The ZSU-23-4 Shilka is a Soviet/Russian self-propelled anti-aircraft gun. It is named after the Shilka river in Eastern Russia. It is alternatively known as the 'Zeus' (from the abbreviation ZSU) or the 'sewing machine' for the sound of the firing guns. It is armed with four 23 mm anti-aircraft guns, as denoted with the designation 23-4, coupled to a fire control radar.
The Shilka was developed after observing the weakness of the older ZSU-57-2, which used more powerful twin 57 mm autocannons but lacking any radar. Works began in 1957 along with other models. The Shilka was eventually chosen to cover the dead zone of the Soviet anti-aircraft missile defenses.
The Shilka was introduced to service in 1962 and was meant to cover the massive tank formations of the Red Army during an advance alongside surface-to-air missile batteries. The new AA gun was thought to be very dangerous, especially to low-flying NATO helicopters and outclassed its NATO contemporaries. This was soon proven to be true in the Yom Kippur war in 1973, when Syrian Shilkas destroyed Israeli jets flying low to evade AA missiles.
An interesting application of the Shilka is for ground fire support. In the Soviet war in Afghanistan, several Shilkas were stripped of their radar and used to fire at ground targets, with good success. What made the Shilka so successful in the mountains of Afghanistan is the fact that its quadruple guns can be elevated higher than any tank or BMP guns and is more devastating than any heavy machine gun.
Shilkas continue to serve through the collapse of the Soviet Union until today. It has been widely exported and upgraded. The newer Russian Shilka, for example, has two Igla AA missile launchers attached, making them somewhat closer to the more sophisticated Tunguska.
ArmA 2 Edit
In ArmA 2, Shilkas are widely used by ex-Soviet states. The ZSU-23-4 can be found in the Chernarussian Defence Forces, ChDKZ insurgents and, in the expansion Operation Arrowhead, in Takistani Army and Guerillas' service. The Russian Armed Forces however, opted for the more sophisticated Tunguska system.
Like in reality, the ZSU-23-4 is very dangerous to hostile helicopters and low-flying aircraft. It may also be used to engage unarmored or lightly armored targets, such as trucks and APCs. While the ZSU-23-4 in ArmA 2 has radars, it does not automatically track and engage targets, making it less accurate than it would be in reality.