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Why Would The Russians Bolt Two Auto-Mortars Onto One BTR-D Tractor?

Every time it seems the Russian armed forces have tumbled to a technological nadir, they manage to surprise observers with some new and previously unthinkable do-it-yourself armored fighting vehicle.

The latest and most befuddling of these vehicular Frankenstein’s monsters is a BTR-D—a nine-ton, air-transportable armored tractor for airborne troops—sporting not one 2B9 automatic mortar, but two. One on each end.

Photos and videos of this twin-mortar BTR-D appeared online on Tuesday. While the Frankenvehicle apparently hasn’t yet shipped off to the front line in Russia’s 21-month wider war on Ukraine, that is the usual destination for Russia’s growing family of DIY fighting vehicles.

It’s obvious why the Russians would bolt a 2B9 mortar to a BTR-D. The automatic 2B9 fires a seven-pound, 82-millimeter bomb out to a distance of two miles. It’s an effective weapon, and fixing it to a tractor makes it much more mobile.

It’s less obvious why the Russians would bolt two 2B9s to a BTR-D. Adding a second mortar probably doesn’t actually increase the Frankenvehicle’s firepower. It takes three people to operate a 2B9. Can a compact, lightweight BTR-D support enough crew to aim, fire and reload both weapons at the same time

And can a two-mortar BTR-D fire both weapons in the same direction? Would it need to be between Ukrainian units in order to use both 2B9s? A minimally-armored BTR-D already is vulnerable to enemy fire; it’d be even more vulnerable if the fire were coming from two directions.

As Russia’s losses of purpose-made tanks, fighting vehicles and artillery exceed 11,000 and its industry struggles to produce enough new vehicles to make good the losses, the Russians have been bolting whatever guns and mortars they have in storage to whatever chassis they have in storage—and producing an expanding taxonomy of bizarre vehicles.

Over time, these DIY vehicles actually have gotten better, probably as a result of the Russians’ growing experience with the vehicles in the stress of actual combat. For one, the Russians increasingly are keeping it simple.

Consider that, over the summer, Russian technicians fitted a 2B9 and a UB32 rocket pod to an MT-LB armored tractor. It was unlikely the crew could use both weapons at the same time, as the rockets’ exhaust would fry the mortar crew. Quickly learning, the Russian tweaked the next iteration of the Frankenvehicle to omit the 2B9.

The double-mortar BTR-D reverses the overall trend toward better DIY vehicles. It looks bad—and it probably fights bad, too.

Source : Forbes