The Tank Trench

The Tank Trench

Terminology first. A trench is a ground construction, buried or semi-buried, designed to carry out two main tasks. The first is to cover a firing unit (a rifleman, machinegunner, cannon, tank, missile launcher etc.) from enemy fire. The second is to provide the necessary conditions for the firing unit to fire upno the enemy. A shelter, on the other hand, performs only the first of these two tasks – though a trench and a shelter may look externally similar. Thus, for firing vehicles, both shelters and trenches can be constructed, but for nonfiring vehicles one may construct only shelters. In some cases, a combined “trench-shelter” can be built, comprised of a trench and a shelter positioned near each other and linked.

Depending on the depth of the trench and the height of the breastwork the tank trench can belong to one of two types. One of them is a circular-firing field trench, in which the breastwork protects only the hull of the tank and not the turret. This allows a 360-degree traverse and observation.

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The second type covers the tank entirely, except for a small area wherein the breastwork is lowered for firing. This type of trench enables maximum masking and protection for the tank, rendering it invulnerable – as the enemy can only attack the front armor on the turret, which is the heaviest-protected part of any tank.

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The drawing shows a circular-firing tank trench. The dotted lines demonstrate the place for a dug-out or a covered slit for the tank crew. The sizing of the trench depends on the type of the tank – for example, for the T-62 the trench must be 4 meters wide and 5 meters long. The access ramp must be 1 to 2.7 meters long (depending on the soil type). The trench must be 1 meter deep and the breastwork – 50 centimeters tall. For constructing the trench you must move 28 cubic meters of soil. In average soil a three-man crew can complete the trench in 10-12 hours. With mechanized procedures, you require 0.6 machine-hours with a BTU bulldozer and up to 10 man-hours of work. You must not forget to construct a water-funneling well at the bottom of the trench. If they are available, place logs under the tank’s treads to avoid the trench becoming a tank trap.

According to tactical standards, a tank in a trench is equal to 3-4 unsheltered tanks, enabling you to fight off an entire attacking tank platoon.

The trench can be of a dead-end or drive-through type. A dead-end trench can also be accessed only from the rear, and is equipped with only one ramp. This is the type most often used with circular firing zone trenches. A drive-through trench can be accessed from the front and rear and is equipped with two ramps. It is used with both circular and limited-traverse trenches.

When the opportunity presents itself, it is recommended to dig a covered slit in the side wall of the trench, designed to hold 2-3 crewmen. Recent battalion/company levels manual term it an infantry blindage, which is not completely correct, but which could apply if the walls are covered, beds and a furnace are installed within, and the entryway has a door. Such a blindage/slit allows the crew opportunity to be warm and rested.

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Thus one tanker guards the tank – standing next to it or in the turret – and the other two (with T-72, T-80) or three (T-62) can remain in the trench. One of them may even sleep. There they can warm food, dry their clothes and shoes, and even perform limited hygienic tasks (brushing teeth, washing, etc.). The drawing displays a covered crew slit/blindage. The slit requires the moving of 10.5 cubic meters of soil and 2.4 cubic meters of timber, as well as 28 man-hours (not counting preparing the timber). In practice, preparing the slit takes another day.


1.A guide to military fortfication, approved by the Chief Army Engineer, 15.12.1962г, MoD Press, Moscow, 1962
2.Kalibernov, “A Combat Engineer Officer’s Handbook”,, Military Press, Moscow, 1989
3.Kalibernov, Kornev, Soskov, “Engineering Support for Battledbook”, Military Press, Moscow, 1982
4.“Combat Engineer Training” , Military Press, Moscow,1982
5.“Supporting Actions for the Ground Forces, Part IV: Engineering Support.” Military Press Moscow, 1985
6.Military Engineering Handbook for the Soviet Army, Military Press, Moscow, 1985
7.Standards for Engineering Support for Combat Action, Tactical and Operational Standards, Military Press, Moscow, 1970
Translated by MicroBalrog from this page

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Combat Chemical Weapons – a Commentary

Combat Chemical Weapons – a Commentary
Yu. Veremeev

It’s still unclear why neither Hitler nor Stalin (who, according to claims in the liberal press, murdered even several hundred thousand of his own troops), had not used chemical weapons – both Germany and the Soviet Union were well-supplied with these weapons and their means of delivery.

[abridged discussion of Nebelwerfer-41 mortar supplies and German chemweapon stockpiles. Summary: Nazi Germany had WMD and troops trained with it]

Reading Halder’s diary for 1941-1942 we see the General-Inspector of Chemical Forces keeps trying to persuade him to use chemical weapons – but they were used only twice – on May 12th, 1942 against the partisans and on June 13th against Adjimushkai. That is it.

Note: It turns out that the weapons used were actually a mix of ethilene and coal oxide, which is actually a form of gaseous explosive, a form of early FAE, which blew up quarries and killed Red Army men. General-OBerst Jaenecke who commanded the 17th Army in Crimea was acquitted in 1955 by Soviet courts and released.

Note that he is appealing to Halder and not to Hitler and that chemical weapons units were located in the 2nd echelons of army groups. This means that using these weapons was a decision made by an Army Group commander or at best the Chief of Staff – destroying the idea that Hitler refused to use them for fear of retaliation. Actually if he had feared retaliation that much, he’d not bomb England either. And yet chemical weapons were not widely used by any side of the war or after the war in local conflicts. There were rare attempts – but it is these that remind us that the effectiveness of chemical weapons was either non-existent or so low as to persuade each side to avoid using them again in the specific conflict.

Let us try to understand the true reasons that chemical weapons were so badly received by Wehrmacht, RKKA, U.S. Army, British Army – and any other generals.

The first – and main reason – that militaries have abandoned chemical weapons is the extent to which they are dependent on meteorological conditions – i.e. weather – far more than any other weapons. Let us look at this issue in more details.

Chemical weapons depend on air movement. We will discuss two forms thereof: the horizontal and vertical.

Horizontal air movement, i.e. – wind is defined by speed and direction.

Wind that is too strong disperses the chemical weapons rapidly, reduces their concentration to safe levels and removes them from the target area. Weak, slow win causes the chemical weapon cloud to stay in place, does not allow it to cover the needed area, and if the chemical is unstable – leads to a pointless loss of attack abilities.

Therefore, a commander who wishes to use chemical weapons must wait for the wind to gain needed speed – and the enemy won’t wait. But worse yet, one cannot precisely predict wind behavior. Wind can not only rapidly alter its direction and even reverse it, it can also have an entirely different direction in a certain area, perhaps as little as several hundred meters away. Wind direction is also affected by ground relief and buildings. We can often see it even in cities, when on a windy day the wind can be in our face, then at our side when we reach a corner, and at our back on the other side of the street. The art of the yachtsman is based on being able to spot these small alterations. Wind direction can also alter at different heights – for example the wind direction at a hilltop can be reverse to that at its foot. When weather reports state a wind speed – “north-west wind, 3-5 meters per second”, they are referring only to a general trend in a great area, perhaps of hundreds of square kilometers.

All of this means that when a few hundred tons of gas are deployed from containers or an area is targeted by chemical shells, nobody can know will certainty where the cloud will move or who it will strike. But the commander must know precisely where and which losses will be inflicted to the enemy. There is no point in poisoning an enemy regiment or even division in a place where our forces cannot advance or use the consequences of the strike. No commander can or will adopt his plans to such uncertainty. One cannot have tens of thousands of troops, hundreds of tanks and thousands of cannon running about to follow a cloud of poison, or even escaping it.

And yet the air – and chemical weapons – also moves vertically. These movements are divided into convections, isothermal motion, and inversion.

In convection, warm air rises – and takes chemical weapons with it. The bigger the air temperature differences, the faster it moves – and a man is about 1.5-1.8 meters tall.

In isothermal situations, the temperatures of the air and ground are approximately equal. There’s practically no vertical motion of the air, which is optimal for chemical weapons, making the situation at least partly predictable.

In inversion the ground is colder than air, which causes the lowest layers of air to cool and press themselves to the ground, keeping the chemical weapons near the soil. This is advantageous, but it also forcs chemical weapons to flow downwards. Of course, soldiers in trenches and bunkers will be endangered by this, but men on hilltops and other heights will be protected.

Let us note that this air movement depends heavily on the time of year, time of day, and even on cloud cover, and can rapidly alter. This alone can impact the use of chemical weapons, and they are affected also by air temperature directly (low temperatures reduce the volatility of chemical weapons- someo f them cannot be used in Russian winter at all), as well as snow, rain, and fog, that wash away the poison vapors altogether.

The weather mostly affects rapidly-disintegrating chemical weapons, that act for minutes or hours. Long-term chemical weapons are likely not to be operationally viable as they will also affect friendly troops attempting to advance in the area.

Using weapons is not a goal in and of itself. Weapons are only a means of achieving victory. Victory in battle is achieved solely by precisely-coordinated actions of military units (this is what the Combat Manual of the Soviet Army says) utilizing the most appropriate weapons and munitions. The goal is not to simply kill as many enemy soldiers as possible, but to force them to act in accordance with the combatant’s needs (retreat, surrender, reconsider waging war).

Chemical weapons cannot be used as needed at the time they are needed, becoming a goal and not a tool, demanding the commander accommodate the weapon and not vice versa. Properly, the sword should serve D’Artagnan, rather than D’Artagnan becoming an appendix to the sword.

Let us look at other aspects of chemical weapons.

Technically, chemical weapons are not weapons, but poisons. To use them, you need air bombs, shells, aerosol generators, etc. – ordinary weapons re-equipped for chemical use. When a commander assigns meaningful firepower to chemical weapons, this must come at the expense of ordinary weapons, reducing the available firepower of his unit – and remember chemical warfare depends on weather conditions!

Of course, tanks and aviation are also affected by weather – but to a far lesser extent. Sometimes aviation cannot work due to weather, but such conditions do not last more than a few hours or days. Combat operations can also be planned to accommodate the time of year and general local climate – but chemical weapons are completely dependent on weather conditions, including such conditions that are almost entirely unpredictable.

To use chemical weapons one needs to use great amounts of firepower, in order to rapidly deploy hundreds and even thousands of tons of chemicals. Would any commander weaken his firepower in order to, perhaps, poison a few thousand enemy troops? Remember, his superiors require him to strike the enemy within hard time limits, something that chemical troops cannot guarantee at all.

The second issue is preparing the chemical weapons and loading them into shells. This is both expensive and dangerous. A regular artillery shell that cracks or rusts can be easily detonated at a range, and is completely safe without its detonator – while a loaded chemical shell is highly dangerous until it had been disposed of, which is in turn extremely difficult. Often chemical shells begin killing one’s own citizens long before they kill a single enemy soldier.

Third issue:

Every day, the front is supplies with thousands of tons of supplies. They are immediately used, and the forces do not accumulate great stocks of catridges, shells, bombs etc. Chemical weapons need to be stored until use – forcing the forces to create stockpiles, move them each time the unit moves – modern warfare is extremely mobile – guard them, and ensure their safe storage. Given their limited tactical use (not even in the First World War have chemical weapons been used for operational success) , I doubt any commander will like it.

Fourth issue:

As I said, weapons are not used solely to kill enemies, but accomplishing goals. This is often done not so much by pure slaughter, but by destruction weapons (tanks, planes, rockets), or infrastructure (bridges, roads, factories, homes). If a military unit loses its weapons or ammunition supply, it must either surrender or retreat – but even a lone machinegunner with a supply of ammunition can hold a wide area. Chemical weapons are unable to destroy a tank or even a motorcycle. The ordinary shell can destroy a tank, a DOT, a house or kill a few men – but a chemical shell can do only the latter. Thus, any commander would prefer a dozen conventional shells to a hundred chemical shells. In this sense chemical weapons are not weapons at all.


The entire history of war is a struggle between defense and offense. Shields and swords, spears and chainmail, cannon and armor, bullets and trenches, etc. There are no weapons against which there is an absolute defense. Except one type. Chemical weapons.

Defenses against chemical weapons were born almost immediately, and rapidly became near-absolute. Even with the first chemical attacks, soldiers rapidly found effective means of defense. Sometimes defending soldiers started fires on the breastworks, which caused chlorine to be carried up and over the trenches – despite the soldiers not knowing physics or meteorology. Often the soldiers used automobile glasses and handkerchiefs soaked in urine to defend sight and breath.

Soon, basic gas masks appeared, which evolved to use coal filters, and then become rebreathers. Rubber and even polyethilene can protect against skin-contact weapons, and in some cases even oil-soaked paper can be defense if it is durable enough. Today the Army has protective cloaks and suits. Horses and even dogs can be protected as well. In this sense chemical weapons are good more for intimidation.

True, many would say, but chemical defense kits limit combat readines. True. I will say more precisely – gas masks reduce the soldier’s combat readyness by a factor of 1.5-2, and a full protective suit – by a factor of 4 – but the enemy must also use these! Now they are equal again, and I am not certain that sitting in a trench in a protective suit is harder than running across a field.

Now, dear reader, imagine you are a front or army commander who needs to succeed in a set time – and tell me – do you need chemical weapons? I’m not certain you will answer unequivocally in the positive. There are too many arguments against this weapon and too few for it.

“But chemical weapons were widely used in the First World War, and had great results!” – the reader will exclaim – “Look at the numbers Kuchtenko quotes!” Let us not argue numbers – although not all affected men died. Let us argue results. Not a single chemical attack resulted in operational success, while tactical successes were modest. Chemical weapons merely added casualties to the total death toll – but did not, and could not, bring victory. For every successful attack there were dozens of failed ones if not more – and there were not many successes in total. Kuchtenko basically describes almost every successful gas attack.

Allied and German soldiers soon were disappointed in the combat qualities of chemical weapons, and continued using them only because no opportunities existed to leave the stalemate and the commanders became desperate.

We must consider here the specific circumstances that led to the use of chemical weapons in the First World War. First of all, it was the trenches that bound the fronts in months and years of almost complete immobility.

Second, soldiers were packed very densely in trenches, as attacks were mostly repulsed by small arms fire.

Third, in a stalemate one could afford to wait for proper weather for weeks and months.

Fourth, all successful attacks were surprise attacks at unprepared enemies that were often not even aware of this new weapon. Chemical weapons were successful when they were new, but this golden age soon ended.

Yes, chemical weapons were, and are, feared. There are reasons why almost the first thing that a new recruit receives in the military is a gas mask, and one of the first things he learns is putting it on -and yet, despite this fear, these weapons are not actually deployed. In the Second World War and after it the use of chemical weapons was mostly experimental, or direct at unprepared civilians, and in most cases the commanders that used these weapons were soon convinced about their unprofitability.

It appears that the treatment of chemical weapons is irrational – not unlike the attitude of cavalry, which had been doubted since the U.S. Civil War and buried as a combat branch by the First World war – and yet persisted in the Soviet Army until 1955.

If the reader disagrees, before typing up a furious reply, he should answer himself at least two questions:

1. Why tanks, whose first use was a failure, take up a leading role in the armies of the world?
2. Why does the humble landmine, which had never promised great victories, find a place in all arsenals, and yet chemical weapons, so promising, had not found a place on the battlfield?

I did not attempt to study the problem completely, but intended to answer this question not from the point of view of a scientists who counts poisoned sheep on a testing ground after detonating a chemical shell, but from the point of view of practical concerns of army-commander grade officers.

P.S. The author of these lines is an officer of the Engineering Forces, and for several years was te Engineering Officer for a regiment and later a division. I am not a chemical soldier, but, according to the Manual for Supporting Actions for the Ground Forces, Part IV my duties include preparing for the results of a WMD strike against my regiment or division. Any such defense must be based on knowledge of the weapons in question and their effects, as well as close work with the unit’s chemical service officer.

The 1970′s and 1980′s were noted by the fact that any exercise from a regimental HQ exercise to a full-scale army or front field exercise, everybody trained in great detail for acting under enemy nuclear and chemical strikes. Many generals were enraged and said they would soon unlearn all their skills as everything was reduced to maneuvering between poisoned zones.

And the commander of Army Group Center Colonel-General Yazov (that one) once looked at a map and said – perhaps hinting at the fact it was yellow from chemical contamination zones, perhaps at something else – “It seems the entire country has malaria.”

All of this training has taught the author that chemical weapons are operationally useless, and even more completely powerless against soldiers trained and equipped in dealing with them.

Nuclear weapons are almost as worthless. It’s like trying to chase a cockroach on the asphalt with a steamroller. It might work, but it is useless. The author was not the only man to think that – our commanders knew it as well, they read our reports all the time. The other side must have known that too – no side truly intended to use chemical weapons. Despite all their complexity and cost, these weapons could not give the needed result, but could easily interfere with combat control and te proper use of weaponry.

But generals on both sides needed to take into account politicians, scientists who were fans of chemical weapons – such people always have access to political power – and the military-chemical lobbies in parliaments. So they played out chemical weapon battles on maps and forced soldiers to train with these abominable gas masks and terrible chemical suits (a soldier is like a horse at a wedding – some drink, some celebrate, and the horse does all the work). And the well-known conclusions made by military scientists in 1918-1920, known to every senior officer and general, were carefully “forgotten”, to avoid upsetting “public opinion.”


1. Military Dictionary, “Ripol-Classic”, Moscow, 2001
2. A. Ivanov, German Artillery in the Second world War, “Neva”, St. Petersburg, 2003
3. F. Halder, Military Diary, 1940-1941, Terra Fantastica, St. Petersburg, 2003
4. F. Halder, Military Diary, 1941-1942, Terra Fantastica, St. Petersburg, 2003
5. B. Muller-Hillebrandt, Germany’s Ground Forces 1933-1945, A Reference Book[/o], EKSMO, Moscow, 2004
6. K. Mill, [i]The American Civil War, 1861-1865
, “Harvest”, Minsk, 2002
7. Supporting Actions for the Ground Forces, Part IV: Engineering Support. Military Press Moscow, 1985
8. Kalibernov, E.S., Combat Engineer Officer’s Manual, Military Press, Moscow, 1989

Translated and abridged by MicroBalrog from this site

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The Time Has Come



After a lot of expectation, a lot of promises and requests from my readers, I am here to tell you: it is almost here. The paper edition of Destroy the Enemy in Hand-to-Hand-Combat is being prepared for print. Here is a preliminary photo of approximately what the print edition will be like.

Fig.1: Print edition of
Destroy the Enemy in Hand-to-Hand Combat
For those of you who still prefer the electronic edition and don’t have one for some reason, it  is available at Amazon and Smashwords.

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If you don’t know what another person is doing, let them be.

In the Russian port of Temryuk, on the Azov Sea, a certain LLC collected fecal waters from ships in port. What it did with this treasure is not known.

This fact had soon drawn the attention of local customs authorities. They demanded that the entrepreneurs place this cargo under bond – 20 tons of it, at time of inspection.

The entrepreneurs – stunned of course by this action – thought very hard and eventually filed their goods as ‘voluntarily donated to the state’.

The customs officials realized their mistake, but it was too late.

H/T Vyacheslav Shilov

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Winkel Towers

By MicroBalrog.

Typically when we discuss air raid shelters, we think of a fairly stereotypical construct – an underground facility, sometimes fortified with concrete, where people take shelter from enemy bombs, shells, or even chemical attacks. Some people, however, have more innovative conceptions. One of these people was Leo Winkel.

Winkel, a german engineer working in the 1930′s, had decided that there had to be simpler ways to shelter a given amount of people from bombs. He figured that an above-ground shelter would not need to be buried in the ground – saving the costs associated with an underground design, excavating the soil and then reburying the design, not to mention building a design that could bear the weight of the ground above it. But, of course, simply leaving an ordinary shelter aboveground would leave it exposed.

Leo Winkel came up with an innovative solution: a shelter in the shape of a vertical cylinder.

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The Winkel shelter had several advantages over a regular shelter of the same capacity: it took up a smaller area (therefore presenting a smaller target to attacks from above), and could have a very thick roof for comparatively low concrete expenditures (as the image shows, the top of the Winkel Tower is just a large, heavy concrete cone. In addition, because it had slanted, conical walls rather than a flat roof, bombs could richochet off the walls of Winkel Towers before detonating, where they would doubtlessly just explode on a flat roof.

The first Winkel Tower design – seen in the image above – was 20 meters tall, with a diameter of no more than 5.8 meters and could hold 200 men. The entrances were sealed with blast doors and the building equipped with gas-filtering equipment, allowing it to protect also against chemical attacks. Later Winkel towers were built with additional entrances higher than ground level, that could be used as emergency escape hatches.

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The first tower was built for testing purposes in 1935. In testing, conducted in January 1936, Stuka bombers dropped 50 bombs on the tower over several days, failing to hit it a single time. At that point, testing continued with 500-kilogram and 1500-kilogram bombs attached directly to various walls of the tower at the upper, medium, and lower levels of the tower, and detonated. Minor damage to exterior walls was noted, with no interior damage. The tower swayed and remained stable. Goats strapped directly to the interior walls during the explosion lost their hearing.

The towers, of course, were approved for construction in various models, ranging from 164 to 500 men in capacity. The first tower was built already before approval – and the first officially approved tower was built. It took 2 months to construct.

During the war, various modified designs of the Winkel tower were made, some with lighter protective capacity, or improved access capabilities. The Winkel towers served faithfully throughout the war – not a single Winkel tower was ever destroyed with bombings, and indeed there is only one recorded incident of a Winkel Tower being hit by a bomb.

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The bomb (as seen above) penetrated the wall and killed five air-defense servicemen standing guard on its sixth story. No other personnel were harmed.

This was the only example of one of the towers being hit by a bomb in the entire war. It should not be surprising therefore that the towers were built by their dozens, and made in various modifications, including towers covered in fire-proofed red brick.

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Based on Veremeev’s article on Winkel Towers

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Hasik, hold on!


I would like to apologize to my readers for the long hiatus in posts. Here’s a post by a Russian counter-terrorist law enforcement operative who posts by the handle of hardingush. The original can be accessed here.

Hasik, hold on!

“FSB and MVD operatives in Ingushetia neutralized a male with a suicide belt” – the Ingushetian Ministry of the Interior’s spokesman told Interfax. “Agents of the MVD Center of anti-extremist activites and agents of the regional FSB department detected Hassan Esmurziev, of Nazran, born 1981, and suspected of involvement with illegal armed groups”, the a representative of the spokesman’s office said.

“During the attempt to detain him, the male theatened to blow himself up with the operatives, after which he attempted to flee. During the chase, the LEOs had him blocked in one of the local properties. Despite the demands of police officers, the militant refused to surrender.”

“After Esmurziev’s attempt to close with one of the LEOs, issue weapons were used, and the male was shot in both hands”, the spokesman said. After this FSB agents neutralized and detained the man, confiscating a suicide belt with about 1 kilogram TNT-equivalent power, and an improvised explosive device of approximately 50 grams TNT-equivalent power. Currently the decision of whether to file charges is being made.

How it happened

Two of our agents visit this Esmurziev’s house for a prophylactic talk – there was no intent to detain him. They just wanted to talk, to feel him out about possible connections to militants – and then he tries to run off on them. He shouts: “I will blow you all up, stay away, you devils!” Of course, they don’t believe him – but then Hasik lifts his shirt, and there’s a suicide belt there. But the officers haven’t been born yesterday – they see the belt has no wires and no pull ring – it’s not ready yet. They tell him: “Stop bullshitting us, Hasik – how are you going to blow that up?”

Without hesitatoin, he pulls out a home-made grenade, presses it to his belt, and pulls out the ring. A shot in the arm – and the grenade falls. He catches it with his good hand and runs to a little shed nearby, getting shot in his healthy arm and leg. Nobody knows where the grenade is – has he lost it, or does he still have it?

By this time we are deployed on alert and run to the spot. Surround the area and start working with Hasik. We try to talk him into surrendering – but Hasik, the little devil, has no desire to do that. And evening is drawing near. Something must be done. Tear gas grenades don’t do the job – Hasik sneezes, cries, and holds on. Of course, we can shoot the shed to ribbons, but we can take him alive.

Then we see the grenade by the shed – it seems that he probably doesn’t have anything to blow up the shed with. We threw in flash-bangs and had the poor fellow tied up in 10 seconds.

A suicide belt and home-made grenade


The EOD tech is cross with us, but we’ll take a closer look…


Hasik is feeling very ill…


We inject and anesthethic and start bandaging him up…


“Hold on, Hasik! You’ll feel better now!”

Hasik catches on to a fighter’s leg and clenches it tight, to make bearing the pain easier.


Хасик говорит, что ему очень больно. Очень-очень… Поэтому приподнимаем его и делаем второй обезбаливающий укол.
На руке красная точка – это сквозное ранение. Кровотечения нет. 


Hasik asks for a drink.

“Can we give him water?”

- “Well he’s not been shot in the stomach.”

They bring water. While Hasik drinks, the fighters put on a tourniquet.


We stop the bleeding. Now we must write down the time the tourniquet has been put on. Everyone searches about for pen and paper.


They wet Hasik’s face with water.

- “Help, please.” – he whispers.

- “And what do you think we’re doing, Hasik? Hold on, the ambulance is on its way.”

Once more he holds on to a fighter’s leg. Previously he held on to a man’s hand. An observer might think the fighters are rescuing a wounded comrade…

They put water on his face to ease his condition.


The perimeter


The ambulance has arrived. Hasik has been saved. We can go home now


This post has been translated by MicroBalrog. Please keep an attribution and a link to this blog when reposting.

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German Group Shelter for swampy and forested terrain, Mod. 1942

German Group Shelter for swampy and forested terrain,
Mod. 1942, half-buried, double-walled
(Gruppenunterstand, teilweise versenkt Blockhaus mit Doppelwand fuer Sumpf- oder Waldgelaende)

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Shelter shown covered in soil, but not camouflaged

The current shelter is designed for the purpose of deploying in the area near the front command points and other control bodies on the Corps, Army, or Army Group levels where it is not possible or not profitable to deploy completely buried shelters.

The deployment of underground shelters is usually impossible if the aquifer is high and the shelter can be flooded. Alternatively, it is also impossible in rocky, near-rocky, and frozen soil, which is very hard to work in.

Author’s note: Rocky soil would be tolerable – you could, if nothing else, soften it up with explosives – especially given that you would immediately found a use for the broken rock. On the other hand, it is the most foolish thing in the world to make underground shelters in frozen soil, which is close to granite in hardness. As soon as stoves start working in the shelters, the soil around the shelter and under it will begin to defrost, and water will gradually begin flooding the room. Worse yet, often in the areas of eternal frost the soil is very saturated with water, and therefore moves when it unfreezes. It begins pushing against the walls, gradually destroying the shelter. Even a lack of heating does not help. Freezing water expands – and completes the destruction of the shelter.

Constructing underground shelters is usually undesirable in forested areas, as the earthwork needed there is far more extensive, while the likelihood of artillery barrages on major HQ points is either zero or very low. The forest, furthermore, provides quality natural concealment, which means that even if the opponent knows of the presence of a large HQ, finding it and accurately striking it is unlikely.

Author’s note: While many German generals (particularly Manstein) love telling in their memoirs of their spartan habits (sleeping in automobiles and tents, eating soldiers’ meals, hiding from bombs in slits with the men, headquarters working in the open air, and so forth), actual facts, including captured headquarters buildings, suggest that the Fuhrer’s generals preferred to fight in comfort. For examples, such shelters were found at the area where Paulus’ HQ was located near Stalingrad (near Golubinsky, near Nizhne-Chirskaya, in the shallows near Gumrak Station). And this is in an area with no woods, where every log needs to be ferried in – and yet timber is also fuel. It does not matter that troops are freezing in snow-trenches – Paulus and his staff require comfortable shelters – comfortable enough you can simply walk in to them, not merely descend underground on stairs!

In its design, the shelter is a wood cabin (Blockhaus in German) with double walls. The space between the walls, 1 meter wide, is filled with rocks. The outer dimensions of this frame are 8.5 by 8.5 meters. The logs are 25 centimeters in diameter. Inside it the frame has twoo rooms – 1) A main room 5.5 by 4.0 meters (22 square meters of useful area), with the ceiling 2.3 meters high, and 2) A corridor 8.5 meters long and 1.5 meters wide, with the ceiling 2.3 meters high.

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One gets into the corridor through two doorways on opposing sides of the frame. Both entrances to the corridor are closed with protective doors (1.2 by 1.8 meters). Access from the corridor to the main room is made possible through two doorways with protective doors in the internal wall. The corridor is intended primarily for guard posts.

Author’s Note: The very look of this shelter inspires certain thoughts. The main room is amazing in size. It might not be a hall, but it is a very large room. Our fortification manuals do not mention such rooms – and not a single support pillar, which is unusual for field fortification. The ceiling is 2.3 meters high – this is a wonderful, large room! And the doors? Normally in fortifications doors are sized just large enough to squeeze through without much comfort. Measure the rooms in your own apartment, dear reader – they’re likely to be a bit smaller.

And two separate entries, from different sides of the shelter? That’s no shelter, that’s some kind of conference hall for North-South Korea negotiations.

Therefore, the protective thickness of the shelter frame, horizontally, and excluding the soil coverage, is 50 cm. of wood and 1 meter of rock.

For illustration I am showing the shelter on the surface. From above the shelter frame is covered by three layers of logs, 25 centimeters in diameter and 9 meters in length. The roof and side walls are coated in pressed clay 30-40 centimeters roof, with the roof cover made with an incline from the center to the sides to allow rainwater or meltwater that seeps in to run off towards the edges of the structure. Then the walls and roof are covered in rock, with thickness of 1 meter at the walls and 50-60 centimeters on the roof.

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Author’s Note: Why two walls ( the front and rear wall) have no clay or stone cover, the author cannot tell. But this is on the drawing – the text does not explain or mention it. I can only surmise this is an error on the drawing, while the walls are actually supposed to have both clay and stone cover.

The shelter is constructed in a foundation pit 10.5 meters wide and long, and 1 meter deep. 111 cubic meters of soil need to be moved. At the entrances, stairs are to be dug and covered in boards (this is described specifically in the manul). In front of the stairs, drainage well are made in the floor for rainwater.

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Should groundwater levels allow, ceramic drainage pipes are installed in the floor to remove water from under the shelter. If the water won’t flow independently, preparations for a pump must be made.

While the drawing does not show this, the descriptions mentions that, for protection against cold, the main room is equipped with two stoves mounted near the internal wall with the doors. Provisions must be made for electric cabling for light, and if candles or kerosene lamps are used for lamps, two ventilation pipes must be installed. A flooring made from 10×10 centimeter section wood beams is laid on a sand bedding.

The complete shelter is covered with soil. On the roof, over the rock layer, one adds a soil bedding (including a layer of grass-turf) 30-cm. The minimal width of the soil level at the upper angles of the wood cover is 1 meter. The slopes are made as light as possible, based on the camouflage conditions, so as to make the resulting hill as little noticeable as possible, with the hill’s total height at 3.85 meters above ground. The protective thickness of the walls is, therefore, 75 meters of wood, 30 centimeters of clay, 60 cm. of rock and 30 cm. of soil. Total – 1.95 meters. That’s quite solid!

Internal fittings of the shelter are not defined in Manual 57/5.

Expenses in materiel and labor:

  • Digging the foundation pit – 111 cubic meters of soil
  • Covering the structure – 600 cubi meters of soil
  • 25-centimeter diameter logs – 130 cubic meters
  • Timber – beams and sheets – 54 cubic meters
  • Split rock – 190 cubic meters
  • Pressed clay – 22 cubic meters
  • Labor (exluding preparing and delivering materiel, camouflage and internal fitting work) – 1980 man-hours

P.S. In the 1960′s the author had visited such a structure about 20-25 kilometers west of Chernyakhovsk (former Insternburg) in Kaliningrad Oblast. The shelter was found by accident, over more than 20 years after the end of the war, even though it was in the forest, only several kilometers away from a village. IT was expected to be mined, so the village Soviet called out a sapper team. There were no mines. Inside, the ceiling and walls were covered with tarpaulin. Two metal stoves were present, as well as a small supply of coal in two crates. A large desk, as well as several chairs, were present, and another small desk in the corner, to which 3-4 dozen pairs of phone cables lead from the wall. Two empty metal cupboards were present. There was no electric lighting. The floor was covered in water to a depth of about 20 centimeters. It seemed the shelter was built and made ready, but never used.

Sources and Literature

1.Merkblatt 57/5 (Anhang 2 zur H.Dv.1a Zeite 57, NR.5). Bildheft neuzitlicher Stellungsbau.Von 15.9.42. Berlin 1943
2. Field Fortification Guide for the Engineering Forces [PF-43], Moscow, 1943
3. Shmelev, I. P. AFVs of the Third Reich, Moscow, 1996
4. Karelian Front Combat Engineer Commander’s Field Manual, Karelian Front, 1943
5. 5.H.Dv.220/4b. Ausbildungsforschrift fuer der Pioniere (A.V.Pi.). Teil 4b. Verlag “Offene Worte”. Berlin. 1939.
6. 6.H.Dv.130/2a. Ausbildungsforschrift fuer der Infanterie (A.V.Pi.). Heft 2a.  Die Schuetzenkompanie. Verlag “Offene Worte”. Berlin. 1941.
7. 7.H.Dv.316. Pionierdienst aller Waffen (Au.Pi.D.).  Verlag E.S.Mittler und Sohn. Berlin. 1936.
8. Temporary Manual for Winter Fortification Works, Moscow, 1942
9. The German Defense System, a Manual., Moscow, 1942
10. Weltz, G. The Betrayed Soldiers, Moscow, 2011
11. Guderian, H. Memoirs of a Soldier, 2003
12. Westphalia and other Fateful Decisions. The Journey to Stalingrad, St. Petersburg, 2001
13. I. Wieder The Stalingrad Tragedy, Moscow, 2004
14. von Senger, F. Neither Fear nor Hope, Moscow, 2003
15. Adam W. I Was Paulus’ Adjutant, Moscow, 2005
16. Army Field Fortifications, a Manual, Moscow, 1962

Translated by MicroBalrog from this page.

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A Little About Tank Ramming

A little about tank ramming
O. Losik, Hero of the Soviet Union, Marshal of the Armored Forces

Among the exploits of tankers, the tank ram takes a special place. Sadly, few men today know of the hero tankers that mastered the ram. But these occurred throughout the war. One of the first to execute a tank ram was a crew commanded by Lieutenant P. Gudz. This occurred on June 22, 1941, 8 kilometers away from Yavorovo: Gudz rammed a German T-III and an APC with his KV tank.

Especially many ram attacks were executed in 1943. At Prohorovka, Soviet warriors executed over 20 rams, while in the 50 days of the Battle of Kursk – over 50. These rams destroyed not merely light or medium armored vehicles, but sometimes even Tigers and Panthers. Hull blows devastated the German tanks, breaking armor, tearing tracks, smashing roadwheels.

Rams were usually done in emergencies, for example when a tank ran out of ammunition or its gun was disabled in combat. Sometimes they were done in urban combat or close combat, when our tanks broke into enemy formation. It was best to ram tanks from the side, which sometimes overturned the enemy vehicle. Sometimes enemy vehicles suffered fuel or ammunition detonations, which usually damaged both vehicles.

Sometimes, to carry out their mission, crews deliberately resorted to rams. This usually happened in low visibility or at night, when accurate cannon fire was impossible. Such deliberate rams were most useful against enemy columns. Tanks would burst into the column, smashing the enemy with hull blows and causing panic. This form of ramming is one of the peaks of bravery and skill for tankers acting in reconnaissance and vanguard units. These usually inflicted grave damage upon the enemy.

Such rams were carried out during war by the crews of Heroes of the Soviet Union Captain V. Bogachev of the 43rd Tank Division at Dubno (26.04.1941), Sr. Lieutenant A. Umnikov of the 50th Guards Tank Brigade at Kramatorsk (7.02.1941), Lieutenant I. Kiselev of the 65th Tank Brigade at Yusefuv, Poland (15.01.1945).

There exist several recorded instances of tanks ramming armored trains. On 24.06.1944, at Black Ford train station near Bobruisk, such a ram was executed by a tank commanded by Guards Lieutenant Dmitry Komarov of the 15th Guards Tank Brigade. On 04.08.1944, at Sandomir Grounds, by Captain Leonid Maleev, commander of a company in the 47th Guards Heavy Tank Regiment.

Bursting into enemy airfields, warriors rammed enemy aircraft. Drivers of the 24th Tank Corps, during the offensive in the Battle of Stalingrad, fought through over 240 kilometers of ground in 5 days and, on the morning of 24.12.1942, arrived at Tatzinskaya Station, where a rear-echelon base and two enemy airfields were located, with over 300 aircraft. The tankers were low on ammunition, and destroyed the enemy aircraft with rams. The men of the 1st tank battalion of the 54th tank brigade under Captain S. Strelkov and the 2nd Tank Battalion of the 130th Brigade under Captain M. Nechaev destroyed over 300 planes on airfields and 50 aboard trains. The tankers broke the ‘air bridge’ that supplied Paulus’ and Manstein’s forces.

Tanks rammed aircraft also on 11.01.1944, when the 49th Tank Battalion destroyed 17 aircraft at Lubek City Airfield, Poland. On 28.03.1944, the 64th Guards Tank Brigade destroyed 30 aircraft with rams and fire at Chernovtzy City Airfield. On 17.01.1943, a tank company under I. Kravchenko from the 47th Guards Tank Brigade destroyed 20 planes at Sokhachev with rams and fire.

Tank rams could occur during the day and during the night. On 26.06.1941, a night ram was executed near Dubno by tankers of the 43rd Separate Tank Recon Battalion. A column of an enemy tank regiment armed with T-II and T-III tanks stopped to refuel. At nightfall, Cpt. Arhipov’s tanks fired a main gun volley and burst into the column. The enemy took great losses, and a panic ensued. POWs were taken.

Tanks burst into enemy position, rammed artillery batteries, six-barreled rocket mortars, and other weapons. Sometimes, to save time, warriors crushed Berlin barricades or building walls.

Tank rams depended on the training of tank commanders and drivers. Such a blow depended on the crew, especially the driver, displaying high professionalism, the straining of mental and physical capacities, bravery and heroism. Thuse rams were mostly executed by experienced tankers, who trusted in the capacity of their vehicles and were ready to do their warrior’s duty to their Motherland to the last.

Most tank rams were performed by the crews of KV and T-34 tanks. They possessed meaningful mass, speed, and heavy armor, enabling them to use hull blows to devastate enemy tanks, APCs, assault guns and other equivalent targets. Sometimes crews utilized a last-ditch ‘fire ram’ in a burning vehicle. Sometimes a single crew used the ram multiple times. During the defense of Moscow in November 1941, 4 rams were executed by the KV crew commanded by A. Bosov, Hero of the Soviet Union. KV driver N. Tomashevich performed 3 rams in one battle on 12.07.1941, defending the tank of Lt. Colonel Vyaznikov, commander of the operational group, that was endngered near Luga. I. Rogozin rammed the enemy three times at Krivoy Rog, while the crews of Lieutenant I. Butenko and Sr. Lieutenant P. Zaharzchenko executed two rams each.

Should tankers be trained in tank ramming? The experience of the past war shows: yes! In several tank units at the front, and in fact at several academies, this was deliberately taught during the war – and rightly so. Tank rams sometimes allowed crews to triump in the deadliest situations, inflicting great damage upon the enemy.

The tank ram is a weapon for brave men. It combines limitless bravery with great warrior’s skill and ccuracy. Camaraderie and the sense of great responsibility for one’s warrior’s duty to the Fatherland were the main motive for tankers’ use of this weapon during the War.

1. Between 12-14 1943, Glazunovka. Vasily Porshnev Battery Commander of the 4th battery of the 1454th Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment and his driver, Afanasy Zakharov, use their SU-122 cannon to ram a Nashorn self-propelled gun at full-speed, throwing it for several meters and causing it to lose a track. This was the first ram attack in the regiment. Porshnev received no award. By that time his SU-122 had already 3 kill.

2. 28.08.1943, Veselaya Kalina. 1454th Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment Lieutenant Steblyaev’s and driver Grechin’s SU-122 rams a Tiger tank, causing it to throw a track. Another crew finishes off the Tiger with a turret shot. The tank does not burn, but the crew abandons the vehicle.

Translated by MicroBalrog from this site.

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My Book Is out – and even has its first review!

The book I’ve translated, Destroy the Enemy in Hand-to-Hand-ComBat by Major-General A. A. Tarasov of the Soviet Army, has finally come out, via DiLernia Publishing.

Here’s what David Kantrowitz, author of Reckless Faith, has to say about this book. It’s all true, too:

As a former infantryman in the US Army, this book covers familiar territory for me. It was very interesting to see many of the same tactics still being taught to soldiers after almost seventy years. As a primer, it is not bad, but of course its true appeal comes from a historical perspective.

Though weapons may have advanced over the decades, and the form of the enemy may change, certain traits of a warrior have not. Aggressiveness and tenacity will always be important, as will the need for close-quarters (and perhaps unconventional) weapons. Though today’s soldier should be lucky enough to be carrying a pistol as backup, weapons that are always there (and don’t need reloading) will always have their place.

Boris Karpa’s translation of the original text is excellent, and maintains a distinct tone. One can almost imagine a Russian accent as they read it. I appreciate how much work must have gone into this translation, and find myself hoping that Karpa finds the time to bring us other classic Soviet training manuals.

This was a fun book, and will be of interest to anyone who has ever wondered what it would be like to cross bayonets (or entrenching tools) with the enemy.

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S-13 Tulumbas Unguided Rockets

S-13 Tulumbas Unguided Rockets
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In the first hald of the 1970′s the skirmishes between Iraq and Iran and the Arab-Israeli war have shown the world that previous approaches to aircraft deployment and camouflage were outdated. Parking planes in long rows on open airfields might lead to all of them being lost to a strike just by a single enemy plane that bypassed one’s AA’s systems. Surrounding the planes with breastwork became impactical as well due to the increased effecitveness of aviation armaments.

This experience has led NATO command in Europe to deploy its planes inside various shelters. The simplest camouflage shelters were of a rapid-assembly type and were fairly well camouflaged. On open terrain, where such shelters could not be found, the shelters were simply made out of poured steel-reinforced concrete, utilizing an internal anti-spalling cover of 5mm corrugated steel. This would be then covered by a thick layer of soil, and formed into a fairly sturdy fortification that could withstand several direct hits from fragmentation and HE-F bombs.

The Soviet leadership required an adequate answer for possible NATO aggression, in the form of an unguided air-launched rocket capable of piercing arch-type shelters and effectively engaging vehicles and equipment deployed within them. While this could be already resolved using the high-caliber S-25-OF rockets, a truly giant amount of munitions was needed to engage a single airbase with dispersed and sheltered aircraft, especially given the presence of enemy AA and decoys. Existing aviation weapons could not be optimized for such tasks.

Meanwhile, based on an analysis carried out in 1969, Tochmash suggested that more attention be given to the 127mm caliber, which could later take up an intermediate position between 57mm and 240mm unguided rockets (broadly similar to the Zuni rockets used by NATO forces). These arguments later led to the work carried out at the Novisibirsk Institute for Applied Physics, related to the S-13 122mm rocket.

The Siberians began working on their rockets in 1973. By 1979 the S-13 Tulumbas rocket enetered state testing with its UB-13 universal six-barreled launcher. The chief engineer was Major Toropov, while Major V. Myzin was chief test pilot.

Naturally, the test targets chosen consisted mainly of reinforced concrete shelters made for the purpose. These were fairly large and easy to hit. The most impressive shelter, equipped with 1-meter thick concrete walls under a 5-meter layer of soil, was pierced easily by S-13 rockets, which went on to detonate in its earthen floor. After removing the soil from the reinforced concrete shelter, the test team discovered entry holes on the concrete, surrounded by craters 1-2 meters in diameter and 0.2-0.4 meters in depth. Inside the shelter, craters were discovered around the exit holes, 1.5 meters in diameter and 0.4 meters deep. The rocket was adopted for service in 1983.

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That said, Tulumbas had one disadvantage. When it was fired at copies of typical NATO shelters, concrete shrapnel from the entry hole was kept in place by the corrugated steel anti-spall cover. The rocket simply came through the soil, concrete walls, and even a concrete floor, detonating deep underground and not damaging the plane at all if it did not suffer a direct hit. Altering the fuze delay time appeared meaningless, since the depth of the soil covering was not uniform. The delay time would have to be altered for fractions of a second, depending on what part of the shelter was hit.

S-13 was still being tested when, in 1982, the Applied Physics Institute began developing an improved, concrete-piercing munition (designated S-13T) carrying two warheads mounted in tandem. On the new rocket, each warhead had its own bottom-type detonator. When an obstacle was encountered, both detonators exploded at different points. Therefore they performed as backups to each other – if the first warhead were to detonate under the floor of the shelter, the second would, inevitably, detonate inside the shelter itself. On the other hand, if the first one would detonate inside the shelter, the second would often be outside it. The ideal situation would be the detonation of both warhead modules inside the reinforce concrete shelter.

In 1982 the Air Force Science and Research Institute performed state testing of the S-13T rocket aboard the SU-17M4 fighter-bomber, with Lt. Colonel Sherstyuk as head engineer and Lt. Colonel Boroday as head pilot. 31 flight was carried out, and 99 rockets were launched. 31 rockets impacted reinforced concete shelters with concret walls 1 meter thick and soil cover between 2 and 6 meters thick, proceeding to detonate within the shelter.

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B13L launch block for the S-13 unguided rocket.

The rocket was also tested on runways. The unguuided rockets did not bounce off, destroying concrete 0.25 meters thick on an area of 15-17.5 square meters. When fired in volleys the rockets were spread in a pattern not more than 10 meters. After testing results the Insitute guaranteed each rocket could survive 20 take-offs and landings within its storage period without affecting its reliability.

Given the caliber of the new rocket system, the developers suggested creating on the basis of the rocket a weapon to combat ligthly-armored and unarmored vehicles in the open. This weapon was intended to consist of an HE-F unguided rocket, more effective than the S-8 rocket in use at the time, and sharing as many parts as possible with the existing S-13 rockets.

State testing commenced with Sr. Lieutenant Arhipov as chief engineer, and Colonel Pavlenko as the head SU-17M4 pilot.

Test-firing the rocket at BMP-1 vehicles with composite frontal armor 20-25mm thick demonstrated that, when impacts occured within 5 meters of the vehicle, shrapnel from the warhead penetrated easily, forming a ‘plug’. At a distance of ten meters the shrapnel would ricochet off some of the armor surfaces, leaving dents 5-10mm deep. Thus, lightly-armored vehicles would be guaranteed to be disabled within 25 meters, while unarmored vehicles would be disabled within 60 meters of the impact point. The damage done would be such that the vehicles could be restored to use no earlier than within 2 hours.

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When an S-13-OF impacted between the axles of a BRDM, near its side, sixty holes were found on the vehicle. The explosion ripped off the upper half of the hull along the welding line, as well as ripping off a wheel and its wheelhouse. The average area holes in armor plate reached 5-8 square centimeters, and 8-10 centimeters in duraluminum. A direct impact on an IS-3 heavy tank removed a guiding wheel and two road wheels, as well as 1.5 meters of track. The 50mm-thick armor plate over the engine was bent 25-30mm. The cannon, with its quality artillery-steel sides 20-30mm thick was pierced thrice. Finally, 12 dents and caverns with a depth of 8-15mm were also located on it.

Flight testing proved that the shrapnel damage of the S-13 during airburst increased by a factor of 1.5 when attacking exposed targets and by a factor of 2-3 when attacking entrenched targets. In early 1986 the unguided rocket was formally deployed with the Air Force.

The experience of local conflicts has demonstrated the high effectiveness of FAE munitions. Therefore in 1987 the Applied Physics Institute was tasked with developing an unguided rocket using an FAE warhead, designated S-13DF.

In 1993, the rocket, designed for engaging compact group targets on the ground and on the water was delivered to the Air Force Science and Research Institute, for state testing under Major Presnyakov as chief engineer.

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The B-13L launch block under the wing of a SU-25TK

The testing involved a SU-27 and SU-27UB plane, with the chief focus being on lightly-armored vehicles. During aerial shooting, two rockets from one salvo impacted a part of the target imitating 3 BMP-1s in a moving column. One of the rockets impacted a BMP-1 on its stern, completely destroying the crew compartment. The turret was ripped off and thrown six meters, three roadwheels were also torn away. Every hatch and shield was also ripped off. Another BMP-1 was struck on its front side, into the armor plate covering the engine compartment. The blast wave ripped out the 15mm-thick sheet of armor entirely, as well as forming 20mm-wide hole in it. The lower baseplate on which the engine rested was heavily deformed.

To this day there are not foreign equivalents to the S-13DF rockets. In early 1995 the S-13DF rocket was deployed with the Air Force.

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Specifications: S13/S13T/S-13OF/S-13D
Caliber [mm]: 122/122/122/122
Length [mm]:2540/3100/2898/3120
Mass [kilograms]:57/75/69/68
Warhead mass [kilograms]: 21/21/33/32
Explosive mass [kilograms]: 1.82/1.8/7/ N/A
Range [meters]: 1100-3000/1100-4000/1600-3000/1600-3000
Speed [meters/second]: 650/500/530/530


E. Arseniev, N. Semirek, Time and Aviation, ‘Rocket Armaments for the MiGs’
O. Presniakov, M. Semivragov,, ‘Arrows of the Thunder-casters’
A. Shirokorad, History of Aviation Armaments
V. Markovsky, K. Perov, Wings of the Motherland, ‘Heirs of the RS’

Translated by MicroBalrog from this site.

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