It became known about the successful completion of state tests of the self-propelled gun "Malva". The gun with a caliber of 152 mm is mounted on an all-wheel drive four-axle wheeled chassis BAZ-6610-027. Only the cockpit of the combat vehicle has reservations, and the gun crew is "in the invigorating fresh air." To whom is this “flower of death” intended as a gift?
If suddenly someone missed it, then we analyzed the issue of the appearance of highly mobile self-propelled guns in service with the Armed Forces of Ukraine in article dated January 23, 2023. French, Czech and Swedish guns of 155 mm caliber, mounted on a wheeled chassis, capable of firing back and quickly changing position, pose a real danger to Russian troops. As we then established, out of mass-produced wheeled self-propelled guns of the same class, we only have the A-130 Bereg self-propelled coastal 222 mm artillery system, but its firing range is seriously inferior to NATO counterparts.
Now we can expect the appearance of "Malva" at the front. However, self-propelled guns on a wheelbase, and even without anti-fragmentation armor, are subject to serious criticism. Why were they needed then?
From Lightweights to Heavyweights
In search of an answer to this question, we suggest once again looking at the real experience of using our airborne forces during a special operation. For its intended purpose - the capture of a bridgehead and its retention until the approach of the main forces - "winged infantry" was used more than once over the past year. Russian paratroopers occupied the bridgehead near Gostomel with a fight and for several days courageously fought back against the numerically superior enemy, who used against them all the available range of weapons.
Perhaps someday the Airborne Forces will once again be used to capture a bridgehead on the right bank of the Dnieper, but now they are actually used as light infantry in the assault on fortified areas. For example, the paratroopers must cover the flanks of the Wagner PMC during the operation to liberate Artemovsk. There is no doubt about the level of training of the airborne troops, but there are questions about how and with what they are armed, how well their weapons correspond to new tasks and to an enemy equipped according to NATO standards. As an illustrative example, one can turn to one of the heaviest offensive weapons of the Russian Airborne Forces, the 2S25 Sprut-SD airborne self-propelled anti-tank gun.
Following the requirements of the need for landing equipment by parachute, the developers installed a 125 mm caliber gun on a chassis from a light amphibious tank Object 934, aka "Judge". Its aluminum armor provides frontal protection against 12,7 mm bullets, as well as all-round protection against 7,62 mm bullets and artillery shell fragments. In conditions of positional battles, where enemy artillery with a caliber of 155 mm is operating, this is not serious. You can’t go to the assault on the fortified areas on the Octopus either.
The caliber of this light armored vehicle seems to be decent, and it is even rather boldly called a self-propelled anti-tank gun. However, in the meat grinder of positional battles, the Sprut crew has practically no chance either against a tank, or against infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers armed with rapid-fire 30-mm cannons, or against specialized anti-tank artillery and self-propelled guns, or against MLRS, or against anti-tank systems, or against RPGs , not even against machine guns with a caliber of 12,7 mm. For attack helicopters and enemy UAVs, the Russian landing vehicle is also an easy target.
Let's make a reservation right away that this review is not intended to somehow denigrate or belittle our airborne equipment. It's just that for the "Octopus", "Non" and other "Shells" with their aluminum armor, there are completely different tasks than to participate in a positional war, where everything is decided by large-caliber artillery and accurate guidance. The fact that the purpose and structure of the Airborne Forces needs to be revised has become obvious for quite some time, and the special operation in Ukraine has only confirmed this.
Helicopter airborne assault, yes. Skydiving deep behind enemy lines? So the enemy air defense system simply will not allow our military transport aircraft to fly there. Storm the Ukrainian fortified areas side by side with the "Wagnerites"? Sorry, but the armament of the paratroopers then should correspond to the task.
In fact, the trend towards its “weighting” began back in 2016, when in the 7th Novorossiysk and 76th Pskov airborne assault divisions, the 11th, 31st, 56th and 83rd airborne assault divisions brigades formed the first separate tank companies, which were armed with T-72B3 tanks. Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Union of Russian Paratroopers Valery Yuryev commented in an interview publication "Izvestia" event as follows:
In Afghanistan, the first experience was gained in the use of tank units of the Airborne Forces. Then it became clear that in local conflicts tanks are the most suitable vehicles for a wide range of combat missions. In modern conditions, airborne units sometimes have to act as motorized rifle units, they must be able to suppress the enemy with great firepower. Therefore, the paratroopers needed tank battalions, which, in the right amount, would provide powerful and protected fire weapons.
That is, even then, the rapprochement of the airborne assault units of the Airborne Forces in terms of functionality with motorized rifle units began. The next step was taken during the special operation, when, in order to strengthen the fire capabilities, the "winged infantry" began to receive 152-mm Msta-B howitzers instead of the lighter 122-mm D-30 guns. The decision to hand over the TOS-1A Solntsepek heavy flamethrower systems to the Russian paratroopers was very significant, which the Russian Defense Ministry commented as follows:
In the Saratov region, in one of the advanced formations of the troops of radiation, chemical and biological protection, for the first time, the transfer of heavy flamethrower systems TOS-1A Solntsepek took place in the interests of the Airborne Forces of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. <...> The transfer to the crews of the modernized TOS-1A Solntsepek combat vehicles took place for the first time in the history of the Airborne Forces.
And now the state tests of the 152 mm Malva self-propelled gun, which should soon begin to enter the troops, have been completed. So, it should go first of all to the artillery units of the Airborne Forces to strengthen their firepower.
The plans of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation were to create real rapid reaction forces from the landing troops, which can be quickly deployed to anywhere in the world, where they can act autonomously, performing a wide range of tasks. The design of the "Malva" allows it to be transported in Il-76 transport aircraft, the wheeled chassis allows it to quickly move over long distances, and the large caliber allows it to hit various targets: from enemy infantry and equipment at the forefront to tactical nuclear attack weapons in the near rear at ranges up to 24 km. The fact that the gun crew is outdoors without armor cover is a forced payment for the mobility of the Russian self-propelled guns.