The secret of the first and only Soviet space cannon

Although interesting and important for history, Shield-1 and other daring projects are still being forgotten.

Although interesting and important for history, Shield-1 and other daring projects are still being forgotten.

Top secret project

By the mid-1960s, the Soviet government was reporting on the existence of the US Manned Orbiting Laboratory , which not only conducted electronic reconnaissance but also operated equipment. military directly from orbit.

Naturally, the Soviet Union could not be indifferent, at OKB-52 (now the Tochmash Design Office), the 'top secret' Almaz battle station for global surveillance for Soviet interests began to be designed. For self-defense, Almaz was armed with a rocket and an automatic cannon based on Nudelman-Richter's NR-23 gun design, codenamed 'Shield-1' (Щит-1) - the first and only of this type.

Picture 1 of The secret of the first and only Soviet space cannon Photo 1 of The secret of the first and only Soviet space cannon
Almaz space station.(Source: spacelegalissues.com).

According to open information, weapons for the space station were developed in the early 1970s and tested in 1974-75, however, for a long time, the Almaz and Shield-1 projects were still keep secret. Then, in the 1990s, more information came out, but it only allowed to visualize a general picture.

Up to now, new information and even the artillery model have been revealed. Although the data are still incomplete and sometimes contradictory, what is allowed to understand the project's goals, progress and results.

At the time, new military spacecraft were being designed and were always on the lookout for potential enemies, as they could neutralize or damage Soviet satellites or orbiting stations. To counter that threat, the idea of ​​a small caliber automatic gun, and later, a self-defense missile system for the ship was proposed.

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Space cannon Shield-1.(Source: topwar.ru).

Development of Shield-1 was carried out at OKB-16 under the direction of AE Nudelman with the aim of creating a special cannon suitable for use on spacecraft. Estimated range against orbital targets is more than 3,000 meters, gun fired 950 rounds / minute, warhead weighs 200g flying at 690 m / s; The shooting is done by a control software.

Information is missing and conflicting

For a long time, people only knew the gun for spacecraft caliber 23mm and based on one of the existing gun models. This means that in the part of Shield-1, products from designers Nudelman and Richter NR-23 or R-23 developed at OKB-16 can be used. In October 2015, Zvezda TV had a great gift for aerospace and artillery lovers.

During the Military Inspectorate program, for the first time a display of an experimental model (or prototype) of artillery for the Almaz spacecraft and some design details. However, the surprise from the Military Inspectorate program did not go as expected when answering some questions, but raised new questions. Information on names, ammunition patterns, designs, etc. did not match the known data on domestic weapons, while information available on this topic was seriously supplemented.

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Shield-1 magazine.(Source: topwar.ru).

In the television program, space cannon is said to be R-23M "Kartech". However, according to this weapons document, a version of the R-23 aircraft gun fired special bullets with the particles of damage. The features of this cosmic cannon are also curious.

In a television program, it was claimed that the cannon was 14.5mm in caliber and had a rate of fire of 5000 rounds / minute. All of this is completely inconsistent with R-23 data, if it is not deeply modernized.

It has been suggested that space guns use a special type of ammunition - a fully concave bullet, similar to the R-23 23x260mm bullet. However, the bullets were found to be significantly smaller than 23mm bullets.

Here, they are obviously meant for the gun on display. Describing products in TV shows raises doubts, but product demonstrations are truly commendable and appreciated. Before appearing in the program of the Military Inspector, the shape of space weapons has not been displayed.

Fortunately, the Shield-1 product is proposed to be displayed in a fully assembled and partially disassembled state, allowing for a better evaluation of it. It was an automatic gun, it had a frame to install it and a mount to hold the magazine. The gun frame is at the bottom, and above the cannon is a complex shaped box containing magazine. On the left side of the gun, there is a semi-solid hard path to hold the magazine. On the right is a pipe to push the bullet case forward.

Apparently, the museum space cannon actually has a 14.5 mm caliber, which is, in essence, a large caliber machine gun built on the basis of R-23 guns. The main design solutions have been saved, but the product has been scaled down to 14.5mm - at the same time they have created space bullets similar to the existing 23x260mm. The same model could actually have a rate of fire of 5,000 rounds per minute.

Experiment

The only prototype of this cannon was mounted on the Almaz-2 station (also known as Salyut-3). This station was launched on June 26, 1974. According to known data, the Shield-1 combination is permanently attached to the spacecraft. Direction of weapons towards the target is achieved by rotating the entire ship. The bombardment is performed using a remote control device from the spacecraft's central position.

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Ammo has a special structure of Shield-1.(Source: topwar.ru)

A few days later, the Soyuz spacecraft and its crew, Popovich and Artyukhina, joined Almaz-2. For a variety of reasons, guns were not tested by the crew. Shooting was carried out only on January 25, 1975 - just before Salyut-3 station left orbit.

Immediately after braking, following orders from Earth, several shots were fired. The test was successful, the artillery shell fired into the atmosphere and burned right away. Over the next few minutes, the cannon prototype was also burnt in a dense atmosphere with the spacecraft.

Space without weapons

The Shield-1 test above was both first and last, the project was not further developed. Later, the military station was more advanced than Almaz-3 (Salyut-5) equipped with space missiles, with a range of more than 100 km, much larger than 3 km of space cannon, of the same design room. , by AE Nudelman. But later, the entire manned military program was removed and weapons for spacecraft were abandoned.

Almaz stations are still used for peaceful purposes - first converted into Mir stations, then the International Space Station. Shield-1 / R-23M / Kartech has and will still be the only space cannon. To date, there are no weapons in orbit, even pistols have been removed from astronaut's defensive weapons.

Nearly 45 years have passed since the first and last test of the space cannon. Up to now, the detailed and accurate history of Shield-1 project is not complete. Hopefully in the future, the Russian space, rocket and artillery industry will reveal about one of the most remarkable projects and answer the remaining questions. Although interesting and important for history, Shield-1 and other daring projects are still being forgotten.