The Russian military-industrial giant Uralvagonzavod is developing a very special vehicle and projectile to fill a unique role for the Russian military.
The vehicle is called the Derivatsiya-PVO (Rus: Деривация-ПВО). PVO (Rus: ПВО) is the Russian abbreviation for Противо-возду́шная оборо́на, which basically means anti-aircraft.
Very little is known about the project, it seems to be an evolution of the BMP-3, Russia’s famous IFV, however, this one is proving to be more unique than anything we can yet see.
First and foremost, it will likely be based on the Armata Universal Combat Platform, and as a special rarity, this variant seems to be devoted to an anti-air capacity, without sacrificing formidable firepower against ground adversaries.
To this end, a unique modular 57 mm projectile is being developed that will allow the vehicle unparalleled versatility.
Some experts are noting it will protect Russian Ground Forces from enemy attack helicopters, while reports are noting it will still be able to combat ground targets, something more dedicated anti-air systems like the S-400 batteries, can not do.
Russia has always had the world’s best air defenses, and a unique aspect of them is their mobile, self-propelled nature. Some of them are integrated on regular IFV style platforms, allowing for robust combat vehicles, that can protect infantry and armor from aircraft while on the move. This will be a vehicle that can run and gun with tanks!
The Derivatsiya-PVO, however, would likely be comparable in Western military terminology, to a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun (SPAAG) also called a self-propelled air defense system (SPAD).
A Russian language report covered this vehicle and its special ammo, below is my summary and translation of the article, which originally appeared on RIA Novosti:
Moscow June 22 — RIA Novosti. The Central Research Institute “Burevestnik“, a part of Rostekh (Rostec/Russian technology), which together are part of the Uralvagonzavod group, is testing a multifunctional projectile for the newest self-propelled anti-aircraft missile system, the Derivatsiya-PVO, RIA Novosti reports from the press service of the enterprise.
“A unified system is being created, that can combat air and ground targets. It will allow using for the use of multifunctional types of ammunition. The caliber of the projectile is 57 millimeters, and it is unique for the Russian army,” the press service said.
What makes the round unique, is that it’s a middle ground between existing calibers, and it has increased armor penetration.
Moreover, it is possible to build ammo types on its basis, for the anti-aircraft missile system to have various properties – armor-piercing, high-explosive and fragmentation.
Earlier, the General Director of the Central Research Institute “Burevestnik” Georgy Zakamennikh said, that the first prototype of the ZAK-57 “Derivatsiya-PVO” entered preliminary tests.
The most interesting aspect of the Derivatsiya-PVO, for me, was the ability of an anti-aircraft vehicle to also combat ground targets effectively.
The idea of versatility, in this case, the ability for this vehicle to combat both ground and air targets, has been something often debated about in the history of human arms design.
It brings up a subject that may interest you, if you like swords, history…oh, and beautiful Cossack girls with swords.
In the arms race throughout human history, we have often seen weapons purpose made to be particularly good or specialized for one thing. Specialization, however, usually, but does not always come at a price – a deficiency at another thing.
In other cases, people make a weapon designed at being fairly good at several things, but with no one specialty.
This does not always make these weapons good or bad, the answer is, as always, context, and we can see this by looking at several famous swords designs.
The rapier was a weapon popular in late 16th and 17th century western Europe, which has been entirely developed for thrusting. People often confuse it to be a small, light sword, but it was in fact about as heavy as a longsword, only the blade was stiffened, made longer but less wide, to specialize for thrusting.
Here is a video of masterful rapier fencing in true historical fashion, rather than Olympic style fencing which has become more of a sword. The blade is so focused at thrusting it essentially does not cut well at all.
A radical different example would be the Sabre or Szabla/Shablia, so popular and legendary in Slavic and Eastern countries like Russia and Poland, and the legendary weapon of Cossacks and Winged Hussars. The Sabre is a weapon profoundly good at cutting, and so clearly designed for it. While it can still thrust, the blade shape lends itself to cutting more.
This, by the way, is what happens if a girl is also a Cossack.
If you look at the videos, you can see how different these blades are, each specialized for a certain thing, cutting or thrusting, but you will see the specialization makes the weapon weaker in other areas.
This is not to say, however, that specialized weapons were not good, as Historical European Martial Arts expert and fencing instructor Matt Easton explains. Sometimes, you can make a weapon too general purpose, that it becomes not particularly good in anything…the result is the squadron, too thin to cut well, too flexible to thurst well.
As a result, with this historical concept in mind, some may worry the new Russian Derivatsiya-PVO may sacrifice certain strengths in order to combat both land and air targets, however, this is not the case. It will likely overcome this traditional hurdle.
The Derivatsiya-PVO does appear to have a specialized anti-air role, however, it’s ability to combat ground targets via its main gun, comes from the modular nature of its special ammunition, able to be configured with armor-piercing, high-explosive and fragmentation rounds.
It would essentially be using different ammo for different targets, all of which can be fired by its main gun. This avoids the issue described with the swords, because they obviously can not switch blades, they are bound by design, yet the Derivatsiya-PVO can fire different types of projectiles.
With the Derivatsiya-PVO’s special 57mm projectiles, each ammo configuration is essentially totally different. Each configuration is a separate form of combat specialization.
This means it will likely be just as dangerous to hostile attack helicopters, as it is to enemy infantry or armor, making it the ideal support vehicle for main battle tanks.