Russia completes 2S7M Malka 203mm self-propelled howitzer upgrade


Russia has completed the upgrade of the most powerful 2S7M Malka self-propelled gun in the world. One shot of the 203mm weapon can fully destroy a building used as a stronghold, Gazeta.ru online publication said. 2S7M is an upgrade of Pion created in 1970s.


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2S7M Laka heavy self-propelled howitzer displayed at Army 2018 near Kubinka (Picture source: Army Recognition)


The first upgraded Malka is ready for delivery to the armed forces and the enterprise is prepared for batch modernization of this heavy artillery system. Malka had the gearbox, internal communications and radio station replaced. Imported components procured in Ukraine were replaced by domestic ones. The modernization improved the running characteristics, maneuverability, control and all major characteristics of the gun. Malka has successfully passed all trials to check maneuverability, running gear characteristics, the power plant and transmission. The loading mechanism, the durability of 2A44 gun and fire control were tested.

The high-power artillery developed by a zigzag in Russia in the past several decades. Expert Viktor Shunkov said in his High-Power Artillery book the emergence of missile weapons changed the perception of the role of high-power artillery. The huge firepower of tactical missiles with nuclear charges made some military experts claim that barrel artillery was unable to provide the necessary fire support to the troops. Money was redistributed in favor of missiles and artillery enterprises practically stopped producing high-power guns. Design bureaus were closed or changed the core business. The development of barrel artillery faced a break.

However, the missile euphoria did not last long. It became clear that missile engagement triggers huge financial costs and the result against barrel artillery was far from expected. The missiles did not provide the required precision, were expensive and complicated in operation and the mobility left much to be desired.

The design of small artillery nuclear charges of 280-420mm caliber and then of 152-203mm caliber provided another reason to back barrel artillery. The creation of precision projectiles increased artillery firepower. Modern technologies produce effective small projectiles and their caliber does not exceed 203-210 mm, therefore.

The successful Israeli use of 175mm self-propelled M107 gun in Mideast conflicts pushed the development of Russian high-power guns. It attacked antiaircraft launchers and deployment places of radar companies. The range of M107 was 32.5 km. Arab nations had nothing to fight it.

The Soviet Union recalled the triplex designed by NII-58 (project completed in 1953) which together with S-23-I (210mm howitzer), S-23-II (280mm mortar), S-23-IV (203 mm gun-howitzer) also included 180mm S-23 gun with a range of 30 km. The development of the triplex stopped in 1960. After the revival of S-23, the Soviet Union began to develop self-propelled guns of a larger caliber. In December 1967, it began trials of a 203mm gun with a 25-km range. It had to destroy distant facilities and fortifications and strike with nuclear munitions

Technical requirements for the gun were drafted in March 1970 and the first serial Pion 2S7 guns were supplied to high-power artillery units in the second half of the 1970s. 2S7 has no turret and the gun is located at the back of the tracked undercarriage. The round of munitions includes breach-loading projectiles with variable charges. The main ones are high-explosive fragmentation and rocket-assisted projectiles. The former weighs 110 kg and contains 17.8 kg of explosives. The maximum range is 37.5 km and the initial speed is 960 m/sec. The latter projectile weighs 103 kg and contains 13.8 kg of explosives. The range is 47.5 km. The gun can also fire anti-concrete, nuclear and chemical shells. Over 500 2S7 guns of various modifications were produced in 16 years.

In 1983, 2S7 was upgraded into 2S7M Malka. The Military Balance said in 2018 the Russian high-power artillery was armed with 60 Malka guns.

Pion has never been engaged by the Soviet army in an armed conflict. The guns were mostly supplied to the Russian troops in East Germany. All Pion and Malka guns were redeployed back in Russia after the Conventional Forces Europe (CFE) Treaty was signed. The only known 2S7 engagement was in the war in South Ossetia where Georgia used a battery of six 2S7 guns. The Georgian troops hid all the six guns near Gori during its retreat. One of the five guns found by the Russian troops became a war booty and others were destroyed. There were reports about 2S7 engagement by the Ukrainian army in the southeast of the country, but no reliable confirmation was available.

"It is premature to speak about the end of barrel artillery which properly performed in the latest conflicts," expert Konstantin Makienko said.

The National Interest has recently reported an upgrade of Russian Tyulpan 2S4 mortars and Pion 2S7 howitzers. It said Russia was upgrading heavy artillery to integrate it into modern command and control systems and introduce modern communications and fire controls. The US publication cannot understand why Russia revived old weapons which it stocked after the end of the Cold War. One of the reasons may be a cheap production cost of shells for large-caliber artillery against missiles.

A high-ranking source in the missile and artillery forces told Gazeta.ru the engagement of high-power artillery with conventional shells is often more effective than the use of attack jets and bombers, specifically if it fires precision projectiles. The operation of artillery does not depend on weather and has a long range and high precision.

The fire of high-power artillery is much cheaper than a combat aircraft sortie. High-power artillery is specifically effective in street fighting. "One point blank shot of the 203mm gun can fully destroy a big house developed by the adversary into a stronghold. It helps motorized rifles fulfil missions without unjustified losses," he said.

As for similar weapons in the United States, the 203.2mm M110 gun was decommissioned yet in 1990s, as the US military believed the effectiveness of large-caliber artillery was decreasing in modern conditions. The US 175mm M107 self-propelled gun was decommissioned in late 1970s, Gazeta.ru said.


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