06/3/14

ISU-152 ‘Zvierboi’

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The ISU-152 was a further development of the SU-152 Assault Howitzer, but based on the IS tank’s (Iosef Stalin) lower chassis and running gear instead of the KV tank’s (KV from the prewar defense minister, Klimenti Voroshilov). Although the ISU-152 mounted the same 152mm M1937/43 (ML-20S) gun-howitzer of the SU-152, the new crew compartment was now higher (as the IS chassis was not as deep as the KV) and more rectangular. The old circular KV hatches were replaced with the SU-100 style cupolas and new standard periscopes installed in each. The new ISU 152, and the similar ISU-122 (fitted with a 122mm A-19 cannon), were first produced at Chelyabinsk during late 1943 at the same time as the IS-1 heavy tanks.

The success of the SU-152, coupled with the development of the IS (losef Stalin) heavy tank hull, led the NKTP to order design teams at Chelyabinsk, in cooperation the Mechanized Artillery Bureau (BAS) and General F. Petrov, to design two new heavy assault guns based on the IS-2 tank’s hull and chassis. The initial vehicle, designated Object 241, or ISU249, was similar to the SU-152, except for a higher superstructure and more rectangular with less sloped side armour. Thicker frontal and side armour (90mm/3.54in compared to 60mm/2.36in on the SU-152) meant that the internal area of both vehicles was the same, with storage for only 20 rounds each for the 152mm (5.98in) ML-20 howitzer gun. The main difference between the SU-152 and ISU series of vehicles was a lower suspension and a new, heavy two-piece gun mantlet bolted onto the right-hand side of the hull. Re-classified as ISU-152, production began at the end of 1943.

The appearance of the immensely powerful Panzerkampfwagen King Tiger in fighting south of Warsaw in August 1944 led to a number of plans to up-gun both types of ISU with the new 122mm (4.8in) BR-7 and 152mm (5.98in) BR-8 long-barrelled guns, but the realization that the Germans could not deploy the Royal Tiger in significant numbers caused production of these prototypes to be abandoned. Another reason was the conclusion of Soviet technicians, based on combat results, that the IS-2 tank could deal with this new threat.

Post-war changes were made to the final production run of ISU-152Ks by using the IS-2m chassis and the IS-3 engine deck. A total of 4075 ISU-152s were produced during the war, and a further 2450 manufactured between 1945 and 1947, when production ceased.

The heavy SU regiments were originally equipped with the SU-152, a 152mm howitzer mounted on a KV-1S chassis. The first 25 of them were rushed into service in time for the Battle of Kursk, where the effect of their 100 pound shells on German Panthers and Tigers earned them the nickname ‘Zvierboi’ (‘Big Game Hunters’). The SU-152 was only in production during 1943, and 670 were built. They were increasingly replaced in 1944 by two heavy SUs on the chassis of the new IS-II tank: the ISU-152, which was built until 1947.

The Soviets used term “Shturmovaya Artilleriiskaya Ustanovka” (Assault Gun) for the SU-122, SU-152, ISU-152, ISU-122.

When the ISU- 122/152 heavy self-propelled artillery regiments were originally formed in February of 1944, the vehicles were placed in groups of 21 assault guns with four batteries per regiment. The SP guns were intended to support offensive breakthrough operations and expected to deal with German strong points and anti-tank defenses from long distances. First deployed during the summer of ’44 offensive “Bagration”, the ISU-122/152 regiments took part in what was probably the largest concentration of Soviet armor up to that time and proved themselves to be very useful AFVs. After WWII the construction of these assault vehicles continued and they were sold to other Warsaw Pact member countries as well as Algeria, Egypt and China.

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This Soviet News photo illustrates the internal hatch detail of both the gunner’s on the left and the commander’s split hatches. The hatch half with the periscope closes first and the second half then slightly over laps the first and has two small latches at its edge to hold the hatch in place. Normally there was a leather covered pull chain connecting these latches (as seen on the gunner’s hatch) and a simple pull on the strap would release both latches so you could open the hatch from the inside. The commander here appears to be holding his cloth tanker’s helmet in his left hand while the right rests on the long handle of his periscope. Notice the antenna base, just forward of his hatch, and also the domed armor cover over the hull fan, located directly between the two hatches.

The early ISU-152M was updated to the last version in 1956, adding more ammo storage to the new K model for a total of 30 rounds, most of the additional rounds being stored in a third rack on the left side of the hull. Also added to the ISU-152K was a new TPKU ranging sight on the commander’s cupola and an improved PS-10 telescopic sight for the gunner, as well as a revised engine and cooling system.

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05/31/14

Tanks and Armored Vehicles II

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Tanks in World War II

On August 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, beginning the conflict that evolved into World War II. By this time the German army understood that tank forces could not act alone. They prepared their tank force for penetration, but then attached to it a motorized support of infantry, artillery, and engineers. Germany used the same tactic of rapid, self-supporting mobility after defeating Poland, attacking France in May, 1940. In France the German army was also aided by air support, which proved to be another effective strategy. It is significant to note that, although France had more tanks than Germany, the defensive doctrine that the French applied to their use failed to hold out against the lightning offensive movements of the German Panzer divisions. France was defeated in June of 1940. Germany then turned and attacked Russia in June, 1941. After the initial German success of rapid, armored pincer movements, the Russians developed the T-34 tank. It was armed with a long, high-velocity 76-millimeter gun, which shredded the German armor. The T-34 itself seemed immune to the Panzer’s own shells. Their top speed of 33 miles per hour, over the Panzer’s 25 miles per hour, on a wider-tracked base was also indispensable in the mud and snow of the eastern front. After gaps had been created in the front, the Russians sent in their tank forces, composed mostly of the formidable T-34, to enlarge and expand the breakthrough. Once the Americans joined the battle on the western front, the most commonly used vehicle was the Sherman tank, which helped turn the tide on the Germans in North Africa and later in France.

Tanks in Modern Conflicts

The Israeli-Arab October War (1973) displayed a new style of armored warfare. The Israeli army charged into the Suez Canal area in small groups of tanks, unsupported by reconnaissance, infantry, artillery, or air forces. The Egyptians, who were armed with RPG-7 rocket launchers and Sagger antitank guided missiles (ATGM), soundly defeated the Israeli forces. This initial defeat, however, did not, as many thought, portend the end of the heavy, slow-moving tank. After the first disastrous days, the Israelis restored the mobility of their tank formations; their ultimate success was primarily due to the reintroduction of all arms cooperation. Infantry was vulnerable to artillery and machine-gun fire. Artillery was vulnerable to attack by tanks and infantry. Tanks also were vulnerable to a variety of anti-armor weapons. When used together, however, each force compensated for the weakness of the other. The tanks destroyed enemy armor and machine guns; infantry cleared anti-armor weapons and held ground; and artillery, secure behind the armor and infantry, neutralized enemy anti-armor weapons and artillery. The effective use of tanks, therefore, had to be adapted to the changing technologies of armor and anti-armored warfare.

There have traditionally been two methods of defeating the thick, rolled homogeneous armored steel that has generally protected tanks. Kinetic energy (KE) attack involves firing a high-velocity projectile from a large-caliber gun. In flight, the light outer jacket, or sabot, of the projectile falls off, and the remaining kinetic energy is concentrated in its smaller-diameter core, made up of high-density material. The core then forces its way through the armored plate. Chemical energy (CE) attack uses an explosive charge to create energy to defeat the armor plate. The shell’s explosive charge creates and directs a narrow, high-pressure jet that forces its way through the armor plate.

In the mid-1970′s and early 1980′s, three new developments in armor technology appeared to counter traditional antitank weapons. It had been known for some time that some materials, such as ceramic or glass, severely degraded shaped charge jets. The Soviets thus developed simple laminate armor for protection against both KE and CE attack; the T-72, for example, was fitted with this armor as well as with ceramic inserts in cavities within the cast turret armor. Another development was explosive reactive armor, developed by the Israelis and consisting of small panels bolted to the exterior of the tank. When struck by a high explosive antitank (HEAT) projectile, the explosive detonated, driving the plates apart and disrupting the shaped charge jet. The most significant of the new armors was Chobham armor, a complex laminate developed by the British and first publicly shown in 1976. It was composed of spatial layers of various materials, such as steel ceramic and aluminum, and was reported to give significantly better protection than any other armor against multiple attacks by KE and CE warheads. Other innovations included the fitting of tanks with explosion- suppression systems and the substitution of combustible hydraulic fluids for electronic systems. As shell penetration of armor caused possible ruptures in hydraulic lines, internal catastrophic explosions from hydraulic vapor became common. Moreover, ammunition was placed in separate, protected bin compartments. The latter two concepts were practiced by the British. In the Middle East wars during 1970′s and 1980′s, British-designed tanks proved difficult to ignite.

Soviet revisions in operational doctrine at this time saw the evolution of Operational Maneuver Group (OMG) concept. This involved the employment of self-contained, highly maneuverable, heavily armored formations early in an offensive. OMGs would, theoretically, attempt to punch their way through the defenses of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) before they were fully developed and strike deep into the NATO rear, with the intent of causing chaos and the rapid collapse of the defense. The OMG concept evolved from the Soviets’ experience in World War II, but the Israelis in the 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982 wars used a similar doctrine most successfully. Soviet tanks, such as the T-64, T-72, and T-80, had 125- millimeter guns, automatic loaders, and integrated fire-control systems to permit rapid, accurate, and lethal fire. These tanks also had multi-barreled grenade dischargers, which were capable of firing smoke grenades that degraded the performance of the new thermal imaging sight technology. Although the Soviet threat soon subsided with the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1989, a new threat quickly took its place.

The Gulf War (1991) saw the most technologically advanced ground combat of the century. The American M-1A1′s, British Challengers and Chieftains, and French AMX-30′s were shipped in to combine the best old-fashioned hardware with modern targeting computer software. The American M-1A1 is a rolling fortress that radiates a menacing power. The four-man tank weighs 63 tons and measures 26 feet long. The tank’s primary weapon is a 120- millimeter M68E1 smoothbore cannon that fires M-728 armor-piercing shells up to a distance of 2.5 miles while moving at 20 miles per hour. Other armament includes two 7.62-millimeter M-240 machine guns and one .50-caliber Browning M-2HBmachine gun. With its powerful 1,500 horsepower gas turbine engine, the M-1A1 has a top speed of about 42 miles per hour and consumes fuel at the rate of 6 gallons per mile. The M-1A1 has a range of about 288 miles. It carries forty rounds and is equipped with an advanced carbon dioxide laser rangefinder, thermal viewing for night fighting, and a better suspension than earlier versions. The M-1A1 is considered the most sophisticated and capable main battle tank in the world. Even the Iraqi use of the Soviet T-72, a generation behind the M-1A1 in development, could not make the battle any real test for the coalition forces. Although the preceding air campaign created highly favorable conditions for the ground forces to accomplish their mission, it was ultimately the ground forces and their tactical air support that destroyed the Iraqi army.

With the growing emphasis on airpower in the 1990′s, particularly in Bosnia and Kosovo, the true potential for armored warfare remained unrealized. As in the first tank battles, it remains clear that there must also be an armed force to hold any ground that is gained. Tanks and armor, therefore, will always have their place in the waging of war.

Books and Articles Alexander, Arthur J. Armor Development in the Soviet Union and the United States. Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 1976. Chamberlain, Peter, and Chris Ellis. Tanks of the World: 1915-1945. London: Cassell, 2002. Citino, Robert. Armored Forces. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. Estes, Kenneth W. Marines Under Armor: The Marine Corps and the Armored Fighting Vehicle, 1916-2000. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2000. Foss, Christopher F., ed. The Encyclopedia of Tanks and Armored Fighting Vehicles: The Comprehensive Guide to Over Nine Hundred Armored Fighting Vehicles from 1915 to the Present Day. San Diego, Calif.: Thunder Bay Press, 2002. Fuller, J. F. C. Machine Warfare: An Enquiry into the Influences of Mechanics on the Art of War. London: Hutchinson, 1941. Guderian, Heinz. Achtung-Panzer! The Development of Armoured Forces, Their Tactics, and Operational Potential. Translated by Christopher Duffy. London: Brockhampton Press, 1999. Gudmundsson, Bruce I. On Armor. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2004. Hogg, Ian V. The Greenhill Armoured Fighting Vehicles Data Book. London: Greenhill Books, 2000. Koch, Fred. Russian Tanks and Armored Vehicles, 1946 to the Present: An Illustrated Reference. Atglen, Pa.: Schiffer, 1999. Macksey, Kenneth. Tank Warfare: A History of Tanks in Battle. London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1971. Pugh, Stevenson. Armour in Profile. Surrey, England: Profile, 1968. Spielberger, Walter J. Panzer II and Its Variants. Vol. 3 in The Spielberger German Armor and Military Vehicles. Atglen, Pa.: Schiffer, 1993. Stone, John. The Tank Debate: Armour and the Anglo-American Military Tradition. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic, 2000. Wright, Patrick. Tank: The Progress of a Monstrous War Machine. London: Faber, 2000.

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