The TsNIITochMash design bureau, a subsidiary of Rostec tasked with creating the next-generation self-propelled howitzer (SPH) for the Russian Airborne Forces (VDV, Vozdushno-Desantnye Voiska) confirmed that the new 2S42 Lotos (Lotus) 120mm air-droppable artillery piece would be ready for state testing and adoption by 2019. The Lotus has a maximum firing range of 13 km, a rate of fire of 6-8 shots per minute, can be converted to and from firing position in 30 seconds, and features new high-precision ammunition. The nimble system is believed to weigh of 18 tonnes, have a maximum speed of 70 km per hour, and to have a crew of four.
The TsNIITochMash confirmed that mass production of the Lotus could begin as early as 2020, pending state testing and adoption into the Airborne Forces. The Lotus is expected to replace the Nona-S, a lightweight, air-droppable 120 mm gun-mortar, a Soviet design first introduced in 1981 which proved its effectiveness against the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan. Earlier, designers explained that the Lotus project aimed to further enhance the firepower and manoeuvrability of the mobile artillery used by the Airborne Forces.
The 2S42 Lotus 120mm Air-Droppable Artillery will be tested alongside the Zavet-D mobile command-and-control post that is based on the chassis of the BTR-MDM armoured personnel carrier. Zavet-D is built on the foundation of the much newer BTR-MD “Rakusha” transport vehicle, which boasts superior handling, speed, and navigation of water-based obstacles. BTR-MD’s modern internal design allows for a more comprehensive integration of communication systems, to more rapidly and reliably guide nearby artillery weapons.
The Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) doctrine calls for infantry and light armor units alike to descend from the sky virtually on top of the enemy, wreaking havoc on enemy communications, clearing bridgeheads, and destroying support and supply units far behind enemy lines. The main difference between airborne self-propelled artillery systems and their Army ‘cousins’ is of course their airdrop capability, including manned drops. The vehicles must be lightweight, while retaining the reliability, protection, and firing characteristics of their land-based cousins. Russian air-drop-capable artillery has long featured automatic rifle-resistant aluminum armor, as well as strong grades of steel.