ABOVE: Markings on a PPZR Grom E2 missile launch tube. (Ukraine Military TV YouTube channel)
An interesting video was released by the Ukraine Military TV YouTube channel (http://youtu.be/PA34D9AVN30). The video shows pro-Russian separatists being captured by Ukrainian forces, and documents the man-portable air defense system (MANPADS) allegedly seized with these combatants. It shows a Polish-made PPZR (Przenosny Przeciwlotniczy Zestaw Rakietowy; portable anti-aircraft missile system – sometimes written simply “PZR”) Grom MANPADS.
The Grom (Polish for “thunder”, and sometimes stylized “GROM”) is a Polish-designed MANPADS drawing its design cues from the Soviet 9K38 Igla (NATO reporting name: SA-18). It is widely believed that Polish agents were able to purchase the original plans for the 9K38 during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Work on the Grom began in 1992 and was conducted at several state-controlled design bureaus in Poland. Whilst the capabilities of early Grom missiles were largely identical to the 9K38, the system has continued to improve and later models are more advanced. The Grom continues to be offered for export by MESKO S.A., part of the BUMAR holding group.
The example shown in the video is fitted with a Russian-made 9P516 gripstock (without IFF; the IFF version is designated 9P516-1), designed for the 9K38. Whilst ARES has not seen Russian or Polish sources that explicitly state that the 9P516 gripstock is compatible with Grom missiles, it would not be surprising to learn as much, given their shared origins. The battery coolant units (BCUs) in the video may also be of Russian origin.
Markings on the missile launch tube indicate that it was produced in 2007. Interestingly, one of the few known foreign exports of the Grom was to Georgia, who is believed to have purchased 30 launchers and 100 missiles in 2007. Russian forces are known to have captured some of these, and Poland later accused Russia of planting materiel from this contract in Chechnya for political reasons. Whilst far from concrete evidence of supply, it is interesting that missiles from the same year as those ordered by Georgia and captured by Russian forces should turn up in the hands of pro-Russian separatists, fitted with Russian produced gripstocks. Of course, it is also possible that such systems were exported to other parties in the region. ARES will be sending an official tracing request to the Polish and Russian governments, as well as the manufacturers of the missile tube and gripstock.
Special thanks to Eliot Higgins for the link, and a technical specialist who wishes to remain anonymous.
(This article is reproduced courtesy of Armament Research Services (ARES) – www.armamentresearch.com and was originally published May 20, 2014)