More than one thousand troops from the Russian Northern Fleet’s army corps and marine infantry are now taking part in a month-long field exercise that began earlier this week in the Murmansk Region. The training maneuvers are taking place under the command of artillery chiefs of motor rifle formations and a marine infantry brigade.
Over the next month, the artillery personnel will reportedly be sharpening their field skills while also attending tactical, special and technical training classes. The troops will also be holding exercises and qualification drills including live fire and artillery fire control.
“The exercise involves over 1,000 troops and more than 200 items of armament and military hardware, including Grad multiple rocket launchers, Gvozdika and Akatsiya self-propelled artillery guns, mortars and anti-tank missile systems,” the press office for the Russian Northern Fleet said in a statement to Tass.
What is notable about the drills isn’t that these will take place in the Russian Arctic region over the next month, but that some of the equipment noted could be best described as antiquated.
Both the Gvozdika and Akatsiya are self-propelled howitzer tracked armored vehicles that date back to the Soviet era and were developed likely well before most of the troops engaged in this month-long exercise were born. The 122-millimeter S21 Gvozdika has been used by military forces around the world, but in the Russian military, it is largely only in service with reserve units and has largely been replaced by the 152-millimeter 2S19 MSTA, which entered service in 1989.
However, the Gvozdika may still be used with training units of the Russian Northern Fleet as it is fully amphibious, and can be propelled in the water by its tracks with a maximum speed of 4.5 kilometers per hour. It is compatible with all 122-millimeter munitions developed for the D-30 howitzer.
The 152-millimeter 2S3 Akatsiya, was developed in response to the U.S. M109 self-propelled howitzer, has remained a workhorse for the Russian military despite the fact that production ceased in 1993. While it features a load assisting system, the maximum rate of fire is still only three to four rounds per minute. It is compatible with all 152-millimeter munitions developed for the D-20, ML-20 and D-1 towed artillery systems including HE-FRAG, HEAT, AP-tracer, illumination and even nuclear projectiles. The maximum range of direct fire is four kilometers. Secondary armament consists of a remotely controlled 7.62 mm machine gun, mounted on top of the roof.
The BM-21 Grad is even older, and the truck-mounted 122 mm multiple rocket launcher was developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It entered service with the Soviet Red Army in 1963 and its main role at the time was to provide suppressive fire to counter anti-tank missiles, artillery and mortar positions, as well as to destroy strong points and eliminate enemy nodes on the battlefield.
Despite the age of the Grad, the systems are still capable of causing damage. One factor is the number that the Soviets built, and many still remain in Russia’s vast arsenals. The Grad consisted of forty 122-millimeter rocket tubes on a Ural-375D truck. More than eleven thousand Grads were built, serving not just in the Soviet Army but being exported widely to Soviet allies and client states worldwide.
While the systems are old, it is clear that these can all still pack a mighty punch.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.