As part of a much (much!) longer post about artillery within Russian and separatist armed forces, the DPR blogger Murz shares his description of the Russian army switching to 152mm caliber standard while dumping the existing 122mm guns to separatist forces, in the end resulting in extremely poor performance of the latter on the battlefield when the supplies for 122mm guns ran dry.
… And now, in fact, about our “de-calibration”*. Which is what we are having problems with, not Ukrainians.
In 2013, the Russian army decided that the 122mm caliber, namely the D-30 towed howitzers and Gvozdika self-propelled guns, will only be preserved for occasional purposes, perhaps for some paratroopers who require compact and lightweight guns, while the main caliber for the whole army will be 152mm. Of course, the infantry still had the 120mm mortars, paratroopers also had the universal 120mm self-propelled and towed 2S9 Nona guns. The production and consumption of ammunitions was planned according with this decision.
The formation of the People’s Militia Corps in 2014-2015 was a very happy occasion allowing to dump all of the 122mm caliber guns. Therefore, apart from all the unaccounted for guns and a small number of guns that went to cossacks and territorial defence battalions, by the start of the Special Military Operation the Republics had around a dozen artillery divisions with towed D-30 and self-propelled Gvozdikas combined, mainly as part of the artillery segment of motorised rifle brigades (this is, by the way, open data, apparent from a well-known composition of Corps and the structure of brigades and regiments belonging to them).
Pure benefit. First – to dump all the old rubbish. Let the grubby Donbassians mess around with it. Secondly, – “there is a truce, they won’t be firing much”, thus no decisions regarding production of ammunitions needed to be made. “We will just take from our supplies”.
Years passed. Everything suited everyone. The grubby Donbassians from time to time fired from their 122mm guns when they were allowed to (which was very rare), the UAF at the same time were switching their motorised rifle brigades to 152mm artillery, eliminating the “de-calibration”. The People’s Militia Corps also had 6-inchers, but only as part of two artillery brigades which fired even less frequently than artillery divisions of the motorised rifle brigades. In addition to the overwhelming superiority of the Armed Forces of Ukraine artillery thus created, the People’s Militia started having a terrible professional staff shortage – few wanted to work as practice targets for the prospect of “implementing Minsk agreements”, i.e. returning to Ukraine, even in the artillery, let alone infantry. In places, “professional artillery divisions” appeared which had no personnel even for one battery, in other places the artillery officers not devoid of sense of humour commented on the situation the following way – “We are the carers of the society. We accept all the homeless, criminals and alcoholics”. It wasn’t so bad everywhere, yet for instance in summer of 2020, DPR had detachments of artillery reconnaissance where the largest part of reconnaissance officers could not solve neither a direct nor an inverse geodetic problem.
The Russian advisers were not bothered at all by the prospect of a conflict with UAF. “You retards won’t be fighting. You’re just here as furniture. The great and mighty Russian army will come while you’ll stand on the sidelines, suckers”. Such was their position.
And then suddenly all these gangs of “homeless-alcoholics-criminals” with the start of the Operation turned out to be no less, if not more competent than the average visiting artillerists from the “peacetime army”! And within the DPR and LPR People’s Militias the 122mm artillery turned out to be more competent than the 152mm, purely due to greater practice. Certainly, the D-30’s and Gvozdikas of the motorised brigades and regiments are immediately tasked with large-scale fire missions which consume monstrous amounts of ammunitions, of 122mm caliber. And after a month – month and half it turned out that the stockpiles of 122mm missiles are far from endless, and that they are already running out in the Western district, and that it is urgently required, during hostilities, to switch the People’s Militia artillery to 152mm D-20 guns which are hastily being removed from storage. And meanwhile one part of the Republics’ artillery, mainly self-propelled Gvozdika divisions, are on a shell ration, the towed artillery is being switched to D-20. While our equipment that is being removed from storage is a proper lottery. What’s really working and what isn’t will become clearer by the tenth shot, from the guns that will indeed fire.
Thus, when there is a formal opportunity to somehow use the results of Mariupol capitulation and freeing up of large forces of DPR People’s Militia, there is actually no such real opportunity – some are sitting with no shells, others are putting D-20s in order after storage and learning how to use them.
And here we get a clear illustration of who actually has “de-calibration”. At the moment of writing the Ukrainians have already been shelling Donetsk for a week, in fact openly bringing MLRS and guns to locations where previously they were afraid to go, where for many years no bombs were dropping.
*“de-calibration” – a lack of a unified artillery gun caliber standard within artillery units and army