GEAR & TECH

This Russian tank was packing anti-aircraft turrets

Russia's T-15 Armata infantry fighting vehicle may be grabbing headlines as a possible Bradley-killer due to its use of the Vietnam War-era S-60 anti-aircraft gun, but it is not the first Russian armored vehicle to pack 57mm firepower.


The first was the ZSU-57-2 Sparka. The ZSU stands for "zenitnaya samokhodnaya ustanovka," which is Russian for "anti-aircraft self-propelled mount." The nomenclature is quite easy to understand. The number immediately after "ZSU" reflects the size of the guns on the vehicle and the number after that shows how many barrels. So, the ZSU-57-2, for example, is equipped with two 57mm anti-aircraft guns.

The heart of the ZSU-57-2 is a pair of 57mm S-60 anti-aircraft guns. The T-15 Armata has this same gun. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Bukvoed)

The ZSU-57-2 first entered Soviet service in 1958. It was based on the T-54 tank chassis and was intended to help protect Russian ground forces from enemy aircraft. The 57mm guns packed a solid punch, but it wasn't long before advances in aircraft quickly rendered the ZSU-57-2 obsolete.

The ZSU-57-2 was widely exported to the Soviet Union's allies and puppet states, showing up everywhere from East Germany to North Korea. The North Vietnamese acquired a number of these vehicles and, just as the United States Army found with the M163 Vulcan Air Defense System and the M45 "Meat Chopper," the ZSU-57-2 proved to be very devastating against ground targets as well.

A Serbian self-propelled, 40mm Anti-Aircraft gun at a Serbian cantonment area in Zvornik during Operation Joint Endeavor. (DOD photo)

The vehicle saw a lot of action in the Arab-Israeli wars and, as a result, a number of those vehicles fell into Israeli hands. The vehicles also saw action in the Sino-Vietnamese conflict of 1979, Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Today, it still hangs around and has been consistently upgraded to make it more capable. Kim Jong Un's regime is perhaps the largest operator today.

Learn more about this vehicle in the video below.