Russia’s tractor plant fitting out 1950s 2M-3 naval gun on MT-LB tracked vehicles

Russian commanders are so desperate for equipment that they’ve begun mounting decades-old naval guns on ancient armored tractors according to newly leaked images.

Ukranian Defense Forces captured the armored chassis of a Soviet-era MT-LB that had been equipped with a 2M-7 gunboat turrets originally develop in the 1940s.

“An interesting Russian MT-LB variant was captured by the Ukrainian army in the vicinity of Vuhledar,” wrote Ukraine Weapons Tracker in a Twitter post.

2M-3 naval gun on 1950s patrol boat.

“The APC was gunned with a 2M-7 naval turret with 2 KPV 14.5mm heavy machine guns, originally intended to be installed in patrol boats and trawlers.”

This wasn’t the first jerry-rigged armored vehicle found by Ukrainian forces according to Forbes’ David Axe, who reported on Russia’s growing engineering ingenuities. 

“In early March,” Axe wrote, “photos circulated online depicting MT-LBs with 2M-3 naval turrets welded to their roofs.”

“The 2M-3 is two 25-millimeter auto-cannons, one atop the other in an enclosed casing,” Axe added, noting that the “2M-3 made its debut in 1953.”

While these vehicles may look absurd to us, Axe pointed out that they were still extremely dangerous pieces of equipment. 

A Russian MT-LB equipped with a 2M-3 naval gun can shoot as far as 2700 yards when engaged with opposing units according to Axe, who compared the weapon system to Ukraine’s equally old Soviet-era MT-LB-12 multipurpose armored fighting vehicle. 

The difference between a Russian MT-LB with a naval gun mount and a Ukrainian MT-LB-12 is range,” Axe wrote. “An MT-LB-12 can fire as far as 9,000 yards.”

“So the Russian Frankenvehicle must get a lot closer to the enemy in order to be effective,” Axe continued, adding that the other problem with Russia’s MT-LB monsters was their extremely thin armor. “Its steel hull is half an inch thick at its thickest.”

“Ukrainian missile teams, tankers, and artillery gunners—including the crews of MT-LB-12s—can hit the weirdo Russian vehicles from thousands of yards beyond the weirdos’ own firing range,” Axe pointed out. 

Axe speculated that these vehicles might have been made to serve an anti-aircraft role and, if that was so, it wasn’t “a bad one.” But the construction of these weapons revealed the deeper problem Russia is facing in Ukraine, its growing equipment shortage. 

Russian forces have lost a total of 12,567 destroyed, damaged, or captured vehicles since Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine last year according to Oryx, an open-source intelligence group that tracks equipment losses on both sides of the war. 

In total, Oryx has visual confirmation that Russia has lost at least 5,819 tanks in Ukraine, a number some experts have said represents half of the country’s total available stock. 

In mid-February 2023, chair of the International Institute of Strategic Studies John Chipman claimed Russia had lost “around 50% of its pre-invasion fleet,” as quoted by The Guardian. 

If Chapman’s prediction is true, then we should expect to see far more Frankenvehicles making their way onto Ukrainian battlefields—though we shouldn’t expect modified MT-LBs to fare well against modern Challenger II and Leopard II tanks.

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