Is Bofors 40mm AA gun a "suicide" weapon?

My country of Serbia still has the Bofors anti air gun in active service, unfortunately Wikipedia page lists all countries that at some point had it in service, but doesn’t list specifically which countries still actively use it, but still I suppose that at least many third world countries use it.

Back in 1999 when NATO and Yugoslavia/Serbia were fighting, NATO sent hundreds of planes (F-16, F-15, Harrier, F-117,etc.) to bomb Belgrade and other targets and specifically Belgrade was defended by the Bofors, it scored absolutely no shots whatsoever, it didn’t even damage anything. The more “modern” missile system Sa-3 Neva did, one F-16 (David Goldfein) and one F-117 (Dale Zelko), even though that’s also a extremely low result. Smaller ranged SA-6 Kub didn’t achieve anything either, although it did down a F-16 (Scott Grady) in a different war in Bosnia 4 years earlier.

So, if much more complex missile systems like the Sa-3 and Sa-6 are extremely inefficient and could barely achieve anything then, 20 years ago, would the Bofors have any sense in still using, at least in a different scenario? (If your country can’t afford anything else)

For example, Serbia also has the lesser known M53 Praga, which has a shorter range, similar muzzle velocity, but a faster firing rate, that gun is mounted on a vehicle and even though it also didn’t score anything in 1999, it was actively used in ground operations in both Kosovo and earlier Bosnia, since it is a 30mm gun and was at least a psychologically scary weapon if nothing else. The Bofors on the other hand is not propelled and it’s towed, so it would be much less practical to use for ground operations.

Could the Bofors at least down enemy planes in a scenario where the planes are providing close support for troops on ground, like an A-10 would for example or is being a Bofors crewman just signing up for a certain death?

It’s nearly a 100 years old weapon. Pretty low rate of fire, 300 rpm v 1100 for the 35 mm Oerlikon if memory serves.
And the 1999 Air Campaign was an example of extreme conservatism and risk aversion by the attacker’s, it was medium to high altitude bombing, which the Bofors is not designed for.

Still, not a fun prospect to face for those who have to fly low, like helicopters and ground attack aircraft. And these days UAVs.

The modern Bofor 40mm has little in common with the WWII era one, so it depends on what models we’re talking about.

Good point on the risk aversion air campaign though.

Looks like Serbia use the post war L70 version. And they’ve started mounting them, along with a pair of short range missiles, onto dedicated vehicles, PASARS-16.

Which like many short range air defence systems is mainly for use against helicopters or other low and slow flying targets as **AK84 **alluded to.

I was talking about the Serb version, the L/70 has a RPM of 300, the Orelikon has one of 1100 RPM, while the Shilka has nearly 1500 RPM .

Fair enough, my comment was on the “It’s nearly a 100 years old weapon” opening sentence.

Yep. One of these could definitely ruin someone’s day if they encountered it during a helicopter attack. Against a modern military they would have to devise some way of concealing it until the last minute and protecting it from SEAD fires, but if it caught helicopters delivering or in support of an infantry attack it would be extremely unpleasant for those on the receiving end.

Pasars is honestly a media stunt, the company that makes them creates several other vehicles which are far better and have more sense, like the Lazar 3 IFV, Aleksandar artillery system and a few others and even those vehicles are either not bought by the army or are bought in very small numbers, so I don’t think that Pasars would even be bought. Serbia though is in talks on buying a either Pantsir S1 or BUK, one of the newer versions, potentially even both of these and they would be a great choice, since both of them have a way higher chance of hitting a modern gen fighter than anything there is today in the arsenal (sa-3, sa-6, Praga, Bofors and some hand held rockets)

As for the Bofors, essentially it seems that it makes no sense to put it in Belgrade or other “interior” locations and it would mostly/only be useful in a ground war scenario, either for heli’s and cas planes or for ground targets if modified for that purpose. It would probably be the best to sell it and buy something newer/different instead.

I think this sort of weapon is in a peculiar category. It is a weapon that is not really effective in combat, because your enemy will let you use it against them. But because they have to take steps to make it impossible for you to use the weapon effectively it is actually effective.

The purpose of the weapon isn’t to shoot down enemy aircraft, it is to make them fly higher and more carefully so they don’t have everything their way. If a pilot is facing a situation where someone is actually shooting at them with this gun then the pilot has done something wrong. So the purpose isn’t really to shoot at the plane, it is to keep the aircraft from being in a place where the gun can shoot at them.

Well, no. The gun is useful against slow moving low flying a/c. Like helicopters and UAV. Not against fast jets. It’s not designed with those in mind. Same way a machine gun is useless against a Tank, but not it’s job.
In the War on Terror the threat from weapons like this has been persistent and they have occasionally shot a/c down.

Boy, did I misinterpret the title of this thread.

“Well, that would be awfully messy, wouldn’t it? Plus, the ergonomics just wouldn’t work–at the very least I think you’d have to have someone else pull the trigger for you–just look at the size of the darned thing! All in all, if I were the coroner, I would be very suspicious.”

Glad I’m not the only one who thought that. Interesting thread anyway.

Other good responses. I’d just add that with AA weapons, effectiveness against a/c and vulnerability of the AA weapon don’t necessarily correlate that closely. In a lot of one sided aerial conflicts of the last close to 30 yrs the a/c besides facing no or next to no aerial opposition, have suffered very light losses to AA systems by previous standards. Yet still still in many cases they didn’t outright destroy a lot of AA weapons either. Especially AA guns with no on-mount radars to give away their positions to passive electronic receivers or attract antiradiation missiles. Also a towed single 40mm while not absolutely small is a lot smaller and easier to conceal and/or more completely protect in an emplacement than a big SAM system.

In very recent conflicts (for example I’ve seen footage on TV of 40mm L/70’s purported to belong to Islamic State) a/c electro-optical systems and targeting data methods have improved, the terrain is open, and fast jets had basically no effective enemy AA systems to worry about. In such cases 40mm would very likely achieve nothing v fast jets and the guns might eventually be picked off by PGM’s because the jets could afford to spend time doing that. But it’s still easy to imagine scenario’s where some combination of more cover for the AA guns and other more modern AA systems to keep the fast jets worried would still result in 40mm achieving nothing v fast jets, but not necessarily being destroyed by the fast jets either. And as several have mentioned, towed single 40’s would still be a serious threat to low flying helicopters.

In ground combat OTOH towed 40mm Bofors have been useful ever since they’ve been around and still are in the right circumstances. Self propelled ones are perhaps more useful, and more familiar from US POV in that role (M42 ‘Duster’ vehicle in Vietnam particularly), but towed ones of various countries have also often been used that way.

In addition to the low grade anti-air and anti-light ground targets, having such a weapon can be the equivalent of a soldier carrying a handgun; It’s not much of a weapon militarily speaking, but wouldn’t you act differently if you were attacking a guy with a handgun vs unarmed, even if you greatly outgunned him either way? A token defence can be useful.

I’ve wondered if weapons like that, combined with computerized fire control, couldn’t be used as artillery. You would have a pretty good jack-of-all trades, able to take on helicopters & UAVs in the air or infantry & light vehicles either in direct fire or indirect fire. Imagine calling in 100 rounds per minute of 40mm shells with 5km+ range.

Given the extreme low rate of AAA in scoring hits, isn’t it true that they often do a lot more damage to one’s own city than to any enemy aircraft? I.e., Saddam’s AAA firing almost blindly at Coalition aircraft at night time, and all those shells sprayed upwards just came down and hit Iraqi neighborhoods instead.

Modern fast moving jets are not really vulnerable to anything on the ground other than the latest and greatest big SAMs. So in the sense that if a fast moving jet decided that it was going to target a Bofors gun then yes, survival prospects for the crew of the gun are going to be poor, but that is true for virtually anything on the ground aside from the latest SAMs. Would a fast jet even waste a missile or bomb against a 40mm AA gun that posed no threat to it? Maybe, but probably not.

One could conclude that declaring war on a country like the United States or Russia which can send those jets after you will likely result in many of your soldiers being killed.

Maybe a more useful question to answer is what a weapon such as a Bofors is useful for? It’s still quite effective against helicopters and UAVs if those stumble into range, and there’s a lot more of those buzzing around battlefields than F-15s. You can use it as direct fire light artillery in a pinch although ideally you want a gun that can move under its own power instead of a towed one.

The Duster was discontinued in 1960 but brought back to be used in Vietnam because of how effective it was in perimeter defense.

A Bofors is still being used as part of the armament package of the AC-130 Spectre. I’m not sure about the most recent variant that starting to be fielded.

Point detonating explosive AA shells have often been fitted with self destruct feature to prevent the whole shell landing and exploding. In US 40mm Bofors ammo it was a ‘self destroying tracer’. The incendiary material which gave a visual trace of the shell’s path would burn through to the explosive filler of the shell in around 11 seconds, around 5,000 yards. So on a high trajectory, only fragments of the shell would reach the ground. However obviously if fired at a low enough angle at a low flying plane the shell could hit valuable friendly assets inside self destruct range. The effective range of 40mm against even WWII a/c was considering to be something like ~3,000 yards.

US Army 40mm self propelled mounts in Vietnam that were mentioned were issued ‘long range’ (ie no self destruct tracer) HE rounds to strike at ground targets beyond self destruct range. The maximum ballistic range of the gun was almost 11,000 yards.

M42’s were mainly transferred to National Guard units in the early 1960’s, but then several regular Army battalions organized during the Vietnam War. The weapon served in National Guard units though from 1960’s to late 1980’s.

The 40mm L/60 is still used in the AC-130U. The AC-130W and J have the 30mm GAU-23 chain gun instead. That’s been the only operational US military use of the gun since USN Patrol Boat Mk.iii’s were retired or had theirs removed in the 1990’s.

Almost any AA system is going to be very limited as to its effectiveness by itself. As part of a well designed Integrated Air Defence System something like a Bofors or even a ZSU23/4 could be used quite effectively to force aviation assets out of low level flying. As noted, sometimes just changing how and enemy operates in the airspace is enough.