Tsar Vlad has certainly kept the magic alive in Red Square. See the 70~ minute long May Day Parade from yesterday below as seen on
Soviet Russian state TV.
The opening is good, especially the inner workings of the Spasskaya Tower’s big clock. Then cue the Guards regiment (in rebooted Tsarist uniforms marching with spotless SKS rifles complete with blonde wood stocks) and Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu propped on an immaculate Lada open-topped limo that looks like it came from Brezhnev’s motor pool.
You can skip Putin’s speech from about the 13:00 to 23:00 mark and pick up with the Gosudarstvenny Gimn Rossiyskoy Federatsii played by the assembled Army bands complete with artillery percussion by a saluting battery of 122mm guns and the march is on.
Various ground units file past from all branches of the Russki military and, in an increasing departure from the old Cold War days of drab uniforms and helmets, more are wearing traditional 19th century Imperial Army style uniforms complete with St. George ribbons and cockades that include old monarchist Romanov elements. Out with the Commies, in with the Cossacks if you will.
Hardware on display in the hands of the beaming frontoviks include now downright vintage wood stocked AK-74s, polymer-stocked AK-74Ms, and, here and there, the new series AK-12 rifles. At the 39:00 mark, special operations troops in their distinctive telnyashka striped t-shirts are carrying suppressed VSS rifles and almost comically large load bearing vests that are sure to have all the airsofters swooning. A few seconds later are AKs swagged out with red dots and GP-34 30mm grenade launchers– Moscow’s version of the M203 bloop tube. You can bet some of these grinning little green men have been vacationing in the Donbass and Syria lately.
At about the 47 minute mark comes the heavy stuff, lead by a WWII-era T-34/85 tank, the backbone of the Red Army during the war, flanked by machine-gun-armed ATV outriders and flying a giant Hammer and Sickle flag, officially retired by Russia in 1991. Then comes a NATO recognition book worth of Russian armor ranging from the new T-14 Armata main battle tank and more pedestrian T-72s to a big 2S35 Koalitsiya-SV 152mm self-propelled howitzer. Drones on flatbeds, armored personnel carriers and the Russian version of the MRAP tag along sandwiched by engineering and air defense vehicles, S-400 missiles and tactical rocket systems.
Here is the Russian cheat sheet for the vehicles:
Then comes the air support at the 59:00 mark, lead by some big Red Dawn looking Mi-24 Hinds and Ka-52 Alligator gunships coming in low over the Kremlin. Tom Clancy fans will dig on the Tu-22M3 Backfire and Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers followed by a mix of tactical aircraft including Su-34s, Su-24s, MiG-31s, and Mig-29s. Three lumbering Tu-95MC Bear bombers with their distinctive contra-rotating propellers make an appearance as does an acrobatic team of six camouflaged Su-25 Frogfoot strike aircraft, Russia’s equivalent of the A-10.
The air cheat sheet:
The program ends with a combined drill team getting their SKS and Prussian borrowed goose-step on as the band takes it home.
Also, Steven Segal makes an appearance at the 1:07 mark.
You know the 100th anniversary this month of the “glorious Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army” would showcase a bunch of vintage Soviet hardware, still in remarkable condition. The Russian Ministry of Defense has been releasing a bunch of images a military parade in Severomorsk in honor of the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Red Army.
Severomorsk is a small town in the frozen Kola Peninsula near the main base of the Red Banner Northern Fleet, and, according to Izvestia, the state-run news organ, those participating were active soldiers and sailors from the local base’s units marching on the orders of one Admiral Nikolai Evmenov and not a group of reenactors. Makes you wonder what is in storage elsewhere in the Motherland!
More in my column at Guns.com.
While negotiating a tense crisis that had grown over a decade of increasingly close Russian involvement in Manchuria and Korea (see Sino-Japanese War in 1894 and Boxer Rebellion in 1900), a Japanese force under Adm. Togo conducted a pre-emptive strike on the Russian fleet at anchor in Port Arthur– without a declaration of war.
Using a force of 10 destroyers, the first Japanese torpedos were in the water at 00:28 on the snowy Tuesday morning of 9 February 1904 and the force withdrew from the harbor by 02:00. Of the 16 torps fired, just a few hit their targets, damaging the pre-dreadnoughts Retvizan and the Tsesarevich and the protected cruiser Pallada— all of which were returned to duty in a few weeks.
The night engagement and a delusory surface action the next morning likewise was unspectacular, resulting in a total of about 100-150 dead on each side.
Though tactically ineffective, Togo did achieve surprise on the Russian bear and the fleet at Port Arthur never managed to leave the harbor successfully during the resulting war, which proved disastrous for the Tsar.
Here we see a Degtyaryov PTRD-41 team practice anti-air gunnery with a single-shot 14.5×114mm antitank gun.
Don’t laugh, it actually worked a couple of times, reportedly.
According to Soviet sources, one Red Army sniper of 82nd Guards Rifle division, Mihail Lysov, shot down a Ju-87 Stuka dive bomber in October 1941, using such a rifle while another Hero sniper of 796th Rifle Division, Vasily Antonov, downed a much larger Ju88 with four rifle shots of a semi-auto Simonov PTRS-41 in July 1942.
The single shot PTRD and 5-round PTRS were popular in the days of thin-walled tanks such as the PzKpfw I which had just 13mm of armor at its thickest point (the 14.5mm round could zip through 40mm of steel at 100 meters), but as tanks got meaner the guns were basically used to snipe trucks and thin-skinned vehicles at ranges out past 1 km.
However, the Soviets used them in their whaling fleet as late as the 1970s
And they still pop up in the Donbass today…
(U.S. Navy Museum Number: 428-GX-USN 1172664) Soviet strike bomber Tupolev Tu-22M (Russian: Туполев Ту-22М; NATO reporting name: Backfire) Photograph received by U.S. Naval Intellegence, July 1978.
Though the type first flew in 1969 and was operational by 1972, it’s existance was not widely known in the West until it popped up over the Baltic on an excercise in 1980 during the international heartburn over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the footage appeared on state-run TV.
With that ole solstice hitting and even colder nights ahead, remember to bundle up and/or keep warm by any means.
Plus this gives me a reason to share these great Molotov images, used to keep random Panzer crews warm while in the grip of General Winter on the road to Moscow during the Great Patriotic War. Warm hugs from the CCCP.
–In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
75 years ago today:
The standard service heavy machinegun in the western world is the vintage 1933 Browning M2. Those who have used them lovingly call this .50-caliber warlord, the “Ma Deuce”. What you may not know is that, on the other side of the fence, the Soviets invented their own equivalent heavy machine gun. Like the ‘Deuce, this Russia design, while officially labeled as the DShK 1938, it is better known to the russ simply as, Dushka.
During World War 1, the German Army introduced the Mauser 13.2mm TuF round, a huge cartridge of more than four inches in length. This elephant round was introduced to kill British tanks that were just then starting to lumber about in No Man’s Land. In 1921 the US Army, with a little help from John Browning, developed the 12.7x99mm BMG round in response, known and loved today as the ’50-cal.’ The Army, however, did not have a gun that fired the round, the 121-pound water-cooled M1921 Heavy Machine Gun, until 1929. At the same time, the German army was secretly developing a new 13mm round that would be used in a new series of heavy aircraft machine guns.
With Soviet military intelligence well aware of both these developments, they pressed for a monster machine gun of their own.
Vasily Degtyaryov, the Russian machine gun maker equivalent of John Browning, was scratching his head in 1930. Over the course of a forty-year career, this Hero of Socialist Labor personally invented no less than seven machine guns of all sizes, from the PPD-40 submachine gun to the PTRD anti-tank rifle. He had studied directly under Vladimir Fyodorov, the man who invented one of the first assault rifles in the world: the Fedorov Avtomat.
Dushka in technical development.
However, as gifted Vasily was, he had an issue with designing a large caliber heavy machine gun. His efforts led to the creation of the DK (Degtyaryov Krupnokalibernyi) in 1930, a huge air-cooled, gas-operated full auto weapon that used the new 12.7x108mm BT-3 round capable of piercing a half-inch or armor plate at 500-meters.
It weighed in at about 75-pounds and fired from a number four, right turn threaded 42.29-inch long barrel with numerous distinctive fins on its surface to dissipate heat. This innovative barrel system saved the gun from having a heavy water jacket to cool it, which made it about 50-pounds lighter than Browning’s M1921 design while firing a slightly larger bullet. A large donut-shaped muzzle break further identifies the weapon. When firing, a pair of spade grips at the rear of the gun provided a control surface. Fed from a 30-round drum atop the receiver, the gun had a nasty of bending cases, jamming, and other issues. In short, the Red Army loved the gun and the ammunition but hated the feed system.
Enter Georgy Shpagin. Twenty years younger than Degtyaryov, Shpagin had also studied under Fyodorov and worked in the same programs as his elders. Shpagin picked up the task of modifying the DK gun while Degtyaryov moved on to other projects. By 1938, he had effectively designed a metal link system of 50-round belts that are pulled left-to-right into the DK gun, spitting out brass and links downward through the receiver. This new gun was labeled the DShK “Krupnokaliberny Pulemet Degtyareva-Shpagina, DShK” (Degtyarev-Shpagin, large caliber) and by 1939 was being produced as part of a new Five Year Plan. This soon became changed in the field to “Dushka,” which is a Russian slang word that roughly means baby or sweetie.