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IT-1 + 3M7 / 2K4 Drakon

The IT-1 (Russian for Istrebitel Tankov – Tank Destroyer) is perhaps the best known of the series of Soviet tanks armed with anti-tank guided missiles instead of a conventional gun and is, essentially, a T-62 with a Drakon ATGM launching system installed inside of it. Its designation is a bit of a throwback to the IT series of light tank destroyers designed mostly before and during the Second World War, but there was nothing obsolete about this vehicle by the time it was conceived.

The first real discussion about putting ATGMs in tanks in the Soviet Union took place between 1955 and 1956. There were several outputs from the discussion – or, more specifically, instructions regarding the direction of the development. The Soviets wanted a tank – but with missiles as its main armament. The demand for internal launcher departed significantly from the way the French were doing it (external launchers) and presented a number of challenges. The result was the semi-automatically guided 3M7 Drakon missile (the whole system was called 2K4 Drakon).

In 1957, work began on the creation of several promising armored vehicles designed to combat enemy tanks . "Theme number 9", set by the resolution of the Council of Ministers, provided for the creation of a self-propelled anti-tank gun with the code "Taran". The result of this project was the emergence of ACS "Object 120" or SU-152, work on which was stopped at the stage of factory testing. In addition, the resolution of the Council of Ministers in 1957 set “theme number 2” - the development of a tracked armored vehicle with specialized anti-tank missile weapons. The total of this project was the self-propelled ATGM "Object 150" / "Dragon" / IT-1, created by plant number 183 in cooperation with OKB-16 and other enterprises.

The machine, nicknamed the "tank destroyer", was adopted by the USSR Army in 1968. IT-1 is the first and only mass-produced tank whose main weapons were missiles. Despite the amazing accuracy of the machine, which when hit literally left no chance for enemy equipment, the tank stood in service for only three years. Large dimensions and mass, outdated element base, large dead zone, lack of tank gun caused the closure of the project.

The IT-1 missile tank destroyer (often referred to simply as "missile tank") was created in the late fifties. It was a technically well-implemented idea, though outdated already at the production stage. It remained the only missile tank without a cannon, which went into a relatively large series and entered service.

In the fifties, the tank power of the USSR, which seemed indestructible after May 1945, began to raise some doubts. The most massive Soviet tank of that time, the T-54, with its 100-mm cannon, could no longer fight at great distances with potential opponents - the American M48 and especially the M60. One of the options was to solve the problem "head-on": to create a more modern and better armed tank (which led to the development of the T-62 and T-64) or to offer a completely new, promising solution.

As a result, missile tanks appeared - it was assumed that guided missile weapons would allow the vehicle to do without a cannon and destroy enemy armored vehicles from a distance of 2-3 kilometers without interference. Although the missile is more accurate than a projectile, it is ineffective at close range, much more expensive and larger. And the missile tank's ammunition consisted of a modest 12-15 missiles. But they could hit incomparably more accurately than the cannons of even new Soviet tanks. Despite all the difficulties with missile control, at a long range of up to 3-3.5 km IT-1 (aka "Object-150") could destroy 2-3 times more enemy armored vehicles than artillery tanks.

The weapon of the "Dragon" was the 3M7 rocket with a length of 1240 mm, a diameter of 180 mm and a mass of 54 kg. The rocket had a solid propellant engine and developed a speed of 220 m / s. The guidance system is a semi-automatic radio command with the calculation of data by the onboard equipment of an armored vehicle. Provided firing at a range of 300-3000 m. The cumulative warhead of the missile penetrated 250 mm of armor at an angle of 60°.

It seemed that the transfer of tank troops to new, futuristic-looking and protected no worse than conventional vehicles was just a matter of time. However, when, after nine years of development, the 2K4 "Dragon" missile system and the "Object 150" itself were put into production and sent to the troops, it turned out that promising missile tanks were futile.

The concept of a tank without a cannon, which cannot really defend itself at close ranges and can only shoot at enemies from a great distance, did not stand up to criticism. The advantages provided by guided weapons could not compensate for the shortcomings (although in capable hands the IT-1 was indeed a terrible weapon).

After completing part of the work on two projects, the customer had to compare fundamentally different combat vehicles of the same purpose - the SU-152 with a gun and IT-1 with a missile - and choose a more successful and promising one. As it turned out, there was no clear leader in such a comparison - both samples had advantages over each other. In terms of mobility, both anti-tank systems were equal. In terms of protection, the Object 150 was the leader on a tank chassis with appropriate armor and less frontal projection. The use of a chassis with a mass of ready-made units simplified the future operation of the "Dragon" in the army.

There was no clear leader in fighting qualities. In the entire range of operating ranges, the IT-1 could show at least not the worst armor penetration or even surpass the "Taran" - due to the stable performance of the shaped charge. An important advantage was the availability of missile controls for more accurate shooting. Finally, the weapons did not protrude beyond the hull and did not spoil the passability. On the other hand, the SU-152 had no restrictions on the minimum firing range, could use shells for various purposes, carried a larger ammunition load and showed a better rate of fire. In addition, artillery shells were much cheaper than guided missiles. As for the lower armor penetration at long distances, then it was enough to defeat typical targets.

The analysis of the possibilities and prospects of the two facilities was carried out in the spring of 1960, and on May 30, its results were confirmed by a new resolution of the Council of Ministers. This document demanded the termination of work on the "120" project - despite the fact that the self-propelled gun barely had time to enter the factory tests. The finished sample was later transferred to storage in Kubinka, where it remains to this day. The IT-1 “missile tank” was recommended for further development with subsequent introduction into service. Work on it took several more years, and only in the mid-sixties did it go into a small series and ended up in the army.

Most often, the refusal from "Object 120" in favor of "Object 150" is explained by the specific views of the country's leadership, as Khrushchev paid increased attention to missile systems, to the detriment of other areas. This explanation is logical and plausible, but, apparently, other factors also affected the fate of the anti-tank SPG. One of the main factors that influenced the fate of the SU-152 may be its own technical features. It is easy to see that the highest combat characteristics of the "Taran" were provided, first of all, by the growth of the caliber and barrel length, which led to noticeable limitations and problems. In fact, the result is a "self-propelled gun of extreme parameters", capable of producing high performance, but having minimal potential for modernization.

Moreover, the development of both barreled tank artillery and missiles led to the fact that it became possible to launch the latter from conventional cannons, which are still used today. Quite successful, in general, missile tanks, there was no place in this world. In total, just over 200 IT-1s were released [other sources report 110 IT-1 units were collected], of which several battalions were formed. Two of them, by the way, are in the BSSR.

3M7 “Drakon”
Diameter 150mm
Length 1,240mm
Finspan 860mm
Weight 54 kg
Warhead 5.8 kg Shape Charge (2.52 kg HE)
Penetration 500mm of RHA
Maximum Speed 224 m/sec
Average Speed 217 m/sec
Minimum Range 300 meters
Maximum Range 3,500 meters
Maximum Range (Night) 900 meters
Notes Fired from IT-1 Tank Destroyers. Part of the 2K4 “Drakon” Missile Complex.

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Page last modified: 13-09-2021 17:22:29 ZULU