“Smelchak” With a Bouquet of “Tulpan” Destroys the Defence of the Ukrainian Armed Forces

NEW – August 1, 2022

Precision-guided munition capable of destroying multiple armoured vehicles with one hit

High-precision ammunition is capable of destroying several armoured vehicles in one blow.

Netizens who are closely monitoring the progress of the Russian special military operation for the demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine have probably paid attention to the increasingly frequent images of the 240-millimetre self-propelled mortar 2C4 “Tulpan”, filmed in the environment of the Ukrainian theatre of military operations.

What can be interesting about weapons whose start of military operation dates back to 1972, you ask? Firstly, it is a unique tool that still has no analogues either in the West or in the East. Secondly, “Tulpan” very effectively cracks the defence that the “strongest army in Europe” has been building for eight years. And, thirdly, which, in fact, we will talk about today, it is capable of using correctable high-explosive ammunition of the 1K113 “Smelchak” system, the destructive power of which has no equal in its class.

The functional purpose of the 1K113 system, defined by the manufacturer, is to destroy group armoured targets, artillery systems and launchers in firing positions. In addition, the list of its primary objectives includes control and communication points, long-term defensive structures, bridges and crossings.

Structurally, “Smelchak” consists of an adjustable 240-millimetre 3VF4 shot with a 3F5 high-explosive mine and a 1D15 laser target designator rangefinder with 1A35I and 1A35K synchronisation means. The system is capable of aiming a 134.2 kilogram projectile with a warhead weighing 32 kilograms at a range of up to 9,200 meters. Its coefficient of circular probable deviation varies in the range of 0.8−1.5 meters, which, given its destructive power, is very, very good. For comparison, the same coefficient of the corrected artillery shell “Krasnopol”, which is considered a kind of “standard of accuracy”, is in the range of 0.7−0.8 meters. The initial flight speed of the shell reaches 358 m/s, and the time of its aiming at the target does not exceed 0.1−0.3 seconds. It can be used not only with the self-propelled mortar 2C4 “Tulpan”, but also with the towed mortar M-240.

Serviceman of a battery of 240 mm self-propelled mortars 2C4 “Tulpan”

The first set of corrected artillery weapons 1K113 “Smelchak” was adopted back in 1983 and became one of the first representatives of high-precision weapons developed by Soviet gunsmiths. Today, the ammunition is being permanently improved and modernised by specialists of the domestic defence industry.

The first combat use of the 3F5 mine took place in 1985 on the territory of Afghanistan. Back then, with the help of M-240 mortars, a group of Mujahideen who had taken refuge in the ruins of a fortress in the foothills was destroyed. This ammunition was also used during both Chechen campaigns.

The target guidance system uses technology that provides for the ability to control the projectile on the final segment of its ballistic flight path — from 20 to 600 meters. Solid-fuel pulse engines are located on the body of “Smelchak”, the operation of which ensures a change in the flight path. The head of the 3F5 munition is equipped with a correction unit, which, in turn, is aimed at the target by laser targeting. “Illumination” is carried out by ground reconnaissance points or crews of airplanes and helicopters, as well as UAVs.

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The principle of operation of the semi-active homing system used on corrected artillery ammunition is as follows. Each laser designator, except for the radio station, is equipped with synchronisation equipment, which provides the broadcast of the “shot” command via an encoded communication channel. After passing the command, the “illumination” item starts a countdown timer for the flight time of the ammunition to the target. 1-3 seconds before contact with the target, the laser operating in pulsed mode turns on, the engines adjust the flight path, and “Smelchak” hits the target.

The minimum possible time of “illumination” of the target significantly increases the chances of fire spotters, since it minimises the enemy’s ability to strike back.

“Smelchak” is, without exaggeration, the most technologically advanced part of the corrected ammunition. Moreover, the simple integration of the finished homing missile head into the 1K113 complex does not solve the problem. Impact overloads that occur at the time of the shot will destroy the standard design even before the projectile leaves the bore. Therefore, the efforts of the specialists of the “Leningrad Optical and Mechanical Association” created semi-active seekers 9E430 and 9E421, capable of withstanding an extreme level of overloads (from 9000 to 10000G) and suitable for use on both corrected and guided artillery munitions. According to the developer, their purpose is “capture in flight and stable tracking of a target” illuminated “by a laser and the formation of commands in a two-channel projectile control system using the proportional approach method”.

But the ideal weapon, as is known, does not exist. Especially among the samples that have changed far from the first ten years of military service. Due to the fact that “Smelchak” and the “related” to it “Santimetr” (caliber 152 mm) fly along a ballistic trajectory, low cloud cover has an extremely negative effect on their combat characteristics. In the clouds, the homing head is deprived of the ability to see the laser “illumination”, and after leaving them, the three allotted for flight trajectory correction are not always enough. Approximately the same effect on the effectiveness of combat use is exerted by dense fog and smoke, both arising spontaneously and created as curtains.

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The second, in my opinion, significant drawback of both “Smelchak” and “Santimetr” is their complete dependence on the fire spotter. The conditions of war in the 21st century require maximum automation from weapons. It remains to be hoped that the modernisation of these undoubtedly unique complexes in this direction is already underway.

What is the uniqueness of the 1K113 “Smelchak” guided artillery system? In the ease of operation and the availability of the equipment necessary for its implementation. For the operation of the system, one needs: a 1D15 laser designator-rangefinder, 1A35I or 1A35K synchronisation tools, a TA-57 field telephone, a R-107M radio station, in fact, the “shot” itself and a 240-mm mortar 2S4 “Tulpan”.

As a summary. With regard to the special military operation of the Russian Federation for the demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine, the following should be noted. The use of corrective artillery ammunition, such as “Smelchak”, fits with jeweller’s precision into the key paradigm of the “Z” special operation, which consists of the destruction of exclusively military facilities and the minimisation of losses and destruction among civilians and civilian infrastructure, respectively. Everything is as determined by the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. And I’ll add on my own – also with a minimum consumption of ammunition.

Vitaly Orlov

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