SU-76M Self-propelled gun in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
|Place of origin||Soviet Union|
|Number built||~14,292 (13,932 SU-76M & 360 SU-76)|
|Weight||10,600 kg (23,320 lb)|
|Length||4.88 m (16 ft)|
|Width||2.73 m (8 ft 11 in)|
|Height||2.17 m (7 ft 1 in)|
|Armor||Front: 35 mm (1.4 in)|
Side: 16 mm (0.63 in)
|76 mm (2.99 in) ZIS-3Sh gun|
170 hp (126 kW)
|320 km (200 miles)|
|Speed||45 km/h (28 mph)|
The SU-76 (Samokhodnaya Ustanovka 76) was a Soviet self-propelled gun used during and after World War II. The SU-76 was based on a lengthened and widened version of the T-70 tank chassis. Its simple construction made it the second most produced Soviet armoured vehicle of World War II, after the T-34 tank.
Crews loved this vehicle for its simplicity, reliability, and ease of use. Because of this and the steering which was regarded as cumbersome the vehicle was (un)affectionately called suka ("bitch"), Suchka ("little bitch") by its crews. But also Golozhopiy Ferdinand ("bare-arsed Ferdinand") for its layout which recalled the massive Porsche-designed German tank hunter was in use as a nickname.
History[edit | edit source]
Design of the SU-76 began in November 1942, when the State Defense Committee ordered the construction of infantry support self-propelled guns armed with the ZiS-3 76.2 mm gun and the M-30 122 mm howitzer. The T-70 chassis was chosen for mounting the ZiS-3 gun, and was lengthened, adding one road wheel per side, to facilitate better gun mounting. The vehicle was completely enclosed by armour.
In the rush for fast completion of the order, a quite unreliable powerplant setup was installed in the first mass-produced SU-76s. Two GAZ-202 automobile engines were used mounted in "parallel", each engine driving one track. It was found to be difficult for the driver to control the two engines simultaneously. Moreover, strong vibrations led to early failures of engines and transmission units. After 320 SU-76s had been made, mass production was halted in order to fix the problems. Two chief designers at the GAZ plant, N. A. Astrov and A. A. Lipgart, changed the powerplant arrangement to that of T-70 - the two engines were mounted in tandem on the right hand side of the vehicle. The roof of the compartment was removed for better gun servicing. This modified version, called the SU-76M, began mass production in early 1943. As an interim replacement during the halt of production the SU76i - the 76.2mm gun on captured German tank chassis - were produced.
After the pause, GAZ and two factories in Kirov and Mytishchi produced 13,932 SU-76Ms; the larger part of the order, over 9,000 vehicles, were built solely by GAZ. Mass production of the SU-76M ceased in the second half of 1945. In contemporary accounts SU-76Ms are often referred to in texts, public radio and TV broadcasting as SU-76s with the "M" omitted, due to their ubiquity in comparison with the original SU-76s. The SU-76 was the basis for the first Soviet tracked armoured anti-aircraft vehicle, the ZSU-37. Mass production of the ZSU-37 was continued after SU-76M production ceased. The SU-76M was withdrawn from Soviet Army service after the Second World War ended.
Variants[edit | edit source]
- Experimental model based on the T-60 tank chassis.
- Based on a lengthened T-70 tank chassis, with the inferior dual-engine arrangement of earlier T-70s. Only a few were produced, and these were quickly withdrawn from front line service.
- Main production model.
- Featured a completely enclosed armoured crew compartment. Only a few were produced.
- Self-propelled anti-aircraft gun, based on the SU-76.
The unrelated SU-76i (1943) was based on the German Panzer III and StuG III chassis, armed with a ZiS-5 76.2 mm gun. About 1,200 of these captured vehicles, many from Stalingrad, were converted at Factory No. 38 by adding a new enclosed superstructure. They were issued to tank and self-propelled gun units starting in autumn 1943. They were withdrawn from the front in early 1944, and used for training until the end of 1945.
The also unrelated SU-76P (1941) was based on the T-26 chassis. it was built in Leningrad during the siege and involved removing the turret from the T-26 and mounting a 76 mm regimental gun M1927 on the engine deck. This was created due to the lack of high explosive 45mm ammunition inside Leningrad due to the siege, so some T-26 tanks were rearmed with 37mm or 76mm guns for which a reliable source of ammunition was available. They served until 1944, when the siege was broken. They were originally called SU-76, until the SU-76 came into service, upon which it was renamed SU-76P ("polkovaya" - regimental).
In 1978, Institute 111 from Romania designed an armoured personnel carrier based on the SU-76 chassis, equipped with the TAB-71 turret. The vehicle entered service as the MLVM (Romanian language: Mașina de Luptă a Vânătorilor de Munte , meaning "infantry fighting vehicle of vânători de munte").
Combat history[edit | edit source]
The SU-76M virtually replaced infantry tanks in the close support role. Its thin armour and open top made it vulnerable to antitank weapons, grenades, and small arms. Its light weight and low ground pressure gave it good mobility.
The SU-76M combined three main battlefield roles: light assault gun, mobile anti-tank weapon and mobile gun for indirect fire. As a light assault gun, the SU-76M had good estimation from Soviet infantrymen (in contrast with their own crews). It had more powerful weapons than any previous light tank for close support and communication between infantry and the SU-76M crew was simple due to the open crew compartment. This was extremely useful in urban combat where good teamwork between infantry and AFVs is a key to success. Although the open compartment was highly vulnerable to small arms fire and hand grenades, it very often saved the crew's lives in the case of a hit by a Panzerfaust, whose concussion blast would mean death in an enclosed vehicle.
The SU-76M was effective against any medium or light German tank. It could also knock out the Panther tank with a flank shot, but the ZiS-3 gun was not sufficient against Tiger tanks. Soviet manuals for SU-76M crews usually instructed the gunner to aim for the tracks or gun barrel against Tigers. To improve the SU-76M's anti-armour capabilities, armour-piercing composite rigid (APCR) and hollow charge projectiles were introduced. This gave the SU-76M a better chance against heavily armoured German vehicles. A low profile, a low noise signature and good mobility were other advantages of the SU-76M. This was ideal for organizing ambushes and sudden flank or rear strikes in close combat, where the ZiS-3 gun was sufficient against most German armoured fighting vehicles.
The maximum elevation angle of the ZiS-3 was the greatest amongst all other Soviet self-propelled guns. The maximum indirect fire distance was nearly 17 km. SU-76Ms were sometimes used as light artillery vehicles (like the German Wespe) for bombardments and indirect fire support. However the power of the 76.2 mm shells was not sufficient in many cases.
The SU-76M was the single Soviet vehicle able to operate in swamps with minimal support from engineers. During the Belarus liberation campaign in 1944 it was extremely useful for organizing sneak attacks through swamps; bypassing heavy German defenses on firmer ground. Usually only lightly armed infantry could pass through large swampy areas. With SU-76M support, Soviet soldiers and engineers could effectively destroy enemy strongpoints and continue to advance.
The SU-76M had a large number of ammunition types. They included armour-piercing (usual, with ballistic nose and subcaliber hyper-velocity), hollow charge, high explosive, fragmentation, shrapnel and incendiary projectiles. This made the SU-76M a true multi-purpose light armoured fighting vehicle.
One famous crewman was Rem Nikolaevich Ulanov. In his younger days he was a mechanic-driver and later a commander of a SU-76. He and some other soldiers called their SU-76 Columbina after the female Renaissance Italian Commedia dell'Arte personage.
After World War II, the SU-76 was used by Communist forces in the Korean War.
Operators[edit | edit source]
Surviving examples[edit | edit source]
Due to the large number of vehicles produced, many SU-76Ms have survived the post-war years, and most of the larger Russian military museums have examples of the SU-76M in their exhibitions. They can also be found at the German-Soviet War monuments or memorials in different Russian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian cities.
In museums[edit | edit source]
- National Military Museum, Romania in Bucharest
- United Kingdom
See also[edit | edit source]
Notes[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- Zaloga, Steven J., James Grandsen (1984). Soviet Tanks and Combat Vehicles of World War Two, London: Arms and Armour Press. ISBN 0-85368-606-8.
- Dougherty, Martin J. (2008). Tanks; From World War I to the Present Day, New York: Metro Books. ISBN 1-4351-0123-5
[edit | edit source]
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to SU-76.|
- Axis History Factbook
- series and SU-76i at Battlefield.ru
- WWII Vehicles
- Interview with SU-76 gunner
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