Penicillin & Tablet-A: Russia's New Artillery Reconnaissance & Command and Control Assets

The effectiveness of the combat use of artillery largely depends on the reliability and speed of target reconnaissance, data exchange, and the security of the communications system. As modern experience in the combat use of artillery highlights, the main way to achieve artillery superiority are targeted counter-battery operations. The key to its success is the in-time detection of the enemy and transmission of data for hitting reconnoitered targets. This largely depends on a real time use of interlinked artillery reconnaissance and control systems.

One of the important premieres of the International Military-Technical Forum ARMY-2023 in Russia was the presentation of a counter-battery system, which allows detecting hostile artillery positions at a distance of up to 38 km, to determine coordinates, and then, using automated fire control means, engage in the shortest possible time. The system includes the Penicillin automated acoustic-thermal artillery reconnaissance system and the Tablet-A artillery command and control system. Both systems are mobile.

The Penicillin records acoustic and thermal signals from artillery shots and shell explosions, and then marks them on a digital map. The integrated Tablet-A system processes the received data, calculates firing settings and transmits it to the guns for subsequent suppression of enemy artillery.

As Russian military experts note, the use of the new counter-battery systems significantly increases combat efficiency of artillery, its camouflaging features, and, ultimately, saves own equipment and personnel. Due to innovative technologies even 2S1 Gvozdika and 2S3 Akatsiya self-propelled howitzers, introduced back in the 1960s, in combination with reconnaissance and control equipment can actually become modern high-precision artillery systems.

Developed by the Research Institute Vektor (subsidiary of Rostec), the 1B75E Penicillin mobile automated acoustic-thermal artillery reconnaissance system is designed for reconnaissance of firing positions of guns, mortars, multiple launch rocket systems and launch positions of anti-aircraft and tactical missiles with simultaneous provision for own artillery fire. The system, in particular, receives and processes acoustic signals, thermal imaging information from shots and explosions, from flying artillery shells, mines, rockets and missiles. The system can provide support for both Russian and foreign produced firing of artillery systems and MRL.

The Penicillin is a passive reconnaissance system. Unlike most analogues, it does not operate on the radiolocation principles, but combines thermal and acoustic reconnaissance. The time to determine the coordinates of artillery positions does not exceed a minute. Not being a radio-emitting system, the Penicillin conducts reconnaissance, while remaining invisible to enemy electronic warfare systems.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has repeatedly reported the use of the Penicillin system during the operation in Ukraine. Thus, on April 30 and May 2, it was reported that, owing to the Penicillin, American-made howitzers a were discovered and destroyed by Malka self-propelled artillery systems at their positions . On the same days, it was reported that during the counter-battery actions more than 20 artillery positions were opened and suppressed with the use of Penicillin system .

"Brief analysis of Russian artillery practice in Ukraine indicates that while it has demonstrated variable levels of efficacy, on the whole it is a formidable component of the Russian military, with occasionally best-in-breed targeting cycles," wrote in August the British think-tank Royal United Services Institution (RUSI) .

The main purpose of the Tablet-A artillery fire control system, created by VNII Signal (subsidiary of Rostec's High-Precision Systems holding company) is an automated fire control of towed and self-propelled artillery, mortars and MRLs. The system can be adapted by any artillery unit, including a mixed type one. The
Tablet-A dramatically reduces the time from getting target designation to hitting the target.

According to the Russian military publication "MilitaryIndustrial Complex of the Russian Federation" (OPK RF), for communications a closed satellite system is used with high data transmission speed and reliable protection, which significantly impacts the efficiency of command and control.

"VNII Signal is constantly improving Tablet-A. Among the latest additional options are the following: an expanded list of ammunition, a significantly simplified algorithm for the operator’s work, a reduced number of actions required to open fire after receiving a task. Also important is expanding the range of objects with which the system can interact within the reconnaissance and fire cycles, and reducing the time for hardware and software integration of the system into them. In general, the innovative Tablet-A has become faster and more reliable. A further step in the development of this area was the creation by specialists of the VNII Signal of the Tablet-A system on an armored chassis. Owing to this, the mobility of the system is increased and the deployment time of artillery units is reduced."

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