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'Dangerous flower': Russian Army’s most powerful Tulip mortar in action

Artillery units in the Primorye Territory in the Russian Far East used the world’s largest-caliber Tyulpan (Tulip) mortars for the first time during military exercises
'Dangerous flower': Russian Army’s most powerful mortar in action
© TASS/Russian Defense Ministry

Russia’s Defense Ministry posted a video of artillery training exercises with the use of the world’s most powerful mortars.

Units of Russia’s Eastern Military District in the Primorye Territory were alerted for drills, after which they advanced to the designated area.

During the drills, the artillery crews used 2S4 Tyulpan (Tulip) mortars to repel an attack by an enemy’s subversion group. The 240mm Tyulpan is the largest in the series of Russian artillery howitzers named after specific flowers, such as Gvozdika (Carnation), Akatsiya (Acacia), Giatsint (Hyacinth) and Pion (Peony). All of them are operational in the Russian Missile Forces and Artillery.

Units of Russia’s Southern Military District have considerably enhanced their combat potential in the past few months as more than 150 pieces of military hardware, including Tyulpan mortars, have arrived for the troops.

Dangerous ‘flower’

The Tyulpan (Tulip) mortar has no analogs. It surpasses considerably ordinary artillery guns with calibers from 100mm. The Tyulpan’s high-explosive shells are capable of destroying fortified buildings and the enemy’s manpower and armor at a distance of up to 20 km.

The 240mm mortar is loaded from the breech end and for this purpose the barrel is set parallel to the ground. A shell is delivered from mechanized round racks to guide tracks and the operator supplies it with the necessary fuze, after which it is automatically sent to the barrel’s bore. Fire is controlled by a gunner from a remote panel.

The self-propelled mortar is additionally fitted out with a 7.62mm PKT machinegun mounted on the commander’s rotating turret.

The Tyulpan’s munition load comprises 20 high-explosive 134kg shells or ten 230kg rocket-assisted mortar bombs. A hoist is available for loading from the ground. The mortar has a firing range of 7-9 km for conventional shells and 17-19 km for rocket-assisted mortar bombs.

The mortar’s arsenal comprises cluster and high-explosive munitions, including the Smelchak guided shell. Also, Saida incendiary mines filled with napalm and Smola and Fata neutron munitions have been developed for the self-propelled mortar.

The gun can fire rocket-assisted mortar bombs supplied with a nuclear charge of two kilotons.

In its transportation mode, the mortar’s five-meter barrel is laid on the running gear’s armor. For firing purposes, the weapon is thrown back and mounted on a steel plate resting on the ground.

The 27-ton self-propelled gun is equipped with a diesel engine of more than 500 hp. It can negotiate small obstacles and can move at a speed of up to 60 km/h on the road.

As a major advantage, the mortar can deliver fire from the "maximum elevation angle." When special mines are fired, the munition follows actually the vertical flight trajectory. No one has ever used or is using such unique characteristics, except the Russian Army.

As an artillery man said in an interview with the TV Channel Zvezda, the Tyulpan is a real giant. It is venomous and strikes very painfully, if it is driven over the edge, so that there is no chance to survive. No matter which way you look at it, it is the largest from the ‘floral series," the artillery man said.

Tyulpan’s development and application

The first batch of large-caliber Tyulpans was manufactured in 1969. Two years later, the mortar entered service under the index 2S4. The mortar’s serial production was launched at the Urals Transport Machine-Building Enterprise in 1972. The Enterprise manufactured about 580 mortars until 1988.

Compared with its predecessor (the M-240 mortar), the Tyulpan incorporates substantial mechanical improvements, allowing the artillery crew to prepare the self-propelled gun for a battle quite promptly and displace it after the firing.

The mortar’s hydraulic system allowed switching the gun’s operation from the travel position to the combat mode and back, elevate it vertically and feed munitions into guide tracks.

The Tyulpan self-propelled mortar received more advanced armament in the mid-1980s when it started to fire a special 1K113 crew correcting shell jokingly dubbed Smelchak (Daredevil) by the military. A fire controller uses a laser target acquisition system to guide this munition. He illuminates the target and the shell hits the point lightened by a ray. The target acquisition system switches to the active mode only at the final flight section within seconds before hitting the target. This guidance method helps reduce the ammunition consumption to one-three shells to destroy the target. The weapon is guided towards the target within 0.1-0.3 seconds. During the Soviet period, the Smelchak shell was also jokingly nicknamed Bes (Devil) for its specific roar and noise. The Tyulpan mortar was baptized by fire during the stay of the Soviet military contingent in Afghanistan. Soviet troops used mortars to destroy fire emplacements in rock roadblocks and caves, strongholds at roads and mountain passes. According to data from public sources, overall, about 120 mortars were used in combat operations.

Self-propelled mortars were employed again in the second Chechen campaign during the seizure of Grozny in late 1999-early 2000.

The Tyulpan mortar was used to destroy concrete-made structures in mountainous communities that could not be crushed by ordinary 152mm artillery guns.


By Roman Azanov