Take A Captured Russian Turret, Add It To Any Spare Chassis
After a year of hard fighting, the Ukrainian war zone is a junkyard for more than 10,000 destroyed armored vehicles, both Russian and Ukrainian. The sheer scale of the casualties explains why both sides are a little desperate for replacement vehicles.
That desperation justifies a lot of creative – some might say “bizarre” – decisions. Both the Russian and Ukrainian armies are mixing and combining whatever old guns, turrets, and chassis they can get their hands on to produce weird hybrid vehicle designs that would have been unthinkable just a few months ago.
Among these Frankenstein monsters is a new family of self-propelled mortars created by the Ukrainian army from salvaged Russian turrets and spare chassis. These chain mortars could play an important role if—if—the Ukrainian army shifts from defense to offensive in the coming weeks and months.
The Ukrainian Frankenmortars are riffs on the classic 2S9, a 120mm mortar in an armored turret on the tracked chassis of a BTR-D light armored vehicle. The Motovilikha Plants plant in Perm in central Russia built around a thousand 2S9s over a decade starting in the late 1970s.
Think of the nine-ton, four-person 2S9 as something of a middle ground between a long-range howitzer and a crew-operated direct fire weapon like a heavy machine gun. A 2S9 fires a 30-pound shell at about six miles and isn’t as destructive as a howitzer, but it is more responsive — heavy firepower that infantry can call on in the short term.
The Russians love their 2S9. They’ve started assigning six of the chain mortars to the new “assault units” that make them up.
Ukrainians have 2S9 envy. They started the current war with only about 40 old 2S9s left over from Soviet stocks. The Russians destroyed at least two of them. The roughly three dozen that remain are not enough to meet the Army’s call for front-line fire. A demand that will only grow when the Ukrainians attack.
So Kiev’s engineers did what they do best: they improvised – adding 2S9 turrets to the chassis of BMP-1 combat vehicles and BRM-1K reconnaissance vehicles. The Ukrainians apparently call this Frankenmortar “2S17”.
It is unclear where the technicians get the towers from, but it is worth noting that Ukrainian troops destroyed, damaged or captured about 30 Russian 2S9 or wheeled derivatives. The chassis might not have been salvageable – and even if it had, almost any other hull would be preferable to the very thinly armored BTR-D.
We don’t know how many 2S17s the Ukrainian army could build. At least four can be seen in a video that has appeared on social media. Expect that number to grow.