The 2S4 "Tyulpan" was developed as a fully-tracked, self-propelled heavy mortar platform. The 30-ton system was first witnessed by the West in 1975 which gave birth to the NATO designation of "M1975" (not to be confused with the 2S7 "Pion", also given the NATO designation of M1975). It still maintains an active presence in the Russian Army inventory and has seen noted combat actions in Afghanistan (1979-1989) and Chechnya (1999-2009). The Soviet designation was consistent with the accepted practice of an alpha-numeric system ("2S4") and the association to a flower ("Tyulpan").
The Red Army witnessed the value of large-caliber mortar systems first-hand in World War 2. The Soviets therefore fielded a large collection of field mortars ranging from infantry level types to massive 240mm caliber monsters in their fight against the Germans. By the end of the war, the large-caliber mortar had managed a permanent foothold in the Red Army inventory and little was to change with the upcoming Cold War against the West. Development of a self-propelled and modern mortar carrier began in 1960.
The practice, the 2S4 has proven a devastatingly effective long-range weapon against many target types. The 240mm mortar holds a range of 9,650 meters and can manage various warhead types including standard high-explosive, fragmentation blast (287lbs) and armor-piercing types. As she was developed at the height of the Cold War, the 2S4 also has access to an inventory of chemical and nuclear-tipped projectiles as well but frequency of use concerning these projectile types is unknown. A precision-guided munition has also been noted with the 2S4 which broaden the tactical usefulness of the system considerably. This projectile type, known as "Dare Devil ("Smel'chak"), was developed during the Soviet involvement in Afghanistan and, on at least one occasion, proved its worth when engaging Mujahedeen targets that found themselves safely out of the capabilities of general Soviet field artillery. A rocket-assisted projectile can extend the "reach" of the 2S4 system as far out as 18,000 meters. As a mortar-class weapon, the 2S4 is capable of lobbing projectiles at enemy targets or known enemy positions, making her an indirect weapon type. If the 2S4 system has any limitations it is in her extremely disappointing slow-rate-of-fire, limited to just one round per minute and this due simply to the sheer size of each projectile. Additionally, the gunnery crew operates outside of the confines of the vehicle, exposing them to unnecessary battlefield dangers.
Only the Red Army and the Czech Army ever made use of the 2S4, and the latter was through very limited numbers - perhaps as little as four units. After the fall of the Soviet Empire, Red Army 2S4s then in inventory were simply passed on to the new Russian Army. Several hundred - as many as 425 - may still be in operational service today (2012). All Czech 2S4s were retired in sometime in 1991.
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