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A Tank History - The SU/ISU-152

su isu 152 tank destroyer spg sveroboy

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#1 Parker203


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Posted 23 August 2014 - 09:10 PM

While this tank might not be implemented into the game, it has seen combat into the 1990s (despite it being the Iraqis during the Gulf War) and you never know, they might have got hold of them somehow. In any case, it is too awesome of a tank to not mention


When I ask you which tank destroyer had the largest gun of the second world war, most people would shout out “Jagdtiger!”. You wouldn’t be totally wrong, but you kind of are. True, it had the most powerful gun mounted by any tank of the Second World War, but it didn’t have the largest bore. That crown goes to the SU and ISU-152 series of tanks. The name 152 is no coincidence. The Jagdtiger had the 128 mm Pak 44 L/55, but the ISU-152 had the ML-20S 152 mm.



Now THIS is a gun



It was literally a point and kill tank, along with just about every single German heavy tank and tank destroyer of the period, but that is for another time. This is because Russia is insane and thinks that bigger is better, and I am also one of those people. If it is huge, no-one’s going to mess with you. They were also both named “Zveroboy” or Beast Killer. It is called that for a reason, as just about any tank Germany fielded would be nothing more than a pile of junk after just even the HE shell hit it. You know how fearsome the Tiger was? Dead. The Ferdinand? Dead. Even the famous Jagdtiger? Dead. Late in the war, German steel was pretty shoddy quality, so spalling* was a massive issue. This is how crews usually were killed, or the Turret was blown 50 metres away. 




Mr Ferdinand did not have a very nice day


*Spalling: When parts of the inside armour of the tank splinter off at massive speed and anything in its path is shredded. It is not a pretty sight.



Now then, let’s begin with the article, under the request of GenErick64.

As the 152 mm gun in the howitzer carriage became more and more unconventional because of the way war as now waged, a design for the gun was called to be mounted into an armoured vehicle. The problem with the howitzer was that, even if it was pulled by motorized vehicles, it would get stuck in the mud and still lacked mobility. The crews were unprotected and when the heavy German fortifications had to be faced, it was simple out of the question.



"Can we mount this in a tank?" "Sure we can, we're Russian"



A vehicle which mounted a 152 mm gun already existed. The KV-2 mounted the M-10 and despite being powerful, it wasn’t much of a success and tended to flip over when going over a hill sideways because of its horrific centre of gravity. Its turret traverse and mobility was absolutely unacceptable and its reload rate was even worse. It was also not possible to mount the chosen ML-20 into its turret because of its ferocious recoil, making the KV-2 immediately obsolete.



It had its uses, but it overall it was pretty useless



A new design was called for which was far more mobile and far more reliable with the ML-20 to be used as its main gun. It should have more armour and be cost effective. Because of the recoil, the decision was made to mount the gun in a conventional tank destroyer like design, with no turret and the gun mounted in the hull.

Overall 3 different designs were brought up, all in the KV-1s chassis. Joseph Yakovlevich Kotins design was eventually chosen as it was simple and was cheap. The project was called KV-14 the prototype starting on the 31st of December under the name Object 236. The prototype was finished very quickly in only 25 days and was considered a complete success. The design was accepted for mass production in February and was hereby called the SU-152. The gun itself was slightly modified to fit inside the vehicle better and was designated the ML-20S, but had the same ballistics as the original gun and well as the anti-German firepower.



"See that German Aleksei? He bet you couldn't hit him"



Despite the vehicle being designed as strictly a support weapon with no mind for tackling tanks, it was surprisingly good at it. Testing showed that it could kill a Tiger tank with a single well placed hit and a close miss would still most likely blow off its tracks. This was just with the HE shell, as it had no AP round to speak off, as it was not designed to take on tanks. After this founding, SU-152 production increased dramatically and because of this reason the vehicle was slightly modified to increase reliability. Heavy tank destroyer battalions were formed and was quickly learned to be feared by German tank commanders. Because of the lack of a machine gun, an AA DShK 12.7 mm HMG was installed during the summer of 1943 during modifications and sometimes during maintenance and repair.




The SU-152 had 2 compartments, the crew compartment and the engine compartment. The crew compartment was where the crew was situated, using the main gun to kill stuff such as overly cocky Tiger tanks, and probably launch its turret like a rocket. The engine compartment is, obviously, at the back where the engine was situated. The frontal armour was 75 mm at a 30° angle, taking lessons from the T-34. The sides were 60 mm with a 25° angle and the rear just 60 mm. The gun was placed slightly to the right with 12° traverse either side. Overall 5 crew manned the vehicle with the driver, the gunner and the loader to the left of the gun, with the commander and the breach operator to the right. 



As you can guess, it was pretty cramped



It used the torsion bar system which, although made the vehicle smaller, made the inside cramped and uncomfortable which was common for all Russian tanks of the period. There were 3 internal fuel tanks with 2 in the crew compartment allowing a maximum of 615 litres of fuel to be carried, however more could be carried in the 4 other external fuel tanks that were sometimes fixed, allowing an extra 360 litres. It was unfortunately not connected to the internal fuel system so had to be manually refuelled. Due to the fuel tanks taking up space in the crew compartment, a maximum of 20 rounds could be carried, limiting its time in combat.


All of the electronics were supplied from a 1 KW GT-4562A generator with a RRA-24 voltage replay unit and four GSTE-128 accumulator batteries with a total capacity of 256 ampere-hours generating 24 volts. It powered such things as the radio and the external and internal lighting.


To be able to see outside the tank, every hatch was given a periscope and the gun was obviously given its bog standard gun sight. To communicate with each other within the tank the crew was fitted out with TPU-4-BisF intercoms and to communicate with other tanks the 9R, then the 10R and then finally the 10RK-26 radios were fitted. And then to power this beast, a V2-K engine was used with a total power of 600 horsepower.


In the case of close combat with enemy infantry and the installed heavy machine guns simply aren’t enough, 2 PPSh submachine guns as well as 25 F1 grenades were included.



Nothing a few grenades out the hatch can't solve!



However, despite its success at killing anything the Germans can throw at them, it wasn’t without its faults. For one, its armour was still very weak when faced with anything as powerful or more powerful than the weaponry the Panzer IV and StuG III’s possessed, its armour simply couldn’t hold. Not only that, the 20 rounds it held severely limited its time on the battlefield before having to re-arm, and its reload speed meant that the enemy can shoot at it quite a lot before it reloads again. Even the Tiger had a superior fire rate to many of the Russian tanks (average was about 6 to 8 seconds reload time). If every single SU-152 in the pack missed, the Tiger can simply pick them off one by one. At medium ranges and over, it was so inaccurate it might as well be called artillery. But this wasn’t surprising, as the gun used was a howitzer. But even so, it was a shoot first hit first weapon, as the Germans had superior range, accuracy and penetration on their side.



For when death and destruction must absolutely count (protection against ISU-152s not included)



Soon, the SU-152 was still too unreliable for Russian interest and the ISU-152 took over production, but not before 700 SU-152s were constructed. It was eventually dismissed from service in 1954.


The ISU-152 is pretty much the exact same as the SU-152. You can pretty much call them siblings. The only difference is pretty much the IS series of tanks that it was based on and it had thicker armour. There were very few external differences, but this vehicle was far more successful and most importantly, reliable. But this was not the only reason that the SU-152 was taken out of service. The KV tanks that it was based on was meant to be put out of the production line that year, and the effectiveness of the 152 mm was too good to be dismissed as well.



The ML-20S. So useful the Russians decided to re-use it



The first ISU-152 type was based off of the IS-1. It had thicker armour and was far more mechanically reliable, but it still used the proven ML-20S 152 mm gun. At first the prototype was called the IS-152. After testing the new vehicle problems emerged and had to be sent back to fix and improve upon them. In October a new prototype was prepared this type called the Object 241 and was found to be a massive improvement over the failed prototype. Once trials at the Gorohovetskom proved the vehicle successful, it was accepted for production and completely replaced the SU-152 on November 6 1943 under the name ISU-152. However, the ventilation problem was never fixed during the war, even under Stalin’s command. I presume he had all of the designers executed by suffocation in their own machine.


Like the SU-152, the layout was exactly the same, with the gun slightly to the right off centre with 12 degrees traverse either side with the driver, the gunner and the loader on the left of the breach with the commander and breach operator on the right. It had 6 road wheels on either side. It had the same fuel supply and electrical system as the SU as well as the intercom communication and the radios. It did have a different engine though, the V-1IS giving out 520 horse power. For self-defence it had 2 PPSh SMGs with 20 F1 grenades to deal with the Germans who thought that they had a bloody chance!


While being more heavily armoured, it was far more reliable as well. It had 90 mm of armour at the front at the same 30 degrees angle with a maximum of 90 mm on the side at the same 25 degrees with 60 at the rear.



After the war was over it went through multiple modifications before being put out of service in the 1970s. Some modifications included a co-axial DShK 12.7 mm HMG to the right of the gun for the commander to use. The internal fuel capacity would be increased and sometimes the external fuel tanks would sometimes be refitted with larger ones as well as 2 additional ones fitted to the back of the hull. Night vision sights were fitted as well as the V-54K engine that was used successfully in the T-54 medium tank and improved suspension.


However, it did have the same problem as the SU-152 in that the ventilation was Russian and worked horribly badly. After a few rounds it was difficult to breath inside the vehicle, effective just about everything about it.



"I CAN'T BREATH!" It was still reassuring to know Stalin cares

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#2 Parker203


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Posted 23 August 2014 - 09:10 PM

The first one was relatively stupid and had an amazingly creative name, the ISU-152-1 and the ISU-152-2, sometimes even called the ISU-152 BM meaning “large power” in Russian. It was quite stupid because the Russians, being Russians, decided that the 152 mm howitzer wasn’t powerful enough, so instead tried to mount a gun a bit bigger. When I say a “bit” bigger, I mean this thing was over 8 metres long, and so powerful that even the King Tiger would have cried like a little girl if it was hit at even 2 kilometres away. The King Tiger has 150 mm of armour frontally. At 2 km it could penetrate over 200 mm of armour. Who knows how much it could penetrate at 100 metres. The Jagdtiger at even 500 metres would have probably died really easily. If you have even played World of Tanks, it is very similar to the top gun used on the ISU-152. This gun is the BL-8. Even if the gun didn’t manage to penetrate the tank, through the sheer kinetic energy the spalling would have been so huge it wouldn’t have had to! There was kind of a drawback though. The shells were heavy and so large that reloading the gun was a challenge in itself, the breach block was very unreliable and the shells themselves performed very poorly. Not just this, but the gun was so long that manoeuvring through anything such as an urban area and forests was extremely difficult, and if it so much as went into a ditch the gun might have as well been designed as a spade. 



For when that pesky German must absolutely possitively die



The ISU-152-2 or ISU-152BM was the vehicle that mounted the BL-10. It was slightly more improved, being shorter but still had the penetration required to effectively liquefy anything it hit. It used an improved semi-automatic breech block that significantly increased the rate of fire, managing 3 rounds per minute but was still unfavourable. The gun was still too long and problems with the gun itself still occurred. After the war the final modification was far more improved, but problems still persisted. For this reason the vehicle only ever remained as a prototype, but it would have been awesome to see it fire though.



The BL-10, although slightly smaller than the BL-8, was still large enough to know you're screwed


The Object 704 really isn’t an ISU tank. It is to an ISU-152 as an ISU-152 is to the SU-76. However, it was so heavily armoured any German weapon at the time would have had a challenge taking it down. The ML-20S was now the ML-20SM, the M standing for modernised as the muzzle break was removed to reduce flash, dust and obscuration, not that you can’t see a 6 inch shell being fired at you anyway. The recoil system was far more effective so there was not so much more need for a muzzle break anyway. It used elements of the IS-2 and the IS-3 tank and the superstructure got a whole new design, all for the worse. For starters, if the ISU wasn’t cramped enough, this was now twice as bad. The angles were so extreme and the vehicle shorter but wider, it was so cramped the driver, even if he was 4 foot tall, would suffer extreme claustrophobia. Everyone literally had to kneel to move just to not get a concussion by smashing their head against something. It was so cramped the reload was even worse than before. A big plus was that everyone got their own hatch and an emergency hatch at the bottom of the vehicle behind the driver for a very slow escape. The vehicle had 2 extra 90 litre fuel tanks at the back of the vehicle, but was still not connected to the main fuel system but had a quick release as it was meant to be taken off before going into combat. A 12.7 mm DShK was coaxial to the right of the main gun, as well as one mounted on the roof for AA purposes but could be used to deal with soft targets just as easily. The gun area, if you count the mantlet, the armour behind that and the recoil mechanism housing, was 320 mm effective, making it impervious to just about every weapon at the time. Despite the problems, the 704 was the best protected Soviet SPG ever made, but the problems with space so small even a mouse would suffocate, the persistent smoke problem and everything else, it only ever remained as a prototype.



Seems the Russians gave zero f***s about their crew



However, this situation didn’t let the Russians down-hearten them! In 1956, the ISU was getting old so a modernisation was required. This was to be known as the ISU-152K. it received the reliable and effective V-54K engine that was used in the T-54 and the internal fuel capacity was increased to 920 litres, giving it a far better road range. The 2 internal fuel tanks that was taking up a huge amount of space in the crew compartment was removed allowing an extra 10 rounds of main gun ammunition in take its place, allowing it to liquefy more things before going home, getting some borsch before heading back to repeat the process in its tank killer of doom. The vehicle received an improved cupola for the commander as well and new sights. The running gear was based off that of the T-10 (basically the IS-10) and the mantlet had heavier armour to protect the sights. Some 152K’s were modified to weld 15 mm plates in the top or front or both of the mantlet for extra protection.


The very final variant was the ISU-152M. It was produced in conjunction with the IS-2M in 1959 and used many of its components. It also received night vision sights and the DShK received more rounds.


Overall, the SU and the ISU-152 had 3 main roles. An assault gun, a tank destroyer and as self-propelled artillery and did some better than the other. For example, it performed well against tanks, but it was amazing when facing fortifications but lacked in the artillery role.


As a tank destroyer, that many people know this tank for (despite it never being designed for it), it performed surprisingly well. In fact, it was also nicknamed the Dosenoffner by the Germans, or “Can Opener”. True, at medium to long range the gun lacked accuracy, but when killing things with HE with a 152 mm shell, you don’t really need to hit, so long as it was a near miss and explodes close. During tests against captured Tiger tanks, it was shown that not only was the turret weirdly not there anymore, huge spalling occurred. Once this was found out, well, you can guess. Production increased, the SU was then replaced by the ISU. As the gun was never supposed to be used to engage tanks, the closest you could get to an AP shell was the concrete busting round, which while still effective, didn’t have the same shock and awe pleasure as the HE. 99.99% of the time, HE was always chosen for its reliability for killing tanks, even against such vehicles as the Jagdtiger (to some extent). Specialist BR-540 solid-core AP rounds were eventually developed in time for the Battle of Kursk, but they were in short supply and were barely more effective than the HE rounds and if you missed you had no chance of killing anything with the blast effect. The HE rounds did sometimes not do very well against the super heavy armoured tanks. For example, a group engaged 5 Ferdinands. However, despite multiple hits, only 1 was completely destroyed while the rest were taken back for repairs, a clean-up (I feel sorry for the clean-up crew) and re-repair of some internal bits and pieces and were quickly sent back into battle. Once the Soviets learned this they instructed crews to continually shoot them until it was well and properly destroyed. It didn’t have to worry about incoming fire as anything that had less penetration than the 75 mm KwK 42 L/71 (aka, the Panther gun) was effectively useless against the front armour, so could get up and close and blow them to kingdom come. In effect, even the legendary Tiger gun couldn’t penetrate it (despite it having about 138 mm penetration at 90° at 100 m, the angling of the front armour made it far more effective at range). The HEAT round that was developed could penetrate about 250 mm of armour, however it was thankfully never used during the war. Despite the fact that its tank killing ability was not as good as the SU-100 and the ISU-122, its ability to complete multiple tasks allowed it to be a far more important asset and so it was produced in far greater numbers. A single example of the power of the ISU-152 was when during the battle near Nizhnuv Place, 40 Panthers breached though the Russian defences and was headed for Chernovtsy. A regiment of ISU-152s was sent to intercept them and once the battle ended a few hours later, the Germans retreated with 30 tanks less than it started with.



For when that Tiger, and pretty much everything else must absolutely die



One thing that the ISU DEFINITELY excelled at was urban assaults. It’s HE shell could pretty much demolish any building it stuck, and the concrete busting shell was brilliant for tackling heavy German fortifications. It was pretty much the “anti-anything it hit” weapon of the Soviet Union. This proved to be an extremely valuable skill than proved itself during such assaults as the Battle of Berlin. The frontal armour would constantly block shots from the main AT guns Germany fielded and the gun would easily wipe them aside. Despite this, it was still very vulnerable from the Panzerfaust, a very cheap and deadly weapon that was given to German soldiers. It was waist or shoulder fired and could kill any tank at the time and was especially problematic when fired from buildings from the side or on top. One way you could solve this would be to pretty much shoot any building you see, but that would be problematic, so instead squads of infantry would advance with the 152 allowing it to stay alive. If it was in the field and had to support allied tanks and was not in the TD role, it would stand roughly 200 metres behind and give support fire, which…


Pretty much can be the artillery role. Now, in this role the vehicle lacked far more than the earlier 2 roles. Despite being heavily armoured and having a pretty large gun, it was very slow firing, was limited to 20 rounds plus what it carried on the rear deck and the working space was very small. To re-supply the vehicle you needed a very strong and determined man as each shell weight excess of 40 kilograms and they were relatively large. It was not easy to do when you have to do 20 in a row. It took about an hour to resupply it from empty to full. There were 2 gun sights but was too complicated to switch between them so instead concentrated multiple vehicles on a single target which severely affected accuracy, but hey they are Russians, they win through absolute sheer and superior fire power. However, it didn’t have to worry about terrain and if it was suddenly attacked it was well protected and could immediately switch into the tank destroyer or infantry liquefier role. If it landed on a tank, goodbye tank, if it landed on a bunker, goodbye bunker, if it landed near infantry, well, use your imagination.


The ISU/SU-152 was successful enough to be used by a few countries, mainly the Soviet satellite countries. Poland received 10 ISU-152s in November 1944 and used them to good used such as the battles in Wal Pomorski and Berlin, and received more after the war ended but was eventually scrapped in the 1960s. They did receive 3 SU-152s but was used for training purposes from 1945 to 1949 and are all now currently in 3 separate Polish museums.



A Polish ISU



The Czechoslovakians also used them from the 1949 under the name TSD-152, literally meaning “Těžké Samohybné Dělo” (simpler just to call in the TSD) and overall 36 were delivered by May 1951. They were a part of 2 heavy SPG regiments that was eventually disbanded in 1956 and was sent into the reserves until probably the early 1970s (my guess). In the reserves they were mainly used for training purposes, military parades and several were even assigned for the border guard units. They were far less popular however than the SD-100 (licence produces SU-100 with some improvements). After the TSDs were eventually removed from service, some were even converted into civilian vehicles, such as heavy tractors for building motorways in 1973.


It saw service with the North Koreans (not surprisingly) during the Korean war and I believe it was used as an indirect support weapon, other than an upfront, 6 inch direct doom weapon that would have probably died the second it drove up a hill.


Even the Egyptians used in during the 1967 to 1973 war against the Israelis. Well, I say against the Israelis, however they were pretty much used as armoured pillboxes along the Suez Canal, however it would not have been that useful to stop modern day armour although I would guess that it might have been used in the indirect support role. I am not particularly sure of the role it played however I do know it took part.



An Egyptian ISU



The ISU-152 saw service as late as the Gulf War as the Iraqis thought that it would do wonders (hint, it didn’t) against the modern NATO forces when they invaded. The ISU was put into the indirect artillery role but was toast the second it was found.



If you ask nicely, they might give you a refund



Overall the ISU has seen its service, but nowhere near to the extent of the T-55 or the Centurion. It was officially removed from Russian serving in 1972.


It is a brilliant tank. At what first seemed like a good idea was actually a good idea (something new for the Russians), and then it was found to be surprisingly good at killing just about everything. After a lot of failed experiments and a few successful ones, it was eventually dismissed from Russian service in 1972, leaving the legacy, the forever legendary, absolutely fearing name “Zveroboy”.




After all, there is no such thing as "too much firepower"







Crew: 5

Armour: 75/60/60

Armament: ML-20S

     Ammunition: HE OF-540

                         APHE BR-540 - 125 mm at 90 degrees

                         APBC BR-540B - 130 mm at 90 degrees

Secondary Armament: 12.7 mm DShK HMG on roof       

Engine: V-2K generating 600 Horse Power

Suspension: Torsion Bar

Weight: 46 tonnes

Size (metres): Length:8.95

                       Width: 3.25

                       Height: 2.45

Max Speed: 43 kph






Crew: 5

Armour: 90/60/60

Armament: ML-20S

     Ammunition: HE OF-540

                         APHE BR-540 - 125 mm at 90 degrees

                         APBC BR-540B - 130 mm at 90 degrees

Secondary Armament: 12.7 mm DShK HMG (ISU-152, ISU-152K) on roof

                                    12.7 mm DShKM HMG (ISU-152M) on roof

Engine: V-2IS generating 520 Horse Power

             V-54K generating 520 Horse Power (ISU-152K, ISU-152M)

Suspension: Torsion Bar

Weight: 47 Tonnes

Size (metres): Length: 9.18

                       Width: 3.07

                       Height: 2.48

Max Speed: 40 kph




   Object 704


Crew: 5

Armour: 120/90/60

Armament: ML-20SM

     Ammunition: HE OF-540

                         APHE BR-540 - 125 mm at 90 degrees

                         APBC BR-540B - 130 mm at 90 degrees

Secondary Armament: DShK 12.7 mm HMG on roof

                                    DShK 12.7 mm HMG co-axial to main gun (right)

Engine: V-2IS generating 520 Horse Power

Suspension: Torsion Bar

Weight: No Clue

Size (metres): Length: No Clue

                       Width: No Clue

                       Height: 2.24

Max Speed: No Clue



If you have any requests on the next tank or next few tanks, just pop them in a reply and I shall get on with it!

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#3 Darth Vader

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Posted 17 September 2014 - 05:14 PM

They say BL-10 shell could reach 18,000 meters, but view range was not more than 2,000 meters with all optics and binoculars lol.

The truth is only point of view. It all depends on your point of view. Try to get a better understanding of things before you make your judgement.

#4 Parker203


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Posted 17 September 2014 - 06:32 PM

That was its indirect fire range, for accurate fire I would say it was no more than the 88 mm KwK 43 L/71 on the King Tiger

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#5 pkozukova


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Posted 28 January 2015 - 01:26 PM


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