The Soviet Army adjusted their battlefield doctrine following their experiences in World War 2 (1939-1945) against the Axis powers - in particular Germany. The Soviet advances proved effective on the whole but at high cost to infantry which were intended to defend its fast-moving fleet of tanks from enemy infantry ambushes. This provided a logistical challenge to Soviet warplanners who had to rely on a collection of local solutions and foreign-born implements like the American M3 half-track via Lend-Lease and captured German half-tracks of similar form and function. The solution to this challenge in the post-war years led to the development of a infantry-mover with good mechanized capabilities designed to keep up with Soviet Army tanks - the BTR-152 of 1950.
The "BTR" designation stems from the word "Bronetransporter" which translates to "Armored Transporter".
Utilizing the half-tracks as their starting point, Soviet engineers realized a similar vehicle form based on the local ZiS-151 series 6x6 wheeled truck. This led to the natural and highly conventional arrangement of a front-mounted engine, central driver's compartment, and a passenger cabin fitted over the rear section of the chassis. The fully suspended, six-wheeled arrangement would allow for the necessary cross-country travel while speeds would keep up with the fast-moving Soviet armored vehicles. Drive power was through a 6-cylinder, gasoline-fueled engine which allowed for a maximum road speed of 45 miles per hour to be reached with operational road ranges peaking at 400 miles. Powered, closable slats at the front of the vehicle were intended to protect the engine in a combat environment. A spare road wheel was held along the rear face of the hull superstructure which also showcased a door arrangement for embarking/disembarking troops.
The open-topped rear crew compartment lessened the vehicle's weight and allowed for the crew to engage enemy forces as well as disembark the vehicle at speed if required (over the sides). Engagement of outside foes was also aided by the available firing ports presented. Lacking a roof, occupants were at the mercy of the elements and general battlefield dangers so a tarp was offered for some coverage. The superstructure itself was well-angled for ballistics protection and made up of welded steel plates managing up to 15mm thickness along the frontal facings. As designed, the standard operating crew was two (driver and commander) with seating for up to eighteen infantry and their base fighting gear. The operating crew's positions were accessed through hinged, automobile-style doors along the sides of the hull. Armored visors with built-in vision slots were fitted where the natural truck's windscreen would have been. When "buttoned-up", the crew were allowed use of periscopes for situational awareness.
Primary armament centered on a 7.62mm general purpose, anti-infantry machine gun. This could be substituted with a 12.7mm DShK 1938/46 heavy machine gun to counter low-flying aerial threats and light-armored vehicles and up to two additional 7.62mm machine guns could be fitted atop trainable pintle mounts for added suppression firepower. Ammunition stowed aboard depended largely on the armament installed but typically numbered 500 x 12.7mm cartridges or 1,250 x 7.62mm cartridges in boxes.
The BTR-152 debuted in March of 1950 and was showcased to Soviet citizens (and Western observers) through the 1951 Moscow military parade soon after. In practice, the vehicles were serviceable but not wholly sound battlefield additions. Their armor protection was too light to allow the BTR-152 to be a realistic battlefield presence - protected simply from small arms fire and artillery spray. The open-topped nature of the passenger area was an obvious point of weakness and forced the future development of a hard top version. The road wheels could be punctured by any normal operational way which did not lend itself well to the dangers of wartime terrains. The suspension system proved a nonviable cross-country solution primarily due to its ZiS-151 truck origins. The closeable engine armor slats - while a concept sound in its thinking - actually raised the engine's operational temperatures which led to overheating issues.
In these ways, the BTR-152 proved itself a severely limited machine that saw only about 15,000 units produced in all. These served as frontline systems until the 1960s before seeing replacement by the more effective, fully-enclosed, 8x8-wheeled BTR-60 model line. However, many remaining BTR-152s managed extended service careers in second-line roles such as mover vehicles, equipment haulers, and general non-combat transports for the Soviet Army.
Despite its shortcomings, the BTR-152 was exported to many Soviet allies and states during its production run - from Afghanistan and Albania to Yugoslavia and Zimbabwe. Captured Egyptian and Syrian vehicles were reconstituted by the Israeli Army as transports or modified weapons carriers while others were taken on by local security. The Chinese Army designated the BTR-152 as the "Type 56" while East German forms were known under the "SPW-152" designation. While many BTR-152s have fallen out of circulation with military forces today, examples still show up in the inventories of second-rate armies of the world.
The Soviets took on a number of BTR-152 variants beyond the transport model of 1950. The BTR-152A was a self-propelled AA (Anti-Aircraft) platform and the BTR-152B a communications platform. A model of 1955 introduced night vision equipment support and a tire pressure regulation system while the BTR-152I became an artillery command/spotting vehicle. The BTR-152K was a battlefield ambulance and the BTR-152U introduced an armored roof over the passenger compartment. The BTR-152V3 featured a bow-mounted winch system.
Manufacturing ZiL Truck Plant - Soviet Union
Production 15,000 Units
Afghanistan; Albania; Algeria; Angola; Bulgaria; Cambodia; China; Cuba; Cyprus; East Germany; Egypt; Equatorial Guinea; Estonia; Ethiopia; Georgia; Germany; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Hungary; Indonesia; India; Iran; Iraq; Israel; Laos; Lebanon; Mali; Mongolia; Mozambique; Nicaragua; North Korea; North Vietnam; Palestinian Liberation Organization; Poland; Republic of the Congo; Romania; Russia; Somaliland; Soviet Union; Seychelles; Sri Lanka; Sudan; Syria; Tanzania; Uganda; Vietnam; Yemen; Yugoslavia; Zimbabwe
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