Ukrainian soldiers used heavy machine guns to shoot down Russian missiles

Ukraine posted a video of its forces successfully intercepting Russian cruise missiles with a more than 90-year-old US-made Browning machine gun.

“Mobile air defense units in the north downed a number of enemy cruise missiles, one of which was shot down by a Browning heavy machine gun,” said Lieutenant General Serhii Naiev, Commander of the Joint Command, The senior staff agency in the Ukrainian army said on January 23.

The video Mr. Naiev posted shows the Russian raid taking place at night. Ukrainian forces used machine guns to continuously fire toward glowing objects in the sky, which appeared to be missiles. One bomb exploded in mid-air, lighting up the entire area. A soldier shouted “Hit” and then continued to fire toward the remaining missiles.

“The M2 Browning machine gun has become an effective air defense system, capable of shooting down Russian missiles,” Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense commented, adding that the missile shot down in the video was the Kh-101 model.

On January 23, the Ukrainian Air Force said that Russia launched a total of 41 missiles into the country’s territory, including 14 Kh-101, Kh-555 and Kh-55 shells. All Kh-series missiles were shot down by Ukrainian air defense.

Kiev previously claimed to have shot down a number of Russian cruise missiles with machine guns, but this is the first time the country has released a video. Mr. Naiev said earlier this month that he awarded a medal to a Ukrainian soldier who achieved success in using a machine gun to shoot down enemy missiles. A Ukrainian commander last December praised his subordinates for achieving the same feat, which the officer said was “almost impossible.”

The M2 Browning machine gun was produced in 1933 and is the oldest weapon in service in the US military. The gun is nearly 1.8 m long, weighs 58 kg, including the base, has a firing rate of 550 rounds/minute and can also fire one shot. Its effective range is 1.8 km, while the maximum range is up to 6.4 km.

According to military expert David Hambling, heavy machine guns like the M2 Browning can theoretically shoot down cruise missiles, but in practice, it is challenging.

“Cruise missiles are small jet aircraft that carry a lot of explosives, so just one bullet hit can cause great damage,” Hambling said. “The most difficult thing is how to hit the missile at a distance because it moves at speeds of up to hundreds of kilometers per hour.”

This expert said that Ukrainian soldiers successfully took down a Russian cruise missile largely due to luck. “If they have enough machine guns to continuously fire while the missiles fly densely in the sky, someone will be lucky and hit the target,” he said.

The Ukrainian army possesses many types of anti-aircraft weapons, from modern complexes such as the Patriot to older artillery lines and light weapons such as machine guns, which are more suitable for shooting down unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). It is a missile. Ukraine has recently relied more on these types of weapons to counter Russia’s coordinated attack, in the context that Kyiv is lacking anti-aircraft missiles due to a decrease in aid from the West.

Ukrainian media said earlier this month that the country’s military used ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft guns from the Soviet era to shoot down low-flying Russian cruise missiles, even though there was no supporting target indication radar.