The war in Ukraine has seen a large amount of anachronistic weaponry. For every new drone or high-tech targeting system fielded in the fighting, there are older, outdated weapons being used. Drone jammers are used alongside World War I-era Maxim machine guns. Old Cold War-era T-55 tanks are being dusted off to replace destroyed modern armor pieces.
And now Ukraine is using the KS-19, an anti-aircraft gun that first entered service more than seven decades ago.
Video shared on Telegram shows several KS-19 in a field, guns aimed low, firing off 100mm rounds. The guns, originally introduced in 1947, were designed to shoot down mid-century aircraft. Now it appears they’re being used as artillery targeting Russian ground forces.
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The KS-19 was developed by the Soviet Union as an anti-aircraft weapon. It was used by multiple Eastern Bloc countries and even saw service in the Korean and Vietnam wars. As the Twitter account Ukraine Weapons Tracker pointed out, Ukrainian troops are loading the guns with UOF-412 rounds, made more than six decades ago in 1962. Despite that, the rounds can be fired as far as 19 kilometers. However, the KS-19 comes with its own limitations, chief among them the fact that it needs to be towed around to different firing locations.
Ukraine is not the first participant in the war to field the KS-19. Russia captured the eastern Ukrainian city of Balakliia, where several of the Soviet-era guns were stored. In September, several Russian KS-19 guns were spotted, around the time Russia started its mobilization of 300,000 new fighters to help after the initial offensive fell apart. In an added irony, several of these guns were identified in part because Ukraine captured them in combat during the campaign around Kharkiv.
Despite the massive shipments of new, modern weaponry and equipment to Ukraine, there has been a strong industry in the country repairing old weapons and building unconventional tools of war. Those have ranged from a quad-Maxim machine gun rig to fleets of technicals built on everything from vans to the classic Toyota pickup truck. Fighters and support teams are getting creative, putting modern tools like scopes onto decades-old guns to find ways to make them more effective on the battlefield.
Both sides in the war have been dealing with ammunition shortages for their artillery in recent weeks. United States National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said this past week that Russia is looking to trade food for weapons with North Korea. Ukraine is set to receive new weapons and ammunition from the United States, but appears to be taking older weapons like the KS-19 out of storage. It’s not clear how many are in use or how effective they are. Much of the war remains a battle of attrition with the front lines now turned into heavily fortified trenches.
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