ZSU-23-4 Shilka is considered the pinnacle of the Soviet defense industry, was officially put into service in 1962.

The appearance of the self-propelled air defense complex ZSU-23-4 Shilka at that time created a revolution in the Soviet air defense capabilities. Currently, Russia has upgraded this air defense complex to the ZSU-23-4M4/M5 standard to help increase the probability of destroying the target.

Russia’s ZSU-23-4 Shilka, also present on the Ukrainian battlefield. Although not the most advanced weapon of this day, with a maximum rate of fire of up to 4,000 rounds per minute, Shilka still has a certain place in low-altitude air defense and urban warfare. Around 2,500 ZSU-23-4s, of the total 6,500 produced, were exported to 23 countries. The Warsaw Pact’s successor states continue to manufacture and supply variants of the ZSU-23-4, notably the Ukrainian “Donets” and Polish “Biala” variants.

The armament of the complex consists of the 23-mm quad automatic anti-aircraft cannon AZP-23 “Amur” and a system of power drives designed for targeting. The second component of the complex is the radar-instrument complex RPK-2М, for guidance and fire control. Shilka can work both with radar and with conventional optical sight aiming device. Locator provides search, detection, automatic tracking of the target, determines its coordinates.

The air defense system is mounted on a GM-575 tracked chassis, using parts from the PT-76 light amphibious tank. The engine and the transmission are at the rear of the hull as is the DG4M-1 gas turbine coupled to a manual gearbox with 5 forwards and 1 reverse gears. The torsion bar suspension system consists of six single rubber-tired road wheels with the idler at the front and the drive sprocket at the rear. There are no track return rollers. Thin armor of the ZSU-23-4 provides only limited protection against small arms fire and artillery shell splinters. Vehicle is fitted with NBC protection system.

The crew of four people: the commander, the search-gunner operator, the range operator and the driver. The guns and ammunition are in the forward part of the turret and separated from the crew by a gas-tight and armored bullhead. The ZSU-23-4 Shilka can engage targets using only one or two of the four canons.

The ZSU-23-4 proved highly effective during the 1973 Middle East war and accounted for a large number of Israeli aircraft losses. The ZSU-23-4 was also used in both North and South Vietnam and in the Arabian Gulf war by the Iranian and the Iraqis. The ZSU-23-4M4/M5 upgrade program aims to improve combat performance, coordination and living conditions of the crew. ZSU-23-4M4/M5 was replaced with a new aiming radar; new modern digital computer. The new version can also be fitted 2 Strelets-23 launchers carrying 4 Igla missiles, increasing the combat range of the system to 5km, 3.5km altitude with very high accuracy.

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