TechUkrainians repurpose century-old Browning M2 machine guns for anti-aircraft defense

Ukrainians repurpose century-old Browning M2 machine guns for anti-aircraft defense

Browning M2 somewhere in Ukraine.
Browning M2 somewhere in Ukraine.
Images source: © Getty Images | Bloomberg
4:47 AM EST, January 25, 2024

In the face of a recent nighttime missile attack on Kyiv, a video involving Ukrainian soldiers emerged. It showed how they brought down a Russian maneuvering missile using a Browning M2 heavy machine gun. The attacker's weapon was subsequently destroyed by a rocket from an anti-aircraft system just seconds later.

The heavy machine gun has been a crucial component of anti-aircraft defense for over a century, and there are still scenarios where they serve effectively. The Browning M2 is particularly efficient against Iranian Shahed drones. However, with great luck, impairing a subsonic maneuvering missile is theoretically viable, leading to its complete obliteration.

Browning M2: The Century-Old Staple of Every NATO Vehicle

First introduced to American forces in 1933, the Browning M2 is a hefty machine weighing 84 lbs. It is loaded with .50 Browning Machine Gun (.50 BMG) cartridges, also called 12.7x99 mm NATO. The ammunition allows for effective attacks from distances of up to a mile (approximated from 2 kilometers).

Even the most commonplace ammunition can penetrate concrete or brick walls or 0.9 inches of hardened chamber armor from a range of 200 yards (approximately 182 meters). The muzzle energy of the bullet is roughly 16,000 J. Over the years, an array of cartridge and projectile combinations has been developed; these include the noteworthy SLAP cartridges with tungsten penetrators capable of piercing 0.75 inches of steel armor up to 0.85 miles away (approximated from 1371 meters).

It's important to note how the Browning M2 functions. The heavy machine gun fires with an open bolt, which aids in cooling the cartridge chamber. While this weapon isn't known for a high rate of fire - with a maximum of only 450-600 rounds per minute - it has the advantage of slower heating and easier control during sustained fire.

The efficacy of the Browning M2 has made it invaluable in challenging various threats, be they on land, sea, or air. Simultaneously, it has proven to be a robust point of defence for fortifications, albeit requiring an additional 43.8 lbs (approximated from 19.85 kg) in the form of a tripod.

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