SU-152


SU-152

Infobox Weapon
name=SU-152


caption=
origin=flagcountry|Soviet Union|1923
type=Tank destroyer
is_vehicle=yes
length=8.95 m (29.36 ft)
width= 3.25 m (10.66 ft)
height= 2.45 m (8 ft)
weight= 45.5 tonnes (100,309 lbs)
suspension=torsion bar
speed=43 km/h (27 mph)
vehicle_range=330 km (205 mi)
primary_armament=152 mm ML-20S gun-howitzer, with 20 rounds
secondary_armament=12.7 mm DShK machine-gun (optional)
armour=front 75 mm (2.95 in)
side 60 mm (2.36 in)
roof 20 mm (.78 in)
engine=12-cyl. 4-stroke diesel model V-2K
crew=5
engine_power=600 hp (450 kW)
pw_ratio=13 hp/tonne

The SU-152 was a Soviet heavy self-propelled gun used during World War II.

It mounted a 152-mm gun-howitzer on the chassis of a KV-1S heavy tank. Because of its ability to take out the heaviest German armoured vehicles—Tiger and Panther tanks, and Elefant tank destroyers—it was nicknamed "Zveroboy", "beast killer".

Development

Contrary to popular belief, the SU-152 was not intended to be a stopgap countermeasure against the German Tiger heavy tank, for it would be a definite overkill. The Stalingrad counteroffensive, Operation Uranus, exposed the Red Army's urgent need for mobile heavy guns. The primary targets for these guns were German fortifications in and around Stalingrad. At the time Soviet front-line ground units did not possess sufficient firepower to deal with pillboxes and other fortifications.

Close support of artillery and combat engineers was an important factor in the success of Operation Uranus. However, with rare exceptions, all Soviet guns and howitzers at this time were towed rather than self-propelled. Therefore, their mobility was greatly impaired by the absence of roads, the presence of deep snow cover and a scarcity of artillery tractors. Towed guns were also highly vulnerable to counterattack while on the move, especially since they were often hauled by horses or their own crews.

This situation did not satisfy the state authorities. In November 1942 the State Defense Committee ordered the development of a heavy self-propelled gun armed with the 152.4mm ML-20 howitzer. It should be noted that the Red Army had dedicated anti-fortification vehicles in the pre-war period, such as the KV-2 heavy tank armed with the 152.4mm M-10 howitzer. The mass production of KV-2s ceased in July 1941 and a few survived to November 1942. The new anti-fortification vehicle was designed with the same purpose in mind, but with higher mobility, heavier armor, reduced production cost, and more powerful armament. Mounting the ML-20 gun in a turret was impossible due to its large recoil, and it was eventually decided that the new vehicle should have a non-rotating gun mounted in a superstructure.

Prior to the issue of the State Defense Committee order there were several other anti-fortification vehicle projects, all of which were halted. Later in the war these projects were restarted. In December 1942 three different designs of "pillbox killer" vehicles were introduced by various engineer groups from the major Soviet artillery and tank factories. All of these designs used the ML-20 gun as a primary armament, with the KV-1S heavy tank chassis. After some discussion, the project of Joseph Yakovlevich Kotin was chosen for further mass production. This design successfully combined the ML-20 and KV-1S chassis with minimal expense.

The entire project was designated "KV-14" and the assembly of the first prototype (called "Object 236") began on December 31, 1942. It was completed after 25 days. The plant trials of "Object 236" began on January 25, 1943. After a number of successful plant tests the more stringent state tests began. "Object 236" succeeded again. On February 14, 1943 the State Defense Committee accepted it for Red Army service and immediately launched it into mass production at the "Chelyabinskiy Kirovskiy Zavod" (Chelyabinsk Kirov Plant, ChKZ). The designation of the series of self-propelled guns was changed from KV-14 to SU-152. The ML-20 gun was slightly modified for mounting in the SU-152 — some handles were moved for improved gunner comfort. This variant had the designation ML-20S. The muzzle velocity and external ballistics were identical to the original towed ML-20 gun.

The Red Army had need for a heavy assault gun prior to encountering the German Tiger on the battlefield. However, the SU-152 already had good anti-tank capabilities due to the ML-20S's relatively high muzzle velocity and heavy projectiles. Tests performed on captured Tiger tanks showed that in the first half of 1943 the SU-152 was the only Soviet AFV that could destroy a Tiger at any range. This conclusion spurred SU-152 production and the formation of self-propelled artillery units. However, this had no influence on the development of the SU-152. The SU-152, as well as the SU-122 and the SU-76, were designed for artillery support of tank and motor rifle regiments in October–December 1942. The speed of SU-152 prototype construction was not a rush to build a counter to the Tiger tank; in reality ChKZ and its subcontractors did a great deal of research and experimentation long before the State Defense Committee order was issued in November 1942. This allowed the SU-152 prototype to be built in a very short time.

After the launch of SU-152 mass production the design was slightly modified to improve reliability. Initially the SU-152 lacked a machine gun, which was a weakness in urban warfare and other close combat. To solve this problem the DShK 12.7-mm anti-aircraft gun installation was developed in the summer of 1943. Some SU-152s received it after repair. The SU-152 was the last member of the KV family of tanks in mass production, and was replaced by the ISU-152 on the ChKZ production lines in December 1943. The exact number of SU-152s produced differs even in Russian sources, with the most common figures being 670 or 704. The SU-152s that survived World War II were withdrawn from Soviet Army service in 1954.

Construction and design

The SU-152 followed the same design as other Soviet self-propelled guns (except the SU-76). The fully armoured hull was divided into two compartments: a fighting compartment for the crew, gun, and ammunition in the front of the hull, and the engine and transmission separate in the rear. The hull was welded from rolled armour plates of different thickness — 75, 60, 30 and 20 mm. The front hull and superstructure armour plates were sloped for better vehicle protection; side armour was vertical. Lower front hull and rear armour plates were cylindrical, and were quite complex in their method of production. The ML-20S gun-howitzer was mounted slightly to the right of centre with a limited traverse in a range of 12 degrees. Three of the crew were to the left of the gun: driver to the front, then gunner and last the loader. The vehicle commander and breech mechanism operator were to the right.

The suspension consisted of twelve torsion bars for the six road wheels (each 600 mm in diameter) on each side. The drive sprockets were at the back. Each track was made up of 90 stamped links, each link of 608 mm width. The normal distance between two connected links was 160 mm. There were three internal fuel tanks, two in the crew area and one in the engine compartment, for a total capacity of 600—615 litres. These were usually enhanced by four unconnected external fuel tanks, which could hold an additional 360 litres of fuel. A 24-volt electrical power supply came from a 1 kW GT-4563A generator with a RRA-24 voltage relay regulator unit and four 6STE-128 accumulator batteries with a total capacity of 256 ampere-hours. This electrical equipment was common for many contemporary Soviet AFVs. The generator and accumulator batteries fed all other electrical equipment — the ST-700 electric starter motor, a radio set, an intercom, external and internal lights, and illumination of gunsight scales.

For observation from the interior, all roof hatches had periscopes and there were two gun sights: the telescopic ST-10 (СТ-10) and a panoramic sight. For crew communication a TPU-4-BisF intercom was fitted, and for inter-vehicle communication there was a single radio. The first-series SU-152 was equipped with the 9R, then 10R and finally the 10RK-26 radio set. These radios were better than Soviet equipment at the start of the war, but remained inferior to German equipment.

The crew was equipped with two PPSh submachine guns and twenty five F1 grenades for short-range self-defence.

Combat history

The SU-152 was produced throughout 1943. The 152 mm gun was a highly effective antitank weapon. It fired a very large shell, making it useful against infantry as well. It provided long-range fire support for tanks, particularly against German heavy tanks and strongpoints. The principal disadvantages of the vehicle were a low rate of fire due to the heavy ammunition, low ammunition storage (only 20 rounds) and a cramped and un-ergonomic crew compartment. Its armor protection was adequate.

The SU-152 was issued to new heavy mechanized gun regiments, raised in May 1943. The first regiment arrived at Kursk with only twelve guns, and was brought up to its full strength of twenty-one guns during the fighting (Zaloga 1984:165).

In the defensive phase of battle for Soviet forces SU-152s were utilized as powerful anti-tank weapons. Usually SU-152s were used to ambush German tanks. Another commonly used tactic was to amass SU-152 fire (very often direct, sometimes indirect) against the enemy. The power of the SU-152's large high-explosive shells allowed it to damage enemy armoured vehicles even without armour penetration. The 152.4-mm BR-540 armour-piercing round, with a total mass of 48.8 kilograms, devastated enemy vehicles. At closer ranges the kinetic and explosive energy of the shell could rip the turret off a tank. As a result, it was claimed that SU-152s managed to destroy at least seven German Elefant tank destroyers [ [http://www.battlefield.ru/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=61&Itemid=45 BattleField.Ru] ] , which were unstoppable with any other antitank weapon. German after-action reports claim the loss of just one Elefant to an SU-152 [The Combat History of Schwere Panzer Abteilung 654, by Karlheinz Munch, pp.67-69] . Numerous German AFVs were claimed as destroyed or damaged by SU-152 fire; for example, Major Sankovskiy destroyed 10 German tanks in a single day with his crew and his SU-152. He was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.

After the German offensive was exhausted, the Soviets launched a massive counterattack. The SU-152 played a very important role in action against fortifications, this being the vehicle's original design goal. From the second half of 1943 to the end of World War II SU-152s were used on all Soviet fronts, from Finland to the Crimea. Due to combat losses and mass production ceasing in December 1943 the number of SU-152s in the Soviet Army decreased. Eventually SU-152s were replaced by the more reliable and better-armoured ISU-152, which used the same armament.

Initially the SU-152 had no machine gun, but later a 12.7 mm DShK was added on an anti-aircraft mount.

Organisation

The SU-152 was used by the Independent Heavy Self-propelled Artillery Regiments (OTSAP, ОТСАП, in Russian, from "Otdel'niy Tyazheliy Samokhodno-Artilleriyskiy Polk", Отдельный Тяжелый Самоходно-Артиллерийский Полк). Initially each OTSAP had twelve SU-152s, divided into three batteries of four vehicles. One KV-1S tank served as a commander's vehicle. After November 1943 the OTSAP organisation changed to 21 vehicles per regiment.

"For more on unit organisation, see the corresponding chapter on the ISU-152 page."

Notes

References

* Solyankin A. G., Pavlov M. V., Pavlov I. V., Zheltov I. G. (2005). "Soviet Heavy Self-Propelled Guns 1941-1945". Moscow: «Exprint» (Солянкин А. Г., Павлов М. В., Павлов И. В., Желтов И. Г. Советские тяжёлые самоходные артиллерийские установки 1941-1945 гг.. — М.: ООО Издательский центр «Экспринт», 2005. — С. 48.) ISBN 5-94038-080-8
* Zaloga, Steven J., James Grandsen (1984). "Soviet Tanks and Combat Vehicles of World War Two", pp 165–66. London: Arms and Armour Press. ISBN 0-85368-606-8.

ee also

* List of Soviet tanks

External links

* [http://www.battlefield.ru/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=61&Itemid=45 BattleField.Ru]
* [http://free.polbox.pl/l/leszekch/vsu152.html Free.polbox.pl]
* [http://www.onwar.com/tanks/ussr/fsu152.htm OnWar.com]


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