Ukraine Is Using Old World War II Mortars: As Russian forces began to mass on the Ukrainian border a year ago, Kyiv started to get creative with its defensive efforts.
Vintage small arms were pulled out of storage and provided to newly-formed militia units. There have even been reports of Ukrainian troops armed with DP-27 light machine guns and M1910 Maxim water-cooled heavy machine guns, each dating back to the Second World War or even earlier.
Though such weapons likely weren’t used in great numbers, a different World War II-era platform is being put to significant effect by Ukraine in its war against the Russian invader.
It is the American-made M101 howitzer, which was the standard U.S. light field gun that saw service in both the European and Pacific Theaters, and was later employed again during the Korean War.
The M101 can fire the 105mm high explosive (HE) semi-fixed ammunition, and it has a range of 12,300 yards (11,270 meters) or roughly seven miles, which makes it ideal as an infantry support weapon.
By the time production of the M101 ended in 1953, more than 10,000 had been manufactured by Rock Island Arsenal, and many were kept in storage or exported to NATO members and allies as surplus.
It remains in service with nations in South America, Africa, and Asia.
M101 From Baltics to Ukraine
Recently, Lithuania sent a number of its M101 howitzers to Ukraine, and David Axe of Forbes reported that the first videos of those guns in use were posted online this past weekend.
Axe noted that in the hands of experienced, motivated gunners, the M101 can still win battles today, especially when those gunners get some aid from aerial drones, which can help target enemy positions.
The towed M101 requires a minimum of effort from the service to bring the weapon into combat position.
It can be quickly deployed and then moved quickly to avoid strikes from enemy counterfire.
The M101’s seven-mile range greatly exceeds the five-mile range of the former Soviet 100mm guns that Ukraine had in its arsenal.
However, Kyiv’s forces now face Russian 2S19 batteries that can fire 152mm shells from out to 15 miles.
The Baltic State had received about fifty-four of the WWII-era howitzers from Denmark in 2002 and is replacing them with more modern German and French self-propelled 155mm howitzers.
“The first footage of a 105mm M101 howitzer, supplied by Lithuania to Ukraine earlier this year, in action with the AFU. Although these are older designs, more artillery is always useful-which is why Soviet WW2-era 85mm D-44 guns still make appearances,” Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) tweeted on Sunday.
#Ukraine: The first footage of a 105mm M101 howitzer, supplied by ?? Lithuania to Ukraine earlier this year, in action with the AFU. Although these are older designs, more artillery is always useful-which is why Soviet WW2-era 85mm D-44 guns still make appearances. pic.twitter.com/2tQvMQ5Lkd
— ?? Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) November 27, 2022
105mm as 155mm Comes Up Short
The U.S. and other western allies have been supplying the M101 and other 105mm guns as stockpiles of 155mm ordnance have been depleted.
Doug Bush, the U.S. Army’s chief weapons buyer, told reporters at the Pentagon last week that the service was looking to accelerate production of 155mm artillery shells – which are currently only manufactured at government facilities – by allowing defense contractors to produce them.
However, while Kyiv may not receive additional 155mm artillery shells, it appears it is more than making do with the 105mm ordnance, and Ukraine should have enough rounds to last well into the New Year.
The United States and the United Kingdom have supplied Kyiv with tens of thousands of modern 105mm shells, which work well with those old guns.
Old Weapons Everywhere in Ukraine
Ukraine is not alone in having to employ older hardware. As Russia has seen thousands of its tanks destroyed, Moscow has been forced to utilize antiquated T-62 main battle tanks – vehicles likely older than the parents of the current crews.
This is truly a war of attrition like no other.
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.
November 29, 2022 at 7:02 am
First time I read that Ukraine is hitting Russia? Is it Ukraine that invaded Russia and tortures and kills innocent citizens? I thought it was the contrary. Please correct this ambiguous title: Ukraine is hitting the illegally invading Russian army.