Powerful and overwhelming: How do Russia’s simplest and most lethal weapons work?

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MOSCOW – On November 19 in Russia is commemorated the Day of the Missile and Artillery Troops – the main instrument of the Russian Army, capable of breaking the enemy defense paving the way for infantry.

Mortars are light weapons designed to fire at protected targets. Typically, this type of artillery, instead of kickback devices and chassis, has a baseplate through which the kickback pulse is transmitted to the ground.

Prototypes of future mortars were adopted in the Russian Army in the late 19th century.

Small artillery

Mortars proved their worth in trench warfare during World War I. The curved flight path allowed the projectile to be placed in places that the artillery could not reach. The huge rate of fire compared to the field pieces provided powerful firing performance and small caliber – its high mobility, the ability to quickly change positions and to fire from protected positions. Finally, mortars were characterized by a particularly high concentration of fire.

In the Great War for the Fatherland and during the war with militarist Japan, mortars were also used in large numbers and often played a decisive role in battle. From July 1941 to April 1945, the Soviet defense industry produced about 151,000 mortars of various calibers.

According to historical data, the heavy losses of the Wehrmacht (German Armed Forces) on the eastern front were caused by the fire of Soviet mortars.

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The Red Army’s simplest weapon at an early stage of the war was a 37mm mortar – a small-shovel hybrid with a small-caliber mortar. The gun weighed about four pounds and was easily carried on its back with straps. Until June 21, 1941, 15,500 of these mortars were produced.

Mortars of various sizes

The range of postwar and modern mortars is exceptionally wide. Already in the first decade after the victory in World War II, the Red Army received improved 107 mm (M-107) and 160 mm heavy mortars, as well as a new 82 mm stationary and 240 mm M-240 campaign piece.

In 1957, the world’s most powerful 420 mm 2B1 Oka self-propelled mortar was developed to fire tactical nuclear munitions.

His heir to this concept was the 2S4 Tyulpan mortar, which was adopted in 1972 and still holds the record in caliber among such weapons. Its shooting range is up to nine kilometers.

In 1954, the 2B9 towed mortar successfully passed state tests and was recommended for adoption. However, its updated version only entered service in 1971. The 2B9M is still in service of the Russian Army in its modernized version.

Simplicity, reliability and versatility are the three pillars on which the 2B9M Vasilek is based. The three shooting modes are: automatic, semi-automatic and manual.

But the main artillery system is the 120-mm Sani towed mortar assembly developed in 1979. The system does indeed include the 120-millimeter piece itself, a wheeled chassis and a transport vehicle. The self-propelled version of this mortar is called Tundzha.

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