SG-122 And SU-76i
The Zavod Nr 592 design, designated SG-122, proved less successful than the UZTM SU-122. The vehicle was a mixand-match design, placing a Soviet-designed hull and gun atop a captured German Panzer III chassis. This attempt to graft native technology onto foreign proved imperfect; the SG-122 was difficult to maintain in forward army depots because of lack of spares for the Panzer III chassis, whilst its performance was far below the rival UZTM design. These handicaps meant that although it was accepted for service in July 1942, the SG-122 was quickly withdrawn.
However, the desperate need for selfpropelled artillery in the opening months of 1943 led Soviet designers to revive the idea of using over 300 Panzer III and StuG chassis which had been captured at Stalingrad. This move was intended as a stop-gap to make up for a shortage in self-propelled artillery when large numbers of the recently introduced SU-76s had to be temporarily withdrawn in order to iron out mechanical failures. Zavod Nr 38's proposal was to take the basic design of the SG-122 and re-arm it with the 76.2mm (3in) ZiS-5 gun. Problems in installing the gun led to the adoption of the 76.2mm (3in) S-1 gun, which was specifically designed for selfpropelled guns and which was easily mounted onto the front armour. After gruelling trials at Sverdlovsk, it was accepted for service as SU-76i ('i' denoting 'inostrannaya', or foreign) in March 1943, and they were deployed to frontline units from May onwards, just in time to see service with Colonel-General K. K. Rokossovsky's Central Front and General N. F. Vatutin is Voronezh Front at the Barrie of Kursk in July that year.
Although available in only limited numbers, the SU-76i served widely in Soviet operations throughout the summer and winter of 1943, until the Chief of Armoured Forces, Marshal Ya. N. Federenko, ordered all remaining vehicles to be transferred to training duties at the staff of 1944. Despite its ad hoc nature, the vehicle seems to have proved popular with crews, who developed the dangerous habit of removing the bolted armour plate roof to increase their comfort! Modifications to the vehicle prevented this practice on later models. In all, just over 200 SU-76is were built, but they illustrate the resourcefulness, ingenuity and occasional desperation of the USSR's total war effort.
The development of a larger assault gun-tank destroyer which mounted the 152mm (3.98in) ML-20 gun was a direct reaction to the appearance of the German Tiger tank during fighting near the besieged city of Leningrad in January 1943. During 1942 the Central Design Bureau's two teams (TsKB-2), led by veteran designer Lieutenant-Colonel Z. Kotin (responsible for the KV tank), had been developing a new heavy tank to replace the in creasingly obsolete KV-1. This vehicle was termed KV-13 and was based extensively on the original chassis, bur with a new hull and turret.
In late 1943, Kotin's team's new design would be the basis for the KV-85 and IS series of heavy tank that would serve the Red Army to the end of the war. In early 1943 these new designs ware still some way from completion, which was unacceptable to the GKO and the Army High Command, who saw the desperate need for quickly deploying an armoured vehicle capable of countering the Tiger. Rising to the occasion in just 25 days from receiving orders to proceed on 4 January 1943, Kotin and L. Troyanov completed two designs for self-propelled gun-tank destroyers.
The KV-12 mounted the massive 203mm (8in) 13-4 Model 1931 howitzer, but lacking the range to engage the Tiger's 88mm (3.46in) gun, the design was rejected. Instead the KV-14 built on a KV-1 is chassis and equipped with the longer-range 152mm (5.98in) ML-20 gun-howitzer, was accepted for production on 14 February 1943 as the SU-152. With a muzzle velocity of 655m/s (2149 ft/s), the SU-152's gun was a formidable weapon, and was capable of penetrating 110mm (4.3in) of armour plate at a distance of 2000m (2187yd). The effectiveness of the gun was diminished by the need for a multi-component round that restricted fire to two shots a minute, the while like most Soviet armoured vehicles, the ability to actually engage targets at stated textbook ranges was restricted by the limited capability of the telescopic sights and quality of the crew. It is, however, important to note that in the long term, once the new heavy tank entered service, the SU-152's principal role was envisaged as being to serve as infantry support.
The first regiment to be equipped with the SU-152 was formed in May 1943 and, like the smaller SU-76i, was rushed to take part in the fighting at Kursk. Only 12 vehicles were available but they later claimed to have killed 12 Tigers and 7 Elephants (a heavily armoured self-propelled gun also making its debut at Kursk). These claims are difficult to substantiate; throughout the war, crews on both sides had a tendency ro report any kill as the strongest tank which their opponents possessed in his arsenal. What is clear is that the SU-152 proved devastatingly effective in combat, quickly earning itself the nickname Zvierboy, (Animal Hunter), after its reputed ability to kill the entire German zoo of Tigers, Panthers and Elephants.
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