Photo Credit: The crew of a ZSU-23-4 of President Bashar al-Assad's Syrian Armed Forces stands beside their ZSU-23-4. Introduced as a mobile air defense system during the Cold War in the 1960s, the ZSU-23-4 remains in use in 30 countries.
By Christopher Miskimon Soviet forces occupying Afghanistan in March 1986 during the Soviet-Afghan War sought to annihilate a large force of Afghan Mujahedeen fighters that had sheltered in Xadigar Canyon in Kandahar Province. Lt. Col. S. Pyatakov, who had received intelligence reports indicating that the Mujahedeen had large weapons and ammunition caches in the remote area, planned to spearhead an assault with his Spetsnaz Special Forces to eradicate the threat. Pyatakov first ordered a squadron of SU-25 ground-attack aircraft to sweep the canyon. He then unleashed a thundering barrage from an entire battalion of 122mm D-30 howitzers. Next, a group of Spetsnaz soldiers arrived in helicopters just as the artillery fell silent. They deployed swiftly in order to go into action before the Afghan fighters could reoccupy their defenses. Two motorized rifle battalions and an artillery battalion also participated in the lightning assault. The Spetsnaz had incredible firepower at their disposal in the form of the ZSU-2-4 self-propelled, anti-aircraft guns, which laid down curtains of 23mm cannon fire to suppress those enemy fighters who remained able to resist. Each gun could destroy a prospective strongpoint, allowing the Spetsnaz to approach it in relative safety. When it was all over, Pyatakov reported to his superiors that his troops had killed 20 mujahedeen and destroyed large amounts of enemy weapons and equipment. Originally designed as a close-in air defense weapon during
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