The Russo-Ukrainian War has seen strange and unique weapons brought to the battlefield. From vintage Maxim machine guns equipped with modern red dot sights fielded by Ukraine to a literal pellet gun abandoned by Russian troops, these military oddities have been shared on the internet for the world to see. The latest weird weapon is a combat kayak equipped with an automatic grenade launcher being tested by Ukraine.
Small watercraft are not new in military use. Special operations forces often use kayaks to traverse inland waterways quickly and silently. However, arming such light vessels is a new concept. On August 4, 2023, Ukraine News shared a video on Twitter of Ukrainian troops testing the two-seat "Poloz-M16" combat kayak. It has a reported carrying capacity of 480 kg, or 1,058 pounds, and mounts a UAG-40 40mm automatic grenade launcher with a claimed effective range of 2 km, or 1.24 miles.
The post did not clarify if the kayak's reported carrying capacity accounts for the weight of the grenade launcher. The UAG-40 weighs 18 kg, nearly 40 pounds, empty. For comparison, the Mk48 40mm automatic grenade launcher used by the U.S. military weighs 18 pounds empty and 24.7 pounds with 100 rounds of ammo. Mk48s have been delivered to Ukraine by the U.S. and could provide weight savings to the Poloz-M16 if it replaced the UAG-40.
Naturally, the combat kayak can be propelled by its occupants with oars. However, it also features an outboard electric motor that is reported to be almost silent. This allows the Poloz-M16 to silently glide into an ambush position on the water and quickly exfiltrate after engaging the enemy. Ukraine News reports that the kayak is also ideal for sabotage. As with other military kayaks already in use, the Poloz-M16 can ferry small teams behind enemy lines to conduct covert operations and back to friendly lines with minimal noise and visual signature. The kayak is also easy hide on the bank of a river.
Domestically designed and produced, Ukraine is also working on one and three-seat variants of the Poloz-M16. Intended to support special units on long operations, the kayak also has room for field essentials like a tent and stove. Still in the testing phase, the Poloz-M16 featured in the video did not demonstrate the employment of its grenade launcher. With variants in the works, it's possible that other mounted weapons could be employed on Ukraine's fleet of combat kayaks.