When Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the three Soviet military districts, as well as the personnel and equipment, remained there in the form of the newly minted Ukrainian Ground Forces, or Ukrainian Army. These units, by and large, continue to use the same weapons platforms and equipment they inherited by their defunct parent nation, meaning much of their equipment is in dire need of upgrades – an effort that has been underway since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014.
But don’t mistake outdated for outgunned, because when it came to firepower, the Soviets were no slackers. Enter the legendary DShK Heavy Machine Gun. First developed in the 1920s, the DShK is often compared to the NATO standard Browning .50 caliber machine gun, as its massive 12.7×108mm cartridge is so close in size that an urban legend eventually surfaced about the rounds of these two power-packed platforms being interchangeable. Of course, they’re not – the dimensions are ever so slightly off, and the linkage on the belt fed rounds is of a completely different design. Depending on who you ask, you would likely be able to hand feed a 12.7×108mm cartridge into a .50, but that’s about as far as you could get without damaging the weapon.
Urban legends notwithstanding, the DShK Heavy Machine Gun has earned a reputation as a powerful weapon platform, just like its NATO competitor, often mounted on vehicles, helicopters, and even used as an infantry heavy support weapon on a distinctive two-wheeled dolly. As is the case with many Soviet era platforms, the DShK has proven to be not just powerful, but reliable – with many of them in continued service in formal national militaries, as well as in the hands of terrorist and extremist organizations around the world. British troops reported being engaged by DShKs in Iraq in 2004, and the Syrian Military continues to use them, mounted on cars, in skirmishes with militias throughout the nation.
With a rate of fire of 600 rounds per minute, and a maximum range of over 2,500 meters (more than one and a half miles) this 75-pound weapon (gun only, but you might want to bring something to set it on) is still among the most formidable weapons platforms on the planet.
If you need to punch a hole in an engine block, take down a slow flying aircraft, or just make an entire city block uninhabitable, the DShK is a solid choice.
Check out the video below to see Ukrainian soldiers training on this powerful platform:
Image courtesy of YouTube