A ZU-23-2
Type Towed 23 mm Anti-Aircraft Twin Autocannon
Place of origin Soviet Union
Service history
In service 1960–present
Used by See Operators section
Production history
Designed Late 1950s
Produced 1960 - still in production
Variants See Variants section
Specifications (ZU-23-2)
Weight 0.95 tonnes (2,094 lbs)
Length 4.57 m (10 ft)
Barrel length 2.008 m (79.1 in) (87.3 calibers)
Width 2.88 m (9 ft 5 in)
Height 1.22 m (4 ft)
Crew 2 -- gunner and commander

Shell 23x152B
Caliber 23 mm
Barrels 2
Action Gas operated
Traverse 360°
Rate of fire 2000 rpm cyclic, 400 rpm practical
Effective firing range 2.5 km (2 mi)

The ZU-23-2, also known as ZU-23, is a Soviet towed 23 mm anti-aircraft twin-barreled autocannon. ZU stands for Zenitnaya Ustanovka (Russian: Зенитная Установка) - anti-aircraft mount. The GRAU index is 2A13.[1]

Development history

The ZU-23-2 was developed in the late 1950s. It was designed to engage low-flying targets at a range of 2.5 km as well as armoured vehicles at a range of two kilometres (km) and for direct defense of troops and strategic locations against air assault usually conducted by helicopters and low-flying airplanes.[2] In 1955, KBP presented the single-barrel ZU-1 and the twin-barrel ZU-14. While the former was eventually dropped, the ZU-14 was selected and, after some modifications, entered series production.

In the Soviet Union, some 140,000 units were produced. The ZU-23 has also been produced under license by Bulgaria,[3] Poland, Egypt[4] and the People's Republic of China.[5]

Development of this weapon into a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun (SPAAG) led to the ZSU-23-4 Shilka.


The ZU-23-2 (2A13) mounts two 23mm autocannons on a small trailer which can be converted into a stationary mount for firing the guns. While in this position the wheels are moved aside. The autocannon can be prepared for firing from the march position in 30 seconds and in emergency can be fired from the traveling position. The weapon is aimed and fired manually, with the help of the ZAP-23 optical-mechanical sight which uses manually entered target data to provide limited automatic aiming. It also has a straight-tube telescope T-3 for use against ground targets such as infantry as well as unarmored or lightly armoured vehicles. The ammo is fed by a conveyor belt from two ammunition boxes. Each of the ammunition boxes is located on the side of the twin autocannon and each carries 50 rounds. The fumes created by firing the weapon are partially removed through the side openings in the barrels.[2]

Normally, once each barrel has fired 100 rounds it becomes too hot and is therefore replaced with a spare barrel. Each weapon is normally provided with two replacement barrels as part of its standard equipment. Tulamashzavod Joint Stock Company is offering to upgrade the 2A14 guns to the 2A14M standard with a barrel life of 10,000 rounds instead of 8,000 rounds.

The cannon carriage is based on the earlier ZPU-2 anti-aircraft twin heavy machine gun, which mounted two KPV 14.5 mm heavy machine guns. ZU-23-2 can be identified by different placement of the ammunition boxes (at right angles to the gun carriage) and by muzzle flash suppressors. In another similarity to the ZPU series, single-barrel and four-barrel versions of the ZU-23 were also developed. However, these versions never entered service.

ZU-23-2 can be towed by a number of different vehicles. In USSR and later Russia the most frequently used towing vehicles for it were GAZ-66 4x4 trucks and GAZ-69 4x4 light trucks.[2]


The 23mm AA gun utilizes the same 23x152B case as the wartime VYa aircraft autocannon. Due to different loadings and primers the ammunition is not interchangeable, however: ammunition of the anti-aircraft cannon can be identified from its steel casings, ammunition for the aircraft cannon having brass cases instead.[6] The following table lists the main characteristics of some of the available 23x152B ammunition used in 23mm AA guns:

Designation Type Projectile Weight [g] Bursting charge [g] Muzzle Velocity [m/s] Description
BZT API 190 [7] ? 970 Blunt AP steel core, with incendiary charge inside windshield cap.[7] Penetration 15 mm RHA at 1000 m range and 30 degree impact angle (from perpendicular), tracer burn time 5 seconds.
OFZ HE 184 [7] 19 [8] 980[7] HE fragmentation round with nose fuzes incorporating self-destruct mechanism.[7]
OFZT HE-T 188[7] 13 [8] 980[7] HE fragmentation round with a reduced HE charge due to the space taken by the tracer; tracer burn time 5 seconds.
APDS-T APDS-T 103 none 1220 A Polish sub-caliber armour-piercing round with tracer. Penetration 30 mm RHA at 100 m range and 30 degree impact angle (from perpendicular), tracer burn time >2.5 s.

Not only the gun itself but also the ammunition is produced in several countries. In Bulgaria, the company ARCUS Co. produces rounds and fuses for the 2A7 and 2A14 guns.[9]

Service history

ZU-23-2 entered service with the Soviet Army in 1960. ZU-23-2 is often mounted on trucks for use in both anti-aircraft and fire support roles. It can also be mounted on the roof of the MT-LB multi-purpose tracked APCs. Specially modified three-legged ZU-23-2 is used in BTR-DG based airborne SPAAG. Cheap, easy to operate and still effective, the ZU-23-2 is still used by the Russian Army and by more than 20 other armies.

From 1965 onward, the Soviet Union began supplying the Democratic Republic of Vietnam with large shipments of weapons. [10] The 23mm ZU-23-2 was, along with the 37 mm M1939, the most frequently encountered anti-aircraft gun in Vietnam. Given that 83% of the USAF losses came from ground fire, the ZU-23 was probably responsible for shooting down hundreds of aircraft. [11]

During the Soviet–Afghan War, the Soviet forces put ZU-23-2 sets to secure the air defense of occupation area and used as fire support. In the later Afghan War, the belligerents including Taliban and Northern Alliance used ZU-23-2, along with the SA-7 or Stinger Missile, as their primary air-defense weapons.

In late 1983, the ZU-23M was used in attacks against U.S. Marine ground forces fighting with the Multinational Force in Lebanon. At the time, a Marine spokesman described such antipersonnel use of the weapon as a violation of the laws of war; however, writing for the Marine Corps Gazette in 1988, Maj. W. Hays Parks dismissed this allegation as incorrect.[12]

The type has seen widespread use by both sides in the Libyan Civil War often mounted on technical pickup trucks.[13] The weapon has been heavily used in the Syrian Civil War. YouTube videos depict the weapon bolted on to pickup trucks and one was even successful in shooting down a Syrian helicopter.

Variants and upgrades

Russian Federation

ZU-23-2 firing. Vitebsk, Belarus


Star 266 mounted ZUR-23-2KG gun

Czech Republic

Slovak Republic





General characteristics

Bulgarian truck-mounted ZU-23-2.


Former Operators

See also


  1. http://articles.janes.com/articles/Janes-Land-Based-Air-Defence/ZU-23-2-Russian-Federation.html
  2. 1 2 3 Militarium.net
  3. http://articles.janes.com/articles/Janes-Land-Based-Air-Defence/Arsenal-Joint-Stock-Company-JSC--ZU-23-2-twin-23-mm-anti-aircraft-mount-Bulgaria.html
  4. 1 2 http://articles.janes.com/articles/Janes-Land-Based-Air-Defence/ZU-23M-Egypt.html
  5. 1 2 3 4 http://articles.janes.com/articles/Janes-Land-Based-Air-Defence/23-mm-Type-80-China.html
  6. "Williams, Anthony G: An introduction to collecting 23-28mm cartridges. http://www.quarryhs.co.uk/collecting%2023-28mm.htm
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Russian Ammunition Page, http://www.russianammo.org
  8. 1 2 ORDATA: Ordnance Identification Tool, http://maic.jmu.edu/ordata
  9. http://www.arcus-bg.com/
  10. Tucker, Spencer C (2011). The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History. ABC-CLIO. pp. 52. ISBN 9781851099603
  11. http://www.airforcemag.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2013/February%202013/0213vietnam.aspx
  12. Parks, Maj W. Hays (January 1988). "Killing A Myth". Marine Corps Gazette. Retrieved 23 February 2014.
  13. http://www.arabianbusiness.com/rebels-down-libyan-aircraft-as-world-leaders-discuss-next-move-383784.html
  14. 1 2 http://milparade.udm.ru/security/28/074x.htm
  15. http://testwww.janes.com/articles/International-Defence-Review-98/RUSSIA--AUTOMATIC-AIMING-FOR-ZU-23-2-LAAG.html
  16. https://secure.flickr.com/photos/26822716@N02/2948338319/in/photostream/
  17. https://secure.flickr.com/photos/26822716@N02/2948327015/
  18. 1 2 3 4 5 (Polish) "Dwudziestkitrójki" z Tarnowa ["Twentythrees" from Tarnów] in: Nowa Technika Wojskowa Nr. 9/2010, p. 76-78
  20. http://www.bumar.com/dywizje_flash/admin/store/images/image-1304661693-link.pdf
  21. http://articles.janes.com/articles/Janes-Electro-Optic-Systems/Polish-Navy-Wrobel-II-ZU-23-2MR-Poland.html
  22. http://www.epicos.com/EPCompanyProfileWeb/GeneralInformation.aspx?id=20166&isframe=true
  23. http://www.punjlloyd.com/sites/default/files/pdf/Force%20April%20Issue%202012%5B1%5D.pdf
  24. http://jedsite.info/fulltrack-mike/mike-number-us/m113_series/nile-23/nile23.html
  25. http://jedsite.info/fulltrack-mike/mike-number-us/m113_series/nile-23-tracker/nile23t.html
  26. http://jedsite.info/fulltrack-mike/mike-number-us/m113_series/sinai-23/sinai23.html
  27. Kiiskinen, Pekka; Wahlman, Pasi (2003). Itsenäisen Suomen laivaston laivatykit 1918-2004 [The naval guns of Finland 1918-2004] (in Finnish). Helsinki: Typomic Oy. pp. 121–133. ISBN 952-91-6807-1.
  28. International Defence Equipment Catalogue 1988-89, page II/27
  29. armyrecognition.com
  30. http://china-defense.blogspot.com/2009/12/next-stop-ecuador.html
  31. http://articles.janes.com/articles/Janes-Land-Based-Air-Defence/Indonesia-Indonesia.html
  32. http://garudamiliter.blogspot.com/2012/04/zur-23-2kg.html
  33. http://www.adprconsult.com.my/indo-aerospace-defence.pdf
  34. http://garudamiliter.blogspot.com/2012/04/giant-bow-i.html
  35. http://www.inss.org.il/upload/%28FILE%291245235226.pdf
  36. http://www.janes.com/articles/Janes-Land-Based-Air-Defence/Zumlac-South-Africa.html
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