Artillery: Iranian Shells for Russian Guns


July 12, 2023: Iran continues to deplete its artillery ammunition inventory in order to supply Russia. The latest deal involves 14,000 152mm shells for D20 towed howitzers, 10,000 high-explosive shells for T-72 tank guns as well as two replacement barrels for the T-72 tank and two replacement barrels for the 122mm D30 towed howitzers. These guns and ammo are sold to Russia, and not at a discount. Russia needs more artillery and shells for its big guns. Iran is one of the few foreign suppliers available.

The Russia D30 122mm howitzers are the most numerous towed howitzers in Russian service. These towed guns were widely used during World War II as the M30 and production continued until 1955. After that the improved D30 model went into production. Some M30s and a lot of D30s are used by over 20 countries because they are cheap, reliable, easy to operate and rugged. Russia provided many of them to Arab customers during the Cold War. These weapons are still cheap as Russia can afford to give them away because at the end of the Cold War Russia demobilized most of its army and ended up with 4,000 M30s in storage. There was still demand for this old reliable, even though an improved version, the D30, entered production in 1963 and is still being produced. Used M30s were cheap (often free to favored customers) and that often came with offers of war surplus 122mm ammo that was being given away, because a lot of it was well past its “use by” date. Before the Ukraine War, the largest use of 122mm shells was the Syrian army, which used its D30 122mm guns against residential areas in order to chase away pro-rebel civilians or convince them to make peace. For more accurate artillery fire Russian sent some of its most modern rocket systems, some of them using satellite or other guidance systems. These were used against precise targets in order to test these new weapons and, when they worked, to serve as an aid in selling them to customers who needed it and could afford to pay.

The M30 is a three ton, towed gun that entered production in 1939 and over 19,000 were eventually built. China began building an M30 clone in 1953 and before production ceased in the 1980s some 10,000 were delivered. During World War II the M30 comprised 31 percent of Russian field artillery.

The D30 is a four ton, towed weapon with a range of 15 kilometers (or more, with special ammo) that has a longer barrel and more effective mechanical components. It can use the same ammo as the M30 but often uses more expensive modern ammo that has longer range (22 kilometers, twice that of the M30) and is more accurate. The D30 was used as the basis for numerous self-propelled guns built during the Cold War. But if all you need to do is kill civilians the M30 will do. When the civil war began in 2011 the Syrian Army had about 750 Russian towed 122mm guns, 20 percent of the M30s and the rest D30s. When the Ukraine War began, the D30 was its standard artillery system and even Ukraine had over a hundred of them.

Ukraine then received Western towed or truck-mounted 155mm howitzers and found them superior to the Russian 122mm artillery. Russia had some 5.7-ton D20 152mm howitzers and to obtain more they had to bring many out of storage facilities. The 152mm guns were in pretty good shape but some of the stockpiled 152mm shells were well past their “use by '' date and some of these elderly shells were no longer reliable. This usually meant less range than the standard 17.4 kilometers, or not detonating when hitting the ground. In one case an elderly shell exploded as it was being fired and destroyed the D20 barrel.




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