In August 1930, at the exercises of the Air Force of the Red Army near Voronezh, for the first time in our country, a paratrooper was deployed with a landing force of 12 people. The experience was recognized as successful, and in 1931 in the Leningrad Military District on the basis of the 11th Infantry Division they created the first aviation motorized landing detachment of 164 people. Initially, the main tasks of paratroopers were sabotage and the capture of particularly important objects behind enemy lines. However, military theorists predicted that airborne units, subject to an increase in numbers, could be used to encircle the enemy, create bridgeheads and quickly transfer to the threatened direction. In this regard, in the early 30s, the formation of airborne battalions and brigades of up to 1500 people began. The first such military unit in December 1932 was the 3rd Special Purpose Aviation Brigade. By January 1934, the Air Force already had 29 airborne units.
Landing off the TB-3 bomber
In September, 1935, the first large-scale Airborne Force exercises were held in the Kiev Military District. During the maneuvers, an airborne operation was carried out to seize the airfield in the city of Brovary. In this parachute parachuted 1188 fighters armed with carbines and light machine guns. After the "capture" of the airfield, military transport planes landed on it, which delivered 1765 Red Army soldiers with personal weapons, as well as Maxim 29 machine guns, 2 37 anti-tank anti-tank gun batteries, T-27 wedge shoes and several cars.
The production of the T-27 tankety began in 1931. Thanks to a very simple, somewhat primitive design, it was quickly mastered in production. Before 1934, more than 3000 vehicles arrived in the army. The wedge was equipped with an engine power 40 hp and could reach the highway speed to 40 km / h.
However, the T-27 is very quickly outdated. Weak armament, consisting of one 7,62-mm machine gun installed in the frontal plate, and armor 10-mm thick by the standards of the second half of 30-x were considered to be insufficient. However, the low weight (2,7 t) and the widespread use of automotive units contributed to the fact that T-27 was used for training purposes and for various experiments. Officially, the T-27 was removed from the 8 in May 1941. In the initial period of the war, tankettes were used as 45-mm anti-tank guns and airfield service vehicles.
In 1936, 3000 paratroopers were parachuted during the exercises held in the Belarusian Military District, and 8200 people landed by landing. Artillery, passenger pick-up trucks and a T-37A tank were delivered to the “captured” airfield of a conditional enemy. The TB-3 and P-5 aircraft were the main means of delivering troops and cargo.
Light Bomber TB-3 Bomber a tank T-37A
The carrying capacity of the TB-3 bomber made it possible to hang a light T-37A amphibious tank weighing 3,2 T under it. The tank was armed with a machine gun of DT-29 rifle caliber mounted in a rotating turret. Side and frontal armor 8 mm thick provide protection against bullets and shrapnel. T-37А with a four-cylinder petrol engine rated at 40 hp Accelerated on the highway to 40 km / h.
T-37A amphibious tank
However, a tank suspended under the fuselage greatly increased the aerodynamic drag of the aircraft carrier, worsening its flight data. In addition, when landing tank landing method revealed a high risk of failure of the chassis, as the mass of TB-3 with the tank significantly exceeded the allowable landing weight. In this regard, the discharge of tanks on the water surface was worked out. However, the experiment turned out to be unsuccessful, because of the hydraulic shock, the splintering of the bottom, the thickness of which was 4 mm, cracked during splashdown. Therefore, prior to discharge, an additional wooden pallet was installed, which did not allow the tank to immediately burrow into the water. The real landing with a crew of two people ended with serious injuries of the tank crews. A more promising topic was the creation of special amphibious gliders with a large payload, on which armored vehicles and other heavy loads could be delivered by air. However, large gliders capable of transporting armored vehicles were created in the USSR only in the post-war period.
In December, 1941, the aircraft designer OK. Antonov began designing a tank glider. The basis was taken light tank T-60, which was supplied with a glider in the form of a biplane box, with two-girder vertical tail. The wingspan was 18 m and area 85,8 m². After landing, the glider was quickly dropped and the tank could go into battle. During the flight, the crew is inside the tank, and the pilot controls from the driver’s seat. The take-off and landing of the tank glider took place on a tracked chassis.
The choice of light tank T-60 was largely a necessary measure. This machine with the maximum thickness of armor 35 mm was a war-head ersatz. In the production of the tank used automotive units, which reduced the cost of production. A tank weighing about 6 tons was armed with an 20-mm automatic cannon TNSh-1 (a tank version of ShVAK) and a DT-29 machine gun. Machine with carburetor engine power 70 hp I could drive on a good road at speeds up to 42 km / h.
Tests of the "winged tank", designated A-40, began in August 1942. Since the total weight of the construction with the airframe reached 7800 kg, the turret was dismantled to reduce the weight on the tests from the tank. The TB-3 bomber with AM-34PH engines, whose power was increased to 970 l, acted as a towing vehicle. with. Although 2 September 1942, the tank was able to lift into the air, the tests were generally considered unsuccessful. Due to the heavy weight and poor aerodynamics, the A-40 barely stayed in the air. The flight almost ended in a catastrophe, because, due to overheating of the engines, the commander of the TB-3, P.A. Yeremeyev was forced to unhook the tank. Only due to the high professionalism of the test pilot S.N. Anokhin, who had a great experience of flying on gliders, landing successfully.
The baptism of Soviet paratroopers occurred in 1939 on the Sino-Mongolian border near the Khalkhin Gol river. In combat, distinguished fighters 212-th airborne brigade. The first release of the “combat landing” took place on 29 on June 1940 of the year during the operation to annex Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina to the USSR. For the delivery of the landing force, the TB-3 bombers made 143 airplanes, during which 2118 fighters were landed. The paratroopers seized strategic facilities and took control of the state border.
By the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, airborne brigades were transformed into corps. However, the relatively large Soviet paratroopers carried out during the war years can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Paratroopers were often abandoned for reconnaissance and sabotage in the rear of the enemy. There were no armored vehicles that could be delivered by air. In 1942, the airborne corps were transformed into guards rifle divisions, and the paratroopers were used at the front as elite infantry. After the war, the Airborne Forces became directly subordinate to the Minister of Defense and were considered as a reserve of the High Command. Since 1946, an increase in the number of airborne divisions has begun.
In the post-war period, there were special light 37-mm anti-tank guns ChK-M1 and 57-mm ZiS-2 cannon for fighting against tanks. The ChK-M1 airborne cannon, which has ballistics and armor penetration 37-mm anti-aircraft gun 61-K, could disassemble into three parts and be transported in packs. There was also a “self-propelled” version installed on the all-wheel drive GAZ-64 or Willys. During the exercises, such “self-propelled guns” were repeatedly dropped on parachute landing platforms from a Tu-4 bomber.
"Willis" with 37-mm gun Chek-МХNUMX
However, in the second half of the 40-s, the 37-mm gun could no longer be considered an effective anti-tank weapon. The 57-mm ZiS-2 had much better armor penetration characteristics. In the first post-war decade, its firepower allowed it to successfully fight all medium and heavy tanks of a potential enemy, but a separate tractor was required for its transportation. Therefore, shortly after the end of the war, the military authorized the development of airborne self-propelled guns.
To enhance the anti-tank capabilities of the paratroopers after the landing, in 1948, under the leadership of N.A. Astrov was created lightweight self-propelled installation ACS-76. The self-propelled gun was armed with an 76,2-mm LB-76 gun with a slit muzzle brake and a wedge gate and had a 5,8 tonne in combat position. The RP-7,62 machine gun was designed to defend itself against enemy manpower. Crew - 46 person. The thickness of the upper part of the frontal armor was 3 mm, the bottom of the frontal part of the body - 13 mm, the sides - 8 mm. Top self-propelled gun was open. 6 hp gasoline engine I accelerated the self-propelled gun on the highway to 78 km / h.
For the end of 40-s, the characteristics of the LB-76С instrument were not impressive. Combat rate was 7 rds / min. With a mass of an armor-piercing projectile 6,5 kg, it accelerated in the barrel length 3510 mm (with a muzzle brake) to the speed 680 m / s. At a distance of 500 m, this projectile could penetrate the normal 75 mm armor. To destroy armor piercing projectiles could be used 354P BR-up with armor piercing 90 mm 500 m. That is, the level of armor-piercing instrument LB 76S was at the level "divizionki" ZIS-3 and 76-mm tank gun F-34. Destruction of the enemy’s openly located manpower and unarmored targets was carried out by fragmentation shells that had a mass of 6,2 kg and an initial velocity of 655 m / s. It is no secret that 76-mm tank and divisional guns already in 1943 could not penetrate the frontal armor of heavy German tanks and therefore the military met the ASN-76 without much enthusiasm.
Although the self-propelled gun turned out to be quite light and compact, at that time in the USSR there were not only transport planes of suitable payload, but also amphibious gliders. Although in 1949, the ACS-76 was officially adopted, it was not mass-produced and in fact remained experimental. For military testing and trial operation, 7 self-propelled guns were produced.
In 1949, tests of the self-propelled ASU-57 installation began. The machine, created under the guidance of N.A. Astrov and D.I. Sazonov, was armed with a X-NUMX-mm semi-automatic gun H-57. The gun had a barrel length 51 caliber / 74,16 mm (length of the rifled part - 4227 mm) and was equipped with a muzzle brake. The angles of vertical guidance of the instrument ranged from −3244 ° to + 5 °, horizontal guidance - ± 12 °. The sight was designed for firing armor-piercing shells at a distance of up to 8 meters, fragmentation - up to 2000 meters.
The BR-271 armor-piercing tracer with 3,19 kg mass, leaving the barrel with an initial speed of 975 m / s, could penetrate 500 mm armor normally at a distance of 100 m normal. The sub-caliber projectile BR-271H mass 2,4 kg, with the initial speed 1125 m / s, with a half-kilometer pierced the normal 150 mm armor. Also in the ammunition included shots with fragmentation grenade UO-271U mass 3,75 kg, which contained 220 g of TNT. The practical rate of fire of the X-51 when shooting with correction corrections was 8-10 rds / min. Runaway fire - up to 15 rds / min. Ammunition - 30 unitary shots with armor-piercing and fragmentation shells, unified with the anti-tank gun ZiS-2.
Thus, the ASU-57 could not only fight with medium tanks, but also destroy manpower and suppress enemy firing points. For the lack of a better, poorly protected self-propelled guns were also considered as an armored means of reinforcing the airborne forces in the offensive. ASU-57 for a long period of time remained the only one capable of providing fire support to the landing party with a model of an airborne armored vehicle that could be deployed by air.
According to the layout, the ACS-57 was reminiscent of the ACS-76, but it weighed only 3,35 tonnes. A smaller mass (which was very important for the airborne installation) was achieved through the use of armor plates no more than 6 mm. The armor protected only from light splinters and rifle bullets fired from the 400 distance. The self-propelled gun was installed on a carburetor engine from the GAZ-M-20 “Victory” car, power 55 hp The maximum speed on the highway is 45 km / h.
Unlike self-propelled guns with 76-mm guns SAU-57 not only adopted, but also built serially. From 1950 to 1962, the Mytishchi Machine-Building Plant (MMP) delivered an assault self-propelled gun to 500. In the 1959 year, there were about 250 self-propelled guns in seven airborne divisions. In addition to the USSR, the cars were delivered to Poland and the DPRK. During serial production, improvements were made to the design of the ACS-57. First of all, it concerned the armament. After 1954, ACS-57 was armed with an upgraded gun X-51M, characterized by a more compact muzzle brake of the active type, modified recoil devices and a bolt. For self-defense, in addition to personal weapons, the crew had a machine gun SGMT, which was attached to the front turret. However, later the relatively bulky and heavy machine gun was replaced with a manual RPD-44 for an intermediate cartridge. In 60, machine gun installation was abandoned altogether.
Airborne glider Yak-14
At first, the Yak-57М transport glider, the design of which, compared to the early version of the Yak-14, was specially reinforced for the transport of armored vehicles weighing up to 14 kg was the only means of delivery of the ACS-3600. The self-propelled gun independently drove into the glider, and left it under its own power through the folding nose.
Yak-14 was built serially from 1949 to 1952 year. In three years, 413 units were built. The Il-12D military transport aircraft were used as tugboats for amphibious gliders. However, in the era of jet aircraft, airborne gliders were already outdated. For takeoff and landing gliders required prepared ground strips. Moreover, the length of the runway during takeoff should have been no less than 2500 m. During the glider towing, the aircraft engines operated at speeds close to the limit, and the towing speed did not exceed 300 km / h. The flight took place at a relatively low altitude - 2000-2500 m. The possibility of towing and landing gliders directly depended on meteorological conditions and visibility. Flights at night and in conditions of poor visibility were very risky, and the formation of a system of tugboats took a lot of time and required highly skilled pilots. In addition, the coupling in the form of a towing aircraft was very vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire and fighter attacks due to low flight speed and extreme constraint in the maneuver.
The situation changed after the commissioning of An-8 and An-12 military turboprop aircraft. These machines with dramatically increased capabilities for a long time became the workhorses of the Soviet military transport aircraft, and made the Airborne Forces truly mobile type of troops. The landing of ASU-57 from these aircraft was provided both in the landing and in the parachute way.
For the parachute landing of ASU-57, the universal parachute platform P-127 was used, used with the parachute system MKS-4-127. The platform is designed to drop cargoes weighing up to 3,5 tons, from a height of 800 to 8000 m, at a speed of dropping 250 — 350 km / h.
The crew landed separately from the gun mount, and after landing it freed the equipment from the landing gear. Such a scheme is not very convenient, since the spread on the ground of paratroopers and cargo platforms can reach several kilometers. More efficient and comfortable for the crew was the transfer by air using a heavy transport helicopter Mi-6. Toward the close of a career, ASU-57, parachuted parachuted from heavy military transport AN-22 and IL-76.
According to the possibilities of destruction of the ASU-57 armored vehicles was at the level of 57-mm anti-tank guns ZIS-2. In a number of cases, self-propelled guns were also used as tractors for 85-mm guns, D-44, D-48 and 120-mm mortars. Before entering the BMD-1 and BTR-D, in cases where a quick transfer of forces was required, self-propelled guns of transportation on the armor of up to four paratroopers.
Despite the fact that by the beginning of the 70-s, the frontal armor of most Western tanks had become too tough for 57-mm guns, the operation of the AMS-57 continued until the first half of the 80-s and Soviet airborne forces were in no hurry to part with easy and very compact self-propelled. Initially, the ACS-57 was a divisional link anti-tank. Subsequently, as a result of the reorganization of the Airborne Forces and the adoption of self-propelled guns armed with 85-mm cannon ACS ACS-57, they were transferred from divisional to regimental.
ASU-57 in Czechoslovakia
There is no evidence of the participation of 57-mm self-propelled guns in combat. But it is authentically known that these machines were involved in the water of the troops of the Warsaw Pact countries in Czechoslovakia in the 1968 year.
Simultaneously with the design of turboprop military transport aircraft of a new generation at the beginning of the 50-ies at the Mytishchensky machine-building plant, where the ASU-57 was built, under the guidance of N.A. Astrov began the creation of an airborne self-propelled artillery system armed with an 85-mm gun. Unlike ASU-76 and ASU-57, the driver’s seat was located in front, the fighting compartment with the gunner’s workplaces (to the left of the gun) went further, the commander and the loader were placed on the right. The engine compartment is in the stern of the combat vehicle. Frontal armor 45-mm thick, installed at an angle 45 °, provided protection against small-caliber armor-piercing shells. The security of the self-propelled unit in the frontal projection was at the level of an average T-34 tank. Side armor 13-15 mm thick resisted shell fragments and rifle armor-piercing bullets fired at close range, as well as 12,7-mm bullets at a distance of more than 400 m.
In the front sheet with a slight shift to the left, an X-NUMX-mm D-85 gun with a vertical wedge gate, which has a semi-automatic copy type, is installed. The gun is equipped with a muzzle two-chamber brake and an ejector to remove the powder gases after the shot.
It is worth detailing the characteristics of the D-70 gun. This artillery system used ammunition from the 85-mm anti-tank gun with high D-48 ballistics. In turn, D-48 was created by F.F. Petrov at the beginning of the 50-x based on the anti-tank D-44. But in the 85-mm projectile shells used sleeve from 100-mm shot. In this regard, recoil devices, bolt and barrel guns were strengthened. Due to the significantly increased initial velocity of the projectile, armor penetration increased significantly. But at the same time the resource of the barrel has noticeably decreased and the weight of the gun has increased. Due to restrictions on the size of the machine when placed inside a military transport aircraft, the barrel of the D-70 became shorter than the barrel of the D-48 on 6 calibers and, accordingly, the initial velocity of the projectile fell by 35 m / s. But, nevertheless, the characteristics of the gun remained quite high.
Projectiles for X-NUMX-mm anti-tank gun D-85
The BR-372 armor-piercing projectile weighing 9,3 kg, leaving the barrel with an initial speed of 1005 m / s, at a distance of 500 m, could normally penetrate an 190 mm armor plate. An even greater armor penetration was possessed by the subscale-tracer projectile Br-367P weighing 4,99 kg with an initial speed of 1150 m / s. For firing at armored vehicles were also used cumulative shells 3BK7 mass 7,22 kg and armor penetration 150 mm. The thickness of the pierced armor for a cumulative projectile does not depend on the range.
It was believed that the X-NUMX-mm D-85 gun could hit armored elements at a distance of up to 70 m. In reality, the effective fire range for tanks did not exceed 2500 m. The ammunition consisted of shots with a high-explosive fragmentation grenade UO-1600K 365 kg. High-explosive shells could be successfully used for the destruction of manpower and the destruction of field fortifications. The maximum range of high-explosive fragmentation projectiles was 9,54 m. The combat rate of fire of the towed anti-tank gun D-13400 reached 85 rounds / min, but due to the constrained working conditions of the loader and the need to extract artillery shots from the ammunition, at ASU-XN-CH-CHN-CH. -12 rds / min
Direct fire was conducted with the help of the TSHK-2-79-11 telescopic articulated sight. When shooting from closed firing positions, a C-71-79 panoramic sight was used. For firing at night, there was a TPR-1-79-11 night tank sight and a night-vision device with infrared illumination. The 7,62-mm machine gun SGMT is paired with the gun. The instrument has an elevation angle ranging from -5 to + 15 °. Horizontal guidance - ± 15 °. The ammunition is 45 unitary artillery shots and 2000 rifle caliber ammunition.
The self-propelled gun received a very perfect for that time chassis, consisting of six single-row rubberized road wheels, a rear drive and front guide, with a crawler tension mechanism, wheels on each side of the car. Suspension - individual, torsion. Smooth running was provided by hydraulic piston-type shock absorbers. Diesel two-stroke automobile YAZ-206V engine with HP 210 power. clocked up a 15 t car on the highway to 45 km / h. Due to the relatively small mass of the self-propelled unit had good mobility on rough terrain and passability on weak soils. Cruising range - 360 km.
Initially, the airborne assault aircraft was designated SU-85, but to prevent confusion with the self-propelled gun used during the war years, it is referred to in most documents as ACS-85, although in the Airborne Forces it was often designated as before.
The first serial modification of the ACS-85 had no roof, and in the stowed position the cabin was closed from above with a tarpaulin. Subsequently, the fighting compartment was closed on top of an armored roof with a thickness of 6 mm with four hatches. In 60-80-ies, the likelihood of a global or limited conflict using nuclear and chemical weapons was considered quite high. In terms of the use of weapons of mass destruction, the capabilities of the ACS-85 were quite modest. The fighting compartment of the self-propelled gun was not hermetic, and there was no filtration plant and an overpressure device inside the machine in it. Therefore, on the ground, exposed to chemical or radiation contamination, the crew was forced to work not only in gas masks, but also in insulating OZK.
The experience of the combat use of ASU-85 in the Arab-Israeli war revealed the need to install the 12,7-mm anti-aircraft machine gun DShKM. On the machines of the late release of the commander appeared turret.
Initially, the ACS-85 could be landed only by landing method from military transport planes An-12 and An-22. But after adopting the 1972P4 (P-134) platform in 16, it was possible to drop by parachute.
The machine was mounted on a platform with a multi-parachute system. Just before the landing, special brake rocket engines worked, damping vertical speed. After landing, the self-propelled unit could be brought to a combat position within 5 minutes, but the crew landed separately.
Mass production continued from 1959 to 1966 year. Over the years 7 managed to build about 500 machines. In the Airborne Forces ASU-85, they were used in separate self-propelled artillery divisions (30 vehicles), which were the anti-tank reserve of the division commander.
85-mm self-propelled artillery systems ASU-85 from the self-propelled artillery division of the 98 Guards Airborne Division
The armor penetration characteristics of the 85-mm D-70 guns in the 60-70-s allowed to successfully deal with medium tanks that were in service in NATO countries. In addition, the ACS-85 was considered as a means of supporting the winged infantry in the offensive. The adoption of the AMS-85 into service significantly increased the combat potential of the Soviet airborne troops.
ASU-85 Polish Armed Forces
In the middle of the 60-x, fifty ACS-85 handed over to Egypt, the 31 car to Poland and the 20 GDR. At the end of the 70's, approximately 250 self-propelled guns were used in the Soviet Union. In the 1979 year after the start of the Vietnamese-Chinese conflict, the anti-tank units of the Vietnamese People’s Army reinforced the ACS-85. Both in the Middle East and in the jungles of Southeast Asia, lightweight, self-propelled units, which successfully counted low weight, good mobility and firepower, showed good performance with proper use.
ASU-85 in Prague
The first combat operation in which the Soviet ASU-85 was used was the introduction of troops of the Warsaw Pact countries into Czechoslovakia in 1969 year. After that, the army wits called self-propelled gun "Prague crocodile." ASU-85 also participated in the initial stage of the “Afghan epic” as part of the artillery battalion of the 103 airborne division.
In the first half of the 80-x self-propelled units began to withdraw from the artillery units of the airborne divisions and put in storage. Officially, the ACS-85 was removed from service only in the 1993 year, although by that time there were no longer any self-propelled guns in the combatant units.
But on this история ASU-85 is not over. In the 2015 year, information appeared that in Vietnam self-propelled guns were removed from conservation, and after repair they brought in the 168 artillery brigade of the VNA. The Vietnamese command considered that these vehicles are very well suited for operations on the terrain, difficult heavy armored vehicles. Given that China, which is Vietnam’s main potential adversary, still has a lot of tanks built on the basis of the Soviet T-55, a light and squat self-propelled gun armed with a tool powerful enough to defeat them can be very useful. Modern tanks with multi-layered frontal armor are vulnerable when 85-mm armor-piercing shells hit the board.
To be continued ...