125-mm Soviet AMPULOMET

125-mm Soviet AMPULOMET

125-mm Soviet ampulomet was the only model of an ampulomet mass-produced in the USSR. It was widely used with varying success by the Red Army at the initial stage of World War II, and it was often made in the field.

Data on the creation of an ampulomet is extremely scarce. It is known that the development began in 1940 at the factory No. 145 named after S. M. Kirov (the chief designer of the factory is I. I. Kartukov), in 1941 after military tests it was adopted by the Red Army under the name “The 125-mm ampulomet of the 1941 model”. The “ideological predecessor” of the Soviet ampulomet was the 1940 English Northover Projector.

The ampulomet itself consisted of a 125 mm caliber barrel, a firing mechanism, a bolt, an aim bar and a machine tool. On the prototypes, a rifle-type bolt was used, the trigger lever was located at the handles from the breech of the flamethrower, which are structurally similar to those on the machine guns. On serial samples, the firing mechanism was noticeably simplified thanks to the use of simple stamped parts, the barrel was made of steel 2 mm thick. Inside the barrel closer to the breech, a trellis divider was installed to protect the ampoule. The aiming bar was a simple slot with five marks indicating five different distances. The weight of the ampoule varied in the range of 10-28 kg due to the fact that the production of weapons was made sometimes in semi-artisanal conditions. The discharge of the projectile was done by firing a single hunting cartridge of the 12th caliber. The factory machine was a wheeled one, however, ampoules with a metal machine model 1941 went into serial production. In 1942, the GVHU KA developed a lightweight wooden carriage-cross-piece, which was made directly from dry wood in the troops (to facilitate weight). In winter, ampoules were transported on drag sledges (ampoules with a metal machine model of 1941) or were mounted on massive wooden decks.

125 mm ampulomet

Mass production of Soviet ampulomet.

To equip ampoules from the late 1920s, poisonous substances mustard and lewisite were used, later – incendiary liquids KS or BGS. The “KS” liquid spontaneously ignited in air (while a liter of the mixture burned at a temperature of about 1000 ° C for about three minutes) and was produced in two versions, which differed in the production method and color: yellow-green and – with an admixture that increases viscosity – dark brown . “KS” was made (depending on the production method) from gasoline or kerosene with the addition of OP-2 thickening powder (aluminum salt of naphthenic acids), white phosphorus and sulfur; sometimes an additive was added to enhance the adhesion of the liquid to the surfaces. Front-line workers deciphered the name of the mixture in different ways: “Koshkina mixture” (after the name of the inventor of the mixture N. V. Koshkin), “Cocktail of death” and even “Old cognac” and “Specifically secret”.

The BGS mixture was invented by the military engineer K.M.Saldadze and consisted of a benzene head, solvent and OP-2 thickening powder. It was characterized by a lower combustion temperature, high viscosity and low cost, however, it could be effectively used in flamethrowers only with the addition of gasoline or kerosene.

Ampoules produced in 1941 and the first half of 1942 were of poor quality, which led to leakage of ampoules, the appearance of rust on the AZ-2, and frequent ruptures in the barrel of ampoules. Subsequently, the quality of the ampoules improved, which led to a reduction in the leakage of ampoules and their ruptures in the trunks. Also, many heads of chemical services noted the need to equip the ampoules with remote detonators, because when the ampoules get into deep snow, the marshland, the ampoules did not break. In September 1942, a military technician of the 2nd rank Dymarchuk proposed the use of a TAT-8 remote detonator, screwed into the filling hole inside the cork .When fired, the fuse of the detonator was ignited and the ampoule exploded in the air. Ampoules with remote detonators began to arrive at the front in April 1942 and received positive feedback from ampoule teams: “incoming ampoules with remote detonators can be widely used to combat enemy personnel in all types of combat.” However, remote detonators showed insufficient reliability, so the fuse of the detonators was replaced by a bickford cord.

125 mm ampulomet

Filling of ampoules was carried out in the front-line using field filling stations ARS-203 (capacity 740 l) or manually.

Read: Hitler’s artillery giants

Ampulomet platoon of the 1245th Infantry Regiment, Western Front, 1942

Ampulomet platoon of the 1245th Infantry Regiment, Western Front, 1942.

Data on the combat use of the ampulomet is contradictory. It proved itself to be a reliable weapon in defense and against technology, when interacting with snipers and mortars as part of “nomadic groups”, as well as when acting as part of “blocking groups” against bunkers, however, technical failures occurred that led to the shell breaking in the barrel, in addition, the large weight of the system negatively affected mobility, and the ampule-launcher units suffered heavy losses in personnel and equipment due to improper use, as well as the lack of proper interaction with infantry.

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