“Penicillin” goes to the troops

1B75 “Penicillin” in position. Photo: © Research Institute “Vector”

But the armament of the Russian army arrives at a promising automated sound-thermal complex (AZTK) of artillery reconnaissance 1B75 “Penicillin”. One of the training centers already has such equipment, and now serial products are going to the troops. The first batch of new complexes was handed over to the troops in December last year.

From trials to troops

The first official reports on the development of a promising AZTK appeared in the spring of 2017. At the same time, the Zvezda TV channel openly demonstrated the main assets of the complex and the principle of their operation. Later, the development organization revealed new details and plans for the future. Then it was reported that the product “Penicillin” will go into series in 2019.

Against the background of the necessary tests, in the summer of 2018, AZTK 1B75 was shown at the Army forum. However, within the framework of the exhibition, only the layout of the complex was demonstrated, while the real equipment remained at the test site.

In April 2020, it became known that by the end of the year the Penicillin complex will be transferred to the 631st training center for the combat use of ground forces artillery in the Saratov region. After receiving the equipment, the center had to master it and ensure the preparation of new calculations for the subsequent deployment of AZTK in the troops.

Already in May it was reported that the training center had already received its AZTK 1B75. In addition, the army made a fundamental decision on the procurement and deployment of new reconnaissance systems. Deliveries were to begin in 2021. The first Penicillin filling stations were planned to be put into service with artillery regiments and ground forces brigades. Then such equipment will begin to be transferred to the coastal forces of the fleet.

On January 22, 2021, the development organization announced the start of deliveries of serial products. As it became known, the first batch of the Penicillin complex was handed over to the customer back in December last year. The volume of the batch and the operator of this equipment are not specified. It should be noted that the acceptance of the first batch took place somewhat ahead of the previously planned schedule.

Intelligence tools

The 1B75 product was developed by the Vector Research Institute of the Vega Concern (part of Ruselectronics) as part of the Penicillin R&D Center. The task of the project was to create an artillery reconnaissance complex capable of determining the coordinates of enemy artillery and issuing target designations to their fire weapons. It was also planned to use the complex to adjust the fire of its artillery.

“Penicillin” is made on a serial four-axle chassis for high mobility. Behind the cockpit, it has a block of equipment with a lifting mast and a KUNG with equipment and crew workstations. Jacks are provided for leveling in position. The complex also includes a remote generator for power supply of operating systems.

The mobile optoelectronic module “Penicillin-OEM” is located on the lifting mast. 6 television and 6 thermal imaging cameras are located in a single module case. The signal from all cameras is simultaneously transmitted to the processing means and used for the necessary calculations.

The complex also includes a set of sound receivers. They are made in the form of separate modules installed directly on the ground according to a predetermined pattern. The receivers record sound waves spreading along the ground, and transmit signals to the computer complex via wire communication, supplementing the data from the optoelectronic module.

During operation, the Penicillin-OEM product monitors the surrounding area and monitors flashes from cannon shots or missile launches. Break detection is also possible. In parallel, the sound receivers monitor the ground vibrations generated by firing or explosion of projectiles. With the help of optics, the direction to the flash is determined, and the distance is calculated from the time difference between the optical and sound signals. Then this data is converted into coordinates and transmitted to the command post.

One complex 1B75 is capable of controlling a section 25 km wide. It is designed to detect enemy artillery batteries and issue target designation to fire weapons. Also “Penicillin” can calculate the coordinates of the fall of shells and adjust the fire of its artillery. Calculation of the coordinates of a single target takes no more than 5 seconds. The error of such calculations is not specified.

Main advantages

The Russian army already has a number of artillery reconnaissance complexes and spotters of one kind or another. The new “Penicillin” is similar in its functions to them, but it has a number of important differences that give it noticeable advantages. Basically, the benefits are associated with other principles of work.

Like other artillery reconnaissance complexes, the new “Penicillin” is self-propelled and highly mobile. In doing so, he uses a wheeled chassis, which has well-known advantages over tracked platforms. First of all, it reduces the cost of operation and simplifies transportation over long distances.

Older reconnaissance complexes used the radar detection principle and, accordingly, unmasked themselves with radiation, risking becoming another target for artillery. The 1B75 product works only for reception and does not send any radiation towards the enemy, which sharply complicates or makes it impossible to detect it.

The interface of the workplace of one of the operators. Photo: TK “Zvezda”

Sound-thermal detection means are fundamentally invulnerable to electronic warfare means. Theoretically, the enemy can suppress the optics by appropriate means, but for this it is necessary to know the coordinates of “Penicillin”. Effective and specialized means of jamming receivers do not yet exist.

Optical and acoustic detection means, combined with modern computing means, ensure high accuracy and speed. Due to modern means of communication, AZTK “Penicillin” is fully included in the artillery control loops, which speeds up the transfer of data and the solution of combat missions.

The only noticeable drawback of the complex is the relatively long time to determine the coordinates of the enemy – from a shot to the issuance of data. This interval is determined by the range to the weapon and the speed of the sound wave in the ground. Further processing of the received signals is performed by a high-speed computer and takes minimal time. However, even with all objective limitations, the target detection period does not exceed 5 s and does not interfere with effective work.

Systems of the future

According to the news last year, AZTK 1B75 “Penicillin” will be put into service with brigades and regiments of missile forces and artillery of land and coastal forces. Each such formation requires at least one intelligence complex, which makes it possible to present the required production volumes.

According to open data, now the ground forces have more than 30 regiments and brigades of cannon and rocket artillery. Coastal troops include 8 brigades, regiments and divisions. Thus, to cover all the needs of our artillery, at least 40 new reconnaissance systems are needed.

To date, the army has received one Penicillin complex for training personnel and an unnamed number of serial products for deployment in the army. It can be assumed that the procurement of such complexes will continue for more than one year and will end with the re-equipment of most of the formations or all available parts. This lengthy process always starts with the delivery of the first product – and this step was taken in December.

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