The ZPU (Russian: зенитная пулемётная установка, meaning "anti-aircraft machine gun mount") is a family of towed anti-aircraft gun based on the Soviet 14.5×114mm KPV heavy machine gun. It entered service with the Soviet Union in 1949 and is used by over 50 countries worldwide.

ZPU Anti-aircraft Gun
TypeAnti-aircraft gun
Place of originSoviet Union
Service history
In service1949–present
Used bySee Operators for users
WarsKorean War
Vietnam War
Yom Kippur War
Rhodesian Bush War
Western Sahara War
Angolan Civil War
Cambodian Civil War
Lebanese Civil War
Soviet–Afghan War
South African Border War
Somali Civil War
Gulf War
Georgian Civil War
South Lebanon conflict (1985–2000)
First Chechen War
Second Congo War[1]
Second Chechen War
War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
Iraq War
2006 Lebanon War
Russo-Georgian War
First Libyan Civil War
Sudanese conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile[2]
Syrian Civil War
Second Libyan Civil War
War in Donbass
Yemeni Civil War (2015–present)
Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen
Production history
VariantsZPU-1, ZPU-2, ZPU-4
Caliber14.5 mm
ActionGas operated

Quadruple (ZPU-4), double- (ZPU-2 and ZU-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.[3] 12.7 mm DShK 1938 was used an anti-aircraft weapon it was mounted on pintle and tripod mounts, and on a triple mount on the GAZ-AA truck. Late in the war, it was mounted on the cupolas of IS-2 tanks and ISU-152 self-propelled guns. As an infantry heavy support weapon it used a two-wheeled trolley which unfolded into a tripod for anti-aircraft use.


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.

ZPU-2 turned out to be too heavy for the Airborne Troops, so a new UZPU-2 (later redesignated as ZU-2) was developed from ZPU-1.

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 1974 the Cyprus National Guard artillery batteries used their ZPU-2's against the Turkish air force. In the Russian military, it was replaced by the newer and more powerful ZU-23 23 mm twin automatic anti-aircraft gun.

ZPU has seen widespread use by all sides in the 2011 Libyan civil war and Syrian Civil War often mounted on pickup-truck technicals with plenty of videos showing the gun engaging different air and ground targets.[4][5]

During the Lebanese Civil War, the Lebanese militias mounted the ZPU-2 and ZPU-4 on various vehicles, such as M113 armored personnel carriers, to create self-propelled support vehicles.[6]


  • 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.[7]
  • 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.[8]
    • MR-4 – Romanian-built version with a two-wheel carriage designed locally.[8]
  • ZPU-2
    • Type 58 – Chinese-built version.[8]
    • PKM-2 – Polish-built version.
  • ZU-2
  • ZPU-1
    • Type 75 and Type 75-1 - Chinese built-versions.[8]
  • 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.


Barrels 1224
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) 1,200 2,400 4,800
Crew 4 5


See also


  1. Cooper, Tom (2013). Great Lakes Conflagration: Second Congo War, 1998 2003. UK: Helion & Company Limited. p. 39. ISBN 978-1-920143-84-8.
  2. "SPLA-N weapons and equipment, South Kordofan, December 2012" (PDF). HSBA Arms and Ammunition Tracing Desk. Small Arms Survey: 8. February 2013. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-03-22. Retrieved 2019-01-02.
  3. Семен Федосеев (2009). Пулеметы России. Шквальный огонь. Яуза / Коллекция / ЭКСМО. pp. 377–380. ISBN 978-5-699-31622-9.
  4. "The Telegraph, Libya Unrest, Pictures of the Clashes". Archived from the original on 2018-03-12. Retrieved 2018-04-02.
  5. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-07-22. Retrieved 2016-12-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. Zaloga, Steven J. (2003). Tank battles of the Mid-East Wars (2): The wars of 1973 to the present. Hong Kong: Concord Publications. p. 7. ISBN 962-361-613-9.
  7. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-10-12. Retrieved 2011-10-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. Gander, Terry J. (4 May 2001). "14.5 mm KPV heavy machine gun". Jane's Infantry Weapons 2002-2003. pp. 3732–3734.
  9. Bhatia, Michael Vinai; Sedra, Mark (May 2008). Small Arms Survey (ed.). Afghanistan, Arms and Conflict: Armed Groups, Disarmament and Security in a Post-War Society. Routledge. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-415-45308-0. Archived from the original on 2018-09-01. Retrieved 2018-09-01.
  10. Military Balance 2017
  11. Military Balance 2017
  12. Cherisey, Erwan de (July 2019). "El batallón de infantería "Badenya" de Burkina Faso en Mali - Noticias Defensa En abierto". Revista Defensa (in Spanish) (495–496).
  13. Military Balance 2017
  14. Cooper 2013, p. 25.
  15. "Syrie: l'EI inflige un revers aux FDS dans l'est, mais reste acculé". France Soir (in French). 25 October 2018. Archived from the original on 25 October 2018. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  16. Military Balance 2017
  17. Military Balance 2017
  18. Military Balance 2017
  19. Military Balance 2017
  20. Military Balance 2017
  21. Military Balance 2017
  22. Military Balance 2017
  23. Jones, Richard D.; Ness, Leland S., eds. (January 27, 2009). Jane's Infantry Weapons 2009/2010 (35th ed.). Coulsdon: Jane's Information Group. ISBN 978-0-7106-2869-5.
  24. Military Balance 2017
  25. Military Balance 2017
  26. Military Balance 2017
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