The first recoilless guns appeared in the PLA at the end of 1950. These were 57- and 75-mm American-made artillery systems captured by Chinese people's volunteers during the fighting in Korea. Trophy “recoilless” was actively used against the former owners. Subsequently, in China, its own analogues were created and put into production.
Since the first mass-produced Chinese recoilless guns were copies of American models, it would be appropriate to mention history their creation in the USA. Since 1943, the US Army has used 60-mm 2,36-inch Anti-Tank Rocket launcher M1 hand-held anti-tank grenade launchers, which received the unofficial name Bazooka ("Bazooka") in the army. In the years of World War II, the American infantry quite successfully used against tanks Enemy modernized grenade launchers M1A1 and M9. However it is effective for its time weapon It was not without a number of significant shortcomings. Most of all the complaints were caused by the electric scheme for launching rocket-propelled grenades, whose reliability in conditions of high humidity was unsatisfactory. In the course of hostilities, cases of loss of combat readiness of American grenade launchers after falling into the rain were repeatedly recorded. In addition, the effective firing range on moving tanks was insufficient and slightly exceeded 100 meters. Given the rather lengthy and baggy process of loading the Bazooka in the event of a miss or when repelling the attack of several enemy armored vehicles, the enemy often did not provide an opportunity to fire a second shot. Based on the experience of using rocket-propelled grenade launchers in battle, the American command wanted to get a compact anti-tank weapon that would have a longer effective shot range, increased combat rate and not depend on meteorological factors.
At the end of 1944, the 57-mm M18 recoilless gun was adopted as a company anti-tank weapon (in American sources it is referred to as the “M18 recoillessrifle” - the M18 recoilless rifle).
M57 18mm recoilless gun with ammunition
The 57-mm recoilless M18 gun, unlike the 60-mm smooth-bore Bazooka, had a steel rifled barrel with a length of 845 mm. In the rear of the barrel mounted hinged shutter with a nozzle for the exit of powder gases, compensating for recoil when fired. On the barrel there is a pistol grip with a trigger mechanism, a folding bipod (serving as a shoulder rest in the folded position), as well as a 2,8x optical sight bracket.
M57 recoilless gun on a tripod
In the combat position, the 57-mm recoilless M18 gun weighed 20,2 kg. Being flexible enough in application, it allowed shooting from a shoulder. However, the main provision for firing was firing from the ground, focusing on the unfolded bipod or from the tripod machine gun Browning M1917A1. Shooting from the machine provided the greatest accuracy, but the mass increased to 43 kg. The total length of the weapon was 1560 mm.
The unitary shot, weighing about 2,5 kg, contained a charge of smokeless powder weighing 0,45 kg. The cumulative projectile weighed about 1,2 kg. The steel sleeve had 400 round holes in its side walls, through which most of the powder gases burst into the barrel chamber and from it back into the nozzle during firing, thereby compensating for the recoil of the weapon. The propellant charge inside the sleeve is in a bag of waterproof nitrocellulose tissue that burned when fired. The ignition of the propellant charge occurred at the bottom of the sleeve standard shock-igniter capsule. The danger zone of the flame exhaust behind the gun was 15 m. To avoid damage to the eyes by small objects raised by a jet stream from the ground, it was not allowed to stand behind the gun (facing it) at a distance of less than 100 m from its breech.
The M307 cumulative grenade left the barrel at a speed of 370 m / s, which ensured the destruction of point targets at a distance of up to 450 m.The maximum firing range was 4000 m. Regardless of the firing range, the cumulative grenade when hit at right angles ensured the penetration of 75 mm homogeneous armor. In addition to shots with cumulative grenades, the fragmentation, incendiary smoke and shrapnel shells were included in the ammunition. In terms of rate of fire, the 57-mm gun significantly exceeded the 60- and 88,9-mm Bazuki guns; an experimental calculation could make 8 aimed shots per minute.
For the first time, the "recoilless" M18 were used in battle in early 1945. Given the fact that in 1950 in each infantry company of the US Army it was supposed to have three 57-mm recoilless guns, they were very widely used in Korea. However, it soon became clear that the effectiveness against Soviet medium tanks T-34-85 leaves much to be desired. Even in the case of penetration of 45 mm of frontal armor, the damaging effect of the cumulative jet was often insufficient and the tank retained combat effectiveness. However, the M18 guns were actively used by all warring parties until the end of hostilities.
The relatively light “rollback” could be carried over and used by one soldier, for which she was valued by the troops. Whereas the Americans and their allies, given the presence of high-explosive fragmentation, incendiary-smoke and firing rounds in the ammunition, used 57-mm recoilless guns mainly against field fortifications, machine gun nests and manpower, then the North Korean and Chinese infantry used these weapons to combat tanks. Most often, firing positions were chosen on hillsides or along roadsides in such a way that there was the possibility of firing on the side armor of tanks.
In the late 1940s, the Americans handed over a set of technical documentation and field samples of weapons and ammunition to the government of Chiang Kai-shek, waging an armed struggle against the Chinese Communists. After the defeat of the Kuomintang and the formation of China on the mainland of China in 1949, an attempt was made to start mass production of recoilless M18 guns. A number of directories say that the Chinese clones were labeled Type 36, but Chinese sources claim that the mass production of the 57-mm “recoilless” was only possible in 1952, after receiving machine tools and special steel grades from the USSR.
57 mm Recoilless Type 52 Gun
Apparently, before the outbreak of hostilities in Korea, China managed to establish small-scale production of recoilless guns using equipment and materials received from the United States. The mass production of a sample adapted for local conditions, received the designation Type 52, began in 1952.
57-mm recoilless guns of American and Chinese production in the exposition of the Military Museum of the Chinese Revolution
Type-57 52mm recoilless guns made in China had a number of differences from the American prototype. Although the weight and dimensions have not changed much, Chinese experts have created an original light tripod machine weighing 6,8 kg.
Ammunition for the Chinese 57mm recoilless gun
American-made ammunition was suitable for firing from a Chinese weapon, but it was not possible to fire Chinese ammunition from the American "recoilless". Chinese cumulative grenade has the worst performance. Effective range decreased to 300 m, and normal armor penetration is 70 mm. For the 57-mm Type 52 guns, a fragmentation grenade was also created, there were no incendiary smoke and firing shots in the ammunition.
Chinese sources say that with the help of 57-mm recoilless guns during the fighting on the Korean Peninsula, Chinese volunteers managed to destroy more than 60 tanks, armored vehicles and armored personnel carriers. It is unclear whether this refers to captured M18 or to Type 52 guns of their own production, but it can be stated with confidence that the PLA fighters used light “no recoil” in battle quite often.
Since 1963, a significant number of Type 52 have been transferred to North Vietnam, and they have been successfully used against the Americans in the jungle. 57-mm recoilless guns were used for training purposes in the PLA until the early 1970s. In service with the North Korean people's militia, they remained until the 1990s.
In addition to the 57 mm M18, the Americans actively used the 75 mm recoilless M20 guns in Korea, which were considered a battalion anti-tank weapon. The design of the M20 was in many ways reminiscent of the 57 mm M18, but it was the largest and heavier. The mass of the gun in combat position was 72 kg, length - 2080 mm. Unlike the 57 mm gun, the 75 mm M20 gun fired only from the machine.
75 mm M20 recoilless gun
The ammunition contained a wide range of ammunition: a cumulative shell, a fragmentation shell, a smoke shell and a buckshot. An interesting feature of the M20 ammunition was that the shells had ready cuts on the leading belts, which, when loaded, were combined with the cuts of the gun barrel. The weight of the cumulative grenade is 5,7 kg, the initial velocity of the projectile is 310 m / s. The effective range of firing on tanks did not exceed 500 m, the maximum range of fire with a high-explosive fragmentation shell reached 6500 m. Combat rate of fire - up to 5 rounds / min.
At the initial stage of the Korean War, 75-mm recoilless attacks were actively used against North Korean tanks. Although a cumulative grenade containing 400 g of pentolite normally pierced 100 mm armor, these weapons in the American army were not very popular as anti-tank weapons. The reasons for this were: a large unmasking effect when fired; the need for a certain free space behind the gun, which made placement in shelters difficult; low rate of fire; Significant weight, preventing the rapid change of position.
American calculation fires from a 75 mm recoilless M20 gun
After the front line stabilized, the M20 guns were mainly used for firing at firing points and for harassing shelling of enemy positions
As in the case of the 57-mm recoilless gears, already at the end of 1950, the captured Chinese 75 mm M20 guns were at the disposal of Chinese experts. The exact number of American 75-mm recoilless guns captured by Chinese people's volunteers is not known, but, apparently, we can talk about several hundred copies.
75mm recoilless guns on display at the Military Museum of the Chinese Revolution
In 1952, in the PRC, on the basis of the American M20 gun, its own version was created, which was designated Type 52 (not to be confused with the Type 57 recoilless gun 52). Due to the use of lower quality steel, the barrel of the Chinese gun became thicker, which led to an increase in mass. Normal armor penetration was 90 mm. Unlike the American counterpart, in the ammunition, in addition to cumulative, there were only fragmentation grenades.
Comparative dimensions of 57- and 75-mm recoilless guns
75-mm recoilless guns were actively used by the KPA and PLA as anti-tank weapons. Given the relatively low armor penetration in tank hazardous areas, firing positions were chosen in such a way that it was possible to fire on board. According to Chinese sources, the Chinese calculations of recoilless guns managed to immobilize and destroy several dozen M4 Sherman and M26 Pershing tanks. The armored collection of the Military Museum of the Chinese Revolution in Beijing contains the American M26 Pershing tank, supposedly immobilized by a recoilless gun shot, which was subsequently repaired and evacuated to China.
American tank M26 Pershing in the exposition of the Military Museum of the Chinese Revolution
According to official US data, 309 M26 Pershing tanks were sent to Korea. From July 1950 to January 21, 1951, 252 Pershing tanks took part in the fighting, of which 156 tanks were out of order, including 50 tanks that were completely destroyed or captured. From January 21 to October 6, 1951, for technical reasons and from enemy fire, 170 M26 tanks went out, it is not known how many of them were lost forever.
75 mm Recoilless Type 56 Gun
In 1956, the PLA entered service with a 75-mm Type 56 recoilless gun. It differed from Type 52 with a bolt design, sights and a new machine with small wheels. Also in the ammunition was added a new cumulative grenade with armor penetration in the normal to 140 mm.
Ammunition for the Type 75 56mm recoilless gun
However, in view of the fact that the cumulative grenade of increased power was heavier, the effective range for firing at tanks did not exceed 400 m.
The mass of the gun in combat position exceeded 85 kg. Although the rollback was to be served by 4 people, a change of position in combat conditions was not an easy task. In this regard, a few years later, the Type 56-I modification with a lightweight collapsible barrel and a light alloy machine came into service. The weight of the gun in combat position has become almost 20 kg less. In 1967, for the Type 56-II model, a new tripod machine without wheels was developed, due to which the weight of the gun decreased by another 6 kg.
In addition to the use of Type 56 guns, in the ground forces of the PLA, twin 75-mm recoils in the 1960s in China tried to arm patrol ships of project 062 and artillery ships of project 0111.
However, taking into account the presence of a significant danger zone behind the gun and the very dense layout of small warships, preference was given to traditional artillery systems.
Given the fact that in the mid-1960s the cost of Type 56 guns did not exceed $ 200, it, despite the relatively low armor penetration and heavy weight for such a caliber, was popular in the Third World countries. Chinese 75-mm recoillessness was used by the Viet Cong during the fighting in Southeast Asia, and also participated in many local conflicts. In March 1969, recoilless guns were deployed by the PLA during the Sino-Soviet border conflict on Damansky Island.
Monument to Chinese hero Yang Lin
According to the official Chinese version, gunner Yang Lin, a 75-mm recoilless gun, shot down two Soviet BTR-60 armored personnel carriers during the fighting on Zhengbao Island (the Chinese name for Damansky Island). With a close burst of shell, several fingers were torn off and wounded in the arm. After that, he managed to produce an aimed shot and, sacrificing himself, knocked out the T-62 tank. However, the photographs of the damaged tank show that he has a damaged chassis, which is typical for the detonation of anti-tank mines.
Soviet tank T-62, shot down during the fighting for Damansky Island
Subsequently, the Chinese managed to evacuate and restore the Soviet T-62. Currently, this tank is installed next to the American M26 Pershing at the entrance to the armored hall of the Military Museum of the Chinese Revolution.
Trophy Soviet tank T-62 at the Military Museum of the Chinese Revolution
In the PLA, 75-mm Type 56 guns were used until the second half of the 1970s, after which recoilless rifles suitable for further use and ammunition were disposed of by transferring them to friendly African and Asian regimes and Maoist popular liberation movements. A significant amount of 75-mm recoilless guns made in China was delivered to the Afghan dushmans who fought against the Soviet military contingent in the DRA.
Given the fact that the 75-mm recoilless guns were unable to penetrate the frontal armor of the Soviet IS-2 tanks, which were used to a limited extent in Korea, the command of the American army initiated the development of a more powerful anti-tank means of the battalion level. After a series of experiments and failure with the 105-mm recoilless M27 gun in 1953, the 106-mm M40 gun, the actual caliber of which was also 105 mm, came into service. A formal caliber change was made to avoid confusing ammunition labeling with the previous model.
106 mm M40 recoilless gun
Sighting devices were regularly installed on this recoilless gun, allowing firing from closed positions. When firing at visually observable targets, a 12,7 mm sighting automatic rifle was used with tracer bullets that give a bright flash and a cloud of smoke when it hits the target. Ballistics of 12,7 mm bullets corresponded to the trajectory of a 106 mm cumulative projectile. Rotary and lifting mechanisms of the gun are equipped with manual drives. The carriage is equipped with three sliding beds, one of which is equipped with a wheel, and the other two with folding arms.
Models of 106-mm rounds for recoilless guns M40
Like other American recoilless guns, a perforated sleeve with small holes was used here. Part of the gas passed through them and was thrown back through special nozzles in the breech of the barrel, thus creating a reactive moment that extinguishes the recoil force.
For firing at armored vehicles, the M344A1 shaped-charge projectile was used, which weighed 7,96 kg, with armor-piercing normal 400 mm. The projectile left the barrel at a speed of 503 m / s, the maximum range for firing at tanks was 1350 m, effective - 900 m.The firing range for a high-explosive fragmentation shell reached 6800 m.
The length of the M40 gun was 3404 mm, weight - 209 kg. With such weight and dimensions, transportation by calculation forces was only possible over very short distances. In this regard, the recoilless gun M40 was usually installed on various vehicles. Most often these were light off-road vehicles.
The 106-mm American recoil was late for the war in Korea. But it was very widely used by the Americans and their allies during the fighting in Southeast Asia. From there, several samples, which became trophies of the Vietnamese partisans, were delivered to the PRC in 1964. Testing of the 105-mm Chinese recoilless guns began in 1967, in 1975 it was adopted by the PLA under the designation Type 75.
The 105 mm Type 75 gun had a number of differences from the American prototype. In particular, there was no sighting large-caliber rifle on the Chinese recoilless device and simplified sights were used. The mass of the gun was 213 kg, length - 3409 mm.
For firing, shots were used with a cumulative and high-explosive fragmentation grenade. The mass of a unitary shot with a fragmentation grenade is 21,6 kg, with a cumulative - 16,2 kg. The initial velocity of a cumulative grenade is 503 m / s, and a high-explosive fragmentation grenade - 320 m / s. The direct firing range of a cumulative projectile is 580 m. The maximum range of a high-explosive fragmentation projectile is 7400 m. Rate of fire is 5-6 rounds / min. According to Chinese data, a cumulative projectile, when hit at an angle of 65 °, could penetrate 180 mm thick armor.
Beijing BJ2020S light off-road vehicle with 105 mm Type 75 gun
Due to the significant mass, almost all of the 105-mm Type 75 recoilless guns launched in the PRC were installed on Beijing BJ2020S light army off-road vehicles.
If necessary, the gun could be removed from the vehicle and fire from the ground. The calculation of the gun was 4 people. Each vehicle armed with a recoilless gun had space for transporting 8 unitary shots in closures.
In the 1980s, the Chinese infantry battalion was given an anti-tank battery, in which there were 4 SUVs with recoilless vehicles. At the beginning of the 21st century, light jeeps armed with 105-mm Type 75 recoilless guns were driven out of the PLA infantry battalions by anti-tank guided missile systems.
To be continued ...