further development, however, was passed on to Westland, who further modified the aircraft to produce the Walrus, with a 450 hp (336 kW) Napier Lion II engine replacing the Liberty engine of the DH.9A and Tadpole. Like the DH.9A, the Walrus was a single-engined, two-bay biplane. It was fitted with an extra cockpit for the observer/radio operator behind the gunner’s cockpit, while the observer also had a prone position for observing in a ventral pannier. The undercarriage was jettisonable and the aircraft was fitted with floatation bags and hydrovanes to aid safe ditching, together with arresting gear to aid landing on aircraft carriers. The wings were detachable to aid storage. The prototype first flew in early 1921, proving to have poor flying characteristics, being described by Westland’s Test pilot, Stuart Keep as “a vicious beast”. Despite this, a further 35 were ordered.

The earliest American and British experiments were conducted using landplanes equipped with flotation bags in case of an emergency water landing. By the time of the Hibernia trials the Royal Navy was using seaplanes, which predominated in shipboard use thereafter until well into World War I. René Caudron and the Farman brothers in France, Glenn Curtiss in the United States, and the Short brothers in Britain all developed practical seaplanes by 1912. They quickly were joined by other designers, especially after the French industrialist Jacques Schneider established the valuable Coupe d’Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider in December 1912 to encourage the development of seaplanes through international races to be held annually from 1913. Flying boats also developed rapidly, with very practical machines emerging from Curtiss, again, in the United States, Sopwith in Britain, the Franco-British Aviation Company in France, Lohner in Austria, and Oertz in Germany. Seaplanes, aircraft with float undercarriages, nevertheless predominated over flying boats, aircraft with boat-type fuselages, for shipboard operations.

Some further developments were very significant for the emergence of effective aircraft carriers. In 1913 the Short brothers patented their wing folding mechanism. This allowed them to reduce the stowed width of their seaplanes to as little as 12 feet and permitted rapid and trouble-free unfolding before flight, while maintaining structural strength for safe operation. This advance greatly increased the potential aircraft capacity of carriers, since the relative fragility of early machines required hangar stowage while at sea if they were to remain operational. In 1914, working very closely with Commander Charles R. Samson, in command of the Naval Wing of the Royal Flying Corps (usually known as the Royal Naval Air Service), and Captain Murray Sueter, head of the Royal Navy’s Air Department, Short produced more powerful versions of its folder seaplanes that were equipped to carry and drop torpedoes or bombs. This enabled the Royal Naval Air Service to conduct experiments in using its aircraft offensively. The greater load-carrying capabilities of these seaplanes also permitted experiments with wireless telegraphy communications, long-distance navigation over water, and some early trials of night flying operations.

Early in WWI the Royal Navy in the Canal Zone created two carriers “in theater” from German merchantmen interned at Port Said. Modifications to the Anne and the Raven II consisted of adding a 12-pound low angle gun for self defense and erecting canvas screens to protect embarked aircraft. These vessels initially operated under the Red Ensign with mixed naval and civilian crews and their first aircraft were up to six French Nieuport floatplanes apiece, originally operated by the French seaplane carrier Foudre, flown by French pilots with British observers, an extraordinary arrangement that worked very well in practice. During the summer of 1915 they were at last commissioned as Royal Navy vessels with naval crews and served until the later half of 1917.

The French Navy too created a seaplane carrier locally at Port Said in 1915 from a requisitioned French cargo liner, the Campinas. This vessel was very similar to the two extemporized British vessels and operated as many as ten Nieuport floatplanes. In home waters the French Navy also created a pair of seaplane carriers from cross channel packets. The Pas-de-Calais and the Nord acquired two hangers to accommodate two or three F. B. A. flying boats and were lightly armed. Their main distinction was their propulsion system- they were very unusual among aircraft carriers in being side-wheel steamers.

Navies placed considerable emphasis on the reconnaissance and gunfire observation missions from the outset. The Royal Navy’s first such aircraft was the Parnall Panther, whose design originated late in World War I as a dedicated carrier machine. It featured a wooden monococque fuselage that folded for stowage. Powered by a 230- horsepower Bentley B. R. 2 rotary engine, it attained a top speed of 108 miles per hour and had a maximum range of 350 miles. British carriers then embarked a series of three-seater biplanes from the Fairey Aviation Company, derived from a successful medium-size floatplane design that saw limited service during World War I.

Unlike other fleets, the Royal Navy also briefly deployed highly specialized gunnery observation aircraft equipped with facilities intended to maximize their effectiveness in this limited role. The first was the Westland Walrus, a much-modified variant of the Airco D. H. 9A light bomber featuring an observation cupola below the fuselage to accommodate the gunfire spotter. Powered by a 450- horsepower Napier Lion engine, it reached a top speed of 124 miles per hour and had a range of 350 miles. Its successors were the Avro Bison and Blackburn Blackburn. Both aircraft featured large cabins with good observation facilities to accommodate gunnery spotters and their equipment. Their Napier Lion engines gave them top speeds of 105 and 122 miles per hour respectively, while their maximum ranges were 360 and 440 miles. By 1931 the Royal Navy determined that the performance penalties of their accommodations and the burden of incorporating such specialized aircraft within the limited size of carrier air groups made further development of this category unnecessary, and the mission devolved on the fleet’s regular reconnaissance aircraft.

The French Navy too introduced dual-purpose observation and reconnaissance aircraft in 1928, when the Levasseur PL. 4 entered service aboard the Béarn. This three-seater biplane, with an all- metal structure, was powered by a 450-horsepower Lorraine 12eb engine, giving it a top speed of 111 miles per hour and a range of 560 miles. Its successor, the Levasseur PL. 10, entered service in 1932. Its 600-horsepower Hispano-Suiza 12Lb engine gave it a maximum speed of 137 miles per hour but its range fell to 450 miles.

The Imperial Japanese Navy gave up deploying carrier-based reconnaissance aircraft when the Mitsubishi C1M left front-line service in 1931. This aircraft was introduced in 1922 as the Type 10 Carrier Reconnaissance Plane, one of a trio of designs by Herbert Smith who came to Mitsubishi from the defunct Sopwith Aviation Company and created the navy’s first machines specifically designed for carrier service. It had a 300-horsepower Mitsubishi Type Hi engine giving it a top speed of 127 miles per hour and a range of 350 miles. Thereafter, until well into World War II, Japanese carriers relied on dedicated reconnaissance support from aircraft deployed on accompanying heavy cruisers and, to a lesser extent, on missions flown by their own attack aircraft.

Dedicated carrier reconnaissance types fared considerably better in the United States Navy. The Chance Vought Corporation produced a series of two-seater biplanes, derived from the successful VE-7 advanced trainer, that formed the backbone of the fleet’s carrier observation aircraft from 1922 until 1934. These machines started as all-wooden airframes and switched to steel tube fuselages in 1927. The original engine was a 200-horsepower Wright J-3 radial that gave the OU-1 a top speed of 124 miles per hour and a range of 400 miles. The improved O2U, powered by a 450-horsepower Pratt & Whitney Wasp radial engine, could reach 150 miles per hour and had a range of 600 miles, while the final SU-4, with a 600-horsepower Pratt & Whitney Hornet radial engine, had a top speed of 167 miles per hour and a range of 680 miles. An early Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation product, the SF-1, briefly supplemented these Vought types until 1936. This biplane aircraft, with an all-metal structure and powered by a 700-horsepower Wright Cyclone, featured a retractable undercarriage and could reach 207 miles per hour with a range of 920 miles. The real replacement for the Vought observation aircraft, however, was a series of scout-bombers, introduced in late 1935, that combined the scouting role with the dive bombing mission.

The most important proving grounds for testing tactics were the regular unit, squadron, and fleet-level exercises that all the carrier-operating navies conducted. Such exercises allowed naval aviators to explore new ideas and validated their concepts to squadron and fleet commanders so that the tactical possibilities offered by improved aircraft and weaponry could be incorporated into operational doctrine. In these venues carrier aircraft units demonstrated the efficacy of coordinated torpedo attack, dive bombing against fast-moving warships, tactical search missions, strike operations against shore targets, and distant reconnaissance. They also enabled fleet and squadron commanders to evolve effective combinations of carriers and escorting surface warships, and to develop concepts to integrate fast-moving carrier forces with battle fleet operations. These exercises also revealed the limitations of aviation: the vulnerability of carriers to tactical surprise brought on by deficiencies in search, the impact of weather, and, above all, the magnitude of the task of maintaining an effective defense against an enemy air attack. Navies discovered that it was very difficult to provide adequate fighter cover, since the warning time of an incoming attack was more often than not too short to allow quick launch of defending fighters while it was impossible to maintain a large enough standing covering force without crowding out attack aircraft from the carrier’s air group. This problem would not be solved until the advent of radar and accounts for the emphasis navies placed on striking fast and first with the most aircraft possible, the attendant diminution of fighter strength in favor of attack aircraft, and even the adoption of armored carriers by the Royal Navy.

To address the shortfall in carrier tonnage imposed by the Washington and London treaties, Japanese naval planners added to the fleet a number of modern auxiliaries whose design incorporated specific features allowing their relatively straightforward conversion into full-fledged aircraft carriers if required. A total of seven such vessels were ordered, three submarine depot ships (the Taigei, the Tsurugisaki, and the Takasagi) and four seaplane carriers (the Chitose, the Chiyoda, the Mizuho, and the Nisshin). All but two of the seaplane carriers (which were sunk while operating in their original role) were converted into carriers either before Japan’s entry into World War II or during the conflict.

Air Power And Nuclear Deterrence


Prior to the Second World War it had been claimed that air power acting on its own might be a viable alternative to large land armies. This was reflected in the use of the adjective ‘strategic’ as applied to ‘bombardment’, suggesting that air raids could be launched over the heads of land forces and thereby send a population into panic and despair, obliging an enemy government to beg for mercy. The experience of the Second World War qualified this optimism. Strategic bombardment did not produce sudden collapses in morale but became another instrument of attrition, at first gradually but then at an increasing pace, eating away at the war-making potential of Germany and Japan. In securing the final victories command of the air had been vital, but it had not been won easily and was not sufficient in itself. The European war was ended by the Allies physically fighting their way into Germany.

The advent of atomic weapons revived thoughts of a decisive strategic instrument. During the late 1930s news came through of a series of advances in nuclear physics that pointed to techniques for splitting the atom and then creating a chain reaction that would unleash vast amounts of energy. War soon provided the incentive to see how far the theory could be taken. After Pearl Harbor, the British effort to design an atomic bomb, which was quite advanced, was merged with the far better resourced American Manhattan Project. Here an international group of scientists, many of them refugees from Nazi Europe, were determined to construct this terrible new weapon before Hitler did. Others hoped that they would perform a service to humanity by demonstrating that it was a practical impossibility. In the event, the weapon was not ready by the time of Germany’s defeat in May 1945, and fortunately Hitler’s own programme had fizzled out before it was close to success.

The war with Japan was not yet over. Victory was almost certain, but Truman was concerned about the heavy loss of life that would result if an invasion had to be mounted, and was happy to explore all means to get a Japanese surrender as quickly as possible. After the first successful test of an atomic weapon in New Mexico in July 1945, news of which came through as the ‘Big Three’ assembled at Potsdam, Truman decided to use the couple of weapons available to shock the Japanese government into surrender by demonstrating this terrible power that could now be unleashed. Given the expense of their development he was not inclined to hold the weapons in reserve, and neither he nor his advisers were impressed by anguished pleas from many of the scientists involved that they should either desist altogether or rely on a demonstration shot away from a civilian population. For years both sides had been engaged in air raids of ever-growing intensity, culminating in the fire-bombing of Tokyo the previous March. At this stage of the war the moral argument against attacks on cities had long been lost, provided some military rationale could also be found. The first of the only two nuclear weapons ever to be dropped in anger detonated over the Japanese city of Hiroshima, which Truman described as an important military target, on the morning of 6 August 1945. It led to 200,000 deaths and injuries. The second bomb hit Nagasaki three days later. After another five days Japan surrendered.

The conditions flattered the new weapon. Japan was close to defeat and lacked any means of response. The Soviet Union was also entering the Pacific war. Yet whether or not Japan would have surrendered anyway – as much evidence now suggests – it would also seem that the shock effect of the bombs tilted the internal debate in Japan towards accepting defeat earlier rather than later. Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been described as the first shots in the Cold War, because they provided an opportunity to demonstrate American strength in a grimly convincing manner to Stalin during a critical stage of the bargaining over the shape of the post-war world. While this may have been a presumed side-benefit, the record shows that Truman’s main concern was with getting the Pacific war over as soon as possible.

The impact of these two attacks on the post-war world was immediate and profound. First they made it possible to imagine circumstances in which Russia could be defeated without having to brave its distances and climate. Second, the association of the new weapons with victory meant that they immediately acquired an aura of decisiveness, whether warranted or not. Third, they confirmed a trend towards progressive barbarism in warfare. Once a major war began there could be no presumption of innocence and no expectation of pity. While at first the stockpile of atomic weapons was very small (indeed, barely more than component parts in the years just after the war), and so appeared as providing merely a more efficient way to mount a conventional air raid, the fact that mass destruction could be instantaneous and include the insidious effects of radiation inevitably led to these weapons soon dominating all speculation on future warfare.

In the first couple of years of peace the Americans took steps to guard their atomic secrets, even from their British allies who had played a significant early role in the weapons development, but they did little to produce many new weapons. That effort began in earnest in 1947, after it had become clear that any hopes for placing this new technology under international control were doomed to disappointment. Proposals had been put forward by the United States, under the name of its chief delegate, Bernard Baruch, to a United Nations committee for the international control of atomic energy. In the circumstances this was a generous gesture, but it could never be convincing to Moscow, which saw in the scheme an early obstruction to its own nuclear programme with a political option whereby the Americans might avoid at a late stage any obligations to relinquish their own arsenal.


The mushroom cloud from the “First Lightning” test (1949).

It had been assumed by the Americans that the Russians were far behind in nuclear technology. However, by dint of their own hard work, well-placed spies (notably Klaus Fuchs, who had been a British participant in the Manhattan Project) and a full published description by American scientists of their methodology, the Russians made rapid progress. In August 1949 they tested their own nuclear device. As the test came at a time when East-West tensions were growing daily, the effect on the Americans was electrifying. They could no longer assume a nuclear monopoly: they were now engaged in an arms race. The response was not only to step up production of fission (atomic) weapons, but also to press ahead with the next stage of weapons development – the fusion (or thermonuclear or hydrogen) weapon, which promised almost unlimited destructive capacity. Leading American scientists were bitterly opposed to creating ‘city-busting’ weapons with an explosive yield equivalent to millions of tons (megatons) of TNT, but Truman felt that he had no choice. He dared not let the Russians build such a bomb first.

The president did accept, at the same time, that the Soviet breakthrough required a reappraisal of the strategic role of nuclear weapons. This took the form of a major study, led by the State Department, which considered this new development in the light of the deteriorating international political situation. The other major communist advance in 1949 had been the defeat of the nationalists in the Chinese Civil War. There was now a Sino-Soviet bloc, spreading right through the Eurasian heartland and capable of pushing out against all areas along its periphery. The resulting document for the National Security Council- known as NSC-68 – was designed to bring home to the Washington bureaucracy just how dangerous the situation had become. It warned that without determined action, democracies might succumb to a communist drive for world domination. So long as the United States enjoyed a nuclear monopoly it could be argued that this would serve as a powerful disincentive to Moscow if there was any thought of aggressive action. But if Moscow could retaliate in kind, Western plans to initiate nuclear war would appear reckless. It was therefore unwise to rely on this threat for the indefinite future if it risked bringing a terrible retribution on the United States. The conclusion of NSC-68 was therefore that the remaining years of nuclear superiority should be used to build up conventional forces in Europe capable of coping on their own with a Soviet assault.

WWI – Russian Navy versus German Navy


Gangut at anchor in Helsingfors, 1915. Note the deployed torpedo net.


After the debacle of the Russo-Japanese War reforms were initiated, and under the able Admiral von Essen the reconstruction of the Russian Navy was taken in hand. In the Baltic, the aim was to reach sixty percent of the strength of the German High Seas Fleet. At first, help from the outside was utilized to a considerable extent. The armored cruiser Rurik (15,400 tons, 4 254-mm. guns, 8 203-mm. guns) was built in England by Vickers, turbines for large destroyers in Germany. At the same time, the creation of an efficient armaments industry was begun; large shipyards were built. In June 1909 the keels of four fast battleships (23,400 tons, 12 305-mm. guns) were laid in shipyards in St. Petersburg. The ships were commissioned in 1914-1915. Three similar battleships, slightly slower, but better protected, were finished in Black Sea shipyards between 1915 and 1917, but four very large battle cruisers (32,400 tons, 12 356-mm. guns) for the Baltic were never completed. A high-quality product of the new Russian shipyards was a series of 36 large destroyers, excellently suited for minelaying.

When war broke out, both sides considered the Baltic a secondary theater of operations. The Germans had to be more active because they were more vulnerable to Russian naval operations. They generally used their old ships in the Baltic but had the advantage of being able to send ships from the High Seas Fleet as reinforcements on short notice. This possibility made the Russians very cautious. They were well prepared for minelaying, and in the first winter of the war undertook a number of cleverly planned operations of this kind in the eastern and central Baltic. Several German warships and merchant steamers were sunk or damaged by Russian mines; operations were considerably hampered. On the other hand, German submarines, as well as mines, proved dangerous to the Russians. After the death of Admiral von Essen in the spring of 1915 Russian naval activity decreased noticeably.

In the spring and summer of 1915 a massive German-Austrian land offensive forced back the Russian armies several hundred kilometers. When German land forces approached the large naval base of Libau (Liepaja) a squadron of Russian armored cruisers tried to interfere but retreated after a short fight with German light cruisers, in which no ship was seriously damaged. The only other encounter between surface forces in the open Baltic happened on 2 July 1915. A squadron of five Russian armored cruisers intercepted the minelayer Albatross (2,200 tons, 8 88-mm. guns), which was protected by the light cruiser Augsburg (4,300 tons, 12 105-mm. guns). The Albatross was soon damaged and beached herself at Östergarne on the Swedish island of Gotland. Then the German armored cruiser Roon (9,500 tons, 4 210-mm. guns) and the light cruiser Lubeck joined in the fight. With 4 254-mm. and 20 203-mm. guns the Russians were still far superior but they did not succeed in seriously damaging the German cruisers. They received some hits, too, and finally retreated although no other German forces were near.

In August 1915, a German squadron, reinforced from the North Sea, made two attempts to break into the Gulf of Riga. In the first, the mine barriers proved impenetrable. The second succeeded, in spite of considerable losses to mines, but had no lasting consequences because the German Army did not participate, although its flank on the Gulf of Riga was being continuously harrassed by bombardments from the sea and even raids by parties landed from the sea.

In the summer of 1915, the number of British submarines in the Baltic was increased. The larger E-boats again passed the Sound (between Denmark and Sweden) as in the fall of 1914; the smaller C-class arrived via canals from the White Sea. They proved distinctly more effective than the Russian submarines. For two years neither side undertook any large naval operations. The Germans suffered losses to mines and submarines, but their domination of the Baltic was never challenged. Sea power worked unobtrusively.

For Germany it was vital to have absolute control of the central and western Baltic: she received most of her iron ore from Sweden, most of the grain from her eastern provinces and coal from the Ruhr district was carried by ship, the supplies for the northern wing of the army fighting Russia went by sea, and-last but not least-sea power relieved the army from the necessity of defending the long coasts in the Baltic. Lord Fisher, for many years the British First Sea Lord, strongly advocated large-scale operations in the Baltic. He was of the opinion that this would compel the Germans to station one million men along their coasts. His estimate was probably too high, but it indicates the size of the potential problem for the German armed forces. Early in 1915 the Royal Navy ordered the Courageous class (19,000 tons, 4 381-mm. guns, 32 knots, draft only 6.8 m.) for Baltic operations. However, the outcome of the Battle of Jutland (31 May/l June 1916) clearly showed that such an undertaking would be too risky even for the Grand Fleet. The battle did not change the over-all strategic situation and therefore in some quarters is considered of little importance. True, the blockade of Germany continued but so did that of Russia, since the British had to abandon their plans for directly supporting her through the Baltic.

As early as January 1915 the Russian government had asked the Western allies to open the sea routes to European Russia again. This request led to the well-conceived, but clumsily executed attack on the Dardanelles in the spring of 1915. In the land campaign of that year the Russian armies suffered disproportionately heavy losses in men as a result of lack of ammunition. According to Minister of War Suchomlinov, field batteries received no more than four rounds per gun for a whole day of fighting. When the Black Sea and the Baltic remained closed the situation in Russia deteriorated steadily. Construction of the Murmansk railway had only just begun; from Arkhangelsk 900 kilometers of narrow-gauge rail led to the main railway system. Nine thousand kilometers of single-track railway crossed Siberia to the Far East. In the winter of 1916-17 food in the larger towns was in such short supply that four meatless days per week had to be instituted. The revolution in February 1917 was the consequence of starvation at home and decimation and defeat in the field. When the Kerensky government tried to continue the fight, the Central Powers put pressure on with three limited offensives. The last was an amphibious operation to take the Baltic Islands of Ösel, Moon (Muhu), and Dago. Russian ships still fought well but without luck. The old battleship Slava was damaged by German battleships and had to be blown up by her own crew. The destroyer Grom was taken. The Germans lost a number of smaller vessels to mines.

In this context it is amusing to read another fairytale [1] of Gorshkov’s: “The Moon Sound operation (12 to 20 October 1917) … had the far-reaching goal of uniting the Central Powers, Britain, the U. S. A., and France in the struggle against the Russian Revolution.” When he quotes Lenin to support this strange idea he only shows that this paragon of political wisdom knew very little of sea power and its consequences. He should have been grateful to the Central Powers, for the loss of the Baltic Islands further weakened the Kerensky government and helped make the Bolshevist October Revolution possible. Figures and facts are distorted in Gorshkov’s short description of the operation, which practically ended the naval war in the Baltic.

[1] In a series of articles written in 1972 (published by the U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings in 1974) Admiral Gorshkov.


In the Black Sea the Russian naval forces were more active than in the Baltic. After the German battle cruiser Goeben joined the Turkish fleet in August 1914 neither side had a marked superiority until the new Russian battleships appeared. There were quite a number of engagements, but no conclusive results. When their allies attacked the Dardanelles the Russians repeatedly bombarded the fortifications at the entrance to the Bosporus but did not attempt any landing operations. By this abstention they may have missed the best opportunity for radically improving their supply situation.

The Turkish army in East Anatolia depended on sea transport for a great part of its supplies. When the first new Russian battleship was commissioned· in the winter of 1915-16, Admiral Kolchak, formerly chief-of-staff to Admiral von Essen, made good use of her, and soon the Russians had the upper hand. Well-supported from the sea, their army advanced deep into Turkish territory. At the same time naval forces attacked and nearly stopped the vital transport of coal from Zunguldak on the Black Sea to the Bosporus. With a British army advancing on Palestine, Turkey’s situation soon became critical, but then the October Revolution put an end to Russian operations in Anatolia. The Germans occupied the Ukraine and the Black Sea ports. After the German capitulation, French forces entered Sevastopol temporarily. The best ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet left with them and rusted for many years at the French base of Bizerta in Algeria.

After foreign war, two revolutions, and a long civil war, the remnants of the Russian Navy were in bad shape. Its reconstruction had to take second place behind that of the Army. The experts disagreed on the type of navy needed by the Soviet Union. The Communist Party decided for a kind of “jeune ecole” fleet, a navy for coastal defense with torpedo craft and submarines. Then Stalin assumed command. With his acute sense for politics and power he saw the possibilities of a strong navy for furthering his plans. He also saw the technical difficulties and therefore did not precipitate matters. The second Five-Year Plan (1933-1937) provided for construction of six heavy cruisers, a number of large destroyers and a minimum of 50 submarines. Then, in the Party Congress of 1934, Stalin launched his campaign for capital ships-through a prominent submarine officer. For the construction of battleships and carriers, begun in the third Five-Year Plan, he tried to get help from the USA, but his request was turned down. After the treaty with Hitler in 1939 .he received a half-finished heavy cruiser (the Seydlitz), fire-control gear, and other equipment. In the Supreme Soviet, Premier Molotov declared that in the third Five-Year Plan the Navy had first priority. Pravda declared: “Only the biggest High Seas Fleet will meet Soviet demands.” When the Germans attacked in 1941, the big ships were not yet ready, but 291 submarines of the target number of 325 were in service or nearing completion.

2S25 Sprut – SD: self-propelled anti-tank gun



The 125 mm 2S25 self-propelled anti-tank gun was developed by the Volgograd Tractor Plant Joint Stock Company to meet the requirements of the Russian Air Assault Divisions. It is understood that prototypes of the 2S25 were completed some time ago but as of 2001 volume production had yet to commence. It is already being offered on the export market as the Russian Army has insufficient funds to purchase this vehicle at the present time. In mid-2001, it was stated that the Volgograd Tractor Plant had been working on the 2S25 for about seven years. It was also stated that the 2S25, which is also referred to as the SPRUT-SD, could operate in the water and still be able to fire its 125 mm gun while afloat. It can also operate in altitudes of up to 3,000 m.

The hull and turret of the 2S25 self-propelled anti-tank gun is of all-welded construction with the crew compartment at the front, turret and fighting compartment in the centre and engine compartment at the rear. Through the frontal arc of 40º left and right the armour provides protection against attack from small arms fire up to 12.7 mm and through the remainder of the vehicle against attack from 7.62 mm small arms fire. Many of the automotive parts of the 2S25 are the same as that installed in the BMD-3 airborne combat vehicle that was also designed and built at the Volgograd Tractor Plant. As of early 2001 the BMD-3 was only in service with the Russian Army. The driver is seated at the front of the hull in the centre and has a single-piece hatch cover and three day periscopes, the centre one of which can be replaced by a night vision periscope. There is an additional seat either side of the driver for the commander and driver as they are normally seated here rather than in the cramped turret when the vehicle is travelling in a non operational area. There is a single hatch cover above their position to enable them to quickly leave the vehicle.

Main armament consists of a 125 mm 2A75 smoothbore tank gun developed at Artillery Plant No 9 at Ekaterinburg and is based on the 125 mm 2A46 smoothbore tank gun installed in the T-72, T-80 and T-90 MBTs. For this lighter chassis application it has been fitted with a new low recoil system. The 125 mm 2A75 smoothbore tank gun is fitted with a fume extractor and a thermal sleeve but is not fitted with a muzzle brake. It is fully stabilised in elevation and traverse. This fires the same family of separate loading ammunition as the 125 mm 2A46 smoothbore gun installed in the T-72, T-80 and T-90 series MBTs. It can also fire a laser guided projectile out to a range of 4,000 m. Maximum rate of fire is quoted as 7 rds/min. The 125 mm 2A75 smoothbore gun is fed by a horizontal automatic loader that is located below the turret. This holds a total of 22 projectiles and charges ready for immediate use. The projectile is loaded first, followed by the charge with its semi-combustible cartridge case. A manual back up loading system is also provided. A 7.62 mm PKT machine gun is mounted coaxial with the main armament and this is fed by a belt of 2,000 rounds of ammunition. Additional 7.62 mm ammunition is stowed externally in boxes on the turret rear. The commander is seated on the right and the gunner on the left with both crew members being provided with roof mounted day/night observation devices and a single piece hatch cover. The gunner also has a sight in the forward part of the turret roof. The commander’s sight is stabilised in elevation and traverse and has a laser sighting device to guide the 125 mm laser guided projectiles onto the target. The gunner’s sight is stabilised in elevation and incorporates a laser range-finder which feeds target information into the ballistic computer. There is an infra-red searchlight mounted externally on the right side of the turret and a smaller infra-red light on the right side of the hull front. There is a standard white light searchlight on the turret roof and a smaller one on the left side of the hull front for driving at night.

The suspension is of the hydropneumatic type and allows the ground clearance to be adjusted by the driver from his seat between 100 and 500 mm in 6 to 7 seconds. The running gear either side consists of seven single rubber tyred road wheels, idler at the front, drive sprocket at the rear and track return rollers. Two types of track are fitted, standard and the wider snow/mud track which reduces the ground pressure of the vehicle. The 2S25 is fully amphibious being propelled in the water by two water jets situated one either side low down at the rear. Before entering the water a trim vane is erected at the front of the vehicle and the bilge pumps are switched on. It can operate in up to Sea State 3 and can also fire the 125 mm gun while afloat over a 70º frontal arc. Standard equipment includes night vision equipment for the commander, gunner and driver and an NBC system. According to the manufacturer, the 2S25 can be air dropped from transport aircraft with the crew inside the vehicle. Optional equipment includes a thermal channel for the gunner’s sight, improved amphibious capability and additional armour protection. A defensive aids suite can also be installed, for example the Russian Arena.


There are no known variants of the 2S25 self-propelled anti-tank gun. Some Russian sources have indicated that the 2S25 chassis could be the basis for a complete family of airborne light armoured vehicles to replace systems based on the older BMD-1/BMD-2 series airborne combat vehicle chassis.


Crew: 3

Combat weight: 18,000 kg

Power-to-weight ratio: 28.33 hp/t

Ground pressure: (standard track) 0.53 kg/cm2 (wide track) 0.36 kg/cm

Ground clearance: 100 to 500 mm

Max speed: (road) 71 km/h (water) 10 km/h

Range (road): 500 km

Gradient: 60%

Side slope: 40%

Engine: Model 2B06-2C diesel developing 510 hp

Transmission: hydromechanical/hydrostatic drive

Suspension: hydropneumatic

Armament: (main) 1 x 125 mm 2A75 smoothbore gun (coaxial) 1 x 7.62 mm PKT machine gun

Ammunition: (main) 40 x 125 mm (of which 22 are ready for use) (coaxial) 2000 x 7.62 mm Gun control equipment:

Turret power control: powered/manual (by commander) yes (by gunner) yes

Turret traverse: 360º

Gun elevation/depression: +15/-5º (bow); +17/-3º(aft)

Gun stabiliser: (vertical) yes (horizontal) yes

NBC system: yes

Night vision equipment: yes

Status The only operators of the 2S25 are the Russian airborne troops with 24 of these vehicles in service. Serial production starts 2018.