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ZPU Anti-aircraft Gun

ZPU-4 in Saint Petersburg Artillery Museum.
Type Anti-aircraft gun
Place of origin Soviet Union
Service history
In service 1949 - present
Used by See Operators for users
Wars Korean War, Vietnam War, Western Sahara War, Cambodian Civil War, Cambodian-Vietnamese War, Gulf War, South Lebanon conflict (1982–2000)
Production history
Variants ZPU-1, ZPU-2, ZPU-4

The ZPU (Russian: зенитная пулемётная установка, meaning "anti-aircraft machine gun mount") is a family of towed anti-aircraft gun based on the Soviet 14.5 mm KPV heavy machine gun. It entered service with the Soviet Union in 1949 and is used by over 50 countries worldwide.

Quadruple- (ZPU-4) Double- (ZPU-2) and single-barreled (ZPU-1) versions of the weapon exist.


The first dedicated Soviet mount for anti-aircraft machine guns was developed around 1928 by Fedor Tokarev and was adopted for service in 1931. It was a base for mounting up to four 7.62 mm PM M1910 (Russian Maxim) guns. This was also called a ZPU, although the name М-4 was also assigned to it. It served the Soviet armed forces in all major conflicts until 1945.[1]


Development of the ZPU-2 and ZPU-4 began in 1945, with development of the ZPU-1 starting in 1947. All three were accepted into service in 1949. Improved optical predicting gunsights were developed for the system in the 1950s.

All weapons in the ZPU series have air-cooled quick-change barrels and can fire a variety of ammunition including API (B32), API (BS41), API-T (BZT) and I-T (ZP) projectiles. Each barrel has a maximum rate of fire of around 600 rounds per minute, though this is practically limited to about 150 rounds per minute.

The quad-barrel ZPU-4 uses a four-wheel carriage similar to that once used by the obsolete 25 mm automatic anti-aircraft gun M1940. In firing position, the weapon is lowered onto firing jacks. It can be brought in and out of action in about 15 to 20 seconds, and can be fired with the wheels in the traveling position if needed.

The double-barrel ZPU-2 was built in two different versions; the early model has large mud guards and two wheels that are removed in the firing position, and the late model has wheels that fold and are raised from the ground in the firing position.

The single-barrel ZPU-1 is carried on a two-wheeled carriage and can be broken down into several 80-kilogram pieces for transport over rough ground.

Versions of the weapon are built in China, North Korea and Romania.


The series was used during the Korean War by Chinese and North Korean forces, and was later considered to be the most dangerous opposition to U.S. helicopters in Vietnam. Later it was used by Morocco and the Polisario Front in the Western Sahara War. It was also used by Iraqi forces during Operation Desert Storm and again in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In the Russian military, it was replaced by the newer and more powerful ZU-23 23 mm twin automatic anti-aircraft gun.

The type has seen widespread use by both sides in the 2011 Libyan civil war often mounted on pickup-truck technicals.[2]

The Lebanese Army has mounted the ZPU-2 and ZPU-4 on M113 armored personnel carriers to create armored self-propelled AA vehicles.


  • API (BS.41) - Full metal jacket bullet round with a tungsten carbide core. Projectile weight is 64.4 g (2.27 oz) and muzzle velocity is 1,000 metres per second (3,300 ft/s). Armor-penetration at 500 m (550 yd) is 32 mm (1.3 in) of RHA at 90 degrees.[3]
  • API-T (BZT) - Full metal jacket round with a steel core. Projectile weight is 59.56 g (2.101 oz) and muzzle velocity is 1,005 m/s (3,297 ft/s). Tracer burns to at least 2,000 m (2,200 yd).
  • I-T (ZP) - "Instantaneous Incendiary" bullet with internal fuze, incendiary in tip, tracer container in base. Projectile weight is 60.0 g (2.12 oz).

Rounds are also produced by Bulgaria, China, Egypt, Poland, and Romania.


  • ZPU-4
    • Type 56 - Chinese-built version.
    • MR-4 - Romanian-built version with a two-wheel carriage designed locally.
  • ZPU-2
    • Type 58 - Chinese-built version.
    • ZU-2 - Romanian-built version.
  • ZPU-1
  • BTR-40A SPAAG - A BTR-40 APC with a ZPU-2 gun mounted in the rear. Entered service in 1950.
  • BTR-152A SPAAG - A BTR-152 with a ZPU-2 mounted in the rear. Entered service in 1952.


Model ZPU-1 ZPU-2 (early) ZPU-2 (late) ZPU-4
Barrels 1 2 2 4
Weight (travelling) 413 kg
(910 lb)
994 kg
(2,191 lb)
649 kg
(1,430 lb)
1,810 kg
(3,990 lb)
Weight (firing) 413 kg
(910 lb)
639 kg
(1,408 lb)
621 kg
(1,369 lb)
1,810 kg
(3,990 lb)
Length (travel) 3.44 m
(11.28 ft)
3.54 m
(11.61 ft)
3.87 m
(12.69 ft)
4.53 m
(14.86 ft)
Width (travel) 1.62 m
(5.31 ft)
1.92 m
(6.29 ft)
1.37 m
(4.49 ft)
1.72 m
(5.64 ft)
Height (travel) 1.34 m
(4.39 ft)
1.83 m
(6.00 ft)
1.1 m
(3.60 ft)
2.13 m
(7 ft)
Elevation +88/-8 +90/-7 +85/-15 +90/-10
Traverse 360
Maximum range 8,000 m
(8,749 yds)
Maximum altitude 5,000 m
(16,404 ft)
Effective altitude 1,400 m
(4,593 ft)
Ammunition (rounds) 1200 2400 4800
Crew 4 5



External links

  • ZPU-1 single barrel anti-aircraft gun data sheet
  • ZPU-2 anti-aircraft 14.5 mm twin guns data sheet
  • ZPU-4 anti-aircraft 14.5 mm quadruple guns data sheet
  • Video: ZPU-1 (single-barreled 14.5) being fired in Afghanistan
  • technicalfr:ZPU-2
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