Armed Forces

Ukraine: Air Defence Classics Make a Comeback

Photo. Lithuanian MoD/Twitter

The Netherlands, as Oryx reports, decided to support Ukraine with more than a hundred 14.5 mm and 40 mm AAA systems. That delivery would make it possible to increase inventory saturation among the elements fighting the enemy air assets in the Kyiv region for instance. Both the AAA systems (Bofors, S-60, Gepard), and heavy machine guns used in the anti-aircraft role are going through their renaissance in Ukraine.

The AAA assets have proven their worth in Ukraine as a countermeasure against the massive Russian airstrikes, especially those involving UAVs, cruise missiles, and other threats. This has become an unparalleled method of eliminating air threats from the cost-effect perspective which motivates the allies to increase their transfers of such armament systems to Ukraine. The Netherlands decided to provide Ukraine with 17 towed 40 mm Bofors L70 guns. 36 examples of these have already been transferred by Lithuania as well.

Victor self-propelled AAA system.
Photo. Gift for Putin

14.5 mm Victor systems, 100 of which were procured by Ukraine, are much more interesting here. This system is being manufactured at the Czech Excalibur Army enterprise, and it comes in a form of integration of a modernized 14.5 mm ZPU-2 air defence system on a Toyota Land Cruiser HZJ 79.

These systems are to increase the capabilities available to Ukrainians when eliminating enemy air assets (mainly UAVs, given the effective target elimination range of 2,000 meters for ZPU-2, less than in the case of the ever-so-popular ZU-23-2 system). It can be used to eliminate low-flying threats, such as helicopters, or land assets. Each vehicle carries more than 600 rounds of ammo. If the barrel gets overheated, it can be rapidly replaced. The targeting system includes daytime sight, night sight, and direct fire sight.

Dual KPV 14.5 mm heavy machine guns.
Photo. Gift for Putin

Bofors L70 is a Swedish 40 mm air defence system, developed as a replacement for the L60 variant, dating back to WWII. It was developed in the 1950s. The latest variants of this gun are operated as the primary weaponry for many vehicles, including CV9040 or K21. The gun has a range of more than 4,000 meters (or even more, should a modern fire control system be employed). The muzzle velocity is defined as around 1,000 meters per second. The weapon is currently used by, among other states, India, Serbia, Brazil, Nigeria, and Sweden. The rounds are very powerful which compensates for the limitations imposed by the rate of fire. The latest variants also use programmable munitions.

Notably, both Bofors and ZPU-2 systems have their roots dating back 5 decades, while they are currently employed against an entirely new threat set. Let us add, that many western users have decommissioned AAA systems, without designating any replacement. One could state that the War in Ukraine led to a situation in which the air defense classics can be valued again. 57 mm S-60 guns, and the more modern self-propelled, radar-guided 35 mm Gepard systems also belong to that category. The Gepards have been withdrawn by Germany a decade ago, as a system that offers no upgrade prospects, and without any successor system selected.