VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (Sept. 22, 2012) Sailors aboard USS Vandergrift (FFG 48) man the rails as the ship departs Vladivostok, Russia after a port visit. Vandergrift is conducting a Western Pacific patrol. (US Navy photo by Ens. Aaron Brotman)

Russian engineers are diligently enhancing defenses against Ukrainian naval drones, also known as unmanned surface vehicles (USVs). According to ANNA News, they have upgraded the Soviet-era GShG-7.62 aviation machine gun for deployment on several warships.

The GShG-7.62, designed with four rotating barrels inspired by the Gatling gun, can achieve a maximum firing rate of 6,000 rounds per minute, with an alternative rate of 3,500 rounds per minute, driven by an electric gas system. However, the high firing rate poses overheating issues, necessitating cooling after just eight seconds (or 800 rounds) of continuous fire. To mitigate this, an electric drive replaced the original mechanism, reducing the firing rate to 300 rounds per minute, as reported by the Mash Agency.

The upgraded machine gun is primarily intended for installation on warships to counter Ukrainian naval drones but is also versatile enough to be mounted on vehicles and armored units. Ukrainian forces have been actively using maritime drones in the Black Sea to target Russian ships and coastal infrastructure. The Ukrainian Navy’s formation of the 385th Separate Special Purpose Marine Unmanned Systems Brigade in August 2023 underscores their commitment to advanced military technologies.

Ukraine’s advancements in USVs have been documented on social media, including a sighting of a Russian Ka-29 helicopter hovering over a Ukrainian USV armed with an R-73 infrared-guided missile, typically seen on fighter aircraft.

The Russian Black Sea Fleet faces significant challenges from Ukrainian nighttime USV raids, which have inflicted considerable losses due to low visibility and crew readiness. This concern has drawn the attention of local businesses, with Denis Oslomenko, General Director of the PPSH Laboratory, highlighting Moscow’s pursuit of thermal imaging systems to bolster fleet defenses. While these systems won’t entirely eliminate the threat, Oslomenko asserts they will significantly reduce the success rate of Ukrainian attacks. The PPSH Laboratory specializes in the development of thermal imaging cameras, lenses, and sights.

Currently, the Ukrainian Defense Forces are utilizing various types of unmanned surface kamikaze vehicles to strike Russian ships. These attacks have inflicted significant damage on the Russian Black Sea Fleet, demonstrating how expensive military assets can be threatened by more cost-effective destructive means.

Machine Guns vs. Drones

Recently, the Russian Federation conducted training exercises to defend against attacks by Ukrainian Magura V5 kamikaze surface boats in the Pacific Ocean. The drills involved over 15 ships and cutters, including three of the Russian Navy’s advanced Project 20380 corvettes. Among these was the Rezky, the newest vessel in the fleet, commissioned in September 2023.

Footage from these exercises indicates that the Russians may be preparing to counter drones with machine guns and assault rifles. Notably, the DShK machine gun, which has been in service since 1938, was featured alongside sailors firing at targets with conventional machine guns.

While each soldier’s role is vital in defending their ship, it raises questions as to why Kalashnikov assault rifles are being used when Russian ships are equipped with advanced rapid-fire artillery systems such as the AK-630. This reliance on small arms, despite the availability of sophisticated systems, suggests a complex tactical approach or potential gaps in the deployment of advanced weaponry.