With Big Old Artillery And Tiny New Drones, Ukrainian Gunners Take Aim At Regrouping Russians

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A Ukrainian army artillery brigade has begun flying a new, small unmanned aerial vehicle—and using it to spot targets for its giant, aging self-propelled howitzers.

The results are dramatic.

The 45th Separate Artillery Brigade on Saturday circulated a recording of a video feed from a Spectator UAV depicting strikes by the brigade’s 2S7 howitzers on an industrial facility near the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia that a Russian army battalion was using as a staging area.

Viewing the drone feed to correct their fire, the 45th’s gunners destroyed several Russian vehicles.

The 2S7 is an old weapon. The tracked, open-hull gun and its accompanying support vehicle entered service with the Soviet army in 1976. The 2S7 saw combat in Afghanistan in the 1980s and the Chechen wars in the ’90s.

The Russians eventually put a lot of their roughly 300 2S7s in storage. The Ukrainians did the same with the 100 or so 2S7s they inherited from the Soviet Union. In the lead-up to the current war, both countries returned to service some of the big guns.

Both are using drones to spot targets for their 2S7s. The 12-pound Spectator, from Ukrainian firm JSC Meridian, is one of the newest. The Zaporizhzhia strike apparently was the first time the 45th had used the Spectator in combat. “An effective combat test drive,” the brigade boasted.

While a 203-millimeter gun packs a wallop, it’s also heavy, slow-to-fire, hard to support and painfully loud for the 14-person crew. So it’s worth noting where the Russian and Ukrainian armies have gone to the effort to deploy their respective 2S7s.

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Russian 2S7s reportedly are active in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, in particular around the Severodonetsk salient, where Russian forces are trying to surround several Ukrainian brigades with their thousands of troops.

Some of Ukraine’s 2S7s are in the same area. A video that the Ukrainian 92nd Mechanized Brigade posted on social media on Sunday depicts 2S7s in action. The 92nd holds the line in Donbas north of the Severodonetsk salient.

The 45th, with its own 2S7s, is in southern Ukraine, which has been relatively quiet since the Kremlin earlier this month refocused its war effort on Donbas. But there are reports the Russians are trying to regroup and launch a fresh offensive in the south.

Ukraine’s drones are keeping tabs. And its gunners are trying to spoil the plan.

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