Development of what would become the M52 Self-Propelled Howitzer (SPH) began in 1948 just prior to the Korean War (1950-1953). In its pilot form, the vehicle was known as the T98 105mm Howitzer Motor Carriage in keeping with U.S. Army naming convention of World War 2 (1939-1945) for its artillery gun carriers. The vehicle was based on the chassis of the M41 "Walker Bulldog" Light Tank which was introduced in 1953 but in development beginning in 1947. Production of M52 SPH systems totaled 584 units.
The T98 pilot vehicle fielded the T96 short-barrel howitzer weapon in a welded turret featuring power-assisted traversal of 60-degrees from center. This provided some tactical flexibility for the gunnery crew as the vehicle did not have to be wholly turned to face a specific engagement direction. The mounting hardware allowed the gun barrel to raise some 65 degrees and lower to -10 for additional flexibility when ranging target areas. Unlike previous SPA/SPH vehicles of the U.S. Army, the M52 actually held its gunnery crew and driver in an enclosed turret superstructure (the driver at front-left). The total crew complement was five. The commander's position at rear-right sported a raised cupola for observation and a 0.50 caliber Browning M2 heavy machine gun for self-defense. This was supplied on a trainable pintle mount. The turret was set over the rear of the vehicle which allowed the placement of the engine in a forward compartment in the hull.
The running gear included six double-tired road wheels with a front-mounted drive sprocket. There was no track idler at rear for the fifth wheel took on this role. Four track return rollers were used with the last one slight larger in diameter than the other three. Drive power was possible through a Continental AOS-895-3 series 6-cylinder gasoline-fueled engine (500hp) as featured in the Walker Bulldog line. Road speeds reached 35 miles per hour with driving range out to 100 miles. The engine was mated to an Allison CD-500-3 cross-drive transmission system and the suspension was a torsion bar arrangement.
With ongoing testing, the M52 developed slowly, even into the Korean War years. The T98 pilot vehicle was revised in response to several issues - a key one being a larger turret ring. From this work came the evolved T98E1 model which was now referred to as a "Self-Propelled Howitzer" - no longer using the
"Motor Carriage" of the previous decade. When finally accepted for serial production, the U.S. Army ordered the type as the M52 Self-Propelled Howitzer. The Army wanted 684 units.
Production then began in January of 1951 though Army authorities felt that the vehicle was not yet ready for prime time and continued its development. With more changes - including the loss of power-assistance in the gun function - the M52 graduated to operational levels. However, this was not until 1955 and the Korean conflict had ended in a loose Armistice during 1953. The subsequent M52A1 mark simply introduced the Continental AOS-895-5 engine when it arrived for the M41 tank family.