The Nona is a self-propelled artillery system that was designed in the late 1980’s to support the VDV. The Nona was designed to provide light artillery support to VDV troops, yet be light enough to be para-dropped. The Nona is available in two versions: the 2S9 Nona is based on a BTR-D chassis, while the 2S23 Nona-SVK (pictured) is based on a BTR-80 chassis. The Nona is equipped with the breech-loaded 2A60 120 mm mortar with a barrel that is 1.8 meters in length and can accept various types of 120 mm mortar rounds including smoke rounds, white phosphorus rounds, and high explosive (HE) rounds. The system has a sustained firing rate of four rounds per minute, and a maximum firing rate of ten rounds per minute. The mortar has an elevation of -4 to +80 degrees, can traverse up to 70 degrees and has a maximum range of up to 12.8 km. The system is also equipped with a 7.62 mm machine gun for self defense. The Nona is also amphibious (both chassis’s).
The battery of self-propelled howitzers is preparing to release a barrage of fire. The target is roughly 9 kilometers away. Four shots, and the battery changes position. During combat, the self-propelled artillery must constantly change position, or else it risk becoming the target of the enemy’s artillery. “A lot of time is given for training, lots of munitions are provided for training, there is no shortage of the things the crews need to prepare,” stated Sergey Yurchenko, the commander of the artillery brigade.
Over 4,000 artillerymen from the central military district are participating in the training in the field, and are all currently conducting live firing exercises. It’s my fourth month in the artillery division, and this is my first time at the firing grounds, and I’m enjoying it,” stated Yakov Dil, the deputy commander of platoon control. The training day was lengthened to 10 hours, and half of the training, including live firing, is taking place at night.
Just 6 seconds passes from the moment of firing to the moment of impact. The TOS-1A heavy flamethrower system has a very kind name: Buratino (Pinocchio). In reality, the weapon system is very mobile, not very large, but extremely potent. The exercises are taking place in the steppes, in order to carefully study the characteristics of the “new” systems. The Buratino systems are equipped with new missiles that have an enhanced range. The reloading vehicle loads the system up in 1.5 minutes; the process is done using a single remote control. For now, the most important things that the flamethrower unit needs to practice is navigating and firing the new unguided missiles. The destruction of the target depends on the accuracy of the target designator. Everything else, including distance, trajectory, and even wind are calculated by the computers in the vehicle.
“We use laser rangefinders to calculate the distance to the target and enter the information into the computer, which then corrects the system’s aim,” stated Artyem Rumyantsev, the commander of the flamethrower platoon. The TOS-1A systems are supported by several light flamethrower subdivisions. They, too, are getting to know their new weapons: on their shoulders lies a new reactive infantry flamethrower with extended range and power: The RPO Shmel-M. Most of the soldiers have enough experience to be able to compare the old and new versions of the Shmel. For Igor Popov, these exercises have become the starting point for using the new weapons, which he was issued after he mastered the older ones, and he can now discuss the flamethrower like a professional. “These weapons are great at ranges of 200-400 meters. It flies at a low speed, so it’s easy to see how the round is moving toward the target. The system is overall very comfortable and easy to use,” he said.
Soldiers train to shoot the Shmel-M in a small cabinet in conditions that are very different from the field: several simulator computers and screens that show the target, as well as replicas that are very similar to the actual flamethrower. The training room is specially designed for training soldiers to use new weapons systems. “Those that passed the training are deemed to be specialists and capable of operating the vehicles and carrying out combat duties. Most of the soldiers here are draftees”, stated Vasiliy Bondarenko, the commander of the flamethrower battalion. What’s left of the targets imitating tanks can’t be seen even through binoculars after the exercises are finished. According to the training scores, the accuracy of the live firing tests with the new missiles were close to 100%.