A particular feature of the military conflict in Ukraine is the extremely intense fighting within dense urban settlements with developed engineering infrastructure.
Since the Second World War, there have probably only been four large-scale instances of such combat. These are, first of all, the fighting in Grozny in the winter of 1994-1995, the storming of Aleppo in 2016 and, the fighting in the suburbs of Damascus in 2012 and the storming of Mosul in 2016-2017. All of these examples have common features, peculiarities, and differences from the fighting in Mariupol, Volnovakha, Rubizhne, the outskirts of Kharkiv and Kyiv, and other settlements in Ukraine.
In general, all parties involved in the conflict sought to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties and did not seek to inflict maximum, militarily unmotivated, damage to civilian infrastructure. The exception is perhaps the US Air Force carpet-bombing of Mosul’s urban areas. In the current conflict in Ukraine, Kiev perceives the Russian-speaking population of the former Donetsk and Luhansk regions as unfriendly. Nationalist propaganda led to the fact that, often, residents of these regions are seen only as “human shields” designed to complicate Russian offensives, but not as valid citizens of Ukraine.
In Mariupol, units of the Azov Regiment have had many years at their disposal to establish a deeply echeloned defence system relying on industrial sites, engineering communications and defence strongholds in residential areas. The most heavily fortified area of defence is undoubtedly the Azovstal plant area.
Under these conditions, the advancing units of the Russian and DPR Armed Forces were forced to use “non-standard” methods of fighting. To a great extent, they had to learn on the battlefield. The most successful tactical and technical practices employed by one unit were widely disseminated by the “neighbours”.
One of the “non-standard” methods of using combat equipment was the improper use of the Russian self-propelled mine clearing machine UR-77.
UR-77, Rubizhne, Ukraine.
The UR-77 Meteorite is a Soviet/Russian self-propelled mine clearance rocket launcher. It is based on the 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled howitzer. It has been in serial production since 1978, replacing the UR-67. The UR-77 is capable of cutting through passages in anti-tank minefields during combat. The passage width is about 6 metres and length is 80 to 90 metres. While not designed for anti-personnel mine clearance, the UR-77 can clear U.S. M14 pressure mines from anti-personnel minefields by creating a clearance width of up to 14 metres.
The mine clearance is carried out by generating a shock wave from the detonation of a payload that affects the mine’s fuse.
The UR-77 uses a DM-140 rockets and a UZP-77 explosive charge with a mass of 725 kg. (PVV-7 type), which provides the formation of a passage length of 80-90 m. and a width of 6 m.
Range of usage is up to 500 m.
The machine had previously been used by DPR troops during the storming of Donetsk airport in 2014-2015.
Previously, the Syrian Army successfully used the UR-77 to destroy Islamist strongholds. The first operational use of the UR-77 in Syria took place in October 2014. The machine was used during fierce fighting in the area of Jobar around the eastern outskirts of Damascus. The UR-77 was also used to destroy fortified positions and tunnels of militants near Ar-Reyhan in Eastern Ghouta, Syria. Government forces were able to seize strategic assets in and around the settlement.
Even earlier, the combat experience in the North Caucasus demonstrated that the UR-77 can be used effectively to eliminate terrorists entrenched in fortified buildings. However, the use of the UR-77 is so radical mean that, along with the enemy, the building where they are located is often destroyed too.
For example, in destroying bridges over the Argun River, it became necessary to use the UR-77 mine-clearing machine in an out-of-the-ordinary way. The combat mission was hampered by an enemy stronghold on the riverbank. As an experiment, two demining charges, each weighing approximately 725 kg of explosives, were launched to suppress it. The explosion of these charges destroyed enemy personnel, weapons and equipment over an area of about 3 hectares. Two other charges were used to disable a metal bridge. Thus, in a complex situation, the non-standard use of mine-clearing machines not only accomplished the task of destroying the bridge, but also defeated the enemy by engineering means without loss of personnel or equipment. Similarly, the UR-77 was also used in the capture of the building of the Council of Ministers, the Kavkaz Hotel and other facilities in Grozny as well as during a fierce fighting in the village of Komsomolskoye.
In the cities of Mariupol and Rubizhne in eastern Ukraine, the use of the UR-77 has also shown its effectiveness not only as a demining tool, but also as an impact artillery asset against enemy firing positions inside urban and industrial areas.
The Russian Armed Forces have a sufficient number of UR-77 systems in service for widespread use on the fronts in Ukraine. According to open sources, there were at least 60 such systems near the Russian-Ukrainian border, as well as in the DPR and the LPR, at the start of the Russian military operation in Ukraine.
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