MANUFACTURER(S): Uralsky Machine Building Factory (UZTM) - Soviet Union
Detailing the development and operational history of the Su-122 Self-Propelled Gun (SPG).
Entry last updated on 1/8/2018.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
In June of 1941, German leader Adolph Hitler turned his attention the invasion of the Soviet Union. Though initially catching the Red Army completely by surprise, defensive lines were more-or-less stabilized and development began on systems capable of repelling any further German Army advance. One such development, intended to fight tanks and support infantry, became the SU-122. Design of the vehicle began in the summer of 1942 and the SU-122 became the first dedicated "assault gun" for the Red Army during World War 2.
By this time, the T-34 medium tank was coming into its own for the Russian armored divisions. This meant that she was in constant supply and readily available. As such, quick conversions of existing systems like the T-34 during the war became commonplace for many armies. The T-34 served as the chassis for the new assault gun design which mounted a short-barreled, low-velocity 122mm M-30 series field howitzer into a fixed superstructure. The superstructure featured sloped armor to help with ballistics protection but only allowed for slight traverse (left-right movement) of the main armament. As such, the entire vehicle would have to be pointed towards a target area for maximum effectiveness. Up to 40 x 122mm projectiles were carried aboard with no secondary machine guns for self-defense.
Self-Propelled Gun (SPG)
The relatively quick conversion process allowed the SU-122 to reach front lines in late 1942. However, the short-barreled, low-velocity gun proved somewhat ineffective against German medium Panthers and heavy Tigers once in practice. Soviet engineers took to designing a new compatible projectile with a hollow charge to help the situation but the improvement was suspect at best. Where the SU-122 series did shine, however, was in support of infantry actions where its powerful 122mm high-explosive projectiles terrorized collections of enemy troops. The weapon also proved effective in dislodging or eliminating dug-in enemy positions, even those held up in fortifications. Up to March 1945, some 1,148 SU-122 examples rolled off of Soviet assembly lines and into the hands of awaiting tankers.
While the Red Army found a use for their SU-122, the series was gradually overtaken in its assault role by the newer SU-152 mounting its 152mm armament. While these two machines fulfilled the Soviet need for an assault gun, this still left them without a capable tank-fighting system, spurring the development of tracked weapons such as the SU-85 and SU-100 series soon to follow.