The Russian ZSU-23-4 SPAAG Series

The Russian ZSU-23-4 SPAAG Series

The Russian ZSU-23-4 SPAAG Series is a Russian Cold War era Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun. ZSU stands for Zenitnaya Samokhodnaya Ustanovka (Russian: Зенитная Самоходная Установка), meaning “anti-aircraft self-propelled mount”. The “23” signifies the bore diameter in millimetres. The “4” signifies the number of gun barrels.

It tracks airborne targets using a RPK-2 “Tobol” radar with a range of up to 20 km. However, the radar picks up many false returns (ground clutters) under 60m (200 ft) of altitude. The radar antenna is mounted on collapsible supports in the top rear of the turret.

The vehicle entered service in 1962 and can still be found in service in a number of nations. It was manufactured by the Mytishchi Engineering Works (MMZ), which ended in 1982 with an unconfirmed 6500 vehicles built.

The Russian ZSU-23-4 SPAAG Series Specifications

Weight: 19 tonnes
Length: 6.535 m
Width: 3.125 m
Height: 2.576 m (3.572 m with elevated radar)
Crew: 4 (commander, driver, gunner, radar operator)
Armour:  welded steel, 9.2 mm turret, up to 15 mm hull
Primary armament: 4 × 23 mm 2A7 auto cannons (AZP-23 “Amur” quad automatic anti-aircraft gun), ammunition storage 2000 rounds
Engine: 280hp V-6R, 6-cylinder 4-stroke airless-injection water cooled 19.1 litre diesel
Power/weight: 14.7 hp/tonne (11.0 kW/tonne)
Suspension: individual torsion bar with hydraulic shock absorbers of 1st, 5th left and 6th right road wheels
Ground clearance: 400 mm
Operational range: 450 km (road), 300 km (off-road)
Top Speed: 50 km/h (road), 30 km/h (off-road)

The Russian ZSU-23-4 SPAAG Series Variants

ZSU-23-4 “Shilka” (1964): pre-production and then initial production models.

ZSU-23-4V “Shilka” (1968): modernized variant with enhanced reliability of some details, ventilation system case located on the right side of the hull. Commander vision device was added.

ZSU-23-4V1 “Shilka” (1970): modernized variant with enhanced reliability of radar system and other details, ventilation system cases located on front bilges of the turret. Guidance-system computer was improved (as well as accuracy and efficiency of anti-aircraft fire on the move at 40 km/h). It is fitted with a slightly improved diesel engine V-6R-1.

ZSU-23-4M “Biryusa” (1973): armed with modernized autocannons 2A7M—pneumatic loading was replaced with pyrotechnic loading (unreliable compressor was removed), welded tubes of coolant outlet were replaced with flexible pipes which increased autocannon barrel life from 3500 rounds to 4500 rounds.

ZSU-23-4MZ “Biryusa” (Z stands for “zaproschik”—”inquirer”) (1977): equipped with identification friend-or-foe system “Luk”. All ZSU-23-4M were upgraded to ZSU-23-4MZ level during scheduled repairs. It should be noted that army unofficially continued to use the name “Shilka” for all variants of ZSU-23-4.

ZSU-23-4M2 (1978): so called “Afghan” variant. Reequipment performed during the Soviet War in Afghanistan for mountain combats. Radar system was removed and night-sight was added. Ammunition increased from 2,000 rounds to 4,000 rounds.

ZSU-23-4M4 (1999): modernized variant developed by Ulyanovsk Mechanical Plant. The vehicle armed with two additional paired man-portable air-defense systems “Igla” (on each side of the turret) and equipped with laser emission sensors, electron-optical vision devices (including television system for driver) and improved weapon radar system. Mechanical transmission was replaced on hydrostatic transmission, hydraulic boosters were installed. Mobility increased to the level of main battle tanks. First shown on public during exhibition MAKS-99 in Zhukovsky.

Donets (1999): Ukrainian modernization developed by Malyshev Tank Factory in Kharkov. Improved turret from ZSU-23-4 armed with two additional paired man-portable air-defense systems “Strela-10” was installed on chassis from T-80UD main battle tank. Ammunition for 23 mm autocannons increased two times.

ZSU-23-4 “Biała”: Polish modification of the ZSU-23-4 “Shilka” self-propelled anti-aircraft gun. The ZSU-23-4 “Biała” includes a new digital optical targeting system and 4 Grom surface-to-air missile launcher. The AZP-23 autocannons are equipped with modern ammunition and have an increased effective anti-aircraft range to about 3,5 km, 0.5-1 km more than the old ZSU-23-4. The Grom missiles’ maximum range is about 5,5 km.

The Russian ZSU-23-4 SPAAG Series

Around 70 ZSU-23-4 “Biała” self-propelled anti-aircraft guns are to be produced for the Polish army, as a cheaper alternative to the modern Polish 35 mm PZA Loara self-propelled anti-aircraft gun.

The Russian ZSU-23-4 SPAAG Series Operators

Afghanistan: 20 were delivered from USSR
Algeria: 210 delivered from former USSR
Angola: 20+ were delivered from USSR
Bulgaria: 30 (27 in active service)
Congo: 8
Cuba: 36 in 1995 delivered from Russia
Egypt: 350 in 1995. 330 were delivered from USSR, also a new contract was signed with Russia in 2005
Ecuador: 34 from Nicaragua in 1997
Ethiopia: 60
Georgia: 38
East Germany (Former): 131 were delivered from USSR
Guinea-Bissau: 16 were delivered from USSR
Hungary: 20 in 1995
India: 100 were delivered from USSR
Iran: 100+
Iraq: 200+
Israel: 60 (Captured)
Jordan: 16 in 1995 (delivered from USSR) and additional 45 in 2008
Laos: 10+
Lebanon: ex-PLO vehicles operated by the Lebanese Army (2), Lebanese Forces (3), Al-Murabitun (3).
Libya: 250
North Korea: 100+ were delivered from USSR
Peru: 36
Poland: 150 were delivered from USSR
Somalia: 4
Soviet Union/ Russia: 450 in active service in 2007 (400 are used by army and 50 by marines)
Syria: 400 were delivered from USSR
United States: the United States operates a few ZSU-23-4 for testing. (most of them are at Camp Pendleton)
Turkmenistan: 28
Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

Vietnam: 100
Yemen: 30 to 40 in 1995 (delivered to South Yemen from USSR)

The Russian ZSU-23-4 SPAAG Series Combat History

1968–1970: War of Attrition
1973: Yom Kippur War
1959–1975: Vietnam War, during the last stage of Ho Chi Minh Campaign in 1975 by battery of 237th Anti-aircraft Artillery Regiment.
1975–1990: Lebanese Civil War
1975–1991: Angolan Civil War, 1st Civil War
1975–1991: Western Sahara War
1977: Libyan-Egyptian War
1977–1978: Ogaden War
1979–1988: Soviet War in Afghanistan
1980–1988: Iran–Iraq War
1982: Lebanon War
1990–1991: Gulf War
1992–1993: Georgian–Abkhazian conflict
1994–1996: First Chechen War
1999: Second Chechen War
2003: Invasion of Iraq
2008: War in South Ossetia
2011: Libyan Civil War