Atomnaya Artilleriya - Dezinformatsiya
The Frankfurter Neue Press reported in mid-June 1954 that the first Soviet atomic cannon had arrived in East Germany. This was several years before the Soviets had such weapons. It was traditional Soviet practice to keep specific data about actual weapons in the natioral arsenal out of the mass propaganda, and even to withhold such information from the pages of the military press.
During the early years of the Cold War the United States shifted its tactical doctrine to counter the massive Soviet advantage in numbers. This new doctrine was called the 'Pentomic Division' and emphasized heavy use of nuclear weapons at all levels, from nuclear weapons deployed on aircraft, super heavy artillery pieces, and even nuclear recoilless rifles. One of the American weapon systems was the M-65 an 85 ton mobile nuclear howitzer known as 'Atomic Annie'. When it was introduced in 1952 and deployed to Germany and Korea in 1953 the Soviet Union decided to begin a program to match the Western weapon.
One of the Atomic Annie models proudly participated in President Dwight Eisenhower's inaugural day parade, January 1, 1953. Since deterrence was a primary objective, the assignment of the atomic artillery units to Europe was not kept secret, although their exact locations were. In November 1953, Atomic Annie was assigned to the 265th Field Artillery Battalion and deployed in Germany. Another atomic artillery battalion was sent to South Korea. Eisenhower warned the Chinese that if the deadlock of the Korean War peace talks in Panmunjom was not broken, he was going to use tactical nuclear weapons against their army in Korea to end the war. Ike had promised he would "go to Korea" but he also sent Atomic Annie.
The Soviet Union, meanwhile, was developing its own nuclear ammunition and artillery, and encountering the same difficulties as the Americans. In 1953 N.S. Khrushchev was elected First Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU, thus concentrating in his hands the fullness of state and party power. Nikita Khrushchev stated in his memoirs that after the U.S. atomic cannon arrived in Europe, an atomic cannon was developed for the Soviet Army. This was initially believed in the West to have been either the M1957 310mm self-propelled gun or the M1957 420mm self-propelled mortar. Both weapons were first shown in a parade in Moscow on November 7, 1957. According to Khrushchev, the gun was too big and heavy and performed badly. But coming just days after the launch of the first Sputnik, these monster guns created a sensation in the West.
The "guns of November" were in a tradition of the world's largest bell (the Tsar Kolokol) and cannon (the Tsar Pushka). The Tsar Cannon has long been one of the symbols of Russia. The Tsar Cannon is a unique item of the Kremlin’s artillery collection. It was created in 1586 in Moscow's Cannon Court by eminent Russian cannon-caster Andrei Chokhov on the order of Tsar Feodor Ioannovich, the sovereign ruler of All Great Russia. The Tsar Cannon is located at the west side of Ivanovskaya Square, between the 'Ivan the Great' Bell Tower and the Twelve Apostles' Church. Judging by the Tsar Cannon's calibre of 890 mm, it was given its name as the world’s biggest cannon. The gun's tube's weight is about 40 ton, its length is 5.34 m. The cannon's surface is adorned with the cast figured friezes, vegetation ornament, memorial inscriptions and an equestrian image of Tsar Feodor Ioannovich.
Although the gun was cast as a full-fledged combat weapon, in fact, many believed it was never shot. Many believed that it was made specifically to frighten foreigners, especially the Crimean Tatar ambassadors. Recall that in 1571 Khan Devlet Girey had burned Moscow. But in 1980 specialists from the Dzerzhinsky Academy examined the gun and, for a number of reasons, including the presence of particles of burned gunpowder, concluded that the Tsar Cannon was fired at least once.
During the siege of Constantinople in 1453, the Hungarian caster Urban cast the Turks a 24-inch (610 mm) copper bombard with a stone projectile weighing about 20 poods (328 kg). In the late 1930s, a railway cannon called Dora was built in Germany, superior to the Tsar Cannon in size and weight, but it fired high - explosive shells. Until 1944, the Tsar Cannon was the cannon with the largest caliber of the trunk in the history of artillery - 890 mm, but this year the experimental mortar " Little David " with a caliber of 914 mm was manufactured in the USA.
In total, 4 self-propelled mortars 2B1 "Oka" were assembled at the Kirov plant in Leningrad. In 1957, along with the 2A3 Kondensator guns they were shown during the traditional November military parade, which took place on Red Square. Here, the mortar could be seen by foreigners. The demonstration of this truly huge gun made a real sensation among foreign journalists, as well as Soviet observers. At the same time, some foreign journalists even suggested that the artillery set shown at the parade is just a props that was designed to produce an awesome effect. The appearance of the self-propelled gun "Condenser-2P" is due not so much to the desire to create a weapon of the most frightening kind, as the lack of the ability to create a more compact nuclear weapon.
The first sentence of The New York Times 07 November 1957 coverage of the parade celebration of the Bolshevik Revolution was "The Soviet Union unveiled today an array of weapons showing a tactical atomic capability in case of war.... Two huge guns, differing in detail but similar in overall countour and dimensions, were among the weapons displayed. Observers guessed that the bore was about 16 inches. Some observers thought the guns were simply used for launching rockets or lobbing shells in the fashion of large mortars. There was agreement that they could fire atomic warhead carriers of some sort."
It is known that N.S. Khrushchev treated rocketry as a fetish. In 1957-1958 years. N.S. Khrushchev stopped work on almost all types of artillery weapons, including heavy, long-range and self-propelled artillery. According to Khrushchev, the deployment of Soviet nuclear artillery represented "pointless imitation" of the US 280-mm atomic gun. This, naturally, led to the lagging of domestic artillery from the US and other NATO countries in a number of areas. First of all in the field of self-propelled, heavy and long-range guns.
As recently as the early 1970s, these guns were apparently regarded in in operational service, which in fact was never the case. WEAPONS AND EQUIPMENT EAST EUROPEAN COMUNIST ARMIES - VOLUME III ARMORED VEHICLES TANKS AND SELF-PROPELLED ARTILLERY USAREUR PAM No. 30-60-1 of 15 February 1973 reported "Three different models of super-heavy self-propelled cannon have been displayed by the Soviets on various parades in Moscow beginning in 1957. The smaller caliber piece is a rather conventional 310mm gun. The larger was a long-barreled 420mm mortar, which appeared in an altered form in 1960. All three of these pieces are mounted on an unarmored tracked self-propelled chassis which employs suspension elements of the standard Soviet heavy tanks. The 420mm mortar can be distinguished by the absence of a recoil cylinder and the longer tube. Both it and the 310mm gun probably fire shells with nuclear warheads. Maximum ranges are about 25000 m."
There is no evidence for the existence of a "310mm gun" [12.2 inch] in the Soviet Union, atomic or otherwise, and only two large guns - 406mm [16 inches] and 420mm [16.5 inches] - were displayed. As is well known, the Gangut class battleships of 1911 had carried 305/52-mm 12" guns in triple turrets, but presumably if the belief was that these guns had been turned to a land application, the caliber would have been cited at 305mm rather than 310mm. The 305mm caliber remained popular the Soviet Union through the early 1950s, the last instance being the S-73 305 mm gun. By 1995, the authoritative Marine Corps Intelligence Activity "Soviet/Russian Armor and Artillery Design Practices: 1945-1995" makes no mention of any 310mm armament. However, from the 1920s to the 1950s there were a number of 305mm Soviet guns of various sorts [305mm = 12.00 inches while 310mm = 12.20 inches, the 5mm difference amounting to the thickness of 4 thin dimes @ 0.053 inches / 1.35 mm in thickness], and possibly this is the source of the confusion.
A.V. Karpenko reports that "406-mm self-propelled gun SM-54 "capacitor-2P" (2A3) with a 420-mm self-propelled mortar 2B1 "Oka" in 1957 took place at a military parade on the Red Square in Moscow and made a strong moral and psychological impression on foreign correspondents and military. Of secrecy, the length of the barrel of the mortar was reduced by four meters and guns by one meter." Longer barrels produce longer ranges, so the shortened barrels could lead Wester observers to under-estimate the range of the guns. If this was the intent, it failed, as the US Army's 1973 range estimate of 25 km aligns perfectly with recent Russian open source reporting.
Shortening the barrels may help explain the maddening inconsistency in the depictions of these guns. Photographs are not much help, since most are posed to achieve the most dramatic effects, and in any event the guns are almost too big to get into a single photo. While photographs of both the 406mm 2A3 Kondensator and 420mm 2B1 "Oka" ("Transformer") are widely propogated online, the general similarity of the two has resulted in pervasive confusion and mis-identification. There are also self-evident defects in many drawings of these guns, most of which depict identical T-10 tank chassis on both systems. In fact, The 2B1 Oka / Tranformer has an elaborate additional suspension towards the rear of the vehicle, which is perhaps the most reliable interpretation key for distinguishing between the two.
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