UK firm bought Saddam’s Soviet artillery, dispatched them to Ukraine

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Expanding their collection, Tanks-a-lot, a private British firm based in the UK, has seized the opportunity to purchase old Soviet howitzers, which once served as part of Saddam Hussein’s arsenal. This remarkable story has been revealed by the website bneIntelliNews

Photo credit: bne IntelliNews

Originating from Austrian and Latvian sources, the site details how Saddam’s Russian artillery made a journey across the Baltic Sea. With its camouflage suitable for desert conditions, the Soviet artillery certainly doesn’t go unnoticed. bneIntelliNews indicates there is some uncertainty surrounding the transit details – how the guns ended up in Latvia and their exact origins remain unclear. However, one thing is crystal clear, their final destination – Ukraine. 

Transporting us back to the tumultuous decade of the 1980s, bneIntelliNews recalls the prominent roles these weapons played during the Iran-Iraq War. After Saddam’s regime ended, the artillery was acquired by the US and UK coalition forces. The weapons were meant to be disarmed and destroyed, but an effective solution wasn’t realized. Instead, they found their way back to Europe. The website concludes the story, quite humorously, with, “Now, in a twisted tale of reincarnation, these Carnation and Acacia howitzers are being trucked into Ukraine to continue the fight against the weapons manufacturer itself.”

Photo credit: bne IntelliNews

Saddam’s 122mm Gvozdika

Meet the 122mm Gvozdika howitzer, or the 2S1 Gvozdika as it’s known in some circles. This Soviet-era self-propelled howitzer made its debut in the late 20th century and has seen distribution in numerous countries worldwide. ‘Gvozdika’, a charming nod to its national origin, translates to ‘Carnation’ in English. 

With its remarkable 122mm howitzer and a secondary 7.62mm PKT machine gun for close-quarter defense, the Gvozdika demonstrates significant power. Its primary artillery can reach targets approximately 15.3 kilometers away using standard ammunition, but with rocket-assisted projectiles, that radius extends to an impressive 21.9 kilometers. Let’s not overlook its versatility; it can chamber and fire a range of rounds, from high explosive and armor-piercing to smoke and chemical projectiles. 

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Reflecting on Iraq under Saddam Hussein’s rule, we see a time when the 122mm Gvozdika howitzers played a critical role. Estimates suggest Iraq procured several hundred of these potent combat machines during the 1980s before the Gulf War unfolded. In military engagements, first with Iran and later with coalition forces, these howitzers emerged as a significant component of Iraq’s artillery arsenal.

Saddam’s 152mm Akatsiya

If you’re interested in military hardware, you might already be acquainted with the 152mm Akatsiya howitzer. Often referred to as the 2S3 Akatsiya, this Soviet self-propelled artillery weapon debuted grandly in 1971. This is not your ordinary gun; this robust piece of art is strategically stationed on a motorized chassis, making it independent of towing vehicles. In essence, it becomes a reliable source of indirect fire support for infantry and tank units during intense battlefield moments.  

Photo credit: Reddit

Let’s switch gears and focus on the firepower. The Akatsiya howitzer, showcasing its 152mm canon, doesn’t hold back. It boasts the capacity to harbor a diversity of ammunition types. This includes high explosives, armor-piercing, and smoke rounds. If you’re curious about its range, brace yourself – it flouts a maximum firing range of an astounding 18.5 kilometers with standard ammunition, and it extends up to 24 kilometers when utilizing rocket-assisted projectiles! Furthermore, the vehicle itself is armored, providing a protective shield for the crew from small arms fire and any potentially damaging shell fragments.  

Interestingly, during the 1970s and 1980s, Iraq amassed a significant collection of these 152mm Akatsiya howitzers as part of their military expansion project. In this context, “quite a haul” potentially translates to hundreds, as per some sources. Ponder over the firepower and potential of such a striking military arsenal!

Ukraine needs these weapons

Photo credit: Mod Gov RS

We should acknowledge the situation of the Kyiv military units who are experiencing daily losses of their self-propelled howitzers. These artillery pieces range from modern models to the aged relics of the Soviet era. The procurement of such equipment on the open market is proving to be increasingly challenging. As Ukraine’s military grapples with a significant artillery shortage, their allies aim to offset the depletion of these weapons. 

Russia initiated a heavy onslaught in January, targeting Ukraine’s missile stockpiles. The intensity of these attacks escalated in March upon seeing the apparent success of their strategy. 

Reactions on the now-extinct platform Twitter—namely from user X— indicated public concern. One individual commented, “The situation seems dire if you’re compelled to fetch remnants from Iraq’s stockpile to postpone an impending defeat.” Another remarked: “Assuming this is accurate, it’s disheartening to see museums being emptied to highlight the toll of previous wars on soldiers… I aspire for a future post-conflict where Ukraine returns these vehicles to the open market, replenishing Western museums.”

bTV screenshot

The ammunition

While there’s no clarity on whether Iraq possesses ammunition for Saddam Hussein’s stockpiles of Soviet howitzers, this possibility cannot be entirely dismissed. Should Ukraine need such ammunition, they are likely to tap into their ally network. It’s intriguing, however, that these weapon systems boast a rich history. The bulk of the 122mm Gvozdika ammunition is held by Syria and Vietnam, but the rub is that neither of these countries has shown a willingness to supply weapons to Ukraine. The 152mm Akatsiya ammunition tells a similar story, with most units held by Russia and Ukraine, followed by Belarus.

If you’re curious, the Soviet 122mm Gvozdika and 152mm Acacia howitzers make use of an array of ammunition types. The Gvozdika, also known as the 2S1, primarily fires high-explosive fragmentation rounds, though it is also capable of launching smoke, illumination, and chemical rounds. The Akatsiya, often referred to as 2C3, has an even wider range, capable of firing high-explosive, armor-piercing, smoke, illumination, and even nuclear projectiles.—hard to believe, right? 

Photo credit: TASS

And here’s the kicker, both howitzers can launch laser-guided projectiles. These precision weapons, known as the Krasnopol for the Akatsiya and the Kitolov-2 for the Gvozdika, can accurately strike long-distance targets.

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