Stalingrad in Chechnya: Komsomolskoye
A Modern Day Stalingrad
For non-military history students, Stalingrad is one of the most famous battles in WW2. It involved the deepest penetration into Russia by the German Army along the Volga River. The bitter battle is revisited in many books and movies. It was here the German 6th Army was trapped and destroyed.
Stalingrad Revisited in 2000
Starting at the end of the Custer-like Ulus-Kert destruction of the Russian 6th Paratroop company on Hill 776, another major battle in Chechnya was developing.
In early March, 2000, the Russian 200 man security force seized the town of Komsomolskoye (5000 people) located near the foothills of the Black Mountains. The Chechen forces had already been hiding in the foothills and in desperation attacked the town with 500 men quickly forcing the Russians to retreat.
By the 6th, the Russians had fallen back to the perimeter of the town and laid siege with numerous artillery and MRLS rocket launchers. The Russians attempted several times to enter the town and retake portions but each time were repulsed. The siege and intense air and artillery bombardment had little effect on the Chechens whom hid in the numerous pillbox-like basements of the stone buildings. The Russians created more and more rubble. By the 12th, much of the town was in ruin and the Russians had only penetrated into the fringe. In order to trap the Chechens, a paratroop battalion was deployed behind the town and a minefield inserted. By this time, some 1500 Chechens were defending the town. The Chechens had turned the town into a fortress-like Stalingrad.
The Russians continued to lay siege and attempted to enter. More and more the town came under their control as the Chechens had nothing to lose but life. Russian troops and SWAT teams had to clear out the Chechen infestation at a very high cost due to the urban environment. To help matters, a T-72 company (10 tanks) daringly entered the town and fired at buildings at point blank range. A new multi--barrel flame-throwing tank also was used to clear out the pillboxes and basements. These tanks were called, "Buratino", and several of them were used with great effect.
By the 17th, most of the town was finally under Russian control once again. Pockets remained and when the Chechen’s called for a truce it proved to be a ruse. Many of the Chechens surrendered with hidden grenades and when the Russian troops moved to within range, they were exploded.
By the 20th, it was over. Dead bodies covered the ground amongst the rubble. The town was destroyed. Over 300 dead horses added to the stench of the 2500 dead Russians and 800 dead Chechens. The remaining surrendered, only a few escaped. A small scale modern-day Stalingrad.
The Russian used two special weapons to conduct urban warfare: the Buratino and Schmel. Both were air-fuel delivery systems. Both very deadly.
The "Buratino" was the main thermobaric delivery system that the Russians used against Grozny. The Buratino is a 30-barrel 220mm multiple rocket launcher system mounted on a T-72 tank chassis. It is an observed-fire system with a maximum effective range of 3.5 kilometers (other sources say it has a maximum range of five kilometers). The minimum range is 400 meters. The rocket mounts an incendiary or a thermobaric warhead. The warhead is filled with a combustible liquid and when the warhead explodes, the liquid is vaporized creating an aerosol cloud. This cloud mixes with oxygen and detonates, first creating a high temperature cloud of flame followed by a crushing overpressure. The Buratino proved a devastating system during the fight for Komsomolskoye.
The Schmel [Bumblebee] was also widely used. This flamethrower is a shoulder-fired, single-shot, disposable weapon with a maximum range of 1,000 meters. It is best used as a bunker buster. It's two-kilogram warhead readily knocks out bunkers and strong points.The warhead contents form an aerosol cloud. This cloud is then ignited and the subsequent fireball sears the surrounding area while consuming the oxygen in this area. The lack of oxygen creates an enormous overpressure. This overpressure is the primary casualty-producing force. In a dozen microseconds, the pressure at the center of the explosion can reach 427 pounds per square inch (normal atmospheric pressure at sea level is 14.7 pounds per square inch) with a temperature between 4,532-5,432 degrees Fahrenheit!. Personnel under the cloud are literally crushed to death.
Both used during this modern day Stalingrad.