OPERATORS: Afghanistan; Algeria; Armenia; Bangladesh; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Cambodia; China; Cape Verde; Cuba; Cyprus; East Germany; Ecuador; Egypt; Estonia; Ethiopia; Finland; Gabon; Georgia; Greece; Guinea-Bissau; India; Indonesia; Iran; Iraq; Israel; Hungary; Laos; Lebanon; Libya; Morocco; Moldova; Mongolia; Mozambique; Myanmar; Nicaragua; Nigeria; Pakistan; Peru; Poland; Russia; Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic; Serbia; South Africa; Soviet Union; Sri Lanka; Tanzania; Turkey; Uganda; Ukraine; United States; Venezuela; Vietnam; Yemen; Zimbabwe
The ZU-23-2 is a light, towed anti-aircraft / air defense system developed by the Soviet Union in the 1950s. Design work began in the latter part of the decade and culminated with the system achieving operational status in 1960. Amazingly, the weapon has proven so sound that it is still in operation throughout the world and production continues to this day. To date, tens of thousands of the weapon type have been delivered across the globe and evolved into other useful variants and modernized when possible. The rather complicated designation arrangement used for the "ZU-23-2" is actually quite descriptive when broken down: ZU = Zenitnaya Ustanovka which translates to "anti-aircraft mount" in the Russian while "23" designates the type's barrel calibers and "2" signifies the number of barrels being utilized in the design.
At its core, the ZU-23-2 is intended to combat low-flying enemy aircraft as well as light-armored vehicles - the latter if required. The standard operating crew is typically six personnel though extreme circumstances can see the weapon being handled by a single operator. As a towed air defense system, the ZU-23-2 is made up of a wheeled carriage, the gun mount and the gun barrels. Two small road wheels allow for vehicular towed transport. These installations are lifted off of the ground and folded when the weapon system is prepped to fire. The mount sits atop a steel platform with a three-point adjustable stance that lifts the weapon system off of the ground and distributes the inherent recoil of the firing action. The gun system is comprised of 2 x 23mm gun barrels in a side-by-side arrangement. Optics are fitted as are integrated ammunition boxed designed to accept the required 23mm projectile cartridges. The gunner takes a position in a rear-set steel molded chair with foot rests located at the front sides of the gun mount. Traverse is essentially a full 360-degrees while elevation controls allow the guns to engage both land and airborne targets as required. Ammunition supply is only limited by the present ammunition carrier.
The ZU-23-2 design is centered around the pairing of two 2A14 series Afanasyev-Yakushev 23x152mm autocannons. Each barrel measures in at 6.5 feet in length and rated with a muzzle velocity of 3,182 feet per second. Range is listed out to 1.5 miles, reaching upwards of 6,500 feet and highly suitable for engaging low-flying enemy helicopter and strike aircraft. Each 23mm projectile weighs in at 0.37lbs. In practice, up to 400 rounds per minute could be reached while manufacturer specifications detailed an optimal rate-of-fire nearing 2,000 rounds per minute. Each gun is afforded 50 x 23mm projectiles from a standard ammunition fitting. Ammunition types range from Armor-Piercing Incendiary and High-Explosive to High-Explosive Fragmentation and Armor-Piercing Discarding Sabot-Tracer.