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Artillery is the god of war

ZIS-3 76.2-mm divisional gun model 1942

In the history of Russian artillery, the ZIS-3 reveals two important aspects: the concept of a divisional gun and the intricacy of the gun's path to mass production. On February 12, 1942, the State Defense Committee issued a decree on the adoption of one of the most famous domestic artillery guns - the 76.2-mm ZIS-3 divisional gun designed by factory No. 92 NKV. It became a hallmark of the Soviet armed forces. During the Great Patriotic War, 48 thousand guns of this type and more than 10 thousand in the version for self-propelled guns SU-76 were produced. ZIS-3 can be seen in many photographs of war correspondents or on pedestals in memorials and museums dedicated to the war. They were widely used after the Second World War in conflicts in Asia and Africa.

After the First World War, the artillery of infantry divisions was "howitzerized" all over the world. The positional battles of 1914-1918 gave rise to a need for howitzers with a hinged firing trajectory. They made it possible to get the enemy in the trenches and "folds" of the terrain. And the European armies gradually abandoned 75-77 mm cannons, while in 1914 this type of guns formed the core of divisional artillery. The only exceptions were the French, Polish and Soviet armed forces. In the case of the Red Army, this was explained economically - the country had considerable stocks of 76-mm shells from the First World War and were in no hurry to write them off.

And this frugality played into the hands of the Red Army during World War II. 76-mm guns quickly took the place of an effective anti-tank weapon. A side, but significant, effect of the mass production of 76 mm divisional guns was the relative ease and speed of the appearance in the USSR of long-barreled 76 mm tank guns. At that time, in Germany, 77-mm guns were being phased out and the role of 75-mm long-barreled guns for tanks and self-propelled guns was increasing.

It is believed that in the end, in the Third Reich, the Soviet ZIS-3 was not constructively, but conceptually copied in the form of a 75-mm 7M85 gun, which was developed already in 1944. They were supposed to rearm infantry divisions in 1945, but the end of the war put an end to these plans.

The main principle was versatility: the ability to use the gun both against tanks and against traditional opponents (wire fences, unentrenched infantry, light fortifications). Other aspects were also taken into account - the main gunpowder produced at Soviet military factories was pyroxylin. The charges made from this gunpowder required drying, the duration of which correlated with the caliber of the gun. That is, the larger the caliber, the longer the production cycle was. Accordingly, for the Soviet powder industry, the charges of 76-mm shots of divisional "three-inch" were ideal products - with the shortest cycle. The concept of a divisional 76-mm gun did not just take a firm place in the task of domestic artillery before 1941; by the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, the Red Army already had copies of the latest development (before that, one generation of guns of this type had even managed to change).

The Red Army switched to the 76-mm USV cannon of the 1939 model from the concept of the F-22 anti-aircraft field gun of the 1936 model. Although the USV was deprived of the ability to shoot at aircraft, it was simpler and more reliable. By June 1941, it was the 76-mm USV gun that began to be mass-produced, and that is why the Main Artillery Directorate (GAU) of the Red Army did not seek to replace it.

When the legendary Soviet designer of artillery systems, Vasily Grabin, offered the GAU in July 1941 a new, developed on its own initiative, the ZIS-3 gun, it met with a very cold reception. The carriage was taken from the 57-mm ZIS-2 anti-tank gun launched into production in June 1941, and the body of the gun was taken from the USV. The main idea was to unify the production of two similar guns: anti-tank and divisional guns. The new gun was equipped with a muzzle brake, which absorbed up to 30% of the recoil energy. However, this technology, when fired, raised clouds of dust or snow that surrounded the gun and thereby unmasked it. This constructive decision caused sharp criticism of the GAU specialists.

Nevertheless, this refusal did not cross out the future of the ZIS-3. In some works of literature and memoirs, one can find reports about the almost secret placement of a new gun on the conveyor of plant No. 92. Now, when documents are available to historians, these statements can only cause a smile. Indeed, even for small design changes, the director of plant No. 92, Amo Elyan, was subjected to a real dressing down by the military acceptance. Despite the GKO decree already in force in August 1941 on measures to simplify the production of military products.

The fate of the ZIS-3 was decided not by the mythical conspiracy of the designer and director, but by the circumstances of the USSR's entry into the war. The Red Army, after heavy losses in the summer of 1941, due to the hasty formation of dozens of new divisions and brigades, needed a lot of 76-mm guns. Grabin insisted that the introduction of the ZIS-3 would increase the production of divisional guns by 22.5 times. This forced the leadership of the GAU to change their anger for mercy, and in September 1941 the go-ahead was given to the production of an experimental batch of ZIS-3. In October, due to losses at the front among the guns and the soldiers testing them, it was necessary to form a new team for military trials.

At the same time, in the fall of 1941, the production of 57-mm ZIS-2 anti-tank guns was curtailed, in particular due to problems with their ammunition. As a result, power and spare parts suitable for the ZIS-3 are released. The main advantage of which was manufacturability and ease of production. Moreover, the cost of producing the ZIS-3 was two times lower than that of the SPM of the 1939 model.

After the production of the ZIS-2 was curtailed, Grabin and Yelyan promised to increase the production of 76-mm guns for the Red Army by five to six times. Therefore, in December 1941, the new gun gets a start in life, the first 50 copies of the ZIS-3 are manufactured and sent to the front (not yet officially being put into service). After successful tests in the troops, the gun was finally recognized and officially adopted on February 12, 1942, having received the official name of the 76.2-mm ZIS-3 divisional gun of the 1942 model. In 1942 alone, factory #92 produced 12,268 ZIS-3 guns.

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Page last modified: 11-03-2022 19:38:15 ZULU