Those Weird Russian Vehicles With 80-Year-Old Naval Turrets Might Have An Air-Defense Role

Mar 11, 2023

Those bizarre, improvised armored vehicles the Russian army is manufacturing—80-year-old naval guns on top of only slightly less aged armored chassis—are starting to make a little more sense.

There are hints the Russians plan to deploy these Frankenstein’s monsters as crude air-defense systems alongside reconditioned ZSU-23-4 gun vehicles.

The first MT-LB-2M-3s—1950s-vintage MT-LB armored tractors with 1940s-vintage 2M-3 naval turrets sporting above-and-below 25-millimeter cannons—began showing up in and around Ukraine in early March.

They’re the latest in a long series of Frankenvehicles that the Ukrainian and Russian armies increasingly are relying on in order to make good heavy losses of modern vehicles, a year into Russia’s wider war on Ukraine.

The MT-LB-2M-3 wouldn’t work in an infantry-support role. Its tall turret makes it easy to spot at a distance. Its cannons lack range compared to more modern weapons. Its hull is thinly armored.

But a video that circulated online on or before Friday hints that the Russians plan to deploy the MT-LB-2M-3 in an air-defense role: ground-to-air instead of ground-to-ground. Someone spotted a train hauling the Frankenvehicles alongside ZSU-23-4s.

The ZSU-23-4 is a quad pack of radar-cued 23-millimeter cannons in a turret atop a tracked chassis. The ZSU-23-4 was the Soviet army’s main front-line, short-range air-defense system for two decades starting in the late 1960s. The Russian army replaced its ZSU-23-4s with 2K22s—armed with 30-millimeter guns and missiles—starting in 1982.

But the Russians have lost so many air-defense systems in Ukraine, including no fewer than 13 2K22s, that they’ve begun pulling old ZSU-23-4s out of storage and shipping them to the front along with the MT-LB-2M-3s.

It’s not totally clear what the Frankenvehicles offer to Russian air-defense batteries. The ZSU-23-4s have radars—albeit narrow-field, short-range ones. But the MT-LB-2M-3s appear to be totally manual.

Maybe they’ll be useful against quadcopter drones. But against the Ukrainians’ helicopters and warplanes, they’re probably worse than useless. They’re probably going to get their crews killed.

But the MT-LB-2M3s might get their hapless crews killed even faster if the Russians tried to send the weird vehicles into direct combat with battle-hardened Ukrainian brigades.

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David Axe


  1. “Those bizarre, improvised armored vehicles the Russian army is manufacturing—80-year-old naval guns on top of only slightly less aged armored chassis—are starting to make a little more sense.”

    They do make sense. They illustrate mafia land’s desperation. Don’t be at all surprised to see T-34s on the battlefield. I’m rather surprised that none have yet been spotted.

    • I get your joke, but about the T-34 I think we are even amplifying Russian propaganda.
      The T-34 sucks, and it already did during World War II.

      It was not rugged or reliable and the steel used was of abysmal quality.
      Russia has hyped this thing, but in reality Russia even had problems to source a few of them that were in working order: they even bought them from Laos when they finally retired them.

      I think Russia would use them if they could, but they were already falling apart during World War II before seeing combat.

      • I didn’t mean to say that the T-34s are good with my joke. Only that they would be readily available. Every shit kicker town in Eastern Europe has them sitting somewhere as a monument. I think that mechanically, they would not be harder to get in working order than the T-54/55s and T-62s sitting in their depots by the thousands.
        BTW, the best thing about the T-34s were their simplicity. This made it possible to build huge numbers of them in relatively short time. Not even the Sherman was built in such large numbers.

  2. As tall and easy-to-spot as these strange contraptions’ “mushroom stalks” are, I wonder what putin’s motives are here. Really, they look like giant metal mushrooms on tank treads. Maybe putin actually wants his men dead.

    The only other mental image I’ve gotten from looking at that picture, is that putin’s trying to claim that he’s not as “impotent” as he’s proven himself, because it looks like a certain piece of male anatomy. As they say here in America, someone is trying to “compensate for something,” a “something” that is no longer functional.

    LMAO 🤣😂🤣😂

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