MANUFACTURER(S): State Factory 8th Kalinin Artillery Plant - Soviet Union
LENGTH: 17.00 feet (5.182 meters)
WIDTH: 5.00 feet (1.524 meters)
HEIGHT: 7.00 feet (2.134 meters)
WEIGHT: 1 Tons (1,210 kilograms; 2,668 pounds)
ENGINE: None. This is a towed artillery piece.
RANGE: 1 miles (2 kilometers)
Detailing the development and operational history of the 72-K (M1940) 25mm Towed Anti-Aircraft Gun.
Entry last updated on 11/9/2016.
Authored by JR Potts, AUS 173d AB. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
The Soviets had signed a secret non-aggregation pact with Nazi Germany on August 23rd, 1939 that came to be known as the "Treaty of Non-Aggression Between Germany and the Soviet Union", also known as the "Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact after the two high-ranking political representatives involved. The agreement behind the pact stated a position of neutrality between the two parties if the other was attacked by another. From the German perspective, the pact was always a loose gesture for Hitler himself knew that a time to invade the Soviet Union proper would soon be at hand. In the meantime, the two nations split the conquest of Poland and each respective side moved to other neighboring ventures.
By 1940, Soviet state arms factories were busy building armaments like the 72-K (M1940) 25mm light anti-aircraft (AA) gun system. Heavy AA guns, such as the 85mm, were designed for high-flying bombers and there existed a need for a gun of similar scope, though designed to counter the threat of faster, low-flying aircraft. As such, the lighter 72-K model soon appeared and was designed by Mikhail Loginov. Production stemmed from the Kalinin Plant # 8 state factory with numbers totaling 2,500 examples.
The 72-K was a single-barreled air defense gun system manned by a crew of five that included a gunner, an assistant gunner and three ammunition feeders. 72-K gun operation was automatic in nature and rated at 70 to 250 shells per minute up to an altitude of 2.4 kilometers. The gunner sat to the left side of the mount, controlling the 360 degree traverse, while ammunition feeders supplied the needed 25-round box magazines into the breech slide and removed empty cases as needed. The gun carriage was fitted to four rubber-tired road wheels and, when positioned to fire, stabilization legs with endplates were lowered to ground level for extra stability. Two armored shields were mounted to either side of the gun barrel facing forward and provided minimal protection. On the whole, the crew was generally exposed to both the elements and battlefield hazards. The road wheels were attached to a heavy-duty sprung suspension system as it was meant to travel on and off road as needed - hitched to a mover vehicle. The frame was of heavy design and well constructed throughout, adding a rugged quality to the seemingly utilitarian nature of the machine. The Soviet Army would stage between 25 to 100 of these air defense systems around key vital target areas that included ammunition stores, supply yards, train switching stations and airfields.
Operation Barbarossa became the German invasion of the Soviet Union. The invasion began on June 22nd, 1941 and opened up the fabled Second Front - or East Front - for the German Army. Up to now, the only true failure the German Army encountered was in the Battle if Britain but, everywhere else, their successes were monumental. It was deemed by German authorities that the Soviet Union would fall to the Germans in a matter of months - air power being a crucial factor in the assaults to come. German fighters and bombers then led the way, attacking key installations. Facing off against them would be the collections of 25mm 72-K guns as well as other defensive measures. Such guns were really effective against masses of enemy aircraft and their repeating nature provided a lethal threat to incoming German aviators. After key victories and pushing the Soviet Army to the brink, the bleak Russian winter set in and doomed the German Army from any further advance, allowing the Red Army the critical time needed to recover and regroup. The East Front would then last for years more, up until the Soviet conquest of Berlin in 1945.
While statistics regarding the effectiveness of anti-aircraft guns can be suspect considering the nature of such large scale conflicts, Soviet statistics indicate that all anti-aircraft guns combined netted some 21,645 German aircraft. Of these, 4,047 aircraft were attributed to the 25mm systems. Some estimates state that no fewer than 905 x 25mm shells were needed to down just a single enemy aircraft - understandable considering the "point and shoot" nature of these weapon systems.
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