When the revolutionary Soviet ZSU-23-4 appeared in the 1960s, it far outclassed similar NATO weapons. The Shilka’s excellent radar-guided system and four accurate 23mm auto cannons made this weapon highly effective at shooting down low-flying aircraft. In fact, the Shilka was so deadly that it forced pilots to rethink their flying tactics.
Manned by a four-member crew, the ZSU-23-4 possessed such a high rate of heavy firepower that it could neutralize tanks. Despite being considered obsolete during the Gulf War, Iraqi Shilkas still compelled Coalition aircraft to act cautiously at low altitudes and in doing so, sometime caused costly errors. Afgan soldiers nicknamed this gun the “sewing machine” due to the sound it made when firing.
The Shilka was built in the 1970s. It saw combat in the Yom Kippur War in 1973, as well as the Iran-Iraq and Soviet-Afghan Wars in the 1980s.
Used by 45 different countries, the Shilka remains the most mass produced self-propelled gun in the world. It has been used in 23 wars including Vietnam, the Gulf War and the Iraq Invasion and is still considered a threat to low-flying aircraft.