Land Weapons

SP Anti-Aircraft Gun (1966)

Ulyanovsk Mekhanicheskiy Zavod

ZSU-23-4 Shilka

ZSU-23-4 Shilka

The limitations of the ZSU-57-2 self-propelled anti-aircraft gun promoted the development of the ZSU-23-4 Shilka ('Awl'), which became one of the most revolutionary combat vehicles of the Cold War. The ZSU-23-4 was based on the chassis of the PT-76 amphibious tank albeit with a less streamline hull shaped more like a conventional tank. In contrast to the tall, rounded turret of its predecessor, the ZSU-23-4's turret was flatter and more square shaped. Armament consisted of a quad-mounted AZP-23M 23-mm cannon which had a rate of fire of 800-1,000 rounds per minute which was around five times higher than that of the ZSU-57-2. Maximum effective range was 2,500 m for both air and ground targets and it could also carry armor-piercing rounds for the fire support role. Mounted on the rear of the turret top is a 'Gun Dish' radar whose antena could be folded down to reduce the vehicle's height. This has a range of 20 km in search mode and 18 km in tracking mode and feeds into a fire-control computer which determines the optimal gun lead angle. There is also a stabilization system that allows it to fire on the move (with reduced accuracy) as well as an optical sight in the event that the rader is jammed. The entire process of acquisition, lock-on, and firing takes only 20-30 seconds. Unlike its predecessor, the ZSU-23-4 features NBC protection and can also be air-transportable. Overall, the ZSU-23-4 represented a quantum leap in SPAAG capability and proved tremendously effective in combat: Egyptian units accounted for 30% of all Israeli aircraft losses during the Yom Kippur War, and it was even more effective when used in combination with SAM systems like the SA-6. The threat that it represented to low-flying aircraft and helicopters even led to NATO revising its low altitude tactics, and it was widely seen as superior to the US M163 Vulcan. The ZSU-23-4 was exported widely to most Soviet allies and client states and saw combat in dozens of wars, although it has proven much less effective against modern aircraft as evidenced by the high losses suffered in the 1991 Gulf War although it has still found some use as a fire support weapon. Hundreds remain in service including with Russia has employed it in the war in Ukraine, although it has since been increasingly replaced by the gun- and missile-armed 2K22 Tunguska.

Development of the ZSU-23-4 began in 1957 and the first prototypes ready in the early 1960s. Initial production versions were often referred to as the M1965 and these were followed by a more substantive upgrade in the ZSU-23-4V and later, the -4V1 which had more advanced electronics that improved accuracy. The ZSU-23-4M added large ammunition panniers on the turret sides which made them easy to distinguish from previous versions as well as an improved version of the 'Gun Dish' radar. Subsequent Soviet-era variants include the -4M1 with newer autocannons with longer barrel life, the radar-removed -4M2 fire support vehicle optimized for mountain combat in Afghanistan, and the -4M3 with a new 'Luk' IFF system. The newer -4M4 and -4M5 add 'Igla' MANPADS launchers and smoke grenades, plus even further enhanced electronics. Various foreign versions were locally upgraded with SAM launchers, these included the Polish ZSU-23-4MP Biała with four Grom SAMs and the Iranian ZSU-23-4 Soheil with four Misagh-2 SAMs.

Preceded by:

ZSU-57-2 (1955)

Succeeded by:

2K22 Tunguska (1986)


TypeSP Anti-Aircraft Gun
Length (w/Gun)6.54 m
Width3.125 m
Height3.572 m
Ground Clearance0.400 m
Track2.670 m
Track Width360 mm
Track on Ground3.800 m
Combat20,500 kg
Ground Pressure0.69 kg/cm²
SuspensionTorsion bar
Speed (Off-Road)50 km/h
Range (Off-Road)450 km
Fording1.07 m
Vertical Obstacle1.10 m
Trench2.80 m
Side Slope30%
Engine1 x 280-hp
FuelDiesel: 250 L
Power/Weight13.66 hp/t
Main4 x 23-mm

↑ 85° / ↓ -4° / ↔ 360°
Ammo23-mm: 2,000
Thickness9 - 15 mm
Max Effective10 - 26 mm RHAe
Hull Upper Front15 mm / 55°
Hull Upper Sides15 mm
Hull Lower Sides15 mm
Turret Front9.2 mm / 15°
Turret Sides9.2 mm
Turret Rear9.2 mm