MANUFACTURER(S): Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod (GAZ) - USSR
OPERATORS: North Korea; Soviet Union
Detailing the development and operational history of the Su-76 (Suchka) Self-Propelled Gun (SPG).
Entry last updated on 1/8/2018.
Authored by JR Potts, AUS 173d AB. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
On June 22, 1941 Germany invaded the Soviet Union and caught them unaware. Hitler's goal was to eliminate the Soviets as a military power and exterminate Communism while giving the German people living space. During the summer months, the German Army made significant progress into Soviet-held territories and inflicted immense losses against Soviet troops and material in the process. Decisions had to be made during this desperate hour by the State Defense Committee on what war material was deemed a priority and what needed vehicle types were to be placed into mass production as quickly as humanly possible to help stem the Nazi-tide.
As the heart and soul of Hitler's army were his Panzer tanks, so it was only natural for the Soviets to progress in developing a capable anti-tank system to combat German armor. One such anti-tank weapon became the Samokhodnaya Ustanovka 76, or better known as the SU-76. The weapon was a mating of the T-70 light tank chassis - a tank already in production but hardly up to the rigors of combating the German Panzers - while adding the potent and proven 76.2mm 3-inch field gun as the main armament. Since the field gun itself was an existing towed-artillery piece that was already being produced in great quantity, it was a natural fit to combine the armament to the readily-available T-70 chassis, thus becoming the experimental model known as the OSU-76. Modifications were needed to support the added weight of the new vehicle so an additional road wheel was added to each chassis side and the chassis itself had to be widened. In production form, the OSU-76 became known by the designation of SU-76.
After the first models were already produced, it was decided to change the main gun its center position to a left-side oriented arrangement. The maximum armor thickness was 25mm and the nickname for the new tank-killer was "Suchka" - meaning "The Little B%tch" - because of the thin armor plating at the rear of the vehicle. The original engine was under-powered and changed to twin GAZ 203 series engines though this presented the driver with issues in controlling two engines simultaneously instead of one. His seating was situated next to the engines without a bulkhead in between. The interior compartments were covered though exposed enough for the outside weather to be a real factor for the crew. Light weight shocks and rods allowed for heavy vibrations and fast engine and transmission failures. This lack of comfort and flaws was no doubt due to the Soviet tough mind set and the rush to development to counter the German onslaught.
Su-76 (Suchka) (Cont'd)
Self-Propelled Gun (SPG)
Originally designed as an anti-tank weapon, the SU-76 lost the edge with its Zis-3 L/41 main gun as German tank armor protection increased. The decision was then made to change her battlefield role to direct-fire support for Soviet troops. The most popular variant became the SU-76M, this model having an open top. As a close-support vehicle, the open-topped SU-76M naturally developed problems with its lack of crew protection. However, this design element was with its advantages in that it allowed for better on-field communications through the use of hand signals with infantry and other SU-76M systems. The open top also reduced the SU-76M's combat weight and directly led to an increase in her top speed.
Both SU-76 variants became effective against the light- and medium-class of German tanks and vehicles and could even knock out the fearsome Panther tank with a flank shot. Late in the war some SU-76s had their main guns completely removed and the vehicle was then used as an ammunition carrier and as a battlefield recovery vehicle. Some even became artillery tractors, pulling the tried-and-true 76.2mm Model 1942 field guns.
Other variants included the limited-production SU-76B featuring an enclosed crew compartment and the ZSU-37, a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun.