|Manufacturer||Chelyabinskiy Kirovskiy Zavod|
|Primary Role||Self-Propelled Gun|
Contributor: Alan Chanter
ww2dbaseIn Nov 1942, a requirement was issued for a heavy self-propelled gun armed with the same 152.4-millimeter gun-howitzer, as was in use by Red Army towed artillery batteries. Production, which commenced in Feb 1943 would utilise the chassis from the KV-1 heavy tank (as used for the similar SU-122 assault gun) with the larger gun mounted in a fully enclosed armoured fighting compartment in the hull front. The common chassis with the SU-122 would equally allow an interchange of guns to be made without great difficulty. Power came from a 600 horsepower twelve-cylinder diesel engine.
ww2dbaseFor the SU-152 the ML-20S howitzer (29 calibres long), a slightly modified version of the successful Model 1937 (ML-20) towed howitzer, was fitted with slightly modified controls and a large muzzle brake to reduce recoil. The gun had a range of about 7,000 metres in the indirect fire role, although this capability was rarely used in action - the vehicle's heavy armour and limited on-board ammunition supply made it more suited to close-support or as a close-range tank destroyer. The ammunition (weighing 96 pounds/43.5 kilograms per round for high explosive and 107.5 pounds/48.75 kilograms per round for armour piercing high explosive) was so bulky that only twenty rounds could be carried internally (usually 13 high explosive and 7 armor piercing high explosive), although some crews were known to take the risk of stowing extra ammunition on the engine decks. The armor piercing high explosive round could penetrate 125 millimeters of armour at 500 metres, but in practice, the blast effect of the high explosive shell was equally effective – a direct hit could wreck any German armoured fighting vehicle. Despite its size and weight the 152-millimeter gun was actually elevated and loaded by hand without any mechanical assistance, a drawback which severely reduced the rate of fire to only about two rounds per minute.
ww2dbaseThe only other weapons usually carried by early production vehicles were two PPSh submachine guns and 25 pre-war F1 fragmentation grenades known as the limonka (Lemon) for close-quarter defence. From mid-1943, new SU-152 self-propelled guns would receive pintle mounted DShK (Degtyarov-Shpagin Krupnokalibernyj) Model 1938 12.7-millimeter gas-operated, air-cooled heavy machine gun for anti-aircraft defence. The DShk machine guns were retrospectively fitted to earlier vehicles as they were returned to depots for maintenance servicing or repairs.
ww2dbaseEntering Red Army service in Feb 1943 the SU-152 made its combat debut during the Battle of Kursk where it soon earned the nickname of "animal killer" from its successes against the German Tiger, Elefant and Panther vehicles. Its exceptional anti-tank capability ensured that the SU-152 was in constant demand, which typically caused rapid mechanical deterioration and imposed a massive strain on the maintenance system. A total of 704 SU152s were completed, with later vehicles based on the KV-1S hull, before production of the KV-based model was stopped, in Dec 1943, in favour of the chassis of the new Iosif Stalin heavy tank. Designated ISU-152, the newer vehicle provided the M-20S gun with a mechanically more reliable platform, with better performance and other detail improvements including better fire control arrangements. They were probably built for one gun type only.
ww2dbaseWith a crew of four (five if the vehicle was fitted with radio) the 45-ton ISU-152 was mechanically the same as its heavy tank counterparts and had much the same performance. This was important, because these assault guns generally served attached to heavy tank regiments with the IS tanks providing the self-propelled guns with close support (N.B. Soviet heavy tank regiments had an establishment of 21 tanks). Early ISU-152s were based on IS-1 hull, but production eventually switched to vehicles using the IS-2 hull. They all had the DShK machine gun as standard and thicker armour than the earlier SU-152 - a maximum of 120 millimeters, compared to 76 millimeters. Despite its shared shortcomings of limited ammunition stowage the ISU-152 rapidly became as highly valued as its predecessor had been.
ww2dbaseProduction of the ISU-152 continued until 1947, by which time at least 4,600 had been built. The type would remain in front line service with the Warsaw Pact armies well into the 1960s, with survivors then retained in reserve depots until they were superseded in service by the M1973 SPG with its turret-mounted 152-millimeter D-20 gun on a modified Garet chassis.
David Porter: World War II Soviet Weapons (Amber Books, 2018)
Ian V. Hogg & John Weeks: The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Military Vehicles (Hamlyn, 1980)
B. T. White: Tanks and other Armoured Fighting Vehicles 1942-45 (Blandford Press, 1975)
Last Major Revision: Sep 2019
|Machinery||Model V-2, V-12 water-cooled diesel rated at 900bhp|
|Armament||1x152mm Model 1938 ML-20S L/29 gun, optional 1x12.7mm DShK machine gun|
|Machinery||Model V-2-IS, 38,800cc V-12 water cooled diesel rated at 600bhp at 2,100rpm|
|Armament||1x152mm Model 1944 ML-20S gun, 1x12.7mm DShK machine gun|
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Thomas Dodd, late 1945