Russians Develop New Weapons


Opinion & analysis


Russians develop unique self-propelled gun

18:39 | 07/ 12/ 2006

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MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Viktor Litovkin) – Do you know what the word “Msta” means? If not, you can surf the Internet, and you will find that the Msta is a 445-km river flowing through the Tver and Novgorod Regions in western Russia. This river flows into Lake Ilmen and links it with Lake Mstino.

The Msta River basin, with an area of 23,200 square kilometers, is part of the Vyshny Volochok water system. Moreover, the river itself is navigable 134 kilometers from its mouth.

However, the word “Msta” takes on an entirely different meaning if you ask a Russian artillery officer about it. He will tell you that the 152-mm Msta-S (index 2S19) is a self-propelled howitzer, and the Msta-B (index 2A65) is a towed artillery system.

Both guns are intended to destroy tactical nuclear artillery and mortar batteries, tanks and other armored vehicles, as well as military personnel, air-defense weapons, anti-ballistic missiles and command centers. They can also destroy field fortifications and hinder the movement of enemy reserves miles behind the frontline.

These artillery pieces can hit visible targets point blank and from indirect firing positions; invisible targets are also easily destroyed.

Msta howitzers and artillery systems are among the Russian Army’s best weapons.

The reader may be interested to know that howitzers have an elevation angle of more than 45 degrees and can fire over high obstacles, the way mortars do.

Msta-S howitzers, which were quite popular at the international arms fairs in Nizhny Tagil and Omsk, also stole the limelight in Le Bourget near Paris and in the United Arab Emirates.

This howitzer caused quite a stir in Abu Dhabi after firing 40 rounds of ammunition from indirect positions at a target 15 km away in the presence of experts from 20 countries.

Although the gun layer could not see the target, 38 shells weighing 43.5 kg each hit the bull’s eye, while two others exploded not more than 25 meters away from the target’s center. Any artilleryman will tell you that this is an excellent result because shell fragments will destroy everything within a 25-meter radius.

Experts are impressed with the Msta-S howitzer’s high accuracy and rate of fire. This howitzer fires eight to ten shells in 60 seconds, which is more than any other known artillery piece, including the U.S. Army’s M-109 howitzer with a caliber of 155 mm, which is the Msta-S’s counterpart in terms of its specifications and combat designation.

Yury Tomashov, who designed the Msta-S howitzer and who received the title of Hero of Labor (and the Gold Star medal) for this achievement, discussed its remarkable rate of fire with RIA Novosti.

Tomashov noted that the Msta-S features an automatic loading system. Its 50 high-explosive, fragmentation, cluster, anti-tank, anti-radar and other special-purpose shells are stored on ammunition trays inside the turret. A mechanical conveyor, which feeds them into the breech, can also be used while the gun is being loaded from the ground.

Unlike the M-109, the Msta-S can be loaded at any angle of elevation. Its barrel returns to the initial position immediately after firing for greater accuracy and efficiency.

Tomashov said U.S. and British soldiers had to sweat it out and carry a lot of shells during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, code-named Operation Iraqi Freedom. The air-conditioned Russian artillery system features an elevator for easier loading.

He said the Msta-S crew works inside an armored turret shielding them from shell fragments and large-caliber bullets, as well as chemical and bacteriological weapons and radiation. A special pressurized filter system purifies and decontaminates the ambient air and traps powder gases outside the combat compartment. An airtight jacket encasing the breech also traps powder gases and leaves the air fresh and clean.

According to Tomashov, the howitzer’s fire-control system is its main advantage. The system, which receives intelligence and target-acquisition data, operates in conjunction with computer networks and ensures a high firing accuracy.

Yury Butrin, general designer of the Uraltransmash holding company, which produces Msta-S howitzers, said the fire-control system also includes a ballistic computer, an automatic laying device, a topographic surveying unit and a GLONASS or GPS receiver for high-precision navigation.

This system, which stores data on the ten previous combat missions at minimum, is linked with an observation post and Pchela (Bee)-type unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as A-50 Mainstay early warning and control aircraft similar to NATO’s AWACS planes.

The Kapustnik command-and-control vehicle feeds target coordinates into the fire-control system, which then delivers a devastating strike against enemy positions.

The Msta-S howitzer can fire 152-mm and 155-mm laser-guided Krasnopol shells and Santimetr semi-active homing shells.

The howitzer’s modified 155-mm version can be exported to other countries, including India, which still produces Western European-caliber munitions, a legacy of centuries of British colonial rule.

The Msta-S has the same undercarriage as the T-80 main battle tank. Moreover, its 840-h.p. V-shaped internal-combustion engine can run on six types of diesel fuel. The 42-metric-ton howitzer can move through deserts at 60 kph on its 580-mm wide rubber-and-metal treads. Furthermore, it does not require spikes for greater accuracy because the gun-stabilization system resets firing data and target coordinates after each shot.

Neither Tomashov nor Butrin were able to explain why the Msta-S self-propelled gun, which was developed in the Ural Region, is named after a river flowing further to the west.

Other Uraltransmash experts said the Soviet Defense Ministry’s Rocketry/Artillery Directorate (Russian acronym “GRAU”) had issued a request for proposal (RFP) in the early 1980s and designated this weapons system the GRAU 2S19.

However, to avoid mentioning this secret name in everyday life, someone probably decided to call it the Msta either as a reminder of a good vacation that he had spent on the Msta River, or in order to mislead foreign spies. Indeed, why the Msta in the Urals? But the name stuck.

Colonel General Zaritsky, head of the Russian Armed Forces’ missile and artillery unit, said the Russian Army will receive about 2,000 new artillery pieces, mostly revamped Msta-S howitzers, between now and 2015.



Israeli intelligence chief warns: Syria is expanding its long-range missile manufacture and anti-tank rocket deployment on Golan

December 10, 2006, 11:31 PM (GMT+02:00)


DEBKAfile’s military sources quote two statements by Israeli generals Sunday, Dec. 10 to the Israeli cabinet: OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen Gadi Eisenkott denounced as irresponsible talk of a war with Syria and Hizballah in the summer of 2007.

Brig. Gen Yossi Baidatz, military intelligence chief of research, reported that Syria had increased its production of long-range missiles (picture)and was building up its anti-tank rocket units on the Golan border with Israel.

This information is not proof in itself of a Syrian intent to go to war. Gen. Eisenkott says he sees no tangible war preparations on the Golan and Hermon despite the aggressive rhetoric coming out of Damascus, whereas it is Brig Baidatz’s job to count the missiles coming off Syrian production lines in the northern city of Homs. The volume in Nov. 2006 was 20% greater than the output of Nov. 2005.

The key question neither Israeli officer answers is this: How many missiles are destined for Syrian use and how many for the strategic reserve Iran is stocking in Syria. According to DEBKAfile’s military sources, Syria’s missile output is not determined by the heads of its military industry, but by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards sitting on the industry’s executive boards and incoming investment funds regulated by Tehran.

All the departments of Syrian’s military industry merged last year with Iran’s manufacturing complex and are run as a single corporation. Therefore, it may be said that it is very much up to Tehran to determine if and when Bashar Asad goes on the offensive on the Golan front.

Asad is not obliged to dance to Tehran’s tune. He can decide he no longer wishes to coordinate his military and diplomatic strategies with Tehran. This would mean the breakup of the close Damascus-Tehran alliance. For the moment, there is no sign of any breach. Quite the reverse; intelligence data indicate a tightening of the partnership on all shared fronts.

This again is no proof that the widely-predicted summer 2007 war is inevitable. It does mean that Tehran means to hold on to Syria, Hizballah and Hamas as proxy whips against the Americans in Iraq and Israel until such time as its clerical rulers find a war move expedient.

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