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Self-Propelled Artillery
Samokhodnaya Ustanovka
Early Cold War

100mmSU-100P (Obiekt 105)194814
152mmSU-152G (Obiekt 108)19491
152mmSU-152P (Obiekt 116)19491
152mmSU-152 (Obiekt 120) Taran19571
Atomnaya Artilleriya
406mm 2A3 SM-54 Capacitor19544
420mm2B1 Oka 19542
420mmS103 19551
535mmD-80 1963-
The Soviet Army was the last major army to deploy self-propelled artillery for the traditional indirect fire role. The first post-war development efforts in the Soviet Army began in 1949 by the Gorlitskiy design bureau at the Uraltransmash plant in Sverdlovsk (now Ekaterinburg). This effort aimed to develop a family of medium armored vehicle sharing a new common chassis. This family included the BTR-112 armored infantry transporter as well as three self-propelled artillery vehicles: the SU- 100P (Obiekt 105), SU-152G (Obiekt 108), and SU-152P (Obiekt 116). The new chassis was powered by the 400 horsepower V-54-105 diesel engine, derived from the standard tank engine. All three of these self-propelled artillery vehicles shared a nearly identical configuration.

The weapon was mounted in an open compartment at the rear of the chassis to permit easier ammunition reloading. All three weapons were only partially armored, with a thin armored shield covering the gun crew in all directions except the rear. This protection was not a true turret, and the weapons had a limited traverse of about 143 to 155 degrees. The SU-100P was armed with the D-50/D-10 100mm gun, a derivative of the common D-10T tank gun. The SU-152G used a modified version of the same armament system, the 152mm D-50/D-1 howitzer; only the gun tubes were different. The SU-152P was armed with the new M-53 152mm gun, and carried 30 rounds of ammunition. None of these designs were accepted for production.

It is not known why the Soviet artillery branch remained so resistant to mechanization. It is possible that there was conservative resistance to mechanizing the artillery due to concerns over the mechanical reliability of the tracked chassis. It is also possible that the development program ran afoul of Kremlin politics, either the 1953 anti-Semitic campaign, or Khrushchev's 1956 to 1957 purge of the artillery design bureaus.

There was little if any development of self-propelled artillery in the late 1950s with one exception. The Soviet artillery force began experimenting with the possibility of nuclear artillery, probably based on similar US Army programs such as the 280mm "Atomic Cannon". At least two separate efforts were undertaken: by the Kotin design bureau at the Kirov Plant in Leningrad and by the Balzhiy design bureau at Chelyabinsk. Both vehicles were based on Stalin/T-10 heavy tank components. The Chelyabinsk design, designated Kondensator 2P, mated the Grabin bureau's SM-54 406mm gun on the new Obiekt 271 tracked chassis. This weapon had an effective range of 28 kilometers. The Leningrad design bureau's Oka combined the Shavyrin mortar design bureau's 420mm breech-loaded mortar with another Stalin tank/T-10 derived heavy chassis. The Oka's enormous mortar had a maximum range of 45 kilometers according to recent Russian accounts.

Both were built in very small numbers. Their service with the special artillery regiments of the High Command Reserve (RVGK) was very short-lived. The vehicles were massive and ponderous, more suited to the parade ground [they gave good service in Red Square], than to the battlefield. And Soviet weapons designers soon produced smaller nuclear charges that could be fired from general purpose conventional artillery. Buth they had served their purpose at the time, and remain crowed-pleasers at military museums.

Nikita Khrushchev was particularly unhappy with the concept, singling it out in his memoirs as an example of the reactionary tendencies of the artillery branch in the face of modern missile weapons. The Grabin artillery design bureau was closed due in part to this episode; the Shavyrin bureau survived as by this time it was working on guided anti-tank missiles. Both nuclear artillery weapons were retired in the early 1960s as effective tactical ballistic missiles such as the R-l 1 (Scud) and Luna (FROG-3) became available.

With the "revolution in military affairs" taking place in the late 1950s, the Soviet Army re-examined the issue of artillery mechanization. A fully turreted, self- propelled artillery piece was the obvious solution to the problems posed by tactical nuclear weapons. The Uraltransmash design bureau in Sverdlovsk dusted off their decade old self-propelled gun designs. In the meantime, the "izdeliye 100" series chassis had entered production as the carrier for the new Krug (SA-4 Ganef) tactical air defense missile system. This chassis was used for the new SU-152 self-propelled gun in 1965. The new vehicle mated the long M-69 152mm gun in a fully enclosed turret on the "izdeliye 100" hull. The SU-152 could carry 22 rounds of ammunition. This design was not accepted for production. Instead, the Soviet Army opted for a similar design, also developed at Sverdlovsk, using a 152mm howitzer instead of the M-69 152mm gun. This emerged in 1969 as the 2S3 Akatsiya.

Unlike armored infantry vehicle development, where the lack of wartime development was followed by a blossoming of interest after the war, there was no sudden spurt of interest in mechanizing Soviet artillery after the war. Soviet artillery development after the war focused almost exclusively on evolutionary development of its wartime weapons and tactics. The administration of the Soviet artillery branch, under Marshal N.N. Voronov, was preoccupied with other matters, especially the absorption of missile technology into the Soviet armed forces.

All early Soviet missile technology was managed by the GAU (Main Artillery Directorate), later renamed the GRAU by Khrushchev (Main Missile and Artillery Directorate) to reflect its new mandate. These programs included both the tactical ballistic missile and air defense missile development programs. The combination of the heavy drain of technical resources into these programs, as well as Khrushchev's antipathy to traditional artillery weapons, probably accounts for the Soviet Army's sluggish performance in self-propelled artillery development.

In 1955, Nikita Khrushchev, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU, declared: "Artillery is a cave technique. Give us a rocket!". By that time, the Uraltransmash design bureau had already created the first in the USSR self-propelled unit SU-100P, as well as an anti-tank gun, which was called the Ram. Before the "Taran", this type of weapon - self-propelled artillery - did not exist in the country. The characteristics of the prototypes showed their extreme efficiency: the Taran could shoot with such power that the projectile was able to penetrate the armor of any tank. As designers gathered to report on the successes, an order comes from Moscow: to disassemble all the machines and throw them into scrap metal.

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

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Page last modified: 21-08-2019 18:27:29 ZULU