The ZSU-23-4, otherwise known as “Shilka” is a tank that was brought into action in 1965 and was named after the Russian Shilka River; it is self-propelled, lightly armored, and uses an anti-aircraft weapon system that is guided by radars. ZSU is an acronym for the Russian words: Zenitnaya Samokhodnaya Ustanovka, which means “anti-aircraft self-propelled mount”, while the number 23 gives the tank’s bore diameter in millimeters and the number 4 represents the number of gun barrels it has.
HISTORY OF SHILKA
Shilka was developed by the Soviet Union to replace the previous ZSU-57-2 or SPAAG, which was equipped with two 57 mm autocannons; it was optically aimed using a basic tracking system but was not very popular as it carried only a small amount of ammunition, could not fire while it was moving and was inaccurate when firing.
Shilka was brought into active service in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War and was very effective as pilots who were trying to fly low to avoid big SA-6 missiles would often be shot down by the Shilka units. Shilka was also used in the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s and in the First Gulf War in 1990; Shilka units were especially effective in mountain combat.
The primary role of the Shilka units was to provide close-in air defense for motorized units during combat and while on the march. Since its purpose was to defend against close attacks, it also had to be equipped to deal with ground targets as well as air targets before the enemy could attack; this is why the Shilka’s missiles are radar guided so that they are more accurate even over long distances regardless of weather and lighting conditions. Because Shilka fire is so accurate, it could neutralize tanks by destroying their radio antennas or gun sights.
Each of the Shilka’s four cannons fire their own cannons from separate belts and so four different types of ammunition could be used at the same time, however the two types of ammo that were typically used were the OFZT and BZT in a ratio of 3:1, meaning that for every three OFZTs that were fired, one BZT was fired.
The Shilka weight 20.5 tons and can travel at 50 km/h; it holds four crew members – the driver, commander, gunner and radar operator – and has a range of 450 km. the driver’s compartment of the Shilka has a self-contained air pump with an electrical heating system but the rest of the crew members are literally left in the cold during cold weather as the heating system in the fighting compartment consists of ineffective heated handrails and floor.
THE FUTURE OF SHILKA
Because of its design and features, the Shilka even today is a very effective tool against lightly armored vehicles and infantry, even though it is now old and outdated; however the basic technology has been developed on and is still being developed on to make more modern models even more effective. Today the Shilka is known for its excellent performance and the reliability of its systems.