The Soviet counter offenses against German positions during World War 2 (1939-1945) placed a premium on quality, effective field guns for the Red Army. Design work on an all-new system began in 1943 and spanned into 1944, producing the 85mm D-44 Divisional Anti-Tank Field Gun (GRAU designation of "52-P-567"). As large-scale production did not begin until late 1945, the D-44 was not available for service in World War 2 but arrived in useful numbers for 1946. Manufacture was handled by Uralmash and some 10,800 units were produced in all from 1945 into 1953. In Red Army service, the D-44 replaced the aging stocks of 76.2mm ZiS-3 Anti-Tank (AT) field guns in service since 1941/1942 (over 103,000 of these were produced).
The D-44 utilized an effective 85mm barrel mounting a large brake at its muzzle - the gun derived from the main gun used in the famous T-34-85 Medium Tank of World War 2. The recoil mechanism sat behind a small shield that offered basic frontal protection for the gunnery crew, the crew typically numbered eight and each charged with a special role during the firing action. The recoil system incorporated a hydraulic recoil buffer to help retard the violent effects of the detonating propellant charge and outgoing shell. Elevation (-7 to +35 degrees) and traversal (54 degrees) were managed through a series of hand wheels and a sighting device (5.5x magnification OP-2-7) was integral. The gun, recoil system, and applicable hardware, sat atop a mounting arrangement seated on a two-wheeled (GAZ-AA rubber tires) split-trail carriage. The trail arms allowed the weapon to be towed when brought together behind a mover vehicle and served as an additional buffer against earth when fired. Dozer-type assemblies were fitted to the end of each arm.
The D-44 exhibited an overall weight of 3,800lbs. Its length was 27 feet, 4 inches with a width of 5 feet, 10 inches and a height of 4 feet, 8 inches.
The D-44 ultimately held a long and useful service life with Soviet forces and its global allies. The weapon evolved along a few forms such as the "SD-44" of 1954. This variant included its own projectile storage container and an Auxiliary Propulsion Unit (APU). The APU outputted at 14 horsepower, allowing the crew to move the gun system short distances under its own power at up to 15mph speeds on road. These additions came at an expense, however, for its weight ballooned to 4,950lbs. The D-44N of the 1960s was a low-light level / night variant outfitted with the APN 3-7 series InfraRed (IR) system.
In practice, the D-44 gave a good account of itself. A trained and experienced crew could fire up to 20 rounds per minute in burst fire with the muzzle velocity reaching 3,380 feet per second. Effective firing ranges reached out to 1,260 yards with a maximum firing range listed at 17,110 yards. Projectile types included basic HE (High-Explosive) and AP (Armor-Piercing) rounds. Additional support was given for HVAP-T (High-Velocity, Armor-Piercing Tracer) rounds and HEAT-FS (High-Explosive, Anti-Tank, Fin-Stabilized) rounds.
Once in widespread circulation and use with Soviet forces, the D-44 was granted export and found service with the land armies of Cambodia, China (local production as the "Type 56"), East Germany, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Poland, Romania, Syria and Vietnam among others. In the Chinese inventory, the weapon was recognized as the "Type 56" and these continue to serve the Pakistani Army today. Polish marks were the original D-44M (D-44) and the D-44MN (SD-44). These were modernized to an extent in the early 1980s to help extend their useful service lives.
Post-World War 2 era combat actions involving D-44 guns included the Korean War (1950-1953), the Vietnam War (1955-1975) and the various Arab wars against the newly-founded nation of Israel.