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Anti-Aircraft Artillery Troops (Zenit-naya Artilleriya)

The first time Russia needed anti-aircraft defence was during the WW1, when Tsar Nikolai II was on the Imperial throne. Back then there were no arms specifically designed for the job, so the military had to use naval and field artillery. It was the Soviet authorities who formed the first ever artillery division out of special trains and other mobile machinery on April 8, 1918. But it wasn't until the WW2 that the anti-aircraft artillery proved to be vital in fending off attacks from the skies.

The anti-aircraft forces of the PVO evolved from the army air defense forces. Initially their duties were the same as those of the Great Patriotic War - defending cities during aerial bombardments. To this end they employed a wide variety of anti-aircraft guns such as the wartime 76mm and 85mm guns. Later they introduced the 100mm KS-19 and the 130mm KS-30. These later systems would employ radar guidance.

Contrary to the trend in western development which shifted attention from guns to surface-to-air missiles, the Soviets maintained a strong AAA development effort. That the program was one of continued emphasis is evidenced by the pace of development: a 100-mm. gun in 1949, a 57-mm. weapon in 1950, and a 130-mm. gun in 1954. Associated with the new weapons were complementary systems of radar and optical fire control. The 100-mm. system was deployed around Moscow in 1950 and 1951 in numbers which, by one estimate, reached 720 while similar, but smaller deployments were undertaken around Warsaw Pact capitals. While it is evident that the Soviets continued a massive production and deployment effort for these and earlier weapons, it is difficult to validate data to a sufficient degree to draw well-founded conclusions.

When anti-aircraft missiles entered service the larger guns were phased out of service. The focus of the anti-aircraft artillery troops changed. They would use smaller guns (14.5mm, 23mm, and 57mm) that would move with the advancing troops to give them cover from low altitude air attack. They would be under the administrative control of the PVO, but fall under the tactical control of the Army. In the Soviet times, anti-aircraft artillery defence was often called the "shield of the motherland". The Soviet Union collapsed, but the shield is set to stay. An anti-aircraft regiment would have 30 57mm S-60 anti-aircraft guns. Experience in Vietnam and in wars in the Middle East had shown that conventional anti-aircraft artillery had by no means outlived its usefulness and that there are many situations in which the effectiveness of anti-aircraft rockets falls off sharply and that anti-aircraft guns can supplement these most usefully.

The Vietnam War became the benefit performance of air defense systems, teaching one side to use them, and the other side, to repel. In effect, this gave rise to modern air defense methods of combining small-caliber anti-aircraft artillery and air defense missiles of different range.

Anti-aircraft guns of small (23mm) and large (57mm) calibre are used to repel either low-flying enemy aircraft or attacks by enemy land forces. In peacetime, these anti-aircraft guns are not classified as a separate arm of service of the PVO. However, in wartime, when the strength of the PVO would be increased three or four times, they would form an arm of service, deployed as anti-aircraft artillery regiments and divisions, equipped with 23, 57, 85, 100 and 130mm guns, which are mothballed in peacetime.

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Page last modified: 25-10-2021 17:30:09 ZULU