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date of publication: 05-02-2013

SU-152, ISU-152

ISU-122/152 GUNS

The success of the SU-152, coupled with the development of the IS (Josef 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 is hull and chassis. The initial vehicle, designated Object 241, or ISU-249, was similar to the , except for a higher superstructure and more rectangular with less sloped side armour.

Soviet Tank: ISU-122 Self-Propelled Gun

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 (5.9in) ML-20 howitzer gun-tank. 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.

Problems with the availability of the 152mm (5.9 in) gun type because of a lack of available manufacturing capacity in Soviet tank artillery factories () led to orders to the TsKB-2 team to explore the possibility of mounting the more abundant 122mm (4.8in) A-19 gun on the ISU hull. This proved a relatively easy task, because both calibres of gun had the same gun carriage, meaning that no radical re-design of the hull or vehicle interior was required. The new assault gun-tank entered service in December 1943 as the ISU-122. In 1944 its firepower was improved with the introduction of the 122mm (4.8in) D-25S gun designed for the IS-2 tank. This modified design, termed ISU-122-2, also had an new gun mantlet and improved crew space. In external appearance both gun types were identical, except for the ISU-152 is shorter gun barrel with a muzzle brake.

The appearance of the immensely powerful Panzerkampfwagen VIb Royal 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 combar results, that the 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 1955, when production ceased. Despite a brief break in manufacture between 1945 and 1947, 3130 ISU-122 were produced up to 1952. The chassis of many of these vehicles were adapted for special purposes in the 1960s. The Oka was armed with a 406mm (15.98in) gun designed to fire taerical nuclear shells to break up NATO front-line and reserve units. The ISU mounted the first FROG medium-range missiles, armed with either conventional, chemical, or nuclear warheads. Outside of these special roles in the Warsaw Pact armed forces, the ISU-152 saw service in its original role with the Egyptian Army in the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars.


The ISU-122 and ISU-152 were used in Independent Artillery Regiments, which were awarded the Guards honorific after December 1944 By the end of the war there were 56 such units. Generally attached to the tank corps, they were deployed in the second echelon of an assault, providing long-range direct, and on occasion indirect, fire support to tanks in the first echelon, targeting German strongpoints and armoured vehicles. They were also vital in providing defensive antitank and artillery support for infantry.

Heavy Tank: ISU-122 in May 1945

The dual role of the ISU-152 tankis demonstrated by fighting on 15-16 January 1945 in the area of the Polish village of Borowe. Elements of Marshal K. K. Rokossovsky's 2nd Byelorussian Front were vigorously counterattacked by the Panzergrenadier Division Grossdeutschland. The initial German assault proved very effective, driving the Soviets back. As elements of the spearhead 2nd Fusilier Battalion consolidated their gains, the 3rd Fusilier Battalion moved through them towards Soviet tank positions around Borowe. Both battalions soon came under high explosive and armour-piercing fire from SU-152s of the 390th Guards Independent Heavy Soviet Artillery Regiment. The 3rd Fusilier Battalion and its supporting armour did manage to secure the town on 16 January under intense antitank fire from SU-152 guns supported by rocker artillery. But success was shortlived, as Soviet success in other areas collapsed the from, forcing a withdrawal. Even so, as one soldier of the 2nd Battalion starkly described, being under fire from 'Black Pigs' was harrowing:

Black detonations in from of us, behind us, beside us - and we lay on the frozen ground with no possibility of crawling into it ... Now and then someone raised his face a little beneath his steel helmet to see if the other was alive. For an hour there was nothing bur the sound of incoming and exploding shells.

During the 1st Ukrainian Front's breakout from the Sandomierz bridgehead over the river Vistula in central Poland, Marshall S. Konev used several ISU-equipped regiments to enhance the devastating opening barrage of 450 medium and field guns per kilometre of from. When the assault troops moved forwards, poor weather and lack or visibility in the harsh winter conditions made it difficult to operate with air and artillery support.