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Future of SPGs

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"Prospective development of Red Army self propelled artillery
July 25th, 1945

The Red Army's self propelled artillery branch was born during the Great Patriotic War and evolved considerably during this period. Experimental work on SPGs was done before the war, but the vehicles produced at that time were not well received and were not developed further. The necessity of having self propelled artillery became obvious during the fierce fighting. The main aim of self propelled artillery was to fight alongside tank units and support them in combat against enemy tanks.

Self propelled artillery found a wider use than previously assumed during the Great Patriotic War. It did not only fight as a part of tank units, but also aided rifle and cavalry units in all types of fighting. The Red Army's self propelled artillery continued to improve and modernize throughout the Great Patriotic War when it came to armament, armour, and improvement of other components. This allowed us to maintain an advantage over enemy armoured forces despite the appearance of new powerful tanks and SPGs in the German army. By the end of the Great Patriotic War, self propelled artillery won itself a place among the top types of forces in the Red Army. Nearly all operations were conducted with its participation.

Armament of most SPGs consisted of guns, but experience shows that a variety of armament is required to combat various targets: both guns and howitzers. SPGs with guns are mainly tasked with fighting enemy tanks. SPGs with howitzers combat targets that are hidden behind terrain features.

The Great Patriotic War determined the course of prospective SPG development, as a result of which it will have even wider uses in combat during support of all types of armed forces than before. Based on the variety of tasks performed by self propelled artillery in the Great Patriotic War, especially in its last stages, one can conclude that SPGs must be further developed alongside tanks.

Wide ranging opportunities for installing powerful armament, high rate of fire, high mobility and maneuverability in modern combat operations made self propelled artillery an irreplaceable means of support and escort of all branches of the armed forces in all types of combat. 

Given the above, one can predict that self propelled artillery will evolve in the following directions:

1. Assault guns

Assault guns must be fully enclosed. The front hull and casemate armour must not be penetrated by modern anti-tank artillery.

The armament must consist of a gun with a high muzzle velocity and good armour piercing round, capable of fighting modern tanks and long term fortifications with direct fire.

2. Self propelled howitzers

Semi-open vehicle with light armour for the crew protecting against bullets and shell splinters. This type of vehicle should be equipped with a howitzer that fires a powerful HE shell. The howitzer must have the same traverse angles as towed howitzers. 

The main goal of this type of vehicle is to fire at targets hidden by terrain features and provide mobile support in all types of combat.

3. Self propelled AA guns

Vehicles armed with dual or quad guns must be created to protect our forces from enemy aircraft on the move. 

The massed use of tanks on the battlefield and necessity of fighting them suggests that it is sensible to have twice as many SPGs armed with guns as those armed with howitzers, i.e. a 2:1 ratio. This allows effective combat against enemy tanks. 

Development of self propelled artillery must follow these directions.

1. SU-100 assault gun

Armament: 100 mm gun with a muzzle velocity of 900 m/s, coaxial machine gun. This SPG should be fully armoured. The front armour of the hull and fighting compartment must resist the 75 mm gun with a muzzle velocity of 1000 m/s at any range.

Maximum weight: 25 tons

Main tasks for this SPG:

  1. Joint combat with rifle or cavalry units in all types of battle.
  2. Suppression and destruction of any types of targets encountered on the battlefield that impede our forces.
  3. Anti-tank combat.
2. SU-122 self propelled howitzer

Armament: 122 mm howitzer with the same traverse and elevation angles as the 122 mm field howitzer.
Armour: protection from bullets and shell splinters.

Maximum weight: 20 tons

Main tasks for this SPG:
  1. Combat via indirect fire.
  2. Destruction of fortifications concealed by terrain features.
  3. Counterbattery combat.
  4. Mobile support and escort of troops in all types of combat.
3. SU-122BM assault gun

Armament: high power 122 mm gun with a muzzle velocity of 1000 m/s, coaxial machine guns.

The SPG must be fully armoured. The front hull and fighting compartment must be impenetrable for the 100 mm gun with a muzzle velocity of 1000 m/s.

Maximum weight: 40 tons.

Main tasks for this SPG:
  1. Combat with enemy heavy tanks at a range of 2000-2500 m.
  2. Destruction of powerful long term fortifications with direct fire.
4. SU-152 self propelled howitzer

Armament: a 152 mm howitzer or gun-howitzer with the same traverse and elevation angles as the towed howitzer of the same type. Armour: protection from bullets and shell splinters.

Maximum weight: 35 tons

Main tasks for this SPG:
  1. Combat via indirect fire.
  2. Destruction of fortifications concealed by terrain features.
  3. Counterbattery combat.
  4. Mobile support and escort of troops in all types of combat.
5. SU-152BM heavy assault gun

Armament: high power 152 mm gun with a muzzle velocity of 900 m/s, coaxial machine guns, heavy AA machine gun.

The SPG must be fully armoured. The front hull and fighting compartment must be impenetrable for modern armour piercing ammunition at all possible ranges.

Maximum weight: 60 tons.

Main tasks for this SPG:
  • Combat with enemy heavy tanks.
  • Destruction of especially powerful long term fortifications in fortified regions with direct fire.
6. SU-203 high power semi-enclosed self propelled howitzer

Armament: 203 mm howitzer with the same elevation and traverse angles as the 203 mm field howitzer.
Armour: protection from bullets and shell splinters.

Main tasks for this SPG:
  1. Use in the Artillery Reserve of the Supreme Command.
  2. Mobile support of forces assaulting fortified regions.
  3. Destruction of especially powerful fortifications concealed by terrain features.
  4. Counterbattery combat.
In addition to these assault guns and self propelled howitzers, it is necessary to develop SPAAGs armed with either quad 37 mm guns or dual 57 mm guns. 

As modernization, it is reasonable to re-arm the SU-76M SPG with an 85 mm gun with 800 m/s muzzle velocity. An experimental SU-85B SPG has already been built and successfully completed mobility and gunnery trials. Moving to SU-85B production will not be difficult, as the differences from the SU-76M are slight and its armament is superior to that of the SU-76M.

It is known that the quality of domestic armour piercing shells turned out to be somewhat lower than that of allied nations and the enemy. This was confirmed by trials of domestic, allied, and enemy armour piercing shells at the NIBT proving grounds. On orders from the Military Council of the Armoured and Mechanized Forces of the Red Army, the GAU tasked the NKV and NKB with improving the quality of armour piercing shells.

Work on improving the quality of armour piercing shells is underway. It is necessary to continue this work and attain superior quality to that of the allied and enemy nations. 

Subsequently, development of improved sights, observation devices, rangefinders, etc. is necessary to improve the conditions of firing from our SPGs.

This report contains a brief list of the main issues in short term development of Red Army SPGs. It is clear that the future of SPGs is considerable.

I also present to you tactical-technical requirements for design and production of experimental SPGs that were composed at the GBTU Self Propelled Artillery Directorate.

Chief of the GBTU Self Propelled Artillery Directorate, Major General of the Tank Engineering Service, Alymov."

CAMD RF F.38 Op.11369 D.698 L.36-41
Printed in Glavnoye Bronetankovoye Upravleniye Lyudi, Sobytiya, Fakty v dokumentakh, 1944-1945 p.621

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