Mine clearance installations
Since the beginning of the mass use of mines in World War II, overcoming minefields has always been one of the most difficult tasks of the attackers.
Minefields are a very simple and very effective means of protecting their positions from enemy attacks. Of course, they are not an absolute deterrent, but the struggle against them takes a lot of time and effort.
The most common way of making passages in minefields, very slow, laborious and dangerous, was as follows: on the night before the attack, the sappers crawled to the enemy minefields, searched for mines and shot them. Then they put signs that are visible to their tank crews and infantry, but invisible to the enemy. Effective, but long and risky. In addition, the preparation of a good specialist sapper is not a quick and complicated business.
For example, before the Battle of Kursk, on the night of July 5, 1943, our scouts in the neutral zone captured a German soldier. He was silent, but the soldier’s book was eloquent enough - a sapper! So, with the dawn of the attack. We were waiting for the start of the German operation “Citadel”, the Germans hid the date of the attack in every possible way, but they couldn’t send the sappers to remove the mines. And so it happened - the battle began in the morning. But how to provide a safe space for the intended attack, without issuing and tearing it off?
From the gun - by mines
The engineers of all the opposing sides were looking for ways to make quick passes in the minefields, and as close as possible in time to the moment of the attack, so that the defenders did not have time to close them with new mines.
An alternative to live sappers is metal mine trawls.But this type of mine equipment will be distributed only in times of widespread use of tanks. Mine trawls, which the British did not successfully develop and the much more successful Soviet specialists, did not fully solve the task of demining.
Firstly, they were far from always possible to apply, and secondly, a tank was required for each trawl. And the tanks were in short supply. Minefields attempted to shoot 76 mm and larger artillery. To make one pass, it took from 160 to 400 shells. In addition, experienced shooting has shown that a very accurate sniper shooting is required, with a very accurate uniform distribution of projectiles. But even then, several mines remain in the passageway.
Note that for an attacking regiment it is necessary to have about 10 passes. These are 10–30 volleys of ten artillery battalions. And then you have to move across the lunar landscape, solid funnels dug with heavy high-explosive shells. It is very difficult for tanks and infantry. In short, artillery is not a method.
In 1912, British engineering captain McClintock, who served in a demining regiment in the Indian city of Bangalore, Bengal State, invented a means for making passages in wire barriers.He took a metal pipe 5.5 m long and filled it with 27 kilograms of pyroxylin. The elongated charge was slipped under the wire fence and blown up. Several consecutive explosions could pierce the passage for infantry.
Because of its shape, this charge was named the Bangalore Torpedo. It turned out to be a very effective tool against multi-row fences and barbed wire spirals, which the defensive positions of the armies of the First World War were so rich with. The military quickly realized that several “torpedoes” could be connected to each other, and wheels or skis could be attached to the front sections so that it was easier to move the charge under the barricades.
During the Second World War, the “Bangalore Torpedo” found its widest use in the Wehrmacht and the Allies. The pipes were interconnected with special locks or with the help of threaded couplings, so it was possible to build it up to a length of 100 or even 200 meters. Usually such a charge was attached to a tank equipped with a mine sweep. The tank made its way through the minefield, and an explosion of a super-long charge cleared the way for the remaining tanks and infantry among the mines.
The British in 1942, on the basis of the tank Churchill III created the car Churchill Snake ("Snake"), which transported 16 five-meter charges. But the use of this option "Bangalore torpedoes" remained the same. It was necessary to unscrew the long charge of the desired length, which was delivered to the minefield with the help of a machine. In the USSR, this method of making passages in minefields was noticed in the 1930s. However, the weakness of the industrial base did not allow organizing the production of Soviet "Bangalore torpedoes".
In the Soviet Union about the land "Torpedoes" knew and conducted the relevant work. But before the war in the country there were more priority issues, so the engineering troops received the first such means of mine clearance only after the war.
The first Soviet extended charge of ultrasound. The Soviet army received its version of the "Bangalore torpedo". It was a two-meter pipe with a diameter of 7 cm, into which 5.2 kilograms of TNT, 1.95 m long, were placed. A little later, it became possible to assemble UZ in triangular sections of UZ-3 (three charges each), which, in turn, could be combined into a design up to one hundred meters in length.
The method of using the UZ-3 sequence remained the same - the tank with the trawl pulled out demining charges, after which they were undermined. Due to the triangular shape of the UZ-3 section, a passage up to six meters wide was formed on the minefield.
UZ and UZ-3 proved to be an effective means of demining, but it was not without flaws. Actually clearance took place literally in the blink of an eye. But the preparation could not be compared with him in speed. In addition, the tank was a good target for the enemy, not to mention the fact that the armored vehicle can be found and more "combat" use.
Then a proposal was made to make self-propelled demining charge - the 100-meter design of UZ-3 should be equipped with 45 solid-fuel jet engines. As planned, the engines lifted the entire structure and dragged into the minefield. There, choosing a brake cable, the charge exploded. The estimated flight height was one meter.
This version of the extended charge was called the UZ-3R. The idea was good, but there were significant problems in implementation. All 45 engines were required to run simultaneously. Also, at the same time, they had to go to the maximum operating mode.Applied circuit did not cope with the simultaneous launch. The variation in the start time of the engines, it should be noted, was small - a split second. But they were enough for the unstable movement of the whole structure. The UR-3R began to wriggle, jump from side to side, but after a few seconds it still went into horizontal flight.
The flight was also not easy. Obstacles above 50-70 cm and the slope of the surface even at 4 ° were impassable for a charge. When meeting with a too high obstacle, the charge of mine literally took off into the sky and showed there a program of aerobatics. As a result, for such a bad temper and pyrotechnic shows, UZ-3R received the nickname “Serpent Gorynych”. Later, newer demining systems will be called that.
However, the Soviet army did not stop at that. With the help of collars, three charges of ultrasound were connected to a triangular section of ultrasound 3. From such sections it was possible to collect a charge of clearance (8 kg of TNT per linear meter) with a length of up to 100 meters. The explosion of an elongated charge delivered to a minefield by a tank with a trawl forced mines to operate in a six-meter-wide strip.
The charge of UZ-3 became the ridge of the generals of the engineering troops.The explosion of such a quantity of explosives, spread out over 100 meters, was extremely spectacular for the military leaders who were present at the exercises, both ours and foreign ones. Finally, the sappers had the opportunity to visually and effectively show their work: it looked no less beautiful than the bomb "path".
Soon, however, the marshal of the engineering troops Kharchenko came to the conclusion that all existing methods of making passages in minefields did not meet the requirements of tankers. Passages in enemy minefields should occur suddenly and instantly. Instantaneous charge UZ-3 is provided. But with the suddenness of a bad thing. A lone tank, slowly creeping across the field and pulling a charge of mine clearance behind it, clearly cannot provide it.
Then the designers suggested inserting rocket powder engines between sections, the nozzles of which were directed back and slightly down. The jet lifted the charge and pulled it forward. For a full-length charge, 45 such engines were required.
According to the creators, on the night before the attack, a set of UZ-3R must be delivered by car to the near rear. For one charge, the Ural 375 (4.5 t) truck was required.Then, the sappers must assemble a tubular truss length of 100 meters from the sections and install it in such a way that 200–300 m is left to the near border of the enemy minefield, disguise and wait for orders.
During the fire preparation period, when the artillery smashes the enemy's trenches and presses the firing points, the sappers launch a charge. It flies at a height of about 1 meter, until the brake cable is pulled, and then falls to the ground. The explosion - and in the minefield gapes a passage 6 meters wide, perfectly visible to the tanks and infantry going to attack. The axis of the passage - a shallow clear groove in the ground.
But it was smooth on paper ... The tests of UZ-3R revealed its limitations - the slope of the terrain is no more than 2–3% and the height of the obstacles is no more than 50–80 cm. The battlefield rarely provides such opportunities. And when the UZ-3R entered the troops, another very significant drawback emerged. All 45 engines had to be ignited strictly simultaneously and strictly simultaneously to go into working mode. This industry could not provide. In addition, it was not possible to achieve the same resistance of the connections in the common launch chain of all engines. As a result, at the moment of applying an electric pulse to the ignition of engines, the processes in each engine developed with a spread in time.The scatter was small — hundredths and tenths of seconds, but as a result this giant snake began with a terrible roar, spewing flames and smoke, wriggling to the sides, up and down. Then she rose and began to move forward faster and faster ...
And then, bumping into a stump or hillock, sharply soared into the sky and broke into constituent parts, which, with shrieks and noises, began to dangle across the sky in different directions. The generals, having forgotten about solidity, recalled the cadets' years and, for the five of them, carried out the command “All to shelter!”. The engineers, who knew the bad temper of their pet, by this time had long been smoking in dugouts.
But not only for the ability to demonstrate this unforgettable, extreme spectacle of the UZ-3R received the apt soldier's nickname “Serpent Gorynych” a pile of debris - almost 4 tons of scrap iron and explosives.
In 1968, the engineering troops received quite a decent machine, capable of doing what “Serpent Gorynych” could not.The first option was called the UR-67 (Installation of mine clearance sample 1967).
It was the chassis of an armored personnel carrier BTR-50PK with a launcher installed on it for elongated charges. The crew of three people brought the car to the desired position, made the aim and launched a charge of UZ-67. Unlike previous means of demining, it was not rigid, but soft and consisted of two 83 meter long hoses filled with explosive.
In one UZ-67, 665 kg of trotyl were placed. A solid-fuel rocket (nevertheless, officially it is called the “DM-70 engine”), attached to the front end of the charge, is capable of delivering an explosive cord up to 300-350 meters from the car.
After the launch was carried out, the crew was supposed to pass back to align the cord, and to make it undermined with electric fuse (the corresponding cable is located in the brake cable). 665 kilograms of TNT made a 6-meter wide passage up to 80 meters long. Neutralization of an enemy mine in an explosion occurs due to the detonation of its fuse.
The main purpose of the UR-67 are anti-tank mines.Light anti-personnel mines either detonate or are thrown by the blast wave beyond the limits of the passage, and mines with a double-click fuse after exposure to UZ-67 may remain operable.
The situation is similar with magnetic mines, although their fuse can be seriously damaged by a blast wave. As you can see, the UR-67 had enough problems, but the efficiency of creating the passage (2-3 minutes) and the portable ammunition of two charges did not leave the military indifferent. In 1972, Zmey Gorynych received a new charge of demining - UZP-72. It became longer (93 meters) and heavier, because it was already 725 kilograms of explosive brand PVV-7.
The range of the UZP-72 shot reached 500 meters, and the maximum dimensions of the passage being made rose to 90x6 meters. As before, the UZP-72 was placed with a crane or manually placed in the appropriate compartment of the machine (fitted with a “snake”), from where it was pulled out at launch using a solid-fuel rocket coming down from the guide.
In military use, it was immediately called Urk (this word has no slang meaning, the role was played by simple consonance). Later, an improved version received the designation UR-77.
In 1978, the UR-77 “Meteorite”, which is now the main vehicle of this class in the Russian army, replaced the UR-67. The principle of the new installation remains the same, although it received a new ammunition. UZP-77 is similar in its characteristics to UZP-72 and differs only in some technological moments. The basis of the elongated charge "77" are the DKPR-4 detonating cables 10.3 meters long each, connected in a single cord with cap nuts. The UR-77 is based on a lightly armored 2S1 chassis, taken from the Gvozdika self-propelled howitzer.
The roots of this chassis go to the tractor MT-LB. Launch guide exhaust missiles UR-77 and boxes for the cord, in contrast to the UR-67, received protection in the form of a cap-tower. A very useful innovation, because in the armored boxes for ammunition is almost a half tons of explosives. Before launching, the armored cage, together with the launch guide, rises to the desired elevation angle. Further, all the combat work is carried out literally by a pair of buttons: one is responsible for starting the solid-fuel engine, the second is for undermining the charge, and the third is for dumping the brake cable.After pressing the third button "Meteorite" is ready to make a new pass. To recharge the installation takes 30-40 minutes. The laying of an explosive cord can be made either as a ready block using a crane or manually. Chassis 2S1 is floating (speed up to 4 km / h). It is argued that the UR-77 can produce the launch of an elongated charge even from water. The tactical side of this case looks doubtful, but film materials with a similar launch are available.
How does the installation of the UR-77? Depending on the location of the near boundary of the enemy minefield and its depth, the machine at the right time takes a starting position, raises the guides and produces a charge start. The charge flies, rising to a height of 10−15 meters, until the brake cable connecting the tail of the charge and the machine is taut. After the charge falls on the minefield, the machine gives back to align the charge in a straight line. The commander of the car on the cable (inside the brake cable) issues a command to undermine the charge. The explosion of 725 kilograms of plastite causes mines to work with pressure fuses in a six-meter-wide strip and interrupts wires of a tension action.The commander of the machine using a squib interrupts the brake cable, freeing the machine. Everything, the car is ready to start of the following charge of mine clearing. (At the exercises, usually immediately after the explosion, the figures of the military rushed to the shot-off brake cable: a combination of high strength, softness and flexibility made it an indispensable tool in everyday life, most often it was used as a towing cable for cars.) In this way, a passage in a minefield is made really suddenly and instantly.
Externally, the UR-77 differs little from any other combat vehicle and does not attract the particular attention of the enemy. And if you install on it a model of a tower with a barrel, imitating the self-propelled gun “Gvozdika”, then only a specialist can reveal that this is “Urka”, and even from a short distance. So even if the enemy’s reconnaissance sees the UR-77 installations, it will most likely take them as self-propelled howitzers - no particular cause for alarm, the usual reinforcement of artillery.
And yet the Serpent Gorynych
Interestingly, the expressive nickname “The Serpent Gorynych” gradually inherited from UZ-3R to the UR-67, and then to the UR-77.But now it is from a beautiful and frightening spectacle: suddenly a wild roar of a rocket engine is heard, and a short rocket starts to rise faster and faster, something white is dragging on. Then the rocket flies forward (the charge of the release comes off), and a serpentine long sausage falls to the ground. A short pause, and a heavy explosion shakes the earth and heaven. Black smoke and flying clods of earth. In a couple of minutes, the one who has never seen the work of the UR-77 before, will only have to ask: “Guys, what was that ?!”
Later, the version of the Snake Gorynych was created, which did not require a basic tracked vehicle. The kit, designated UR-83P, was transported on a regular truck and collected in a conventional tank trench. The launcher was a lightweight frame. Of course, the efficiency of the UR-83P is significantly inferior to that of the UR-77, but in advance preparation of the attack, they can be set as many times as necessary where necessary, disguised and briefly explained to the infantryman or tankman the order of launch (“Press this button and hide”).
Concluding the story about the "Snake of the Gorynych", it is worth saying that this machine is one of the best combat means of overcoming minefields.The best, but not absolute. Mines turned out to be such a weapon, which nobody managed to create satisfactory countermeasures to this day. There is neither a fully reliable means of searching for mines, nor means of their neutralization or destruction. It only helps that in most cases the mines used are fairly simple, standard and set by the standard methods. In addition, usually the one who installs them, leaves himself the opportunity to neutralize them. But if a miner and a deminer begin to compete, the latter inevitably loses, no matter how sophisticated methods he may apply.
The first combat use of Soviet remote demining systems took place during the Doomsday War in the 73rd. These were the installations UR-67 delivered to Egypt. The next demining machine, the UR-77, managed to take part in almost all the wars in which the USSR and Russia participated, starting with the Afghan one. There is information that in some conflicts “Meteorite” was used not only for its intended purpose: several times in the conditions of small settlements they played the role of artillery, laying charges on the streets belonging to the enemy.You can imagine what was in place of the houses after the explosion of the cord.
Armed with foreign countries, there are also similar systems, but, for example, the American AVLM (M58 MICLIC charges) based on the bridge-laying system could not gain the confidence of the fighters.
No matter how the system was improved, its reliability did not reach acceptable values. As for the domestic UR-77, then no replacement is planned for it yet. The fact is that the installation concept turned out to be well developed at the UR-67 stage. The Egyptian experience in the use of this installation only helped to completely “polish” the structure and methods of application. Thus, the UR-77 for more than thirty years of its existence is still not outdated and continues to be used by domestic engineering troops.