UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Self-Propelled Artillery - Late Cold War

The coup against Khrushchev in 1964 removed one of the barriers to conventional artillery modernization.

Only during the Vietnam War, the realization of how far behind the United States in the development of artillery weapons came at the highest level. Then the Americans first used self-propelled unit M109, capable of hitting a target at a distance of 14 kilometers. The USSR had nothing to answer, so it was necessary to urgently "catch up and overtake".

Around 1965, the GRAU began to lay down requirements for a new generation of artillery vehicles. After two decades of distraction with the monumental task of building up the tactical nuclear forces of the Army, the artillery branch finally turned to the more mundane task of modernizing its conventional tubed artillery. The need for mechanized artillery had become more manifest by this time. NATO had been significantly improving its artillery force, notably including the US M-109 155mm and M-110 203mm self-propelled howitzers and the British Abbot self-propelled 105mm howitzer. More importantly, NATO's ability to conduct counter-battery fire was improving. With the advent of more and improved artillery location radars, Soviet artillery sites could be quickly identified and targeted. New ammunition developments, especially chemical weapons, and improved conventional munitions (ICM) cargo rounds made artillery crews especially vulnerable to counter-battery fire.

The decision to return to the production of self-propelled artillery, was not unexpected for the developers. After all those years of imposed inaction they were convinced that sooner or later, the USSR would have to return to these weapons. This is because the general military battle in the concomitant time conditions is unthinkable without the use of artillery. Especially when working out some specific tasks. For Example, as it was done during the fighting in Vietnam by the American military, very effectively applying its newest for that period M109 155-mm self-propelled howitzers. It was then in the USSR at the very top seriously talking about the lag in the development of the artsystems, the fact that it is necessary to immediately make up for lost time.

As usual in such situations, an attempt was made to "catch up and overtake" the competitors, using the base that was available. Weighing all the "pros" and "cons" was decided in the process of military training, corresponding to the tasks, scale, conditions and requirements of modern general military combat, where the indispensable attribute of fire support of the troops was considered active use of artillery systems.

Grandiose maneuvers took place on the basis of the Lviv test range of the Carpathian Military District in 1965. Self-propelled artillery of the Great Patriotic War – SU-152, SU-100 and is-2, as well as towed artillery of post-war development were brought to the fire problems. Three main profile designers were invited to the military event: from the CB of Volgograd Tractor Plant – Igor Galalov, from Sverdlovsk – Fedor Petrov (experimental design Bureau of Artillery Armament of the plant #9) and Georgy Efimov (OKB-3). But due to the official circumstances, instead of Efimov, his first deputy for the experimental works Yuri Tomashov arrived.

At the test range, combat machines were involved in a fight over seven days in a row, day and night. Though the mismatch of combat parameters of the participants of battles of the Great Patriotic War, the world demands of the current time were immediately seen. Immediately it was obvious that the extremely small angle of elevation of guns, which, in turn, did not allow shooting at a large distance. It was decided to increase the angle of attack of the barrel. For the SU-100 the front rollers of the combat vehicle entered the ascent, and the barrel of the gun, thus, "was called up" to a greater angle of elevation. But this attempt of firing "at an angle" proved to be unsuccessful. In the course of the firing task the hard blow of recoil was knocked off the engine of the SU. In the process of regime fire after a few minutes of maximum rate-firing, the crew literally had to eat from powder gases.

It became clear to everyone that the self-propelled artillery at the disposal of the troops was no good. A report was drawn up, in which it was noted that the artillery of the war times did not conform to the conditions of modern warfare, that it is necessary to create a new self-propelled artillery with a large angle of rise of the howitzer, with an enlarged ammunition supply and increased firing rate of the gun.

The result of the experimental exercise was the decision of the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Council of Ministers of the USSR, which prescribed three enterprises of the country – Volgograd tractor plant, Kharkiv tractor Plant and UZTM (later Sverdlovsk Engineering Plant "Uraltransmash") to start the development of four new artillery systems at once. To Volgograd target purpose "was cut" self-propelled 122-mm howitzer 2S2 "Violet", Kharkov the 122-mm self-propelled howitzer 2S1 "Carnation", Sverdlovsk had two products at once: 152-mm self-propelled howitzer 2S3 "Acacia" and self-propelled 240-mm mortar 2S4 "Tulip".

Immediately several KB connected to work. Uraltransmash got a "fiery bouquet": self-propelled guns under the code names "Acacia", "Tulip", and then "Hyacinth". Terms gave compressed, KB worked day and night. In 1971, the machines passed state tests and were put into service. Where, by the way, they are still listed, naturally, after going through modernization.

The Soviet Ground Forces had received several excellent towed artillery pieces in the 1960s, notably the D-30 (2A18) which had appeared in 1963. But towed guns took precious time to emplace, move and re-site when faced by counter-battery fire. Towed guns were not survivable on a nuclear battlefield. What was required was mobility to avoid counter-battery fire, and armored protection to resist counter-battery fire should it come. The obvious direction was self-propelled howitzers using proven howitzer designs like the Petrov bureau's fine D-30 122mm howitzer and D-20 152mm howitzer.

The requirement for this new generation of weapons was coordinated between the GRAU (gun development) and the Main Auto-Tractor Directorate (GAVTU) which had traditionally been responsible for artillery tractor development. The configuration selected for both vehicles was the conventional self-propelled howitzer configuration pioneered by the US Army with the gun mounted in a fully rotating turret on the hull rear. The GRAU decided for logistical reasons to develop the new vehicles on the basis of two common chassis. The 2S1 Gvozdika (Carnation) 122mm howitzer vehicle, using a derivative of the 122mm D-3 howitzer, was to be based on a derivative of GAVTU's new MT-LB artillery tractor design. The 2S3 Akatsiya (Acacia) medium howitzer vehicle, using a derivative of the D-20 152mm gun, was to be based around the same chassis izdeliye 300 series developed by the GABTU for the GMZ minelaying vehicle, and the 2K11 Krug/SA-4 Ganef air defense missile system.

In the early 1970s the Cold War between the USSR and the USA reached its peak. Analysts were increasingly talking about the inevitable "hot interchange". The Western Countries sought to gain the technical initiative. In particular, the doctrine of "fighting the second echelons" was adopted. Its essence was to defeat from a distance that excludes fire contact with the opposing side. The countries of the bloc began the development of a long-range artillery system capable of using tactical nuclear weapons. They had to hit targets at a distance of at least 30 kilometers. The USSR had is nothing to answer.

In 1976 Yuri Tomashov, head of the central design office of the Ural plant of Transport engineering, was instructed to develop the appearance of the future self-propelled artillery system. The Task was not just complicated, but almost impossible. Yuri Vasilyevich was considered one of the most experienced Soviet designers, who created many excellent models of armament, including the anti-aircraft missile complex "Krug", self-propelled mortar 2S4 "Tulip", self-propelled cannon 2S5 "Hyacinth". But this time he had to solve the problem with a lot of unknowns. The constructor had virtually no source data: neither the base chassis, nor the gun, nor even the approximate characteristics of the future SAU. The Only requirement is that the firing range should be at least 30 kilometers. The Research work was completed only by 1980. From that moment began the official development of ACS.

For a start it was required to design an artillery gun. It was developed by a special design bureau of the Volgograd factory "Barricades". During the Battle of Stalingrad, the company completely destroyed the German aircraft. Cases of the plant several times passed from hand to hand. After the war, the plant was built anew, equipped with the most modern equipment. Many of the technologies used there were considered unique. It is no coincidence that it was OKB-2 specialists under the leadership of designer Georgiy Sergeyev who had to design and build, as they said, an instrument of the future, which in terms of range, rate of fire, firepower should have surpassed the main Soviet systems ML-20, D-1 and D-20. The result of the work was the adoption of a 152 mm 2A64 howitzer. The test at the Rzhevsky proving ground showed high characteristics of the gun.

Yuri Tomashov designed the SAU under the designation “Object-316”. Initially it was planned to build a self-propelled gun on the base chassis of the T-72 tank. In principle, this was the simplest solution. The military industry produced them massively, there were no interruptions in materials and components. In addition, time has shown the high reliability of the chassis.

However, ground tests of SAU revealed one, but a very serious drawback. When firing, the self-propelled gun swayed strongly, which reduced the accuracy of the fire. Yuri Tomashov decided to drastically modify the chassis. From seventy-two, they took only the geometry of the hull, the engine and control drives. New rollers and torsions have developed in the same technological scheme as the T-80. This increased not only the stability in firing, but also permeability. In 1986, Uraltransmash produced the first batch of six combat vehicles. It was a rare case when a new sample was tested immediately in a unit. More precisely - as part of an artillery battery.

On finishing the sample it took another three years. And only in 1989, the new self-propelled gun "Msta-S" entered service with the Soviet Army. According to some reports, work on the 2S19 completed in 1987. The timing of the adoption of the Soviet military leadership has deliberately. The fact is that after the signing of the relevant document, a large number of new self-propelled guns were to enter the troops. But, as it turned out, there was nowhere to collect them. Uraltransmash production facilities were under reconstruction. Therefore, it was necessary to build a plant in Sterlitamak specifically for 2S19. And this took time. Not immediately managed to establish and mass production of ammunition. In the ACS, high-explosive, cluster, cumulative, corrected projectiles are used. Msta-S can also use a nuclear special ammunition with a power of up to three kilotons in TNT equivalent.

And yet the main feature of 2S19 was the use of the latest active-rocket projectiles - ARS. They differed from ordinary high-explosive fragmentation ones in that a jet engine was installed in the ARS body, which gives the projectile additional speed on the flight path. This greatly increased the firing range. Msta-S, the first Soviet artillery system of this class, could hit targets at a distance of 30 kilometers.

Compared with other systems the 2S19 differed with a huge turret. It is welded from rolled armor plates, protects the crew from bullets and shrapnel. The tower contains commander, gunner and loader jobs, a 2A64 howitzer with a targeting and targeting system, an automated system for supplying projectiles and charges, 50-shot ammunition, on-board power supply unit, filtering ventilation equipment, communication equipment and a system for sealing the breech of a howitzer to prevent gas contamination offices. The mass of the tower without ammunition is almost 14 tons, and the total weight of the ACS exceeded 42 tons. For self-propelled guns, this weight was considered redundant, but after running tests on the “armored diet”, they did not plant it. There were no claims to maneuverability and cross-country ability.

2S19 made a real sensation in the world of armored vehicles. According to the NATO classification, it received an index M1990 Farm - a farmer. To surpass the Soviet SAU in the West could not. The long range and high rate of fire - up to 10 rounds per minute - were impressive. Msta-S had time to make a volley and change the firing position before the first shells reached the target.

Msta-S surpassed in its main characteristics not only its predecessor 2C3M Acacia, but also modern foreign ones analogs. The 2S19 "Msta-S" increased the maximum firing range, while retaining the ability to use "old" ammunition from the "Acacia" ammunition. Thanks to the automated loading of the projectile and the mechanized charging of the charge, the rate of fire of the prepared ammunition reached more than eight rounds per minute. In addition, at 2S19 the removal of the spent cartridge case was automated, the booking was enhanced, the possibility of combat work from the power unit was realized. The chassis of the machine is made using the nodes of domestic tanks T-72 and T-80. This decision was largely a forced measure, but allowed to have a stock of carrying capacity of the chassis for subsequent upgrades.

SAUs were delivered to the Ground Forces of the Soviet Army, as well as to friendly countries of the USSR. Self-propelled gun took part in armed conflicts. In the course of the Ethiopian-Eritrean war in 1998, the share of 2S19 accounted for over 90 percent of all particularly important targets destroyed: the command post, warehouses, airfields.

For the creation of self-propelled gun 2S19 "Msta-S" for the first time in the history of the design team was awarded two prizes at once - the State and the Lenin. In 1990, Yuriy Tomashov was awarded the title Hero of Socialist Labor.

Yuri Tomashov left the design department in 2003, and left the chief designers in 2001 and worked as an adviser to the general director for three years. When he transferred the design bureau, it was a full-fledged design department capable of performing any tasks. And Tomashov managed to mainly save it in the "gangster nineties". It lost a little in number, but Tomashov kept the main team. There were about four hundred people in the design bureau and about two hundred people in the experimental workshop. After that, several directors changed.

General Director Alexander Nikolaevich Sharkov did a lot to save the plant. He saved almost the entire composition of the KB, and a number of factory workers. But then, after a couple of years, everything collapsed. Now the team has shrunk significantly. By 2013 there were ninety people left in the design bureau, he it was no longer able to solve problems in the sense that they were solved before. And the most painful blow was the elimination of the experiemetnal workshop. What does it mean? This design department was left without hands. Previouslly it could produce prototypes there before putting this or that unit or system onto the machine, and the designer at the stand worked it all out, tested it. The current director of the plant, Alexey Nosov, had already thought it was necessary to restore the experienced workshop.

The factory decided to create machines for export. There were customer who wanted to buy the self-propelled artillery installation (SAU) Msta-S. But the snag is that the caliber - 152 mm, and abroad almost everyone worked on the caliber 155. Various ammunition relied on them. And the factory decided to create ACS with western caliber. They gathered all the chief designers and directors, who could participate, and explained they had a situation: there is no money in the near future, time is not foreseen, "all hard, but let's work".

Total production of Soviet self- propelled guns from 1972 through the end of the Cold War was over 10,000. The vast majority of these have been the 2S1 and 2S3, with the 2S1 being the more numerous.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 21-08-2019 18:27:36 ZULU