I was due to deploy to east Ukraine, and one of things I was wondering to myself was what weapons systems are being used there? I’d been to Syria a few months before, where I was embedded with Kurdish forces. The weapons that we had access to there were limited to AKs, a few M16s, and a little ammo to go with each rifle. I did not want to be rocking up at the most conventional conflict happening right now and be handed some busted old AK-47, five magazines, and told, “Go that way!”
I had little idea as to what to expect in terms of weapon systems being used over there, having watched the news like we all do. I’d seen AK platforms, Dragunovs, PKMs, RPGs, old Soviet tanks and BTRs, and of course artillery systems ranging from mortars to GRAD rockets. I was hoping the unit that I was joining had some good kit at their disposal to put up at least half a chance of a good fight. Because, like I have said, having a busted old AK with five magazines in this environment would not have gone down too well. In such a case, I would be better off just staying at home. I really hoped I was right in thinking they were better set up in this unit than my last one.
After what seemed like the longest journey of my life, I reached the base where my unit was staying. My friend and I made our way to the block where we would meet the team. I remember the first time I saw my room; it was here I got my first indication that this team was on the ball with the weapons.
There were three AK platforms: I could see two AK-74s (5.45 mm), one with all the tactical rail systems one could want. The other one was a regular AK-74 with nothing on it, but the rifle looked to be in great condition. The other one was a RPK-74 with a wooden stock that someone had decided to paint camo and put a top cover rail on. That one looked okay but was not my cup of tea. At the same time, I could see wooden ammo crates everywhere filled with rounds in both 5.45 mm and 7.62 mm. We also had tracer, ball, and armor-piercing bullets.
On top of the bed, I could see a couple of RPG-75 and -22 launchers. Out on the balcony was a mix of anti-personnel and anti-tank mines, boxes of grenades, and two different types a soviet F1 pineapple/RDG-5 hand grenades. With a bit more searching, we found a couple of boxes filled with plastic explosives, then I saw a big Pelican case and I could not resist a look. I was greeted with a Swiss B&T APR .308 sniper rifle. Also in that room were claymore mines, a Makarov pistol, and an Israeli bullpup rifle converted to 9mm—the Fort-221.
After training with the team for over a week, it was clear that the AK-74s were the main weapon that they used. With the exception of the RPK and one AK-47 (7.62 mm) I also saw a couple of guys in the battalion cutting around with the AKS-74u and AK-74 fitted with under-barrel grenade launcher (UGL). The Dragunov sniper rifle and PKMs most of guys had also came with a ton of accessories: rails, optics, Magpul grips, EOTech sights, M4 stocks, and suppressors. They definitely looked tacticool. In the end, I was kitted out with a brand new AK-74, so I was a happy man.
A few of days later, I was on my way to the range when we ended up in the OSCE convoy (time to put the balaclava on!) that was in charge of pulling the Ukrainian heavy weapons back from the front lines as a result of the so-called “ceasefire.” It was here that I got to see some of the firepower that had been used in recent weeks. I will start with BM-21 GRAD, a Soviet truck-mounted 122mm multiple rocket launcher/howitzer light gun in different variations. In the convoy was everything from 122mms to a 152mm that was being towed along. Among all this hardware were armored personnel carriers (APC), trucks, and other vehicles.
We had just been told that we were deploying to a front line town shared by the Ukrainians and pro-Russia separatists, who are actually Russian military troops. It was here in this town that I got to see a number of weapon systems being used. One of the first things I noticed was the 82mm mortar pounding our positions—good way to get started. Learn to love that 82mm, baby! On my second or third day, I was heading to a Ukrainian position on a hill overlooking this town. The town had been smashed to bits by indirect fire.
On my walk to this position there was debris all over the place, trees cut in half, and craters every ten meters or so. I remember seeing a single rocket system. It was a 73mm SPG-9 recoilless rifle. I also saw mortar systems up there, both 82mm and 120mm, but by far the most ridiculous thing I noticed was a World War II anti-materiel rifle. Believe me, they weren’t using it to shoot tanks! While on operations in this town, we were accompanied by an AGS team for a week. They were using a UAG-40 (automatic grenade launcher) very similar to that used by NATO countries, but they didn’t last long, and to be honest, they were not very effective with it.
Now one of our jobs as a team was route selection, clearing, and de-mining, plus mining tasks. We came across some weird things on the battlefield. The enemy would use anything from hand grenades on trip wires to anti-personnel mines. Some of the stuff we placed in minefields and what we de-mined were claymores (MON-50 and MON-90). For those who have not seen a MON-90, look it up (below)—they were huge!
One night, we were tasked with placing two MON-90 mines on a main access road to our position. We set out thinking these MON-90s are beasts; no one is getting past these, right? Job done, no problems. A few weeks later, we suffered some heavy shelling (82mm and 120mm) and the road where we placed the MON-90s took a lot of hits. Some of the team went out to check and make sure that the mines were still in good order. They were in for quite a shock when they got to the mine’s position! Someone had cut open the MON-90 like it was a tin of beans and stole the insides! Yes, you’re right in saying that this is an “explosive” device. Whoever it was must have had balls of steel.
You also find the POMZ on the battlefield in Ukraine. I know what you are thinking: What the hell is that? Long story short, it’s a pineapple hand grenade on steroids. It’s mean, big, heavy, and if I ever see one anywhere near me, I am off. The other mines out there are TM-62M anti-tank mines and PM2 anti-personnel mines.
I have chosen to include this in my report here: Some might say that drones are not weapons, but I can assure you that they are. When we’d be trying to sleep, the enemy would be flying drones over our heads to assist them in bombing the shit out of us. I would call that a weapon. Not a predator drone, but more like civilian drones—small, noisy as hell, but still they provide you with eyes on a target. Now if you are in an artillery team, this is very helpful in fixing enemy positions and calling in an arty strike. I would love to give you a model on this but have no idea what they are using. They are small, quick, and loud. When you hear it coming, it is time to find some hard cover.
To conclude, there is a variety of weapons being used on both sides in this conflict. Most are Russian-made, and there is some old Soviet Union crap kicking around too. I was told of all sorts of crazy-ass weapons being used and about the damage they did. I have chosen not to comment on those particular pieces simply because I can’t pronounce them or even remotely remember their names. Also I did not personally come into contact with these weapons.
Thanks for the good times guys!
(Featured image courtesy of leaderpost.com)