A new video shared by Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) on Saturday could be mistaken for an April Fools joke. It showed the Ukrainian army employing a number of KS-19 100mm anti-aircraft guns, a platform that first entered service in 1947.
Though the Kremlin has resorted to utilizing many older weapons — including T-62 medium tanks, and possibly even older, upgraded T-54/55 series tanks — Kyiv’s forces have also turned to antiques. Even before Russia launched its unprovoked invasion just over 13 months ago, Ukrainian National Guard and militia units were being equipped with M1910 Maxim machine guns, a weapon that saw service in the First World War, as well as the DP-27, a Soviet-era light machine gun.
The KS-19 in the Crosshairs
According to the social media post, the KS-19 could be used on the frontlines against ground targets in an indirect mode, and possibly direct as well. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that an anti-aircraft gun found use as an anti-tank weapon. During the Second World War, the German Army adapted its infamous 88mm flak gun for use against Allied and Soviet tanks.
In fact, in Soviet doctrine, the KS-19 towed anti-aircraft gun was specifically designed to excel in ground combat. It offered mobility and firepower. It features a rifled barrel and loading tray system that enables a well trained crew to fire a maximum of 15 rounds per minute.
Anti-aircraft ordnance includes high explosive, high-explosive fragmentation, and fragmentation types, while ground rounds include armor-piercing tracer and armor-piercing capped tracer types that are able to penetrate 186mm of armor at 1,000 meters. The KS-19 can fire an anti-aircraft round with a range of 49,200 feet utilizing a proximity fuse, and approximately 41,600 feet with a timed fuse.
The KS-19 in Combat
The KS-19 was widely adopted throughout the Warsaw Pact. It first saw use in combat during the Korean War, when it was employed by the communist forces of North Korea and China. In Chinese service it was designated as the Type 55.
The KS-19/Type-55 saw subsequent use in the Vietnam War, and later with the Iraqi Army during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. Approximately 5,000 KS-19s were produced during the Cold War.
Interestingly, the KS-19 is among the older platforms not in service with Moscow forces. It is unclear how many remained in service in the latter stages of the Cold War, but following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine inherited a number of the KS-19 anti-aircraft guns, which had remained in storage in Balakakliia. The city fell to Russian forces in early March 2022, and it has been reported that the guns were subsequently used as decoys – likely due to the fact that the Kremlin lacked the ammunition for the weapons. The 100mm ordnance was derived from the B-34 naval gun.
Ukrainian forces recaptured the region during its Kharkiv counteroffensive last September, and found the guns intact.
#Ukraine: The Ukrainian army started to use ancient KS-19 100mm anti-aircraft guns. Though initially designed to be used against air targets, now they will be used against ground targets- in indirect and possibly direct mode.
The first KS-19 guns entered service in 1947. pic.twitter.com/mSivG4N8wM
— ???????? Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) April 1, 2023
Apparently, Kyiv had maintained a stockpile of Soviet UOF-412 rounds that were manufactured in the 1960s. It is unclear if additional ordnance can be produced for the guns, but if so, the KS-19 will be another old platform that still finds a place on the modern battlefield.
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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 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.