Assault gun

From Academic Kids

An assault gun is a gun or howitzer mounted on a motor vehicle or armored chassis, designed for use in the direct fire role in support of infantry when attacking other infantry or fortified positions.

Historically the custom-built fully armored assault guns usually mounted the gun or howitzer in a fully enclosed casemate on a tank chassis. The use of a casemate instead of a turret limited these weapons' field of fire, but provided a simpler construction that was cheaper to build and less prone to mechanical breakdowns. The increased space and reduced weight of the turretless design also allowed mounting a larger weapon and providing heavier frontal armor on any given chassis, and in most cases these turretless vehicles also presented a lower profile as a target for the enemy.



World War II

Missing image
Soviet KV-2 assault gun, 1940.

Assault guns were primarily used during World War II, in the hands of the Germans and Soviets. Early in the war the Germans began to create makeshift assault guns by mounting their infantry support weapons on the bed of a truck or on obsolete tanks with the turret removed. Later in the war both the Germans and the Soviets introduced fully armored purpose-built assault guns into their arsenals.

Early on the Soviets built the KV-2, a variant of the KV-1 heavy tank with a short-barreled 152mm howitzer mounted in an oversized turret (see photo). They later produced a very successful series of increasingly powerful turretless assault guns, the SU-85, SU-122, and the heavy SU-152.

Missing image
German StuG III with high-velocity 75mm gun, Kursk, 1943.

The Germans also built a number of fully armored turretless assault guns, including the StuG III, StuG IV, StuH 42, Brummbär, Sturmtiger. The latter two were very heavy vehicles, built only in small quantities. The primary German assault gun was the StuG III (StuG = German abbreviation for Sturmgeschütz, "assault gun"). In addition to various howitzer-armed versions there was a very common variant will a high-velocity dual-purpose 75mm gun, which blurred the line between assault guns and tank destroyers (see photo).

Battalions of assault guns, usually StuG IIIs, commonly replaced the intended panzer battalion in the German panzergrenadier divisions due to the incessant shortage of tanks, and were sometimes used as makeshifts even in the panzer divisions. Independent battalions were also deployed as 'stiffeners' for infantry divisions, and the StuG III's anti-tank capabilities contributed much to the German's ability to draw out the war long after they had lost the strategic initiative.

Postwar use

In the post-WWII era a second use was envisioned for the assault gun, as a light-weight air-deployable direct fire weapon for use with airborne troops. Current weapons were either based on jeeps or small tracked vehicles and the airborne troops thus always fought at a distinct disadvantage in terms of heavy weapons.

The US was the first to build an assault gun in this category, the 152mm armed M551 Sheridan. The Sheridan's gun was a low-velocity weapon suitable in the assault role, but with the addition of the Shillelagh missile could double in the anti-tank role as well. The Sheridan was generally considered a failure however, and largely detested by its crews.

An attempt to address the Sheridan's problems and provide the airborne divisions with a modern weapon system developed into the M8 Armored Gun System (or AGS). However the AGS was continually stung with budget cuts and program changes, and was never produced. Instead a wheeled vehicle based on the standard LAV III wheeled chassis is being deployed with the 105mm gun as the Stryker, with similar characteristics as the Centauro Wheeled Tank Destroyer of the Italian Army and the French AMX 10RC.

See also

nl:Gemechaniseerd geschut ja:突撃砲 fi:Rynnäkkötykki


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